Hey, guys. Apologies for the horrid lateness of this chapter. But high school is demanding. With homework, tests, projects, clubs, and my utter unpreparedness for it all, I'm trying to find the rhythm and get it all working in perfect order, but it's hard. Remember to review!
Mistakes Already Made
The water sparkled as the car jiggled and bumped all over the unpaved streets. Bridget sat with her eyes stubbornly closed, her arms crossed. She was in the back seat. Eric was next to her, and he had his arm slumped around her shoulder like a flag going into a battle that has already been lost.
Lena, Carmen, and Tibby were squished up front where they could consult on directions. Bridget and Eric both refused to help. So much for opposites attract. They were so alike it was scary sometimes, and sometimes they were so different it was even scarier. "I think you make a left up here," Tibby said, looked through the windshield that was smeared with bug guts and bird poop.
"Why do you think that?" Lena asked, the map spread out in front of her nose where she could be sure to not be able to read it at all.
"Because there's the sign," Tibby said, pointing. Lena pulled the map down to peer skeptically over the top of it. Oh. There it was.
"Well, that wasn't so hard," Carmen said cheerfully.
"Carmen, it took an hour to make a drive that the guy at the hotel said was twenty minutes tops," Tibby, with the reality check, said.
"It could have been worse…" Carmen said defensively. She navigated the driveway up to the camp and then stopped in front of a weathered building that said OFFICE in bold pink letters.
"Ready to clear on out?" Tibby asked, turning around in her seat to the sulking couple in the back.
"Not really," said Eric, who was currently suffering from a hangover.
"Should we come back tomorrow?" Lena whispered to Carmen and Tibby.
"No," Bridget said, surprising them all. "We'll just go, okay?" She pulled open her door, pulling herself away from Eric's arm and beginning to walk. Eric looked confused for a minute but then decided he'd better follow her.
And then they were both on Mexican soil, inside the camp itself where everything had begun a year ago. There were some girls kicking around a soccer ball on one field, and some swimming in the clear blue water, and some milling about the cabins. It was almost time for dinner. Bridget remembered it as though it were yesterday, as cliché as it sounds. She felt like a Hallmark greeting card.
I remembered it as though it were yesterday – you and I met and fell in love.
Ick. Bridget didn't like that stuff. She was sure of it – well, almost sure. Maybe she did like Hallmark greeting cards…
She didn't know. She wished she did but the cruel reality of the thing – and sometimes you had to look reality right in its ugly face – was that she didn't have any clue what she was supposed to be like. Guilt does strange and awful things to people. It twists their hearts until they're nothing like what they used to be. Like a Capri Sun pouch, once full, now empty and bent out of shape and barely a fragment of what it used to be.
Bridget was a Capri Sun pouch that was empty, drained of her humanity by the killing of two innocent people. Both of the Marleys that she had known and loved, however briefly, had died. And there had to be a correlation! It made sense. Did anything else make sense as much as this did?
Dad – sorry for leaving like that. Here's picture of Mexico to make it up to you. I'll be back on Saturday or Sunday. –Bridget
Bridget was a creature of habit now. When in Mexico, while sitting on the exact same beach you made love and a baby on one night a lifetime ago, write a letter to your father so that things don't get too out of whack. She'd picked up a postcard in the hotel lobby and stuffed it into her shirt so she wouldn't have to pay 59 cents for it. Bridget was bad, and she didn't care.
"That was short and sweet," Eric said, tugging his shirt back on over his wet chest. He was peeking over her shoulder, and she shielded the paper from him.
"He likes that," she said quietly, looking at a couple of tanned soccer players on a cliff nearby. Her eyes seemed wet, but maybe it was a trick of the light.
"Does he?" Eric asked, prompting now, searching for an answer, something he could say. But there was nothing. He'd said it all, and it all wasn't enough if she wouldn't listen. Nothing was enough if she wouldn't listen. Love could go one way, and he felt like it had since February, but helping couldn't.
She didn't respond. She didn't need to. They both knew that her dad liked short and sweet, at least outwardly. But who knew what people wanted, or needed, inwardly.
"It's hard to tell what people need, Bridget," he said. He'd been calling her by her full name for awhile now. It was just the thing to do. Maybe she didn't mind. He hoped she did. He hated that hope, that tiny little flame that was unstoppable. But it was hard to love someone who gave you nothing in return. He was human.
"I know." The blue sea was still. Totally calm. There was nothing to disturb the water, nothing to make it think it had killed the people it loved. And who knew which one was next? The sea wouldn't know – it couldn't know. So it would turn them off, that stupid sea. Bridget thought it was the stupidest water she'd ever seen. But she was probably the stupidest human it had ever seen. They were the same, Bridget and the sea. The water had witnessed her night of…of something. It was something. They weren't sleeping together – that just made it seem innocent. And they weren't making love, because it wasn't love-driven. It was lust. But it was too momentous to be called sex. So it just Was. It Was. She liked that.
"Like right now?" Eric meant to sound brave, like the guys do in movies, but his voice cracked a little and it lost the bravado and obviously he would have to go for a different approach.
He could feel his cell phone vibrating in his pocket, probably one of the girls, because they were back at the hotel by now to give Bridget and Eric some alone time, but it honestly didn't phase him. He was focused now. Who knew when his next opportunity would be?
"I don't think he cares right now, to be honest, where I am."
