It was early in the morning. The room was still a little dark but I could see through my lashes some of the warm light coming through the windows. I’d been awake for quite some time but I didn’t move because I didn’t want to disturb Eli, not yet anyway.
I knew we’d have to get up eventually. There was no thunder and no rain beating down on the roof. I’d be able to head back home without a problem, but I didn’t really want to go anywhere.
Even though I knew staying wasn’t an option.
I thought about last night over and over and I realised that my feelings were completely one-sided. I wanted Eli but he didn’t want me. He was only being nice to me because I was stranded, and he was flirty and affectionate because I encouraged it. That was all there was to it. It was a silly idea to think that fate, or whatever, brought us back together for a reason. He made his intentions clear when he turned me down and I’m a big girl who can take a hint.
“Hmmm…good morning.” He purred into my ear, his frisky hand trailing down my outer thigh.
Did he have any idea of what he was doing to me? “Morning…looks like someone else is awake too?”
“Huh?” He seemed confused for a second but then quickly understood what I was talking about. “Oh…uh…s-sorry…” He shuffled around, removing the morning intruder away from me completely. “How did you sleep?”
“Fine.” Damn, I forgot how blue his eyes were first thing in the morning.
“Just fine?” He asked.
His eyebrows furrowed in a cute way. “Really?”
“Uh-huh, but it wasn’t that loud and you were really warm and cosy, so I was able to ignore it.”
“Last night was the first good night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.” He looped his fingers in between mine, squeezing it tightly. “It feels like I’m still sleeping. Like I must be in a dream if I’m waking up next to you.”
“Well, no purple and green streaks so…safe to say I’m real, right?” I joked, hoping to get a laugh out of him but the look on his face intensified and it made me concerned. “Hey…what wrong?”
“Nothing.” He whispered. “Just thinking…you’re so beautiful.”
“Even with morning breath?” I giggled.
“Even with morning breath.”
“I don’t really want to go home.” I confessed. “I wish I could lie here in bed with you all day.”
“All day?” He cocked his brow in amusement. “And do what?”
His hand brushed against my stomach, making me feel tingles everywhere. “I’m sure we can come up with something.”
His jaw clenched as he locked me in an intense stare. I held my breath, waiting for him to say something next. Anything at all. Then finally, he said, “I need to check the fuse box.”
That was the last thing I expected him to say. “…uh, yeah, of course…”
He hopped off the bed so quickly, my whole body bounced a little. I guess he wanted to get away from me as quickly as possible. I didn’t follow him. I figured he wanted some space, and I needed it too.
I needed to recover from yet another rejection. I chided myself for coming on to him when I said I wouldn’t, but this couldn’t all be in my head now. Eli had to want me just as much as I wanted him. The things he said, the way he looked at me, the way he touched me…
He’s not a guy like Sean who flirts and it doesn’t mean anything. This had to mean something. Eli wouldn’t play with my emotions like that. Would he?
I finally got out of bed once the scent of fresh coffee hit my nostrils. Before I made it to the staircase though, something caught the corner of my eye. Sitting on top of his dresser was a short stack of folded laundry.
They were shirts. Shirts that looked pretty clean to me.
“I see the electricity is back up and running.” The light in the kitchen was on and there was a soft hum most likely coming from the refrigerator. Of course the coffee maker being functional clued me in as well.
His eyes snapped to me. “I was coming to get you.”
“The coffee did it.”
“Figured as much.” He gave me a brief smile. “Your clothes weren’t completely dry so I put them for a spin in the in the dryer. They should be ready in a few minutes.”
“Sure, and, well, obviously I made coffee and I also made us breakfast. I hope you don’t mind peanut butter and jelly? Everything else I have is non-vegan and probably spoiled since there was no electricity all night.”
“Sounds great. Thank you.” I was suddenly reminded of the many bowls of cereal and PB&J sandwiches he and I shared while we were in San Myshuno. Despite everything that happened before, and after, those ten days alone with him were a wonderful memory and it was nice to be reminded of how well we took care of each other.
We sat down by the table to eat. I was more of a grape jelly person but I was starving so the strawberry would have to do. I scarfed down half of my sandwich in a matter of seconds.
