“The Beach?” I asked.
Daniel nodded. “It’s perfect isn’t it?”
He grabbed my hand and pulled me closer to the shoreline. “I’ll keep you warm.”
“We’re not going skinny dipping or anything, are we? Because I can’t get pneumonia at my age, I still have so much to live for.”
Daniel kissed my neck. “Don’t joke.”
I made a motion to ‘zip-my-lips’ and Daniel smiled.
“You know what my favourite part of this place at this time of the night is?”
I shrugged. “No one would be able to find the body?”
Daniel tried to compose the smile but this time he couldn’t help it. “Strike two.”
I held up one hand in surrender. “Okay, I’m serious, promise; what’s your favourite part?”
“Look up,” he said.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’re hearing is still intact,” I rolled my eyes. “Look up.”
So I did and there it was. The feeling was parallel to the kind of pleasant surprise you experience after noticing something for the first time that was there all along. And although the beach is an amazing place, I kicked myself for not noticing sooner. But then I guess that’s what I get for being surrounded by city lights all the time, or the likes of.
The stars were incredible, to say the least, the most would be nondescript, even to an expert writer. I was lost in the chandelier-like night sky, almost forgetting where I was and who I was with at that moment.
“It’s so beautiful,” I said.
From my peripheral vision (because my eyes had not yet torn away from the stars) Daniel nodded. “Indeed they are.”
“I almost feel ashamed that I don’t notice them every night.”
Daniel turned his body to face me, and I mirrored his actions. He looked at our hands locked together as he spoke. “I notice you every day. Every single day. From the moment I nearly ran you over with my motorcycle—” we giggled “—till this very moment. I noticed that I had feelings towards you and, I must admit, I was anxious. Though of course I tried to mask my anxiety. I notice a lot of things about you, Anna.”
“Are you okay, Daniel?” I asked, now a little concerned.
Daniel smiled and then looked into my eyes. “We agreed on taking things slow, and I couldn’t help noticing your reaction to what I said earlier.”
Play it cool, just play it cool. If I played it anymore coolly I’d freeze! “To what are you referring to?” Ugh! I hated that expression. I don’t know why I chose it. It was as if as soon as it was said, then everyone would know you knew exactly what it is they were referring to.
Daniel just smiled and went along. “About California being my life.”
I turned my attention to the waves, the sand, the sky; anything but Daniel right now. I couldn’t take his knowing look.
“Oh,” I said, “right, that.”
“Can I tell you a secret?” he asked.
I nodded. “Of course.”
“I kind of have a slight fear of the beach. Water, deep end, and I do not get along. I guess it might stem from my father’s sucky teaching; in that he hasn’t taught me—” we laughed “—but there’s also something that I’m more afraid of.”
I was really paying attention now. He was opening up like crazy, and I didn’t know what brought it on exactly, but all I knew was that it was a good sign. The bouncer at his heart is finally letting me in deeper into the crowd.
“What’s that?” I asked.
Daniel sighed. “Of loving again. Which is why I can’t love too soon. I can’t let someone, anyone, to take my heart and then give it back in pieces like the last time.”
I gulped a hard one and nodded. “I understand.”
“I’m not too sure exactly what it is you feel about me, but I think I need this to go slow just as much as you do.”
I nodded again, grateful that it was dark enough so he couldn’t see I was getting teary eyed. “No, I mean, you’re totally right. I agree.”
“You do?” he seemed genuinely surprised.
“Yeah totally,” I said, my voice a little too exaggerated to make it sound natural. I composed my voice and let go of his hand. “Like, we’ve just started dating, we’re both very vulnerable. I like you a lot so I want us to be easy going.”
It hurt so much just to say that I liked him and not that I loved him, but I thought that was the best thing to do at this point. But then again I’ve fucked up so much in the past that I didn’t know what was right anymore.
“You just like me.” he said in a monotone. It almost sounded like a question.
I nodded. “Yeah, I mean, it’s more than ‘like’ but less than…” I stopped myself short. I didn’t want to say it more than once, otherwise I’d probably end up convincing myself that I wasn’t in love with him and I was already in the freak out zone. “Why did you bring me out here to say all of this? You could have just told me back home.”
“I felt more comfortable saying it here than back home. What with the wind thrashing and all it just made it seem easier for me.”
“Well,” I said, “I’m glad it was so easy for you.”
“No I didn’t mean it like that, I meant—”
“—you know what?” I interrupted quickly, “I have to go, I have an early class, I have to…I just, I have to go.”
Daniel stared at me for a moment. “Are you okay? I figured we could grab some take-out and chill in the lifeguard’s booth, under some blankets and stuff, just you and me. Just so we can really talk about this more.”
I furrowed my brow. “We can do that?”
“Not really, but I did ask a friend who works there, and he gave me a key.”
I shook my head. I was too emotional for that right now. What more was there to talk about anyway? “I want to go home,” I said simply.
