Friday, August 16, 2013
I can tell because the sun is cresting the waves, gilding them on its way into the sky. I kick my foot through the sand and water, sending both flying out in front of me. Just once I'd like to be the last one to show up--for him to have to wait on me. I pull at my jeans...well, not my jeans exactly, but my dad's. I always wear his old pair when I go shelling with Ryan. I like how loose they are on my legs and the swell of my hips when I kneel. Besides, they smell like motor oil and leather and this smell more than anything calms me. I need to be calm. If I seem nervous Ryan'll just laugh when I tell him what I want him to do.
I walk a little farther down the beach and towards Ryan's house. If I'm quiet maybe I can sneak around the side of it and tap on his window, make sure he's up. If he doesn't come soon I won't get to ask him anything at all. The sun'll be up and the beach crowds will slowly start to file in. I tug at the waistband of my jeans. I've got them rolled up past my knees to keep them dry, but pretty soon they'll be wet through. I can never seem to keep my clothes from drowning when I'm out here. Probably because I can't keep my feet from wandering farther and farther into the surf. The tide pulls me the same as it does the waves. I can feel it deep in my stomach, an invisible lead line pulling me out into colder waters.
I'm almost all the way to Ryan's when he trots out onto the sand. His hair is still ruffled from sleep and the skin under his eyes is puffy.
"Sorry," he mumbles in between yawns. "But tell me why it is that we always have to go shelling this early? There are still good ones out here for hours."
"So we can be alone," I say. I try to make my voice soft and sweet--laced with innocence and something quite the opposite. It's not an easy trick and so far this summer I haven't managed it, but today maybe I have because he smiles and the faintest hint of red colors the skin just above his shirt collar.
My stomach flutters a little, but I tamp it down. "So, I saw some cool ones down past the dunes," I say my voice dipping lower on the last word and almost shudder at how awkward the words seem coming out of my mouth. One look at me and anyone can see that I'm no seductress. Even if I'd worn a low necked top or tiny shorts--especially if I'd worn those.
"You want...the dunes, really?" Ryan looks skeptical, but also hopeful. It won't take much to tip him more firmly in the hopeful direction. So I do.
"Yeah, I think we should. You want to right?" I take his hand and pull him towards the dunes. There's no mistaking what I'm asking him to do. No one goes there for anything else.
We sit across from each other in the sand. I look up at him because he's looking at me, but I can't look at his eyes. In a weird way I think I might cry if I do, so I look just past his ear instead, at the thick black curl that hugs the curve of it. Sometimes people describe ears as shell-like. I think I read that in a book somewhere which always sort of made sense to me because the way they spiral inward toward the head...but wait, that doesn't matter right now. I shake my head and try to quiet the stream of random thoughts tumbling around my brain. We don't talk, we just stare each other down, both of us waiting for the other to take the lead. It should probably be me since I asked him over here, but I can't seem to make myself close the distance between us. I swallow and fidget onto my knees and then scootch forward an inch, hope that it's enough.
Ryan's hand goes up to my chin. His thumb strokes my cheek. He inches forward a little too. His hand hovers on my face and for a moment I'm sure that he's going to change his mind, stand up and start searching for the perfect Shark's Eye Moon Shell, but then he surprises me and leans closer instead. Our lips touch. This is not amazing or magical or new. We've kissed plenty of times, but never when we knew for sure it was leading to something more. The something more makes it feel more business-like to me. It's as if this moment is an obstacle we're both determined to conquer.
I like that his lips are soft. I don't like that his mouth always tastes like mint toothpaste. I hate mint. I'm a cinnamon all the way kind of girl. Still, even with the mint the kiss is pleasant enough and it isn't long before he's pulled me closer still until we're pressed together from forehead to thigh. I grip his arms with my hands and then sit back on my heels. Our teeth clack together a little as he comes with me, his hands digging into the sand by my shoulders as we lay down. I shiver, but it isn't nerves or lust. It's cold. The air is nippy and the sun isn't up enough yet to warm us. I open my eyes and stare at Ryan. His eyes are closed. This close, his face is comical, all eyebrows and pores and nose coming at me and I have to really concentrate so I don't laugh. I close my eyes again then wonder if he ever opens his and sees me the way I just saw him. I hope not.
I nestle into the sand and let Ryan's mouth move away from my lips to my neck and then farther down. I stare up at the sky and watch the clouds move across it. I watch as a particularly fat one morphs into different shapes. A rabbit. A dinosaur. I wait to feel...I don't know...the chills? Ripples of desire maybe? (this is how they describe passion in the books I pick up once a week from the rounder at the Quick Mart downtown and although the words always make me shudder, I still can't stop thinking of them as the truest description of what should be happening to me). I try to imagine them--the ripples--and hope that by doing this I will be able to create them inside of me. It doesn't work.
Ryan moans softly, his breath hot on my neck. He seems to have the ripples down pat. He settles more heavily on me and I can't breathe. This makes all my imagining even harder. Now I'm too aware of all the ways I'm uncomfortable--the sand slipping into my shirt and jeans, the gulls screaming so loud above us that my ears hurt and I can't do it.
"I can't," I say to the sky and to Ryan. He hesitates, is face over mine, hovering there, blocking out the shape shifting cloud. He waits for me to change my mind and pull him back down and I wait for him to accept that I won't. I want him to be right about what I'll do. I don't want to be this girl, the one who can't seem to feel anything past pleasant. I want to be reckless--like the ocean beside us, not over thinking every moment that we touch, but no matter how much I search or dig inside myself, I come up empty...just like the shells still littering the beach.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker
Picture by: Fadzly @ Shutterhack