“Wow, you’re really hungry, huh?”
“Starving!” I managed to say with a mouth full of half-chewed bread. “Last meal I had was a muffin before I left home.”
“I would have fixed you something last night.”
“I was too distracted last night to think about food.”
“Distracted?” He asked. “By what?”
He smirked briefly. “Me? How so?”
“I think you know exactly what I mean.” My tone was deliberately more serious. I wasn’t planning on bringing this up but there was no turning back now. “I think you did it all on purpose.”
He looked down at the sandwich he was picking at and shook his head. “What are you talking about?”
“Where did that t-shirt come from?”
“The one you’re wearing.”
“The hamper? Huh.”
He shrugged, “Where is this going, Liv?”
My eyes narrowed at his lame attempt to feign ignorance. “Why didn’t you wear it last night instead of walking around in your underwear? And I saw the shirts on your dresser too. You told me you didn’t have any other clean clothes when you gave me this t-shirt. You said it was the last clean thing you had.”
“But that’s not true!”
“Look, I’m sorry for not giving you one of my fresh-out-the-pack-still-smells-like-the-store shirts, okay! I gave you that one cause I wanted you to be comfortable and I didn’t see this one last night when I was scrambling around in the dark otherwise I would have given it to you!”
“I really didn’t think this would be a big deal. I’m not lying about not doing laundry. Who does that anyway? What’s it really about, Liv?”
“I guess I thought…never mind.”
“No, spit it out. What’s going on in that head of yours?”
“I…I thought you gave me this on purpose because it’s so short and clingy. I thought you wanted to see me barely covered because…”
“- you thought I wanted to ogle you?” He chuckled kinda loud, a little too loud. “If that was my master plan, it’s a lame one! If I was interested in you like that then I’d say I had nothing so you’d walk around naked instead.”
If I was interested in you like that…
So he wasn’t interested? But he had to be! “Why are you playing this game, Eli? You know I don’t like games!”
“Whoa, what game?”
I scoffed. “The t-shirt thing I can believe was unintentional but not everything else!”
“I don’t know what you mean…”
“Don’t play dumb!”
“Your hands were all over me last night, all over me this morning! You practically dry humped me when you woke up! Whenever I make a move, you shut me down and make me feel like I’m misreading the situation. You say you’re not interested but your actions say something else and now…now I don’t know what to think! Just tell me what it is you want from me!”
He said nothing for a few seconds as he idly played with the crust of his sandwich, and then he released a deep breath, looking super nervous as he spoke. “It’s just that you’re so…you…and being so close to you like that, I couldn’t resist holding you and touching you.”
“And I wanted it. I’m not mad at you for wanting me…”
“But it shouldn’t have happened. I crossed a line and I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t cross any lines. We’re both single. We’re adults. It wasn’t wrong and you don’t have to apologize.”
“Yes I do. It’s shitty of me to lead you on when I know nothing can happen between us.”
“Because it can’t.”
“Can’t…why? Can’t because we live in different towns? Because we can figure something out. We don’t have to rush into anything. We can go slow, and get to know each other again before we decide-”
“-It won’t work.”
“You don’t know that-”
“-I do know, and there’s no point in any of it.”
“What do you mean there’s no point?”
“Because there’s no place for you in my life right now, okay!”
His harsh tone made me jump a little. I think his tone hurt me a lot more than the actual words he said. No place for me in his life, huh? Now I knew the real reason why he didn’t come back to Oasis Springs. He wanted a complete fresh start and I was part of that old baggage he wanted to leave behind. “I see.”
“I’m gonna get ready to go home.”
In less than thirty minutes I was ready to go. He tried to talk to me but I didn’t want to listen to anything he had to say. His outburst was his truth and any attempt at clarification is just bullshit to try to pacify me, and I didn’t want to be pacified. There was no point in that anyway.
“You can leave now.”
He already talked to his friend who was going to take me to Willow Creek. He paid for it against my wishes too. Now I just had to wait for the guy to get his boat ready. I didn’t need Eli to stay while I waited especially if he didn’t want to be around me to begin with.
“So that’s it? You don’t want to talk now?” He sounded irritated but he had no right to be since I was giving him exactly what he wanted by leaving.
