Chapter One

August 18, 1971

Dear Dawn,

We've finally made it to Virginia and you wouldn't believe the drive here. It was a lot prettier than I thought it would be, especially Alabama. The countryside was beautiful, though I can't picture you living in a place like this. Heck, I can't really picture myself in a place like this and you know me… adaptable. But you… you're a California girl all the way!

As much as we've moved I should be able to fit in anywhere but I have spent most of my childhood in Huntington and I miss it. Well we literally just pulled into the driveway of our new home and I'm writing this to you in the car. Excuse the messiness of my handwriting. I'll continue the letter once I get settled inside.

Alright, so dad and I unpacked a few boxes in our bedrooms while my mom took care of the kitchen. You know how she feels about her kitchen. *smile* I got about half way through one of my boxes before I decided I was tired and needed to turn in for the rest of the night. I'm having a hard time falling asleep here though, so I thought I'd finish this up first, then maybe I'll be able to sleep. It's really kinda trippy though. Sleeping in a house I've never been in before.

I hate that we had to leave Huntington Beach cause it was awesome hangin' out with you and stuff. A year just isn't long enough. If only you had moved here two years ago. You're a real down chick, ya know? Thanks again for getting me into Tai Chi. It's changed my life. I'm pretty sure it's the only thing that's gonna keep me from buggin' out around here. It's so tense. Everyone's soooo… separate and afraid. It's nothing like California. Your mom and dad would have a time here I think, being that they're a mixed race couple and all. And I don't even want to know what it would be like for you. Have you ever experienced any, like, blatant prejudices before? Probably. I'm just naïve to the world sometimes I guess. Well, I hope we can keep in touch and I'll def keep writing, so long as you write me back and we can always give each other a call. We just can't talk that long. Hey, maybe I can come visit you in Cali and if you want I'm sure my dad and mom would love to see a friendly "west coast" face? Anyway, take care and I hope to hear from you soon.

Ronnie

*LFA*

The letter was sealed quickly and he scribbled Dawn's name and address across the center of the envelope before placing it on his night stand. He reached overhead and turned off the lamp clamped to his bedpost before situating himself under the light blanket he dug out from one of the many boxes marked with his name. Closing his eyes, he tried to think happy thoughts but deemed the task impossible. Instead, he shifted to lie on his side and stared out the window, the moon glowing full and bright through the thin blinds. Living in Virginia was definitely going to take some getting use to. All he heard on the radio from the time they left Alabama was how they were just now integrating the schools and the prevalence of the race wars going on in the south in general. There was still racial tension in many places around the country but Huntington wasn't one of them. It was pretty diverse and the people just seemed more accepting. His dad, being a military man, always taught him the importance of a man's character, not the color of his skin and so the idea of moving to a racially charged and segregated placed wasn't Ronnie's idea of home, sweet, home. It was really going to be a big change for him but he'd manage. It wasn't like this was his first big move but it was definitely the most disappointing. He really liked Huntington Beach but most importantly he really liked Dawn Somers.

They met the beginning of his sophomore year at Marina High School. Dawn, and her younger brother Jeff, moved to Huntington from San Francisco. Her father was a sergeant at the Travis Air Force Base in the bay and was transferred down to Huntington Beach that summer. Their first meeting was in geometry and from the start Dawn was a wiz. It was like listening to a human math book and she really seemed to enjoy the subject. Ronnie, on the other hand, preferred literature and sports, which didn't exactly go hand in hand but no one gave him any flack for it. About two weeks after school begun, Ronnie worked up enough nerve to approach Dawn before class and asked her if she tutored. It also gave him an excuse to appraise her. His eyes glazed over her smooth lightly tinted with brown skin and her long dark, wavy hair flowed down her back with the sides braided and wrapped around her head like a crown. She was the epitome of a flower child, embracing all the loveliness of someone genuinely into peace, love and harmony. Her eyes focused on him for a second and he swore he saw stars twinkling in her eyes. She smiled a bright smile, giggled, which he later found she did when she was nervous, and told him of course. She later admitted that she thought he was coming on to her, using the, "I suck at math" excuse just to talk to her. Ronnie, however, did not feel the need to tell her that there was some truth to her speculation. He only smiled in return and showed her the disapproving fifty he received on their first pop quiz.

