I get my acceptance letter to the University of Oregon via my dad. It's the first time he's truly paid attention to me in days, and even though his frown is set and his eyes hard, I can see a hint of a smile threatening the edges of his mouth. I take the letter up to my room before I open it, staring at the dirtied envelope with my name typed precisely in the center.
I slide my fingernail under the flap with a quick swipe. The edge of the envelope—sharp, unforgiving—slices into the sensitive skin of my fingertip. As I unfold my acceptance, a drop of blood lands and blooms directly over the 'congratulations.'
I'm rejected from UW a few days later. Both letters make their way underneath my clothes, hiding between the shirts and jeans in the bottom drawer. I try to forget about them, even though we're nearing on the final weeks of high school and all the seniors seem to be thinking about is college. I spend my days avoiding the questions with a slight smile, ducking out of conversations, hiding in bathrooms.
Jessica is attending USC, which is weird because I didn't even know she was smart. Both Alice and Jasper are going to smaller private schools in and around Tacoma, where they can major in pre-med and then eventually switch to something like psychology or communications. I, myself, haven't even thought that far. The entirety of my mind is still spent fixated on the house next door.
Angela moved back in a week ago. Well, she never really left. I see her looking at me, though. When we're taking a test or writing an essay in class. She doesn't think I notice, but I do. Those quizzical eyes, stapled to my forehead. Dying to look away. I reach up and meet her gaze sometimes. Her brown eyes widen, dart to the side.
She's suspicious, yes. She knows, doubtful.
And then it's graduation.
And then it's June.
And then it's July.
And then it's August.
And Angela won't leave and Charlie won't leave and I'm stuck in this prison of a house as I watch Edward watch me.
It's not until the first week of September when she finally goes. When the times overlap and it's Edward in one house and me next door, waiting. I see through my window. She pulls out of the drive, mascara running down her cheeks in thick black lines. She wipes them furiously as she backs out, rain hitting the windshield with a vengeance.
He calls my phone only minutes later.
Charlie is gone. His shift doesn't end until 10. I have three hours with him. Three solid hours. But I leave for Oregon next week, and somehow these hours feel more of a curse than a blessing.
I throw on my rain boots and duck out the door.
It's raining hard, fast. I'm soaked through in moments, splashing my way through muddy puddles and squishy grass as I cross his lawn. He meets me at the back door, arms open wide as he slides the glass open.
"You're all wet," he says, lips meeting my forehead. He peels off my jacket with his hands, the wet fabric dropping to the floor with a muted thump.
He wraps my damp hair around and around until it's pulled tight in his fist. His head falls down to the crook of my neck, the length of his nose pressed right into the bloody pulse of my carotid artery. I feel his breath there, other hand weaving gently around my back, warm palm up my shirt.
I feel small here-fragile, even-enveloped in the arms of another.
"It's been a long time," he says, for the months have been long and the weeks have been long and the days have been long and the hours have been long and the minutes have been long and each and every second so damn long.
I nod, agreement. Hands cradling his head. He pulls me closer.
I hear the ticking of the clock in the kitchen and the beat of my own heart.
I lay back on the bed, still in my damp clothes. I watch as he pulls off my shoes, socks. Rolls up my jeans. Kisses my ankle. Looks up at me through a fringe of lashes, dark in the musty room. He travels up my body, eyes locked on my own, until he rests beside me. One heavy arm thrown over my stomach, pulling me close.
When we're like this, he's just Edward. There's no preconceived notions or frowns or sideways glances or judgmental stares. There's no wife or parents or Charlie or backstory or complications. There's just him. Him and the way his eyes crinkle when he says my name. Him and his forearms, lightly dusted with hair and brushing sparks over my bare stomach. Him and his jeans, rolled up twice above his dirty boots. Brown socks. Ankles.
These are the things I remember when his lips touch my neck for what I inevitably know will be the last time. I can taste it in the salt on his skin while my tongue finds that spot near his collarbone that he likes so much. The regret of it. The finality of it.
He feels it, too. I can tell by the way he holds on a little too tight. Grips the skin at my waist, fingertips leaving pale dots that turn a bright red as they depart. The way his legs weave through mine, though we're fully clothed.
The static between us. The crippling electricity.
"Is this it, then?" he asks, always straight to the point.
"We have a few hours."
"That's not enough," he says.
"I know," I agree.
His flannel shirt is soft against my skin as we roll over, my body pinned to the bed beneath him.
"Where are you leaving me for? Someplace sunny?" he asks.
"Someplace warm?" he asks.
"Someplace with family?" he asks.
"Someplace you've always wanted to go?" he asks.
"Someplace you'll be loved?" he asks.
"I can't bear it." His hands grip either side of my neck and he could break me if he wanted to, right here and right now. Squeeze until I choke, until I suffer, until I'm dead, forever in his arms.
"Do you want me to lie to you?" I ask.
"Yes. Please. Yes. Anything." It's a beg.
He pulls me to him and it's like a mother telling his son a story. It's like there's a thunderstorm outside, lightning crackling against the roof. It'll be okay, I want to coo, fingers woven in his hair. It's just a storm. The storm will always pass.
"It's warm there, where I'm going. It's near the ocean. The air always smells of salt. At night, if you listen real close, you can hear the palm trees in the wind. There's no traffic, there's no rain. People are happy. There's old and young, all mixed together. There's a man on the corner lot, his home right up against the shore. He whistles into the breeze and I swear the tune carries for miles. People come from all over to hear his music. The children, they build sandcastles as tall as skyscrapers. Castle after castle. They're never blown away in the wind or flattened by the rising surf. The water is always calm, and it's as clear as turquoise. There's birds of a thousand colors. And every day, the locals visit the beach at sunset. Together, they paint seashells on the beach and cast them away, presents for a distant shore."
"Will you paint one for me?" he asks.
"I'll paint one for you every day. I'll paint one until they all wash up at La Push. I'll paint one until the beach is a rainbow of my seashells, thousands of them for you."
"I'll wait for them," he says, voice quieter now.
We lay still until I hear the sound of Charlie pulling up in the drive. Then, quiet as a mouse, I slip away while Edward sleeps.
this is probably like 100% illegal but i'm making a film for school and it's my final film and it's costing me like hella money. if you want to donate to said film message me and i'll send u a link and i'll write something for u. whatever u want. srsly. original, fic, whatever. anything ! xox