Well it has certainly been a long time since I updated this story! I hit writer's block with this story for a long time before I came across it last night and reread what I had previously written. I found that I couldn't let it go entirely and that I wanted to keep going with it. I hate leaving stories unfinished, and I felt that I wasn't done with this quite yet. Hopefully, inspiration will remain with me :) If you could please let me know what you think, that would be awesome:) R&R's are returned!
They walked a coupled of yards down the beach, the cry of gulls and gurgle of water filling the space between them before Chance began to talk.
"How has your day been?" he inquired as though they went for a walk everyday on the beach.
Chelsea slowly twisted the shell he had given her through her fingers, feeling the rough natural dips and rises contrast the smooth interior, the texture calming her nerves and grounding her thoughts, wondering again how she had ended up talking to him.
"Good," she said quietly.
He grinned sideways at her, his shaggy blond hair curling over his eyes.
"That's all you're going to give me?" he teased.
Chelsea bit her lip, unsure of how to act with him. She stared at her bare feet as they kicked up little puffs of sand that sparkled in the sunlight.
"I went to the library this morning," she offered by way of more explanation.
"You like to read?" he asked. His blue eyes searched her face like he wanted to know the most mundane things about her. Like they mattered. The shell spun faster through her hands and she reminded herself to be careful and calm. What could she tell him? She didn't want him to know that she was poor and homeless. She wanted him to remember her even if she never saw him again.
Which you won't, she reprimanded herself.
"I love to read," she answered, which was true even though it was at an elementary level.
"What's your favorite book?" Chance asked. He stooped quickly to pick up another shell that he flipped expertly through his own fingers as they walked. It winked and flashed as it caught the sun's light.
"You'll make fun of me," Chelsea mumbled, staring at the shell as it blurred and twisted over his hands. Why did she feel so self-conscious talking to him?
"C'mon," he pleaded. "I promise I won't laugh."
Chelsea looked up at him again and his genuine smile gave her more confidence.
"The Little Mermaid," she answered finally, giving a small smile of her own.
"Really?" Chance said, surprise spreading across his face.
"You said you wouldn't laugh!" exclaimed Chelsea.
He held up his hands, suddenly seeming nervous that he had offended her. "No! I'm sorry—it's just I thought you were afraid of water and…"
The way he scrambled to set things right made her realize that he was just as nervous as her. She felt more comfortable, the tension leaking out of her shoulder. Not to mention, he was awfully endearing stuttering for the right words.
"You don't have to swim to read," she pointed out, laughing. He visibly relaxed when he realized she was joking.
"It just seemed an odd choice is all," he finished, chuckling himself.
"Well maybe I wish I wasn't afraid of the water," she pointed out.
A moment of silence passed between them. Their pace had slowed although they had left the tourist spot of the beach behind them and were heading towards the part that curved towards the cliffs and out into the water.
"Would you mind me asking why you are afraid of the water?" Chance asked quietly.
Chelsea shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant so he didn't think her a total coward. "I almost drowned as a child when I fell into the deep end of a pool. No one was around to help me. I went under for almost a minute before my mom pulled me out. I've been frightened of water ever since."
Chance was quiet for another minute before he said, "I'm sorry you had to go through that. You must have been terrified."
She nodded, an involuntary shudder rippling through her. Try as she might to hide her feelings, she could never escape the feeling of the water closing over her head, of it filling her lungs as she struggled to breath, of the light fragmenting into pieces and turning her sense of direction upside down. She shuddered again. Chance reached over to squeeze her shoulder comfortingly.
He smiled again, and it was though a shot of electricity went through her body where his fingers gripped her arm. Blood rushed into her cheeks, and she looked away quickly so she wouldn't make more of a fool out of herself. Chance turned and flicked his shell out into the waves where it disappeared with a small plop.
The sand gave way to rocks and shells beneath their feet, clattering as their footsteps shifted them.
Chance looked around. "I hadn't realized how far we walked," he commented.
"You're easy to talk to," Chelsea replied without thinking. Snapping her mouth shut and feeling more heat rush to her face, she grasped for something else to say.
Good job, she thought.
"You're easy to talk too," he said, grinning. "Do you want to sit and talk for a while? Unless you want to clamber over rocks," he said gesturing to the rough rocks in the distance. Behind them the sandy cliffs soared into the sky, dune grasses jutting out her and there from the little nooks in the rock face. A couple of gulls nested in the outcroppings.
"We can sit," Chelsea agreed.
She was relieved when Chance led the way to a small alcove in the cliffs, back along the sand and far away from the water that had been getting closer and closer as the beach ran out of room. They sat in a shady spot under an overhang, tucking their feet beneath them.
"So where are you from?" asked Chelsea, turning the conversation towards Chance. After all, she really didn't know anything about him, and she had to have some means of justifying her strange attraction to him.
"Out of town," said Chance. "I just moved here from South Carolina. My father's job transferred."
"Cool," said Chelsea lamely, not knowing what else to say. She suddenly realized that she had never had a real conversation with someone who didn't live on the streets. What else was she supposed to ask? Street kids didn't talk about school or houses or their families. And she sure wasn't going to talk to Chance about playing stick ball and scrounging for money with the other homeless kids.
"What about you?" he asked as she scrambled in her mind.
"Oh um, I live over on East Street," she lied. East Street had modest apartment buildings, not rich, but certainly not poor either.
"Do you go to Tarrytown High?" he continued. "I'm starting there in the fall. Maybe you could show me around?"
"Yeah, definitely," she answered vaguely. What was she doing? She felt ridiculous and stupid pretending to be someone she wasn't, but she couldn't take it back now. He was still looking eagerly at her like he couldn't wait for school to start.
"What it like?" he asked.
"What's what like?"
