Wedding At Summer Beach

Nikki Diemand decided to check her personal e-mail account at work and she was surprised to see an e-mail from Christopher Martin in her in-box. It had been four years since she had seen the guy. Her heart jumped as all the memories came rushing back.

Nikki sucked in her breath as she opened the e-mail.

Hi Nikki,

This is Christopher Martin. Your mom gave me your e-mail address.

I thought you might want to know that Jackson is getting married on Summer Beach (literally, on the beach) the second weekend in October.

My parents have rented an entire motel for guests (it's going to be low key and by special invite only).

You probably would have come with Jan so I wanted to invite you on her behalf.

Your mom says you are with somebody - feel free to bring him.

We are staying at the Sea Horse on Seaside Avenue (on the south end of the boulevard).

I'll be there early Friday afternoon. I'm going to be in Unit 4 which has a kitchen efficiency and two bedrooms. You and your boyfriend are welcomed to use one of the rooms.

Everybody would be happy to see you again.

Christopher

Nikki sat back in her chair and she stared at the computer screen for a long moment, not quite believing what she was reading. Talk about a blast from the past!

Nikki let out a sigh as she thought about poor Jan and how much she missed her best friend, four years after the accident.

Christopher was right. Nikki would attend the wedding if Jan was still alive. Nikki knew she owed it to Jan to show up on her behalf. But she had no interest in bringing Aaron along with her. They hadn't been getting along lately and he would find the event a bore which she would resent so why make it even more difficult between them?

Of course, Aaron would probably give Nikki a hard time for going at all but this was important to her and she wasn't going to let her boyfriend's guilt trip stop her from honoring her friend and respecting Jan's family.

Nikki and Jan had been friends all of their lives living three houses down from one another and experiencing all the joys and heartbreaks of growing up as soul sisters. They went to school together, they worked at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store together, and they were in the high school band and chorus together. They were basically sisters.

Nikki went off to Tufts to study Computer Science while Jan stayed home in Hillsboro and went to Green College. It was the first time they had been separated as friends but they visited as often as they could.

And then, during her second year at Tufts, Nikki received the most surreal and unbelievable phone call of her life from her mom. Jan was missing and presumed drowned. Her car was found near her favorite swimming spot on the Blue River on a mid-September day.

Jan was an avid and frequent swimmer and it was a glorious early autumn day but it had rained heavily the previous few days and the currents were swifter than Jan realized.

The next eighteen hours were agonizing as Nikki held out hope that maybe Jan had escaped peril or perhaps left with someone else but then the brutal phone call came, again from her mom – Jan's body was found lodged in a submerged tree downriver and Nikki was crushed.

It was Nikki's first real experience with death of someone so close to her and she had a hard time comprehending the reality of the unimaginable loss.

Nikki came home in a fog for the funeral, unable to process her emotions or the associated grief. Most of those confusing days remained a blur even four years later. Nikki never cried so much in her life even though she was in numbed shock and basically a zombie through most of it.

Her heart was crushed for Jan's poor family who looked just as lost and stunned as she was. Jackson was a few years older than her but they frequently flirted and were good friends within the brother-of-a-friend restrictions. Jackson was rugged and outgoing and tough and a leader to be admired.

Jan's kid brother Christopher was a year younger than Nikki and Jan, much quieter and shyer than his older brother but a good kid who adored his sister and clearly liked Nikki but she was sure to make sure Christopher knew that they were 'just friends' in their many encounters.

It was torture to see Jan's siblings looking so subdued and defeated at the wake and funeral. And their parents looked like all the life had been sucked out of them.

The reception after the burial was in the banquet room of Serguci's Family Restaurant, one of those forced affairs where people are fake happy while struggling to make conversation and pretend everything is fine when their worlds just fell apart forever.

The situation became unbearable for Nikki who wanted to stand up and scream and yell and curse and break things in angry protest of what had happened. She noticed that Christopher had been mostly slumped in a chair through most of the reception, barely eating any of the buffet meatballs and pasta.

"Let's get out of here for a while," Nikki said when she approached him.

Dazed, Christopher didn't even respond as he got up and followed her from the banquet hall. They walked aimless around downtown Hillsboro, certainly looking out of place in their funeral clothes, Nikki wearing a black dress, Christopher in a dark blue suit she'd only seen him in a few times over the years.

They somehow ended up down near the Blue River which was probably not the best place to be, although they were several miles from where Jan had gone in – and been found.

They ventured off the path they were on and ended up in a secluded patch of leaf-covered ground where they sat on a log and listened to the birds and the breeze rustling through the trees while the sun peeked through the branches above.

"Maybe that's Jan smiling down upon us," Nikki said and then she burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably and poor Christopher, adrift in his own pain and grief, didn't know what to do, what to say, or how to react. He put his arm around her shoulder and he pulled her close and the bawling Nikki wailed into his chest while he awkwardly stroked her hair.

Nikki was pretty sure she was the one who lifted her head up and kissed him. She needed to be comforted and held and she wanted to feel something – anything – other than the pain of grief and the emptiness of loss.

Christopher found the courage to kiss her back and soon they were necking and making out and they fell off the log, Nikki on her back and Christopher on top of her in the bed of leaves and soon her panties were down her legs far enough for Christopher to get his penis out of his zipper and then he was inside of her as they both wept while making love fully clothed amid the decay of dead leaves.

Nikki still remembered the smell of the leaf musk and the mixture of her and Christopher's tears on her face and how he sobbed into her shoulder and neck while they humped.

There was no climax, orgasm or ejaculation – overcome by emotions and exhausted by the volcano eruption of grief, Christopher simply collapsed on top of her, staying inside of her for a while until he finally pulled out, rolled off of her and wept some more.

When they were done with the outburst, Christopher zipped his pants up, Nikki pulled her panties back up, and they both stood, pulling the leaves and twigs from their hair and clothes and silently walking back to the reception as if nothing had happened.

Nikki went back to college that evening and she didn't return to Hillsboro much after that, landing a summer job near Tufts in Medford and making new friends in a desperate attempt to fill the hole left by Jan's absence.

After graduation, Nikki got a job at computer tech firm in Westborough, found an apartment, met Aaron, and went on with her life and as she stared at the e-mail still on her screen, Nikki tried to remember if she ever saw Christopher again after that fateful encounter in the woods on the day they buried Jan.

She sucked in her breath and began punching on the keyboard.

Dear Christopher,

Thanks for thinking of me. I would be honored to attend Jackson's wedding and to see all the family again. I will arrive at Summer Beach Friday afternoon and look for you.

Love,

Nikki.

Wait a minute. She deleted Love and replaced it with Warmly. Then she pushed the send button and hoped for the best.