Boys of Summer
Disclaimer: not mine. Well, the o/s is, just not the characters (Twilight), or the scenario (Boys of Summer by Don Henley).
I wrote this for the Boys on Boards contest, but never found a beta to read it over so I could submit it. I'm posting it up here instead. I hope you enjoy it!
It's surprising how dark it is. Such a contrast to just a few days ago; then again not surprising since it's a different state, across the country from where we were, and it's raining. You told me it rained almost all the time here and that was why you were visiting your mom for the summer, but I honestly thought it was like the afternoon rains that hit every day in Florida. This is different. It's cold. Seems fitting really, since it matches how my heart has felt since the day you walked away from me on the beach.
I thought I could live without you. I watched your skin go from pale to pink to brown, shining in the sun. You always had your long hair up in a ponytail with the funkiest sunglasses I'd ever seen. It was those glasses that first caught my eye, that and your silly bathing-suit. Even now as I'm speeding through the rain I shake my head remembering it. A one-piece that was far more alluring than the revealing bikinis other girls had on simply because it made me want to discover the personality of the quirky girl who wore it. Alice had decided she liked you right on the spot simply for wearing it, but that could have been because it had spots.
A glance at the map tells me I'm closer to your home now. It's been a long drive, taking two days even at the speed I drove. When you see me you'll probably fuss at me for driving too fast, but I don't care. You're at the end of the road, something even the highway patrol officer in South Dakota understood when he let me off with a warning. I chuckle just thinking about it. He told me where all their good hiding spots along the interstate were so I'd know where to slow down. "I hope you get your girl back, son," the older man said with a smile. "Just be sure to give her something other than a corpse to come back to. And you might need those boards strapped to the top of your car out there," he finished, in I nodded before taking off. You'd be happy, I even let him convince me to stop in the next town and sleep.
It's dinnertime. You told me you always had dinner with your dad. I'll be there in another hour and hope you'll take me back.
"Dude, babe-alicious at two o'clock," Emmet stage-whispered as we waxed down our boards. I rolled my eyes. He seemed to think I needed a girlfriend for some reason.
"Emmett, I don't care." My board was done, the waves were high thanks to a tropical storm out in the Atlantic, and I was hot in my wetsuit. It was time to get into the water, not look at girls that were wrapped up in pretty packages with nothing inside but air. I lifted my board and smiled at him. "Don't let Rosalie catch you describing another girl as 'babe-alicious. She'll serve you your balls for lunch."
His laughter made the other beach-goers turn and smile, wondering what was so funny. "You know she refers to you as 'pretty boy', and Jasper as 'smooth and sexy', right? She knows she has nothing to worry about, there ain't no girl that can best her in the looks department."
He was right, Rosalie was beautiful. And shallow. Sad, because she was also smart, but she relied on her looks to get what she wanted so those were most important to her. Being the center of attention was something she craved. Even I'd been attracted to her when we first met. Five minutes later all I could think was that she'd be perfect for my best friend. They'd been connected at the hip, and other places I really didn't want to think about, from the start. The great thing about Rosalie was she was already friends with my sister, Alice, and her husband, Jasper, so I didn't have to worry about them getting along.
"I'm not even going to ask what she calls you," I called back to him as I glanced over my shoulder, seeing that he was grabbing his board and following me.
"My name, over and over, every night," he yelled. "Oh, Emmett, yes, Emmett, Emmett, Emmett!" he said, affecting a high pitched voice and rubbing his free hand over his chest while sauntering down the beach in what he thought was a sexy way.
What a douche, but it drew your attention. He was right, you were incredibly pretty. The giggle that left your lips made me turn my head. The blue frames of those sunglasses against your peach skin made me stare. And you were reading Tolstoy.
I continued to back up, taking in the sight before me when Emmett crashed into my shoulder. "Told you so," he laughed, knocking me on my butt in the water. A few people laughed but when I looked at the beach it was blue-sunglasses girl who was still looking at me. I winked, and laughed when she blushed. "Dude, come on!" Emmett yelled, so I turned and followed him into the water.