From that point on the two of them were inseparable. Wherever Ronnie was, Dawn was sure to not be far behind and vice versa. She was his best friend and they did everything together. She helped him practice, tossing the football around and running drills with him a few days a week after school. He would be her model on occasions when she needed to do a figure drawing study for art. She was a great artist in his opinion and he told her often, though she didn't think so. She was always so critical of her own work. The one thing they both really loved was spending as much time as they could together at the beach. It was their private sanctuary. Their peace. They would talk about any and everything, listen to music and sing, build sand castles and wade in the ocean. That's where she taught him Tai Chi one early Fall Saturday morning and where he taught her how to use a boogie board in the Spring.

Ronnie rolled over on his back, his hands securely trapped underneath his long blonde hair, as he stared up at the ceiling. It wasn't fair. He had been in Huntington most of his life and then he met Dawn, which in his mind, completed his existence but his father's job transferred him… again and to Virginia no less. He sighed and closed his eyes, thinking about the ocean, California and Dawn just before dozing off.

*LFA*

Bill woke up at the crack of daybreak, as was his usual routine and felt obliged to wake his son up as well. He walked into Ronnie's bedroom and quickly stretched across his sleeping son to lift up the venetian blinds, allowing the rays to pour into the room, disrupting Ronnie's peaceful slumber.

"Aww," Ronnie muffled, pulling the pillow over his head to shield his eyes from the blinding sunbeams. "Really dad? Aren't you the least bit exhausted from the drive? I mean we just got here-"

"Ten hours ago," Bill finished while pulling the thin blanket away from his son. "What time did you go to sleep?"

"Around one I guess," Ronnie managed through a yawn and stretch.

"One," Bill asked quizzically, his right eyebrow rose in suspicion. "What on Earth were you doing until one?" He looked around the room to see if any boxes had been unpacked and stuff stowed away, which was a negative.

"I had a hard time fallin' asleep is all," Ronnie answered, sitting up in his bed. "New, unfamiliar place and all."

"I suppose that's normal," Bill stated, not phased by his son inability to just rest as needed. He patted Ronnie on the shoulder before turning around and headed towards the bedroom door. "Your mom's cooking pancakes, bacon and eggs. After that we need to go find out what school you'll be attending."

"Great," Ronnie announced quietly to himself as he reached to lower the blinds and pull the blanket back over his face. Lying down quietly for a moment, he took in a deep breath. He was left alone with himself and his thoughts.

"I have to make the best of what I got, right," he spoke aloud.

He stretched his lean body along the full length of his bed before swooping his legs off to the side. The letter he wrote to Dawn was still in tact on the night stand and he picked it up, staring at his horrible handwriting scrawled across the front of the envelope. He placed it back down on the night stand and sat his keys on top of the letter, assuring he wouldn't forget to take the letter with him to mail off when he and his father left.

He slowly but surely made his way down the hall of their small Georgian Colonial house, common to Virginia. The wood floors were cold and dusty and he could feel the grit stick to the soles of his feet as he shuffled along. Once he reached the bathroom he shut the door with the heel of his foot and braced his body weight against the pedestal sink, staring at his reflection.

"A new city with new people," he spoke aloud once more. He was talking to himself more often, now that he was the new kid on the block. He rubbed his large hands down his cheeks and along his chin, a bit of blonde stubble scratching at the palms of his hands. "How on Earth am I gonna do this?"

He shook his head and turned on the faucet, allowing the water to warm up while he pulled a towel from the cabinet above the toilet. He knew his mom, always prepared to a fault, would have at least one towel available for him to use, along with his toothbrush and a fresh tube of toothpaste. She was without a doubt the quintessential military wife; orderly and always equipped.

Ronnie placed a tiny bit of toothpaste on the brush before running it under the low pressure water from the faucet. He took one more examination of himself in the mirror and again began to talk to himself, only this time he gave himself a little pep talk, "New city, new life. You gotta make the best of this Ronnie." Then he commenced to grooming himself, getting ready for his first official day in Alexandria, Virginia.

*LFA*

Author's Note: I've revised this chapter after re-watching the movie. This story will be from Ronnie & Dawn's POV and will follow the timeline of the movie, perhaps expanded beyond slightly, but not much. I decided to write this one Sunday night after watching the film because I really liked Ronnie's character and would have liked to see more of him but alas there is only so much you can do with an ensemble cast. I hope you all who read enjoy and feedback is always welcome.

-idj