“Did you change your mind about college yet?” he asks, breaking the silence.
I haven’t changed my mind. I haven’t even given it a second thought. It doesn’t matter anyway; I don’t see much of a future for myself. “No, I’m staying here, at least this year.”
“I wish you’d change your mind. You have so much to offer, Kate. You should let the world see it,” he says, keeping his eyes on the water.
“I just can’t right now,” I whisper, swallowing down my emotions.
“Something changed you, and I’m going to keep digging until I find out what that is.” His head tilts in my direction and our eyes lock. I want to tell him that the old Kate is never coming back, but we’ve had that conversation before. He will only ask questions that I don’t want to answer.
“I’m sorry,” I say, turning my eyes away from him.
My eyelids are getting heavy, so I lie on my back and wrap the jacket tightly around me. I close my eyes and focus on the sound of nature to keep my mind off of other things. When I feel Beau against my side, I open my eyes to see him looking down at me, his head resting in his hand. His face moves closer to mine and I can feel my heart beating hard against my chest. When I feel his warm breath against my mouth, I close my eyes and his lips gently brush against mine. His touch is warm and tender, and I can’t help but comb my fingers through his hair. I’m trying to make an old dream come true.
I let myself get lost in him. For a moment, I feel as if we’re the only two people in the world and nothing else matters. I feel like there is a small chance I could let go of everything and just be with him like this forever, but when he leans in to me and rests his body on top of mine, panic shoots through my entire body. My mind flashes to Drew and painful memories start to race through my head as I push roughly against his chest. “Stop!” I cry, rolling onto my other side.
“What’s wrong? What did I do?” The ache I hear in his voice makes my heart fall a little further into my stomach. This is my fault, not his.
When I felt Beau’s body on top of mine, I could see the anger in Drew’s eyes and feel the way his fingers dug into my skin. I just want the memories to go away.
“Fuck. Kate, please say something!” Beau says with a strained voice.
I flinch, wrapping my arms around my stomach. “Can you please just take me home?”
I want to tell him. I want to tell someone, but I can’t.
He stands in front of me with his hands folded behind his neck. I back away, making sure to put an arms-length distance between us. “Jesus, will you please just tell me what’s going on? I can’t keep watching you pull further and further away from me.”
“Just take me home, Beau,” I whisper before walking in the direction of the truck. When I hear him call my name, I stop and turn my neck to look back at him.
“I can’t keep doing this shit. Why won’t you talk to me? Give me one reason!” he yells, gripping his hair between his fingers.
“You don’t want to hear it. Trust me,” I cry, covering my mouth with my hand. Just thinking about telling him everything makes the bile rise from my stomach. No one wants to hear that good little Kate isn’t who they think she is. She’s been damaged.
“Try me,” he says, sounding tired and frustrated. “Nothing you tell me will change the way I feel about you. Nothing.”
I shake my head and start walking again.
“Kate come back here!” he shouts. And part of me wants to. Part of me wants to go back to him and wrap my arms around his neck and never let go, but I can’t.
I ignore him and climb into the truck, watching him stare toward the water with his hands on his hips. I wanted him so badly at one point in my life, but he deserves so much more than the shell of who I once was. I watch as he picks up a large rock and throws it in the water before wrenching the blanket into a ball and heading toward the truck.
I’m dreading the awkward, silent ride home, and when he kicks his front driver’s side tire before climbing in the truck, I know I may have pushed him a little too far this time. He’s tried to find out what happened to me many times over the past two years, but this is the first time he’s ever kissed me. In a way, I’ve rejected the one person who I should be holding onto.
He sits in the truck and slams his door shut. I want to look over at him, but I can’t bring myself to do it. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. I’m not sure if he hears me . . . he doesn’t respond.
As he drives me home, he looks lost in his own world, and I know I’m the one who put him there. I want him to be happy, but I’m not the person who can give him that.
He didn’t come over to my house for six days afterward. He didn’t call or text. I thought I’d finally pushed him too far, but on day seven he knocked on my door, proving why he really is the only guy I can trust.
Since that night, Beau and I have gone back to the way we had been the last two years. I keep him close enough for comfort, but far enough not to let him see inside. Somehow, he can always read me, though, and I both love and hate him for it.