What a moron, you were gone when we got back to the beach.
"She's ba-ack," Emmett sung the next week, tilting his head in her direction in an exaggerated motion. The girls had made a picnic lunch for us and I was helping them and Jasper lay out a huge blanket to eat on.
"Who? Who's back?" Alice said, following his gaze. "Oh, I love her suit! Rose, is that leopard print?"
"Yeah, only it's like pink and blue spots," Rosalie answered, obviously eying the new girl. "Who is she and why are you telling Edward she's back?" she asked Emmett.
"I pointed her out to him last week, but the idiot wasn't interested."
You blushed when he said that, so I knew you could hear us. I wondered where you'd gone, and what brought you back. I was surprised at how glad I was that you were back, and how interested I was. I also noticed that your skin looked like it was slightly sunburned.
"I didn't say I wasn't interested…"
"Nah, just that you didn't care," he said loudly. "I swear, if I didn't know better I'd think you were gay."
"You only say that because he's never been serious with a girl," Alice giggled. Why was everyone so loud today?
Emmett shook his head. "What's up with that? I've seen some of the girls that have offered up some mighty fine wares, and all you do is walk away."
"Yeah, well, if they're offering that freely then I don't want to think about who, or what disease, has been there before me," I retorted.
"Whatever, Doctor Cullen," Emmett smirked. "I just think you're embarrassed by your really small dick," he guffawed.
"Short and fat is where it's at, and sure to please the ladies, but long and thin goes deeper in and that's where you make the babies," Jasper said, laughing and rubbing the small bulge in my sister's belly. I would want to punch him for that if my sister didn't look so happy.
"Speaking of doctor," Rosalie said, saving me further embarrassment, "have you heard from anywhere about your residency?"
"Yeah, I've gotten an offer from Seattle Grace Hospital," I started, but then Alice was squealing and clapping.
"He also heard from the University of Chicago, where dad did his residency!" she yelled.
"Wow, that's big, isn't it?" Rosalie asked.
"Yeah, it's big." I tried to be humble when I said that, but the truth was that I was totally stoked. Going there all but guaranteed a practice anywhere I wanted in the nation. The fact that my father was so excited didn't hurt. When I'd gotten that offer he'd told all his coworkers, then offered to finance our trip down here for the summer since we all had time off. Jasper had finished his doctorate in philosophy and would be teaching at a community college in the fall. Rosalie had a job here in Florida, but was looking for another in Chicago so she could return with Emmett when he started his job in the fall. Alice was making baby clothes.
You had turned to look when I mentioned Seattle. Not that I was staring at you, but I was watching. I noticed you looked away when I mentioned Chicago. Alice noticed me noticing. Getting up from the blanket, already a little awkward from the baby, she walked over to you to invite you to join us. You refused at first, embarrassed, but Alice never takes no for an answer.
"Everyone, this is Bella," Alice said, plopping back down on the blanket. "Bella, this is Jasper, Rosalie, Edward and Emmett," she continued, pointing us all out.
"Hey," Bella said with a wave. "Thanks for inviting me over. I was getting a little hungry but didn't want to go home."
"You're from around here?" Rosalie asked.
"No, but my mom and stepfather live over there," Bella said, pointing at a small cottage just off the shore. "I'm just visiting."
"Where're you from?" Alice asked. Typical girls, they always mine for information.
"Forks, Washington. It's a little town a few hours north of Seattle," Bella replied, shooting me a smile. All of a sudden that residency looked a lot more interesting.
You fit right in with the group. The first time Emmett teased you about tripping in the sand you snarked right back at him about not knowing what a Bolshevik was. That was when I started falling in love with you, but I didn't know it . From that point on we included you in everything we did. Swimming, bonfires, touring Kennedy Space Center, you were up for it all. You even tried surfing, though you were more uncoordinated on the board than you were on dry ground. Still, it took me a month to work up to asking you out on a date.
