a.n. this is so embarrassing. in case anyone's been living under a rock, all i can write lately are fluffy one shots. (blame Minja! everything is his fault.. yeah, He Started It too.) this is a rewrite of a very, very, very, very old story of mine that needed a lot of work. i think this version is much better, though it does still have a fair bit of room for improvement. tell me what you think, i'm trying to expand my capabilities, and every bit of feedback is greatly appreciated. reviews will be returned, eventually. cos i'm nice, but i'm a lazy bugger. anyway, the whole "there's no music" part is stolen from The Notebook cos I'm a sucker for oldfashioned romance. and all the wonderful lyrics throughout this piece are from the song Where the City Meets the Sea by awesome band The Getaway Plan, which also inspired much of the plot and the title. obviously. hope you enjoy.
Where the City Meets the Sea
"If I've learnt anything from this, it would all be gone, it would all be gone. And I'll take away your breath, just to turn me on, yeah you turn me on."
This was the fifth night in a row Marissa Walker had stopped by that cozy little coffee place down the street on her way home from work and ordered a large latté with two sugars, even though she knew that all that caffeine wasn't at all good for her, especially considering how jumpy she was lately. They made it at just the right temperature though, and the lovely old woman behind the counter always offered her a cookie with her drink. Of course, she had to refuse, because she couldn't risk putting on weight and not fitting into her dress – but it's the thought that counts.
She was just finishing off the last few dregs when she stepped onto her stoop and had to stop drinking and concentrate on finding her keys in her bottomless pit of a handbag. With one hand trying not to spill hot latté on herself and the other fumbling with the elusive keys, Marissa didn't notice the soft music floating through her open window. She managed to grasp the keys, but was surprised to find that she didn't need them – her door was already unlocked.
She pushed it open a crack, and stood, contemplating her options. For a second she considered not going inside, calling the police and letting them check if there was an intruder inside the house. She was really regretting having so much caffeine now. But then she heard a song playing from her lounge room, the familiar music stirring up old emotions that she'd buried away inside.
"I'll find my way, would fall from grace, with the little piece of you that's left in me. But then it's 1,2,3 and you're back to me. And all the pieces fit together oh so perfectly, enough to take me home. Just take me home..."
She pushed the door open further and stepped inside, trying to keep as quiet as possible as she placed her bag on the coffee table and closed the door behind her before tiptoeing into the house. As she got closer to the kitchen, she could hear the clattering of utensils, and a male voice singing softly along to the music. She crept quietly along the hall and peered around the corner to her kitchen.
A man stood with his back to her, tossing a salad. The sight of his familiar, dark, unruly curls forced a gasp from between her lips. She spun around, leaning with her back against the hall wall, and put her head in her hands as she slid down to sit on the floor. "Why now?" she hissed, "Not now!"
"Missy?" His voice startled her, and she jumped to her feet, knocking her elbow against the wall. She cursed, and he just stared at her. "Are you okay?"
"No, Jesse, I am not okay," she snapped, rubbing her elbow and glaring at him. "Why are you in my house? What are you doing here? How did you get inside?"
Jesse Meyers didn't reply. An uncomfortable silence hung between them, broken only by the song, their song. "If I've learnt anything from this, it would all be gone, it would all be gone. And I'll take away your breath, just to turn me on, yeah you turn me on."
"Are you hungry?" he asked simply. He even had the nerve to smile.
Marissa bit her tongue. "What are you doing in my house?" she managed to ask politely enough.
"I made dinner," he stated, as though that answered everything. "Sit down and I'll get it for us."
"We'll find our way, we'll leave this place, with the little piece of me that's left in you. But then it's 1,2,3 and you're back to me. And if you hear me loud and clear, then what's the problem dear? Why won't you take me home?"
Marissa didn't like all of the feelings and memories that Jesse brought with him. She didn't like how he thought he could just pop back into her life, grinning like a Cheshire cat, and make her forget about everything that had happened. She didn't like how he'd put The Getaway Plan on, how their song was playing. She didn't like how he was talking to her as though they were a married couple and she'd just arrived home from work. And most of all she didn't like how she was letting him do all of that.
He smiled at her again, and gestured for her to follow him through the kitchen to the adjoining dining room. Reluctantly she obeyed and sat at her dining table, which had been set for two and even had a candle burning in the center, beside the open bottle of wine. She watched him in silence as he lay out the food that he had prepared in her kitchen for them to eat. Occasionally he'd look up and catch her eye, giving her a shy smile. And then she'd feel butterflies in her stomach and force herself to look away before she did something she'd regret later.
Jesse sat down opposite her, and even though he began eating his surprisingly delicious meal as though this were the most normal situation in the world, Marissa couldn't do it. She put down her knife and fork, sighing audibly and looking him straight in the eyes as she asked, "Why are you here, Jesse?"
"You know why, Missy," he said quietly, his smile faltering for a second.