"That's not true," Eric said, because it wasn't, and it didn't even matter that she hadn't answered the question. Or maybe she had. Maybe her answer was that she couldn't tell what she needed, either.
"I think it's love," Eric said.
"It just Is, it's not love," Bridget said automatically. She was missing the point.
"Not between you and me. Well, yes, sort of. I mean, what you need. You need love. Like that quote. From Gone With the Wind." He resisted mumbling 'stupid movie' because he really didn't know how Bridget felt about it. That was the problem.
"Tibby would know it," Bridget said.
"You do too, we watched it last month," Eric said. "You should be kissed, and often, by someone who knows how. Only different, a little. You should be loved. By someone who knows how." He was going to sound cocky here, but it was too late… "And I know how, Bridget. Why won't you let me love you?"
"Why won't you call me Bee?" she challenged.
"Same reason, I expect," Eric said, rubbing his arm.
"Because you're stubborn?" She dared him to say yes. But then she realized that it could go both ways: she wouldn't let him love her because she was stubborn. She dropped her eyes to the sand, the tiny grains in her palm, then being poured out like sour milk because they weren't good anymore.
"Yeah, I think that's why," Eric said, and he knew that she knew what he was talking about.
"Well, excuse me," Bridget said, standing up, "if I want to feel guilty for awhile, okay? Or, maybe, my whole life has been one guilt fest? I'm sorry for that, but it's not my fault. Except it is." The sarcasm was second-rate at best, really not high quality sarcasm at all, but Bridget took it and ran. Literally. She started running, beach running being one of her old favorite things. She'd imagined teaching her son running. She'd imagined he would run before he would walk, what with the parents he had.
That was a thing of the past, though. Completely irrelevant. Or maybe it was the only thing that was relevant.
Bridget was tired of thinking deeply. So she entered that non-thinking state while Eric followed her along the beach until she got to the tourist area and looped back around. Bridget didn't do any real thinking except where they would eat that night. Eric did a lot of real thinking, too much. It made him lose his stride sometimes, and man, was Bridget fast for a girl who hadn't run anywhere except in gym class for the last four months.
But they had to stop sometime. Everything stops sometime. And when they did, on that little beach that was so insignificant to the rest of the world, but probably the most important thing to them, Eric knew what he had to do.
So once Bridget had caught her breath, and under the careful supervision of the hot sun, Eric leaned over to Bridget, who had once been his soul mate, but who had somehow lost her soul right here on this very beach, and tried to find it with his mouth. He kissed her, a little awkwardly at first, and then more naturally, and then she was really kissing back, and they were lying down on the sand and rolling around holding each other, and it was very romantic without being one bit sexual. They were completely focused on each other, and Bridget forgot about what she was supposed to remember to do in situations like this and left herself open and raw as she and Eric went in search of her soul.
Eric pulled back after some time, and said, "You ready to tell me why you're guilty?"
Bridget bit her lip. She didn't think. She was beyond thinking, she'd had enough thinking for her lifetime.
"Yeah." And she pulled her hair out of its loose bun and shook it out, and it glowed under the sun, somehow not pale after all that time indoors. "The problem is I keep killing the people I love."
Eric didn't laugh, even though it was kind of funny, he had to admit. "You keep what?"
"Killing the people I love…" She punched his arm playfully. "Don't laugh!"
"But what does that mean?"
"Well…My mom died and I was the one who drove her over the edge, did you know that?"
"I didn't know that."
"Well, I did. Because maybe if I wasn't so needy…"
"You were, what, seven?"
"It doesn't matter, I was needy."
"Wasn't she sick though? Didn't she have depression?"
Bridget's eyes were downcast, and she was starting to close up again. So Eric took her hand and turned it palm up. He started tracing the lines, the creases in her skin, on it, and said, "That's a chronic disease, Bee. It doesn't go away."
"I know," Bridget said, slowly realizing, now that she said it aloud, that her theory – the one she'd formulated when she was very young – didn't make much sense.
"So it wasn't your fault that she had it. Some people just…have it. There's nothing we can do but be happy." Eric moved to her back, tracing her angel bones with his index fingers.
"Yeah," Bridget said, blinking slowly. But then there was… "What about our son?"
"What about him? He was premature. There wasn't anything anybody could do about that, either," Eric said, feeling a Southern accent creep into his voice that sometimes came out of nowhere when he wasn't careful. He didn't care.
"I did something wrong, in the pregnancy. I must have…"
"Bridget, you're sixteen," Eric said, poking her shoulder. "Sixteen year olds aren't supposed to have babies for a reason."
"Maybe we shouldn't have…That part was my fault." Bridget was looking at him now.
"Oh, no way. That's my line. That part was my fault."
Bridget laughed. Eric thought it was the best sound he'd ever heard. He knew they'd found her soul, and somehow it might all be okay.
"I think maybe we both share the blame. After all…" Bridget trailed off, implications thick in her voice.
"Bridget Vreeland, you are the most beautiful creature alive," Eric said suddenly, knowing it was true.
Bridget just laughed, rolling her shoulders back as if a great weight had been lifted. Eric watched her hair fall down her back and glint in the sun, and then at her smiling face, and he was kissing her again because he wanted to, not because he had to in order to get something out of her.
It wasn't perfect. The mistakes had already been made. They couldn't be reversed. But the best the two of them could do was know that they were on a beach in Mexico, the place it had all started, and it was going to be okay.