"Jason and I grew up together basically." She started. I quickly recoiled. "Great, you mentioned his name. Now we're doomed."
"Oh stop it." She slapped me on the arm playfully. "We didn't start being a couple until I was like, 13. He was about to turn 16. We kept it kind of secret for a summer and broke up shortly after school started. Something about his reputation or whatever. We picked it back up the next summer and broke up again when school kicked in."
"Eh, kids." I commented. She agreed with me. "Yes, that's exactly what we were, kids. It wasn't until my Jr. year of high school when I was 16 did he and I get together again and we have been together ever since."
"Wow." I reflected. "Eight years?"
We stopped our slow pace and she turned to look up at me. "I know. We have been together longer than most marriages these days. Maybe that's the problem."
"But you're engaged." I reminded her. "When did that happen?"
"About six months ago. Ever since, I've been feeling weird about it too."
"Cold feet?" I assumed.
"No." I assumed wrong. "It's something more than that. Carroll, up until last night, he's been the only guy."
I picked up her meaning. "The only guy?"
"Yes. Well, where sex is concerned. I mean, I've kissed plenty of boys."
"Of course." I replied. She was taken aback. "What does that mean?"
"It means you're a beautiful girl. A lot of boys would want to kiss you. Even with your glasses on." I joked.
"Lay off my glasses." She joked back. I reached out and pulled her closer to me. She kept going. "How do I know I really love him if I haven't been with anybody else? I'm scared, Carroll. I really am. It's so scary."
"Love sometimes is." I reckoned.
"I've always had some doubts about it, but I'm 24 years old and know nothing of the outside world. Sometimes I feel like taking off somewhere to go live in a big city or something. I haven't been out of Peach Tree until I came here for vacation. Karen and Andi had to really talk me into it too."
"Really?" I was a bit shocked to learn. "This is the first time you ever left Peach Tree?"
"Well, I did go to Atlanta a couple of times and stuff, but this is the first time I've ever been outside of the state of Georgia. And Jason was so against this trip too."
"Why?" I wondered.
"He was afraid I would meet someone."
I stared down at her. Our eyes met. "That's irony."
"I told him, who the hell am I going to meet in two short weeks that would steal my ...." She hesitated momentarily before finishing. "Heart." I pulled her back in tighter. "I'm confused, Carroll."
"I know." I said.
She wrapped her arms around me. "I knew it the moment I saw you that morning. I felt it. It was like a kick to my stomach."
"That's why you were a bitch towards me."
"What?" She gasped. "You were being an asshole and ..." I didn't allow her to say anymore. I leaned down and kissed her. When we separated, she concluded. "You see, you're still being an asshole."
"You still fell for me despite the stories you heard?"
"Actually," she motioned to get the record straight, "I only slept in your bed because when I heard the stories, I wanted to kind of .... you know ... burst your bubble. Plus i didn't really want to sleep on a cot."
"My bubble?" I snapped back. "What bubble?"
"The guys said you were conceited and, they told me about Lorraine, Sevina, all these other girls you hooked up with on the cruise and everything. I thought it would be fun to try and get you to hit on me so I could turn you down. You know, burst your bubble."
"But you fell for me on first sight."
"I still wanted to burst your bubble." She insisted. "Turned out though, you never did try to hit on me. Then when you showed me those tickets for the concert, I just let myself go a little. Dropped my guard. And when Andi told me Friday afternoon what you two did, I felt this pain in my heart I never felt before. I wanted to hate you so much, but then I quickly realized that it was my fault for not telling you how I felt."
"And because of Jason, right?" I figured. She shook her head. "No. Jason had nothing to do with it. All I could think about was you. I didn't want to lose you even though I didn't belong to you. That's why it's so confusing. I should have thought about Jason. I even decided that day to not ever tell you but when we were at the concert, I couldn't hold it back anymore. I had to tell you. I wanted to make love to you so badly."
"I'll let you in on a little secret." I whispered. "I'm not stuck up."
"I know." She answered. "You just have this very strange confidence about you. Charisma. The way you carry yourself. Your posture."
I smiled. It's not like I never heard that word before. "You think I have charisma?"
"You're full of charisma." She informed me. "Among other things." She added for good measure. We came together once again for a more romantic kiss.
The next day, Monday, I had fire watch. It was to be the last time for the next three months as a week from that Monday, I would be starting my Barber school for February. I would be reassigned and then, for March, I was to report for Laundry school. In April, I had two weeks of 3-M training and then two weeks of fire fighting training. I wouldn't be assigned back to the ship until May. Oh, I could still come and go as I pleased on the ship while it was in dry docks, but since I had the apartment, there was really no need. I would still make an appearance here and there, but not very often.
I also could have had someone take my fire watch that day too. The truth is, I wanted to stay on the ship that Monday to think over everything Teresa and I discussed that previous Sunday. Friday was right around the corner and I knew, that was the day she and the girls were planning on going back home. I accepted the fact that she was going back to Jason. I was a fling. A vacation romance. I made it a point to give her the best romantic experience possible, despite my feelings towards her. The partying was actually showing signs of slowing down a little. No more did there seem to be a steady flow of guys from the division showing up randomly looking to score. But I would soon learn a couple of reasons for it on Tuesday, when after work, I made it back to the apartment. When i walked in, Karen and Andi were flashing some money. "Look, Carroll, your landlord recruited us today to clean some rooms at the motel. He paid us forty dollars each!" They seemed very excited about it.
I congratulated them while making my way to the bedroom where Teresa was waiting for me. When I entered, she was talking about it too. i also noticed something different in the room. "Where did you get the TV?" I asked her. It was sitting on the dresser.
