He just looked at me for a bit then said, “Why didn’t you tell me how you felt, even before everything went down with our parents?”
“I didn’t think you felt the same way about me, and I didn’t want to freak you out. I didn’t want to lose you.”
“So, you ran away and lost me anyway. How did that make sense?”
“It somehow felt like if I left before the worst happened, it wouldn’t hurt as badly. The bottom line, though, is that I was a dumb, hormonal, fifteen-year-old girl. It was the wrong decision. Running away to live with my father was a bad way of handling it. You never gave me the time of day to tell you how sorry I was once I came to my senses that following year. So, I need to say it now. I am so sorry if my leaving like that hurt you in any way.”
“Hurt me?” He let out a slight angry laugh then shocked me with what he said next. “It changed me. I loved you, Amelia. I was in love with you.” Justin ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “How the fuck did you not know that?”
His words felt like they’d sliced through my heart, leaving me unable to respond. I never in a million years expected him to say that. I knew he cared about me, but I never knew he had loved me like I loved him.
He had loved me?
He continued, “I would have died for you back then. When you left, it felt like my world ended. Besides your grandmother, you were the only one I could count on. You were always there…until you weren’t anymore. Losing you taught me not to count on anyone but myself. It shaped who am I today…and that’s not necessarily a good thing.”
It hurt so badly to hear him say that. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologize again; you already did.”
“If you don’t forgive me, then I do need to keep repeating it.”
He let out a long, deep breath. “Like I’ve said to you before, I’ve moved on from it.”
I didn’t want him to move on. I wanted to go backwards, back in time and hug him. Never let him go.
Still reeling from his admission, I dug my nails into the back of the couch and said, “I don’t want us to be virtual strangers. You still mean so much to me. The fact that you’re angry at me won’t change that.”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want us to try to be friends again. I want us to be able to sit in the same room and talk to each other, maybe have a few laughs. We’re gonna always own this house together in any case. Someday, we’ll be bringing children here. We need to get along.”
“I am not gonna have children,” he said emphatically.
The fact that Jade had confided in me about Justin’s not wanting kids had skipped my mind.
“Jade told me.”
“She did, did she? What else did you talk about? My dick size? You tell her you got a good look at it?”
I chose not to entertain the quip and stayed with the subject at hand. “Why don’t you want children, Justin?”
“You of all people should understand that it’s asinine to bring a child into this world if you’re not one-hundred percent sure of your capabilities. My parents are a prime example of people who should have never procreated.”
“You’re not your parents.”
“No, but I’m a fucked-up product of their mistakes, and I’m not gonna repeat history.”
It made me immensely sad that he felt that way. Thinking back to how protective he always was of me, I knew Justin would make an amazing father. He just couldn’t see that. Knowing that I had promised we wouldn’t rehash the past beyond tonight, an urgent need to get more off my chest overtook me.
“I beg to differ. I think that you are so much stronger as a person because you had to grow up a lot quicker than kids who were coddled and handed everything easily. You’ve given to others what your parents neglected to give you. I’ll never forget how you always managed to make me laugh even when it seemed impossible, how you always knew exactly what I needed, how you always protected me. Those are the qualities that would make someone a good parent. And whether you have children or not, you are an amazing human being. Not only that, your musical talent completely blows me away. It makes me so sad to think of everything that I missed because of my stupidity and fear. I know we’ve both changed somewhat, but I still see all the good in you even when you are trying so hard to hide behind a mask.” My eyes started to water, and a teardrop fell. “I miss you, Justin.” It felt like everything had just come pouring out of me before I could think about the consequences of being so open about my feelings.
He startled me when he reached over and swiped a teardrop from my cheek with his thumb, prompting me to close my eyes. His touch felt so good.
“I think we’ve talked enough for tonight,” he said.
Nodding, I said, “Okay.”
He lifted himself off the couch and turned off the television. “Come on. Let’s get some air.”
I followed his lead out the front door and down to the beach. We walked in silence for what seemed like an eternity. The night was still except for the sound of the waves crashing. The ocean breeze was calming, and as strange as it was, the silence between us seemed like a therapeutic exercise of some kind. It felt as though a huge weight had been lifted because I’d gotten to say what I wanted to. Even though there wasn’t really a clear conclusion to our conflict, it was more closure than I’d ever had with him.
The sound of Justin’s phone interrupted the quiet of our walk. He picked it up.
“Everything is good.”
“That’s great. Wow. It’s really happening.”
“Just taking a walk.”
I found it interesting that he didn’t mention he was with me.
“Me too. Can’t wait.”
“I love you, too.”
After he hung up, I looked at him. “How’s Jade?”
“She’s good. She’s going to get to perform tomorrow night because the lead’s grandfather died.”
“Wow. That’s amazing. Well, not that the grandfather died…”
“Yeah. I got that.”
Not another word was spoken until we started to approach the house.
Justin pointed to something in the distance. “Do you see that?”
The next thing I knew I felt weightless. Justin had lifted me off my feet and was running toward the shore. Judging from his laughter, there was nothing to point out; he’d just been trying to distract me long enough to snatch me up.
He dumped my fully clothed body into the ocean. Salty water ran down my throat and up my nose. Justin immediately ran back to the sand, leaving me to wade through the water after him. He’d planted himself on the sand and was still laughing. He’d taken off his shirt which had gotten wet, and his pants were soaked.
“Do you feel better now?” I huffed.
“A little.” He chuckled. “Actually…a lot.”
“Well…good. I’m glad for you,” I said, wringing out my dress.
He stood up. “Let me.” Justin surprised me when he stood behind me and twisted my long hair to help get the water out. His hands lingered for a few seconds, causing my nipples to tingle. I turned around to distract from it and was met by his blue eyes staring into mine. They were glowing in the reflection of the light coming from our house. He looked heartbreakingly handsome.