A strait-laced girl, a spontaneous guy, and the opportunity of a lifetime.
Sometimes, you have to get lost in order to be found.
The sun shines across the rippling water. It's bright rays offer up a harsh reflection to the mirrored ocean. The cacophony of whitecaps colliding against the rocky shore soothes my nerves despite the sea twisting, arching, and cresting against my sore back, where the salt stings my broken flesh but heals my shattered spirit. My feet plant a wider birth, my toes dig into the pebbly sand, and I brace for the impact of the angry tide swirling and swirling and swirling all around me. But for once, Mother Nature throws me a lifeline. The ocean breeze ushers water around my waist and waves race towards the beach carrying seaweed, which slaps my legs and arms, unable to free itself from the tumultuous wake.
My first true love has always been the ocean with its uncompromising beauty, but also its dangerous riptides and currents lurking below its spray. Until I met him on the first day of high school. Riley. In his orbit, nothing else matters. The ocean no longer roars like a lion, the sky shines, but not as bright, the grass grows green, but not the bright hue of Summer. My love for my best friend springs eternal hope from our first meeting, and then it just grows and grows and grows until my interest in the ocean pales in comparison to my feelings for Riley.
But my best friend knows nothing of the love I carry for him. There's no greater pain than burying your untold story deep inside you. To share it is to heal the wound festering beneath the skin's surface, but what if he won't listen? What if nobody listens? Case in point, a seagull dive bombs into the water right in front of me, extracts a writhing fish in its beak, and I stand still, in awe of the bird's boldness. Or maybe, desperation due to familiar hunger pangs beating the ever-loving crap out of my stomach for the third time this week.
“Seashell for your thoughts, Enya.” Riley pops up next to me like a trained dolphin from the local aquarium and places something cold and gritty in my palm.
He shakes his sun-streaked blonde hair and droplets of seawater spray my face, creating rivulets of water down my cheeks thanks to the sunscreen I’ve slathered everywhere. He envelops my palm in his freckled hands, pressing the shiny shell into my darker skin. I bite my lip, taste the brine lingering there, and shake my head no.
“Yes.” My best friend’s voice grows serious. “I need to know what you’re thinking.”
My brows shoot to the cloudless sky while his sea-green eyes grow wider, waiting for words to cross my salt-crusted lips. I’m so going to need some lip balm later. “No.” The shell's rough ceramic cuts my skin, but I ignore the sting. It's a familiar feeling, so I open a well-known box in the recess of my mind and file the pain away for later. Always later. For when I'm all alone. “You won’t like what I have to say.”
"Okay." Riley's shoulders lift upwards, his dimpled smile deepens, and his indifference shreds my unrequited love into jagged pieces full of sharp edges that cut straight to the bone.
I can't say how I feel. I can't show him how I feel. Riley can't know that I love him because, after today, my feelings won't matter. His feelings won't matter once he goes through the transition. Unable to meet his pointed stare, always recording my every move and mood, my shit-brown eyes dart away, cataloging how far the ocean spans to the horizon. Too far away. Just like he'll be too far away and out of my reach starting tomorrow.
For once, I wish tomorrow would never come.