"I noticed a cable outlet," she explained, "and after we were done cleaning those rooms for Greg, we had to go to the storage room below to get him so he could pay us. I saw several TV's just sitting in there and he said I could take one to hook up in here. Wasn't that nice of him?"
"That's my girl." I would say, climbing into bed with her where she had a bag of potato chips and a box of donuts, with a huge fountain drink on one of the night stands. "So you've been pigging out?"
We wrapped each other up in our arms. "You going to leave me if I get fat?"
"I'm never going to leave you." I said. "We'll just get fat together."
"Aaawww." She replied, when the love making soon began. It wouldn't be until later that night, while in bed and watching TV when she would bring me up to speed.
"Have you heard?" She asked. "Karen and Sanoki are a couple now."
She sat on top of me and was looking down. "Yep, they're in love."
"That's nice." I told her. "Sanoki is a good guy."
"Uh-huh." She followed up. "And guess what else? Andi slept with O'Brien Monday night."
"No?" I shot back. "She hooked up with O'Brien?"
"And Saturday night, when we went to the concert, she hooked up with your friend Torok at the bar."
"What?" I still couldn't believe. "He never mentioned anything to me about it."
"She's turning into a real slut." She half giggled. "You're such a bad influence." She teased.
"What do you mean by that? How did I influence her?" I really wanted to know.
"Well, you did her first."
I rolled her over onto her back and was now looking down on her. I guess we were bed wrestling. "I wouldn't have done anything had you just said something to me to begin with."
"Oh, so now it's my fault you're a man whore?"
I dropped my head to kiss her. "I'm only your whore now." I informed her. We began to rub noses. "I think I'm going to keep you." She uttered. We stared at each other lovingly. "I need kept." I said.
We never talked about her leaving on that Friday. I think we were both avoiding it. The next evening, we went to do laundry. She sat on my lap as I sat in a chair. The few people who were in there may have thought our behavior to be a little on the distasteful side. I didn't care. This may have been the first time I ever showed public affection like that before with a girl. Lori wasn't one to do this out in public. I was enjoying every minute of it. Most in part because while sitting on my lap, she confiscated my notebook where I write my poetry. "Writing something about me?" She wondered.
I smiled. "Everything I write anymore is about you."
She quickly took my pen away too and went to work herself. "I want to write a poem about you."
"I'm sure I will love it."
We stared at each other, her looking back and forth at me and what she was writing while still sitting on my lap. For me, I was living a fairytale. When she finished, she turned it around and held it up for me to read. It only had three words on the page. 'I LOVE YOU'
I gently removed it from her hands and placed it to the side. I pulled her closer. "I knew I would love it."
Friday morning finally arrived. We had done such a good job avoiding this topic. Now, we had to confront it head on. We were in the shower, a couple hours before I was to report to the ship for work. My last official day on the ship for the next three months. "Sanoki took the day off." She told me. "He's coming with us to Georgia."
"What? Why?" I questioned.
"Karen is coming back to live with him. She didn't want to drive back alone."
"It's really that serious?"
She looked at me. "Why didn't you take the day off?"
I lowered my head, the warm shower water pouring all over me. "I don't want to watch you leave." I confessed. "It's hard enough as it is, knowing when I get back tonight, you'll be gone."
She lifted my head up. "I understand."
Before I knew it, we were standing next to my car. I pulled her into me for one last time, and kissed her. "I guess this is it."
"I guess so." She replied. She placed her head on my chest. "I don't want to go." She whispered. I had to be the one to speak the logic. (Imagine that) "You have to. Jason is waiting for you. Have a safe trip."
I wasn't quite myself that day in the shop. It was all I could do to keep from breaking apart. I felt empty inside. My thoughts were on her. But I did reason inside with the fact that regardless of my feelings, she and I were two ships passing in the night. A night that lasted two weeks. I hadn't had a drink for nearly a week, maybe a little longer. I was all prepared to drink that night.
When I entered, the place was quiet and still. Sanoki was with the girls heading to Georgia. Kaps was no longer living there as per our arrangement. Glen was stuck on the ship for fire watch, I think. And with the girls now gone, none of the guys bothered to "just show up" out of the blue. The place was about as dead as I had ever seen it. I slowly made my way to the bedroom.
No sooner did I open the door, I saw her there, just sitting in the middle of the bed with a teary look in her eyes. I was at a loss for words. She began to shake her head before breaking out in a full cry. "I couldn't leave you." She whined, quickly getting to her feet and racing to me, leaping into my waiting arms. "I just couldn't leave you, Carroll. I love you so much."
I held onto her like I have never held onto another girl before, or after, in my whole entire life. I whispered in her ear. "I love you too, baby."
The rest of the night was spent in bed, making love for hours and hours. Around three in the morning, I turned to look at her while she slept. I carefully got out of bed and made my way to the deck to look out at he dark waves in the distance. I reached over and grabbed a lawn chair, carrying it out to the beach to get a closer view. Shortly after, I heard Teresa approaching from behind. "Carroll, what are you doing just sitting out here for? It's cold as hell."
I turned to look at her. She was draped with a blanket, nude underneath. "I have my boxers on." I told her. She came up and sat down in my lap, wrapping the blanket around me. We snuggled inside of it. "You're going to catch pneumonia." She said. I wrapped my arms around her and brought her closer.
I can't recall anymore conversation. We just sat there in that chair, wrapped inside that blanket, shaking from the cold for probably half an hour. "This changes everything." I finally heard myself say.
And I was right. It did change everything, her staying behind. All that was traveling through my mind was, how could I let her go now?
Scary wasn't even the word for it.
Damn it! She really should have left that day.