Daniel nodded. “Sure.”
I told him he didn’t have to walk me up to the door. He insisted but I refused, saying it wasn’t necessary for twice in one night. I knew he could tell something was up. I just didn’t know how to process this; I thought I’d be okay with just waiting for him to love me, but right now, I didn’t know how I felt. This was just too difficult and strange for me. I don’t understand us right now, what is going on?
In the morning I spoke to the girls, about more than my little between a rock and a confusing place.
“So everyone’s basically had a heart to heart and everyone knows everything now?” I asked.
They all nodded in unison.
I sighed with relief. “Good, because I was starting to feel like Joey from Friends when he had to keep secret after secret.”
We laughed together and I nearly spilled my cup of water.
“Well, if we’re all laying everything out on the table then, I may as well say mine. I’m in love with Daniel.”
“I knew it!” Chloe said.
“Oh my gosh that is so great,” Janet beamed.
“Bad news is,” I said, to which they all held their breath, “I can’t tell him anything because he wants us still at level one.”
“What is that even mean?”
I ended up telling them the whole story.
“So, that’s it?” Chloe asked.
“What are you going to do now?” Janet asked.
“He took you to the beach?” of course Jodie would inquire about that.
I smiled at the last one. “Yeah I think it was to soften the blow or something.” In an exaggerated French accent I said, “Look at that stars, look at the water, jadore eventually but not right now—“ I then returned my tone to normal “—is he ever?”
Chloe shook her head in confusion. “I don’t understand. You guys are going so great. It’s like a natural progression.”
“I guess whatever is natural to me is artificial to him. He doesn’t want to get hurt, and I respect that,” I sighed. “But we’ve been going really, really well, does he have any feelings beyond those initial ones at all?”
“Of course he does,” Jodie said, “he’s just nervous about letting you deeper into his heart.”
I put my head into my palms. “Am I foolish to love him so quickly? I mean, I can’t un-love him, and he can’t be forced to love me, so,” I shrugged, “what happens now? It was so awkward the way we left things. Or I should say I left things.”
“Do you want me to get information?” Jodie asked.
I chuckled. “My very own spy? No, that would be weird. Just tell me what to do.”
I was met with only silence. I didn’t expect them to give me straight answers, easy ones, but I was at least hoping for a smidge of light. Nope, no such thing.
As the day went on I kept thinking of what Jodie and Daniel said about the beach being an easier place to deliver this kind of news. Then I started wondering, does being in a good mood better prepare you for a sucker punch? Will the shock be less drastic? Did his kiss, a prelude, cushion the blow? I would have liked to think so. No matter if the beach was there, the stars, the setting, if heaven was in front of us, I didn’t think anything would have made a difference. Bad news is still bad news.
On my way home from class, I ended up bumping into Sandy. Remember her? Yup! That’s the one. There were noticeable extensions in her blonde hair this time, and she seemed to look slimmer, but I couldn’t really tell. She rolled her eyes as soon as she caught a mere glimpse of me.
“So I hear you actually bagged Daniel,” she said.
Well I wouldn’t put it quite like that but I nodded anyway.
“Careful with that one,” she scoffed, “he’s flaky with his feelings. Don’t expect him to come around any time soon.”
As much as I didn’t want to believe her, it seemed like the only thing to ring true. When I realised that, I got…angry. Frustrated and annoyed really. I needed to tell him. It was now or never. No more hiding, no more keeping my feelings on the DL and blocking out every thought of possible happiness with him. I’m going to tell him, right now.
Instead of driving all the way home I went straight to Daniel’s with nothing but one thought in my mind. I felt brave, confident, determined, but by the time I stood in front of his door, all those courageous feelings dissipated. I knocked anyway.
When Daniel answered I walked straight inside, not even thinking to kiss him ‘hello’.
“I need to talk to you about something,” I said.
Daniel closed the door and turned around. “Okay,” he said cautiously.
So I said it, and I said it as fast as I could. “I know you said you wanted to take this slowly, and that you’ve had your heart broken before by two people who used to mean a lot to you. I know that. I understand that. But,” I paused, “it doesn’t change my feelings towards.”
And when Daniel didn’t say anything when I hesitated, I bombarded him some more. “I’m in love with you Daniel. There, I said it. I was afraid to admit it before and I couldn’t after that little trip to the beach, but I just had to say it now. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t say it more than if it weren’t reciprocated—” I was starting to feel unsure about that one, because at this point, Daniel didn’t seem to look so good “—but I just had to. I’m in love with you, and I’m sorry it’s not the right time for you.”
Daniel placed a hand on his neck and looked down as he rubbed the nape. His position made it impossible for me to see any expression on his face.
“Daniel, are you going to say anything?” I finally asked.
It was official. Good mood or bad mood regardless, nothing can cushion a blow; and this one was straight between the eyes. Most importantly, I was not prepared for what came after…
***I’m going to try and upload a bonus post some time this week!***