"You look beautiful," I said, taking Bella's hand after waving to her mom, I'd been holding it more and more as the days passed. She didn't seem to mind. "I hope you are ready to have some fun."
"Where are we going?" she asked me, but I just shook my head and zipped my lips. "Why is it a secret?"
"Because if it wasn't a secret it wouldn't be a surprise."
It was a fun drive, discussing literature, music, science and philosophy. I laughed every time she asked how much longer. It only took us a couple hours to get there, but when we did her eyes grew wide and excited.
"Disney World? I've wanted to come here!"
"I know, I listened." Actually, Alice listened and suggested it, making me remember, but I wasn't going to admit to that. Then she surprised me.
Leaning across the console of the car Bella kissed my cheek. "Thank you, Edward."
We held hands the entire day. I don't remember when I'd ever been so happy to spend time with just one person. You made me laugh and you made me think. When the fireworks lit the sky that night I put my arms around you and held you close as you rested your head on my chest and watched.
Your house is dark; no one is home. I look at the address Alice wrote down for me and can see it's the right place. There's an old red, rusted truck on the street out front and I know it's yours. You told me that your father was the chief of police and drove around a cruiser, but it's not here. As I park behind your truck to wait I wonder what you're doing. Are you with your friends in La Push? You told me about that beach one night when we were both on the other side of the country.
"You look comfortable," I said as Bella lay in the sunshine. Her skin was darker than when I first saw her, no longer burning in the sun but still retaining that soft peach glow that made it so appealing to me.
"I am comfortable. It's nice to be on a beach that's white, warm and sandy." Her hand came up to shade her eyes. "Have you ever been to the Olympic Peninsula? The beaches there are cold, brown and rocky." She laid back down and closed her eyes to the sun. "But pretty. The tide pools are amazing."
"I'd like to see them," I said, sitting up and eying my board. It'd been a while since I'd been riding the waves.
"If you did your residency in Seattle, you would." I could hear the hope behind the sound of teasing in her voice.
"And if you tried again you might be able to get up on the board," I said back, changing the subject. This was coming up more often between us, and I didn't want to think about it. My acceptance had already been sent into Chicago University Hospital, and while we'd been growing closer, it wasn't as if we'd become serious. We were just really good friends and I intended to keep it that way. Long distance relationships never work.
"Fine," she huffed, sitting up. "It's getting hot in the sun anyway." She grabbed the old surfboard I'd given her and walked into the water. I followed her out into the waves and told her when to start paddling to catch one. She'd gotten really good at timing, able to ride the board on her belly, but each time she tried to stand she fell off. The waves were calmer today, so that would both help and hurt her chances.
I couldn't help but laugh the third time she fell off. "You're just dragging me out here for your own personal entertainment, aren't you?" she griped, wiping water off her face.
"Bella, you almost had it. If you hadn't panicked you would have stayed up." She rolled her eyes at me and climbed back up on her board to paddle out, leaving me behind.
I quickly caught up. "Don't be mad. You looked funny."
"I don't like being laughed at," she said, obviously irritated. "I don't know why I keep trying this. It never works for me. I don't have amazing balance like you do."
Grabbing her board I pulled up alongside her. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have laughed." She turned and stuck her tongue out at me, so I splashed her.
"Hey!" she cried, ducking then splashing water in my direction. An all out war erupted between us, both laughing so hard we could barely breathe, and then she fell off her board.
You came up sputtering, having swallowed some ocean water. I knew how that felt, it wasn't good. Reaching for you I dragged you onto my board in front of me, holding you while you tried to catch your breath. I noticed then how the sun made red highlights appear in your hair. A few freckles had formed due to your previous sunburn and I suddenly wanted to kiss them. I heard your breath catch, differently than before, and looked into your eyes. There was something there, a hope and fear that mirrored my own. Pulling you closer, your legs over one side of the board, I lowered my lips to yours. They tasted like salt water and sunshine, and something uniquely you.