"Oh, uhh, it's just like any other high school," she said. She had never been to high school, had only seen a couple of movies about them, but how was she supposed to describe a place she had never been too? What was she going to do come fall when he went to the school and she wasn't there?
It doesn't matter because you won't be seeing him again, she reminded herself.
He seemed slightly disappointed in her answer, his head cocked to one side as though waiting for her to continue. Instead, she busied herself with drawing a design in the sand with a stick that was by her feet.
"Don't want to scare me away before my first day?" he guessed.
Chelsea just laughed and shook her head, giving him a knowing smile like she knew exactly what she was talking about. Why had the conversation turned back to her?
"So what do you like to do in your free time?" he asked.
She shrugged, starting to become nervous with all these questions. Sweat dampened her forehead and neck and she swept her long curls into a messy bun on her head to expose her skin to the breeze. But it did little to help when she knew that it wasn't the heat of the day that had her perspiring. She hadn't planned on creating a whole new life for herself, one that didn't exist. But something kept the words coming, the lies circulating in her head, shaping the illusion that she so desperately wanted.
"What other girls like to do I guess," she said nonchalantly. "I go to the mall and movies and things."
As she talked, she realized that she was making herself sound boring and average.
Because you are boring and average, the voice in her head said. But I don't want to be! She thought. I want him to like me!
It doesn't matter, the voice countered, you won't be seeing him again.
But the single seed of pride wedged inside her wouldn't let her pretend to be entirely mundane.
"And I like to play rugby," she added. A touch of smugness welled inside her when she saw Chance's reaction, as though he wasn't expecting her to like such a rough sport.
"Are you any good?" he asked slyly. He looked her over and she blushed again under his roaming eyes even though he was just pretending to size her up. "You look like a gust of wind could knock you over," he observed.
"Don't judge just by what you see," she warned.
"I like what I see," he murmured, but before Chelsea had time to do anything but turn redder he went on. "Guess we will have to play sometime."
"You're on," she challenged.
His blue eyes sparked eagerly and the wind coming off the water whipped his hair back from his head. He looked wild and careless and free and Chelsea's heart thumped in her chest.
What are you doing, you idiot, she scolded. You cannot continue this! But there was something about him that made her want to know more. And as much as she knew she should cut herself off, she wanted to go on sitting in that spot with him forever.
As the sun sunk slowly towards the waves, they chattered aimlessly through several topics. Chelsea had to tiptoe around several questions to make sure they matched with the story she was creating, but for the most part she felt could be herself with Chance. Well, as close to herself as the situation allowed. He was sweet and inquisitive and funny and what was more he seemed to want to keep talking to her.
When the shadows of the cliff grew so long they tangled with the darkening water, he finally suggested they head back.
Chelsea agreed reluctantly and they headed back along the beach where only a handful of people remained to watch the sunset. When they reached the spot where they had met that afternoon, Chance turned to her and took her hand lightly in his. It was warm and rough and Chelsea had to steel herself from trembling.
"Thank you for today," he said. "It was great." His blue eyes stared into hers and suddenly he seemed serious, not the carefree light person he had been all day. And there was a note of sadness and finality in his voice that Chelsea cringed to hear. This is it, she thought. He doesn't want to see me again.
That's a good thing, she argued. It'll make it easier.
"I had fun," she agreed, smiling despite the sinking feeling in her chest.
He looked at the sun that was bobbing on the water, minutes away from going down. A sigh escaped his lips.
"I wish it didn't have to end." He turned back to her, even more sadness filling his features. "Chelsea," he continued, and the sound of her name in his voice sent a thrill of excitement through her. "I like you, but I don't think I can see you again."
Even though she had prepared for this and agreed, the words still stung like rain slapping against her face, drenching her and sucking away all the warmth of the day. She took a deep breath, willing herself to get through it. At least she'd always have the memories. That she could take with her.
"I understand," she said, studying her feet because she wouldn't be able to get the words out if she was looking at him. "I was going to say the same thing."
His fingers tightened around hers in surprise as though he wasn't expecting her to say that. "You were? Why?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I just knew it wouldn't work out. But it was fun, I'm glad I got to know you."
"It not you, Chelsea," Chance said, the intensity in his voice surprising her. She looked up, the setting sun illuminating him from behind, his eyes glowing in the half-light so heated and wild she couldn't look away. "I'm the one who's not good for you."
"What are you talking about?" she asked, confused.
He shook his head. She could see him struggle for words, but he gripped her hand still more tightly. His free hand agitatedly tangled in his hair as though steeling himself for what was coming.
"I can't explain," he said. "But you're better off without knowing me. I wish things could be different, but I can't change who I am."
Chelsea found herself completely lost. What on earth was he talking about? This wasn't how she imagined things would end.
"You don't have to," she said.
"But, I don't want to change you either," he whispered.
The roaring of the surf behind him gave an ominous resonance to his words and she stepped back, dropping his hand. A thrill of fear went through her, the nape of her neck prickling uncomfortably. What had changed in the last few minutes to make him like this? Why was he acting so strange? And more importantly what did he mean?"
Chance straightened and looked at the sun again, a hairs breadth from vanishing into the sea.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. His voice had returned to normal, but there was still something off. He stood rigid and formal, a dark conflict flitting across his face. "This is where I leave you, but I won't forget you. Take care of yourself."
He looked at her, an ocean of blue sadness filling his eyes. With a quick glance at the sun, he took a step toward her, reached out to take her hand again and pressed his lips to her skin. Just as quickly, he dropped it and walked off up the beach, the gathering darkness swallowing him after just a few steps.
The sun vanished and the beach was plunged into darkness. Chelsea was left, standing in the same spot, staring at the place where the shadows had hidden him, wondering what had just happened and the feeling of his lips still pulsing on her skin.