We also haven’t been back to the lake since that night. In fact, we haven’t gone anywhere. We’ve either hung out around his house or mine. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid of what might happen between us if we’re alone. Maybe I’m afraid of what I might tell Beau if he tries hard enough to break down my walls. I’m scared of everything these days.
This may be one of the last days we will have together for a while, so I agreed to go to the lake with him. It holds so many good memories from my past, and I can’t help but think that what happened last time could have been a good memory too. I have lots of moments I’d like to hold on to forever, but I’m afraid they will always be overshadowed by that one horrible memory I can’t let go of.
A KNOCK AT THE DOOR IS A WELCOME BREAK. I peek through the window and see the back of Beau’s head with all its tousled dark hair and I instantly feel my chest tighten. This is going to be much harder than I’d thought.
I reach for the doorknob and take a deep breath. He turns around as I open the door and gives me the dimple-bearing smile I love so much. My eyes meet his bright blue ones, and I see some of the sadness I feel reflected in them.
This isn’t going to be easy on either of us.
“Hey,” Beau says, pulling me in for a hug. I breathe in the smell of his soap. Not that I need to; I can close my eyes and remember exactly what he smells like any time I want.
“Hey,” I say, pulling back and wrapping my hands around his arms. “Are you all ready to go tomorrow?”
The smile falls from his face. “Everything is ready to go. I wanted to make sure I could spend the rest of my day with you.”
I can’t decide if I should cry or smile. He’s the sweetest, most caring person I’ve ever met, and for some reason, after everything that’s happened between us, he still wants to be around me.
“You look really nice today, by the way,” he says, moving his eyes up and down my body. I quickly cross my arms over my chest, very aware that all I have on over my swimsuit is cut off shorts and a white tank. I may be a walking contradiction to the average teenage girl because I don’t like to draw attention to the way I look. If the summer weather allowed it, I would wear nothing but baggy sweats and t-shirts.
Beau, on the other hand, looks carefree, standing in front of me in nothing but black swim trunks and a tight white t-shirt. He’s not at all ashamed of who he is.
“I can’t believe summer’s over already,” I say, looking down at my feet. I don’t want him to see the tears that are glistening in my eyes whenever I think about living a day without him. He knows me too well, though.
He wraps me in his arms again and kisses my forehead. “I’ll come back every weekend if you want me to . . . or you can come visit me. You know I’ll do anything for you.”
I pull back, shaking my head. “Enjoy the college experience. You don’t need to worry about me,” I say, whispering the last part. But I don’t know if I really want him to listen to me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t.
“Come on, let’s go,” he says, leading me toward his truck. It’s an old red beat up Chevy with a loud muffler. In a way, I’m going to miss it too; I always feel better when I hear his truck pulling down our street and into his driveway. It means he isn’t that far away if I need him.
I lean my head against the window and try to convince myself that everything will be okay. Just because I don’t believe it now, doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying.
When we arrive at the lake, I put a smile on my face and try to make the best of this last day we have together. The next time I see Beau, he’s going to have amazing stories about the things he’s done at college and the people he’s met . . . the girls he’s met.
There’s a gnawing feeling in my chest as I watch him set two towels down on the beach. Someday he’s going to do this with someone else and he’ll be smiling at her like he’s smiling at me right now. I don’t know why I even let myself think about it because it hurts so damn much.
We sit side by side with our arms resting on our knees and stare out at the blue water. It’s quiet now that all of the kids have gone back to school and summer vacations have ended.
I don’t come out here often anymore because I’d constantly be looking over my shoulder, jumping at every noise I hear. Today is different, though. When I look at Beau, I feel like everything is going to be okay. He gives me a sense of security; he always has. I can’t take my eyes off him as I watch him stand and slide his shirt over his head, revealing his toned stomach.
“You up for a swim today?” he asks, running his hand through his hair.
I look up at the clear blue sky. I shrug. “Why not.”
“Hurry up and I’ll race you,” he teases, resting his hands on his hips.
I roll my eyes and slide out of my clothes, feeling exposed in my one-piece black suit. “Beau, can you just go in before me? Please.”