The use of her old nickname made her flinch, but she didn't remove her gaze from his as she replied jadedly, "I'm getting married, Jesse. It's been two years. What did you expect? That I'd drop everything just because you came waltzing back into my life with a freshly cooked meal?"
"I didn't expect that," Jesse whispered. She thought she heard his voice break. "I don't expect that."
"What do you expect then?" Marissa couldn't keep the bitterness from her voice – not that she really tried.
"I-I don't know…" Jesse sighed and put his knife and fork down on his nearly-empty plate. "What's his name? Aaron Johnson?"
"Jenson," Marissa replied, staring at her plate.
Jesse didn't have a reply, so a few minutes of awkward silence passed before he spoke again. "It's our anniversary, you know? Or would be, if we were still together…" His voice was considerably clearer and his gaze penetrating as he stared at Marissa's flushed face.
For a second she considered lying to him and saying she'd forgotten that, but she didn't think she could bring herself to lie so obviously. "I know… But we're not together," she sighed. "Aaron's a very good man," she said quietly, more to herself than him, to reassure herself that she was making the right decision.
"He must be: you always had high standards. I was lucky to pass," Jesse stated, causing a blush to rise up her neck and flood her cheeks. He stood up before continuing. "So what should I get you for a wedding present?"
She didn't bother trying to hide her surprise. "You'll come to my wedding?"
Jesse winced. "Probably not. Too awkward…" He wandered around her dining room, examining her belongings with a look of glazed-over detachment that made Marissa uncomfortable. "You know what Missy? You were a great kisser. Now, don't get me wrong, you were good when you started dating me but then…whoa…You were amazing! I trained you well." He picked up a photo of her at her 23rd birthday and then put it back on the mantel. "I just never thought I'd be training you for another guy." He said it so quietly and sadly, Marissa rose from her seat and took a step towards him.
She looked him over, taking in every detail of how he had changed and how he had remained the same. He'd gotten taller, maybe a bit broader. His hair looked even messier, if possible. He was still just as good looking, if not more. It was really only his eyes that had changed. They seemed deeper, darker, less laughter and more…more what? They were still the same sapphire blue, still the same round shape. And yet something was different. They seemed… darker. Briefly she considered asking him if he'd been drinking, but instead whispered, "What did you think?"
It hurt her that he turned away as he replied, "Maybe…I dunno…Maybe I thought that…that you'd only kiss me."
Marissa had to take a few deep, steadying breaths to calm herself down before she could reply. "Jesse, it's been two years. Things have changed. I've changed. I'm sure you've changed too."
Suddenly he spun around, cutting her off. "Will you dance with me?"
Marissa stopped, and noticed for the first time that their song was on repeat. "If I've learnt anything from this, it would all be gone, it would all be gone. And I'll take away your breath, just to turn me on, yeah you turn me on." It had always been one of her favourite songs. It was the first song they'd 'danced' to, if you could call it that. It was the first song they'd kissed to, at the local gig at their town hall, where he'd taken her on their first date. "What? Now? Here?"
"Dance, now, but not here," he told her, clasping her hand and leading her to the front door. "Down where the city meets the sea, I sit and daylight speaks to me. She carries me away. Just take me home. Why won't you take me home?"
"Jesse, where are we going? Where are you taking me?" Marissa was a little worried, but she didn't pull her hand from his like both of them thought she would have.
"We're going home," Jesse told her.
"What do you mean?" She was confused, but she wasn't scared. She wasn't scared, and she couldn't figure out why. She'd stopped trusting Jesse a long, long time ago. So why was she letting him lead her down the steps to his car, why was she letting him hold the door open for her, why was she getting in the car…?
The short car ride passed in silence. Marissa watched the city blur past her windows and Jesse stared straight out the front windscreen. It wasn't long before he pulled up at a familiar car park, down where the city meets the sea and stepped out of the car. Marissa copied, and immediately regretted the fact that she hadn't grabbed a coat on the way out. The sea breeze was more chill than normal at this time of night, and sought out every hole in her clothing, piercing her very bones.
She jumped as Jesse wrapped his arms around her and breathed in her ear, "You looked cold." She let herself give into his embrace as he led her down onto the beach, and snuggled up to him, suddenly grateful for the low temperature.
They stopped at the water's edge, right at the spot where they used to lie and plan out their future together as they watched the sunrise. Jesse took her left hand in his as he placed his right on her waist. Instinctively Marissa placed her right hand on his shoulder. And then they began to dance. He led her in the waltz, keeping his blue eyes locked on her hazel ones.
"There's no music," Marissa told him skeptically, trying not to enjoy herself.
"Well… I'll make some then," Jesse replied, starting to hum. "Down where the city meets the sea, I sit and daylight speaks to me. She carries me away…"
"You're a terrible singer," Marissa shook her head at him. He didn't seem to take any notice of her insult as he continued humming. Her tone softened as she continued, "But I like this song." That made him give her the grin that haunted her dreams, the one that he saved especially for her… For her, Aaron's fiancée. "Jesse, what is all this?" she asked, reluctantly disengaging herself from him. "Why are we back here now?"