“Look, thanks for everything, for giving me shelter and food and for helping me get home. You’ve done plenty, but you can go now.”
“Olive, come on, don’t be like this!”
“Don’t be like WHAT?!” I shouted, only to lower my voice when I realised there were other people nearby who might listen in to our conversation. “You think I have no right to be pissed right now?”
“As a matter of fact, yes, I think you’re being unreasonable!”
“Unreasonable?” I huffed. “You lead me on, shut me down, and I’m unreasonable for being upset about it? That’s rich!”
I started to walk but he moved in front of me to cut me off. “I didn’t want to lead you on.”
“But that’s what you did!”
“And I’m sorry, okay, but please try to understand…” He clenched his fists and made a sound like a growl. “I want you, alright! I WANT you! You have NO fucking idea! But if I gave in and we had sex, what would happen next? I don’t want to have sex with you and then have to say goodbye!”
“Would we really have to say goodbye?” I hated how small and pathetic I sounded but it’s like I couldn’t control myself. It was hard to restrain my emotions when it came to him. It was hard for me to pretend like I wasn’t on the verge of tears, like I wasn’t stupidly optimistic about having him in my life again. “I still have feelings for you, Eli. I don’t think they ever went away to be honest. And I know you feel the same way about me. I see it in your eyes.”
“What do you want from me, Liv?”
“Admit that I’m right.”
“You are, okay.” He said softly. “You are. But right now with everything I’ve been through over the years…I’m…I’m just not in a place where I can commit to anyone. Not even to you. The last thing I want to do is hurt you.”
It made sense. He missed out on so much during those five years. In that time I went to college, made new friends, discovered new hobbies and passions, and dated other people. I got to live as I wanted to, but he didn’t have that luxury. I totally see why he wouldn’t want to be tied down, and I suppose I should appreciate the fact that he respected me enough to be honest. “I guess…I have been a little unreasonable.”
“And I was a little too handsy.” He admitted.
“Not as handsy as I would have liked.”
His lips curled into a smile. “I’m gonna miss you…again.” His voice was so soft, it was almost a whisper.
“Maybe I can come back for a visit in a few weeks? We can hang out, as friends, of course. I’ll stay at a hotel and walk with plenty of extra clothes!”
He slowly shook his head. “I can’t be just friends with you without wanting more…”
I didn’t think I could be ‘just friends’ with him either. We had too much history and I still had all these feelings…
I felt a large pit in my stomach at the realisation of what this all meant. “So we say goodbye and hope for another serendipitous meeting sometime in the future?”
“That’s not what I want, but it’s what I need.”
It wasn’t what I wanted or needed. Or even understood. But this is what he needed to be happy and I wouldn’t get in the way of that. “If you change your mind you know where to find me.”
I didn’t believe he would change his mind and his next words confirmed that. “Goodbye Olive.”
His friend stood by the boat started signalling that he was ready to go. I felt like crying knowing that my time with him was up already. “G-Goodbye Eli.”
I started to walk away but he grabbed me and held me in place, practically squeezing my wrists as he stared at me intently. “Eli…?”
“Fuck it!” He gasped and the next thing I knew his lips were on mine.
It was like the world around us stopped. I saw nothing else, I heard nothing else. All I could do was feel, and I felt him. His warms lips, his tongue, his hands around my back pulling me closer. When he finally pulled away I felt dizzy, like I had been spinning around and around. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t form any words.
But he did. “If I asked you to stay…?”
“You already asked me to leave.”
I knew a kiss couldn’t change his mind just like that. If I stayed with him, if I let him take me back to his house, he’d only ask me to leave again when it was over. This was a moment of weakness for him and I wasn’t so desperate to take advantage. “Take care.”
He nodded, and then gave me a brief smile before he let go of my hands and walked away. I stood there for a few more minutes trying to collect my bearings.
That kiss…it was everything!
And it was all over now.
Now it was time to go back home, back to my life in Oasis Springs. A life without him in it. It would be hard but I made it through the last seven years without him so I knew I could do it again. I just wish I didn’t have to.
Eli was right this morning when he said being with me felt like a dream. It was a dream – a very beautiful dream!
And now it was time to wake up.