Plans Left Beside The Road
The setting sun washes the ocean in pinks and lavenders. Sunbathers have retreated from the beach, but the rowdy nighttime crowd rumbles, powered by the liquid refreshment from their coolers.
The other writers wanted to hang out after our shared dinner at a local seafood restaurant. I might still join them although melancholy has engulfed me on this last evening in Sandbridge. After packing my bags, I plant myself on the balcony, remembering almost three weeks ago, how it had all started and how everything has changed. For now.
It’s the “for now” that worries me. I can almost feel myself returning to my old life, with my changes precarious. Would I return to wearing dresses and drinking cocktails and liking the superficial life I had?
My cell phone jangles with a text from Steve: You still awake?
My heart leaps. I close my eyes tightly, trying to figure out if this is a good idea. It occurs to me that in some respects I’ve already left. The easy way would just be to ignore the text. By the time I leave in the morning, he’ll probably be working. I always take the easy way.
I reply: Yes.
A few moments later there’s a knock on the door. He’s standing there, smiling, holding a single bottle of bourbon barrel stout and a mug.
Leaning down, he kisses me on the lips and I melt against him while wondering how I could have even begun to think I didn’t want it.
I hold him tightly. He laughs softly.
“You okay, hon?” he asks.
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s pour you this beer and we’ll sit on your balcony and talk about it.”
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” I say into his t-shirt.
“I don’t want to leave.”
He’s quiet, almost too quiet and I wonder if I’ve overstepped some boundary I didn’t know existed. It’s not like I said: I love you because, frankly, I know nothing about that in relation to him.
I release him and look up. His cognac eyes almost avoid mine, which tells me that I did overstep something.
On the balcony he opens the stout with a bottle opener from his pocket knife. He pours the beer at a slant and slowly lets the head rise then hands it to me. I take a sip and moan. He grins. I offer the glass to him, but he shakes his head, raising his hand to beg off.
“It’s yours. I thought it only appropriate for your last night here,” he says. “I hope you had a good experience.”
This feels awkward suddenly, like we’re becoming all business.
“Great,” I say, averting my gaze.
He sighs. “There’s nothing I’d like better than for you to be local to see if this thing between us works out, but you aren’t.”
“I could be.”
“What? Uproot your whole life? You’ve got family and friends in DC.”
I nod, take a sip of the stout and shrug.
“And, hon, if we didn’t work out, what would you do?”
I look at him. “I’d be fine.”
“You’re used to having a support system.”
“I’d still be fine. I’ve never been the type to fall apart.”
We sit in silence then. He reaches over after a while, runs his fingers along my collarbone.
“Don’t be mad. I’m just trying to look out for you.”
I smile, being more cavalier than I feel. “You don’t have to. I’m a grown woman and capable of looking out for myself.”
He nods then cups my jaw with his hand. “Just don’t do anything hasty or crazy.”
“I never used to,” I admit. “Will you stay with me tonight?”
“Is it a good idea?” he asks.
“Does it have to be?”
He stays. When I awake in the morning to the sun heating the room, he’s gone with just an indentation where his head was. No, I’m not the type to fall apart.