There were fireworks on the bay that night. Christian contemplated the surreal evening as he watched the glittery embers drift and fizzle toward the ghostly city outlined on the horizon. He was so blindsided by everything that was happening that he was having trouble sorting through it. He couldn’t figure out if he was overwhelmed with extreme happiness or if he was gasping for air in the middle of a train wreck. Continue reading
She didn’t let go.
She didn’t want to look at him because she was afraid of what she might see. She was afraid of what he might see. Annie had been rattled all afternoon, no matter how hard she tried to pull it together. It was better for her not to look, but she knew didn’t want to let go of those fingers. They felt like a lifeline, although she had never thought of herself as someone who needed to be saved. It was so strange. Her entire life had been an exercise of self-sufficiency and she never felt like she was even close to coming apart until now. Continue reading
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The paddle board session was epic. They wrapped it up around sunset and then walked to a nearby Thai place. Neither of them had ever eaten Thai food, but somehow it fit into Annie’s idea of a fancy dinner spot. They pretended like they knew what they were ordering, and when the food came they laughed at it. It was a good thing they were both the adventurous type. The eclectic dishes were surprisingly delicious, and as they ate Christian talked Annie out of going dancing. “We’re all sandy and sticky,” he lamented, “anyone who tries to dance with us will be scared away by the smell! Besides, the deal was I would dance with you if you surfed with me, which you somehow dodged.” Continue reading
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They ended up paddle boarding on Mission Bay. The guy at the rental shop talked them out of renting surfboards when he realized they didn’t know what they were doing. Apparently there was a hurricane off the coast of Baja, and that made for some pretty big waves in San Diego. The bay was sheltered enough that the surf couldn’t really come through, and he promised them that paddle boarding would be a fun alternative. Christian was a little disappointed, but Annie secretly felt relieved (though she’d never admit it.)
Figuring out how to balance on the lofty foam boards wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine, and soon they were paddling with determination across the glassy surface. With no destination in mind, they wove in and out of buoys, racing along until Annie thought her arms might fall off. “Christian, hold up!” she hollered, slowly lowering herself to straddle the hefty board. Continue reading
Her errands took a significant chunk of the day, and she finally was able to make it over to Christian’s house in the early afternoon. She heard muffled yelling as she approached the door and realized it was Christian reprimanding one of his brothers. Just as she pivoted her heel to leave (she’d come back, she just wanted to buy him some more time,) the door flew open and his brother Jon stormed past her. Jon was 13 and was quickly turning from a quiet kid into a troubled teenager. Annie had only known him for a really short time, but she could see the anger and confusion that bubbled just under the still cherub-cheeked surface. She was sure Christian saw it, too, and her heart caught in her throat when she thought of how difficult these upcoming years were going to be for him. Continue reading
Christian woke up in a bad mood. He wouldn’t admit to anyone that Annie’s imminent departure affected him in any way, but he knew he was moping. It was just that life here was hard. And redundant. He knew that it was important for him to set a solid example and that his mom deserved a break after working so hard for them. He knew that he couldn’t just spread his wings and fly away like she could; there was too much here holding him back. It wasn’t quite jealousy – no, he didn’t think he would leave if he could. He was lucky to have his family here. It was hard, but he had grown up with a lot of love and support and it was in his nature to want to step up and provide for his family here. He liked San Diego okay. The weather was always good, the beach was an amazing asset and TJ was close enough that he could regularly visit his dad and eat decent tacos. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was moping because she was leaving. He had grown accustomed to thinking there was only room in his heart, his head and his life for his immediate family, but over the course of the last two weeks she had slowly started to prove him wrong. He’d lived his day-to-day fine for the past eighteen years without her, but he’d only just started to feel alive. Continue reading
She woke up the next morning with a hangover. Annie had never been drunk before. In fact, Annie had never really done anything that could amount to any kind of trouble. She had seen the unfortunate long-term effects that came with an affinity for alcohol in her grandmother. Hard drugs weren’t something anyone in her family did, exactly, but crack was something that was sold now and again when they were really hard up for money. The crack heads that came around during those times were very nice, but crazy enough that Annie was sure her auntie’s timing of these sales correlated to everyone being home from school on purpose.
But, man, that hangover was worth it! Thus far in life Annie had kept her head down and her grades up. She picked up extra shifts whenever she could, not because she wanted more money but because she didn’t know what else to do with herself. She’d been singularly focused on this almost tangible, sparkling orb of freedom shining brightly just out of reach, waiting for her to grab it with both arms and hang on if only she could make it over the hill that was high school. Now it was finally here, and she was ready to spread her wings!
She’d had so much fun with Christian. If last night was any indication of what she’d been missing, she was glad she hadn’t been distracted with boys and other questionable substances thus far. The rest of her life had arrived. It was finally time to make a break for it, and then decide what, exactly, to do with it.