He continued smiling and humming, not giving her an answer. He was starting to infuriate her again, but she still couldn't help but notice the way the moonlight reflected in his eyes, how soft his lips looked, so close to her own… And then she was having the childish thought of his lips on hers. She so desperately wanted that, she could almost sense him so close…
The sound of a phone ringing made Marissa pull back. She only noticed that her eyes had been closed when she reopened them to see Jesse's face centimeters from her own. Her mobile phone was buzzing in the pocket of her jeans, bringing her back to reality, reminding her of her life and commitments.
Jesse opened his eyes. "Leave it." It was really supposed to be a question but the way he said it made it sound like a statement.
"But…but what if it's Aaron? He… I…" Marissa couldn't think of anything more to say. "What if it's Aaron?"
She went to pull her phone out of her pocket, but Jesse gently wove his fingers around her wrist and stopped her from doing so. "So what if it's Aaron?"
For reasons she didn't quite understand, him saying that made her extremely mad. "Don't talk about him like that!" she yelled, wrenching her arm out of Jesse's grasp and stumbling backwards. Her phone stopped ringing, but neither of them really noticed. "Don't talk about Aaron! He's wonderful, he's respectful, he's gorgeous -"
Jesse looked stunned. "Okay, Missy, I'm sorry, I-"
"Don't call me Missy!" she roared, the fact that she could feel tears stinging in the corners of her eyes only making her madder. "You can't call me that anymore Jesse! Aaron's so nice… he's loves me, Jesse. He loves me!"
"I love you!" Jesse yelled over the top of her, sending a wave of shock through her. "I love you, Missy."
The angry tears finally spilt over, and Marissa could feel them etching salty paths onto her cheeks as she ran at Jesse, wanting nothing more than to inflict as much pain on him as he had inflicted upon her. She collided with him, taking him by surprise, and they both stumbled back a few steps. She began punching him on the chest, hitting harder each time. And instead of fighting back, or even trying to stop her, he just stood there and let her punch him, not saying a word. Maybe because he knew that he deserved to be punched by her.
Punch. "Don't." Marissa's breath was uneven and she spoke in between punches. "Call." Hard punch. "Me." Harder punch. "That!" The hardest punch yet.
And then she collapsed onto him, because it hurt her so bad to want everything and nothing all at once. He wrapped his arms around her and ran his fingers through her hair, but she still didn't know what feelings she should enjoy and which she should deny.
After a while Marissa's tears dried up and stopped falling, and she slowly lifted her face from where it was buried in his chest. She rubbed her red-rimmed eyes with the heels of her palms, and sighed sadly. She suddenly felt very, very tired. "You have to go."
Jesse didn't answer, or move, nor did his expression change. So Marissa unfolded his arms and stepped back. They stood staring at each other for a few minutes, trying to memorize every little detail of the other. It hurt so much to walk away from him, her first true love, but Marissa felt that she had to. She'd grown up, she'd moved on. She had to leave Jesse behind.
She spun on her heel and began walking up to the car park, where she planned on ringing a taxi to take her home. She hoped that he wouldn't call out to her, but she knew that he would. She didn't know if she could handle hearing him confessing his love for her again. She didn't know if she could keep on being strong and confused at the same time. She doubted it.
"Marissa!" It was the first time he'd used her full name all night. He hardly ever called her Marissa. She stopped in her tracks and slowly turned to face him, her racing heartbeat echoing loudly in her ears. Jesse stood exactly where she'd left him, staring after her with a face that made her want to punch him and kiss him at the same time. "Missy, I… I'm sorry. For tonight, for years ago, for… for everything. I shouldn't have just barged back into your life, I don't know what I was thinking, but I-I had to see you again. You're the first girl I ever truly loved, and you'll probably be the last. And you… you're marrying someone else. I wish you every happiness with Aaron, I really do. I just… I wish that it were me you were marrying. I miss you. I'll leave you be, now. I just had to see you one last time… I had to tell you I still love you. I always have, I always will. I love you."
Time stopped completely. Nothing existed, except for Jesse, and Marissa, and that one beat of their hearts. Neither of them knew how, but the next second she was running at him, jumping – and he was catching her, holding her up, and suddenly both of them felt at home again.
She smiled down at him. "You take my breath away, Jesse Meyers… I love you!" Without giving him a chance to reply, she pressed her lips against his, caving into desire. He kissed her back, and she felt shivers along her spine.
She jumped down and sat on the soft sand. Jesse sat beside her and she snuggled into him. They sat there all night, down where the city meets the sea, kissing and talking and laughing and kissing some more, and eventually falling asleep, limbs intertwined and happy smiles gracing their features. They woke with the sunrise, not caring that they were covered in sand, because it takes your breath away to wake up with the one you love most in your arms and the sea breeze blowing against your face.
"Down where the city meets the sea, I sit and daylight speaks to me. She carries me away. Down where the city meets the sea, I sit and daylight speaks to me, and daylight speaks to me."