My body began to respond in a way it never had with any other girl I'd kissed. Those kisses had left me bored. Yours stirred something deep inside. My hands went from your waist to your face, wanting to keep you close, but that threw us out of balance and dumped us both into the water. We both laughed when we surfaced. No more waves were ridden that day but we didn't leave our little spot in the ocean until night began to fall.
I turn my car back on and back up. The navigation system in my phone is showing the way to La Push. I hope it isn't big and that I'll be able to find you there. If you're at a bonfire, it'll give me another signal to follow to find you.
Alice gave Bella a bright pink sweater to wear as we walked along the beach. I teased that I'd be able to see her a mile away in that thing. Summer was winding down and the temperature was falling with it. The sun had set hours ago, but we needed to talk and wanted to be alone. Our hands were intertwined as we strolled barefoot in the breakers. "When do you fly home?" I asked.
"Tomorrow morning. School starts up in a few weeks and I planned on spending some time with my dad." Bella wasn't looking at me. Her eyes were glued to the waves. "I'm going to be living close to Grace Hospital."
"Bella," I said softly, stopping and turning her to face me. "I'm going to Chicago."
Her jaw clenched before she answered me. "What about us? Is there an us?"
"There has been an us," I started, knowing this would hurt her. "But I don't do long distance, Bella. There are too many distractions. It never works. We can keep in touch, email even, but I'm going to be so busy with my residency and you have a full load at school. I've loved our time together, but I don't think it's fair to either one of us to continue on with something that won't last." Why did saying this to her hurt me?
"I see." Her eyes looked glassy and she looked away again. "It has been a great summer. I've loved…spending it with you as well. Thanks for being my friend. I didn't think I'd find…a friend."
I put my hand under her chin and turned her face back to mine. "I think it's fair to say we've been more than friends, Bella. I just don't want to promise you more than I know I can give." A tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. "If, in a couple years, when my residency is done, you still want me and are free, maybe then we can try?"
"Yes, that makes sense. If you want me then," she said, nodding. There were no more tears, her eyes looked resolute. I put my arms around her, holding her close this last time. Leaning down I placed a kiss on her head, breathing in her smell.
She turned her head up and placed a light kiss on my lips. We'd never gone beyond kissing. Why do more when we'd just have to say goodbye? Her lips were warm and I felt that now-familiar stirring within. How I wanted this woman. How I hoped that in a couple years she'd still want me.
Her lips pulled away first, her fingers tracing over my jaw. "I'll miss you," she said as she pulled out of my arms and walked up the beach. She didn't look back.
"Idiot," Rosalie said when she saw me the next day. "I can't believe you let her walk out of your life. What kind of moron are you?"
"We're going to be over twenty-two hundred miles apart, Rosalie. What's the point?" I sat heavily in my chair, hanging my head. Everyone was scowling at me.
"The point? The point is love, Edward," she griped.
"We aren't in love…"
"You're delusional," Emmett cut in. "Delusional, idiotic, moronic, stupid, and most definitely in love."
"Whatever, Emmett," I griped, getting back up. I didn't want to hear it. "It's not like it means anything. People fall into and out of love every day. I'm going to bed." It was running away. I knew that. I didn't care. How could I face two perfectly matched couples knowing I'd just let go of someone with whom I could have really had something.
Sure enough I can see a bonfire on an outcropping as I come around the bend and see the sign welcoming me to First Beach. A Forks police cruiser is parked in the lot, so I know your father is there. I hope he's easier on me than my father had been.
"So let me get this straight," Carlisle said. "You met a girl, one like none you've ever known before, and broke up with her to do your residency here?"
"She lives in Washington, dad." I didn't get why he was telling me I was wrong. "That's a long way away. You always say not to get involved with someone until I was sure, and we've only spent a summer together, that's just not enough time."
"IDIOT!" Alice cried from the kitchen. She and Rosalie had taken up yelling that at me whenever they could.
"You couldn't ask her to come here?" Carlisle asked. Esme was nodding like that was a perfectly reasonable question.
"She's got another year left in school. She'll graduate in May. I can ask her then if she'd be willing to come here." My parents shook their heads at me. This time it was Jasper I could hear calling me a moron from the kitchen.
"I know you've told Chicago University that you'll be there, but have you turned down Seattle Grace yet?" Esme asked me. I started to nod, but then realized I'd never sent the letter.
"No, but I haven't told them I'll be there either. The deadline to respond isn't for another week." There was a crashing in the kitchen that sounded like a chair falling over. Seconds later Alice was in front of me.
"You can still go to Seattle?" she asked, bouncing. Poor kid must feel like he's in a bounce house.
"Well, yeah?" I replied, rubbing the back of my neck. "But mom and dad want me to go to Chicago University."
"Oh, no," Carlisle said with a laugh. "You can't use us as an excuse. Yes, we want you here, but that's because we love you and always want you close."
"But, Edward, if you have a chance with this girl," Esme cut in, "and she's as wonderful as you and Alice, and Jasper, and Emmett and even Rosalie say?" She left it hanging there, and I realized she was right. Even Rosalie liked her. Rosalie, who didn't really get along with that many people and who gave up a good job to be with my friend. They were getting married at Christmas. Emmett had proposed just minutes before I broke things off with Bella.
"Mom, I broke up with her. How can I get her back?" My voice was pleading. I was an idiot. They were all right.
"Give me a minute," she said. Rising from her seat on the couch she went into her and Carlisle's room. It wasn't long before she came back out and handed me a small, velvet box. "This was my grandmother's. See if Bella likes it."
I opened it up. Inside was a ring. Glancing over my shoulder Alice started to laugh. "It's perfect for her," she said. "Remember those hair combs she wore?"
Looking again I could see she was right. The design was the same. Art Deco. It was Bella's favorite period. "Thanks, mom," I said.
"Drive safe," she replied with a smile. "I look forward to meeting her."
I walk along the trail and can see a group of people gathered in a circle around the fire. Some are obviously Native American; Bella said her dad's best friend is Quileute. The little box is beating against my leg as I walk, so I put my hand in my pocket to hold it still. A few of the people notice me and give me the universal nod of acknowledgment. I can tell they're curious as to who I am and why I'm here.
Finally I saw you. You're sitting on a log, and in spite of the fact that you're laughing I can tell you're not happy. The spark I'd grown to love seeing is gone. A huge guy is next to you, smiling, but it seems he can tell you're faking it. He leans over and puts his head on top of yours. Something he says makes you look down and take a deep breath. For a moment I'm angry that you would sit with him like this, but know he must be your friend, Jake, married to another friend, Ness. Sure enough, a girl is holding his hand on the other side of him. She's looking at you sadly as well. They loved you too.
More people in the circle notice me. I'm a little hard to ignore, since I'm just standing there and staring at you. "Can I help you?" an older man asks. He's in jeans and a flannel shirt, and he has your eyes.
"You must be Charlie Swan," I say, holding out my hand to shake.
"Sure am, and you are?" he asks, giving me a firm grip back. I don't get a chance to answer.
"Edward?" Bella says from across the circle. "Is it really you?"
I step around your father and saw you get up and hurry over to me, confusion the dominant expression on your face. I wish it was excitement. Mine is probably worried. You stopped in front of me, twisting your hands. A glance up to your father, then back to me. "Why are you here?"
"Because I'm an idiot and want to ask you something." I pull the box out of my pocket and hear you gasp. "I called Seattle Grace and accepted their offer," I tell you while opening the box and pulling out the ring.
"Doesn't have you," I say, reaching for your left hand. I hold the ring poised over the tip of your third finger. "I've been thinking since you left me on the beach and realized I let the best thing in my life walk away from me." My eyes find yours in the firelight. "I'll probably be working most of the time, on call at all hours of the day and night. I'm going to miss birthdays and anniversaries because of work for years as I set up a practice. I've got student loans so deep that I wonder if I'll ever get them paid off. The only thing I have to offer you is my heart, but it is yours, totally and completely, if you still want me."
"I still want you," you whisper as you push your finger into the circle of the ring. Thankfully, it fits. We fit.