Despite the rough night of sleep I woke with a fresh perspective. I knew I could no longer tell myself that this was just a summer fling. A hookup that would be forgotten the minute I got home. Though Tyler and I had never discussed exclusivity the nature of our relationship had made it an assumption. And despite my misgivings about him being at that party last night I knew he felt the same. I also knew it was time to tell Dono. I was nervous as I went downstairs and poured myself a cup of coffee. Dono was out on the deck enjoying his. It was now or never time. And I owed it to Dono to be honest with him.
“Morning.” I say. Using my hand to shield my face from the sun, almost offensively bright this morning.
“Hey kid, ready for a day on the Lake?” I looked out at the tantalizing view wishing that I didn’t have to drop this bomb on him.
“Yeah.” I sit beside him at the table, my hand nervously stroking the smooth wood. “Dono can I talk to you about something?”
“Anything Lani. Always.”
“OK…” I can tell he’s nervous.
“Well the thing is…” I just need to spit it out. “I like him. And he likes me and we’re kind of dating…” Dono takes a deep breath.
“Wow…OK…” he doesn’t really say anything for a minute.
“Are you mad?”
“No I’m not mad…it’s just...”
“I just don’t think it’s the best idea.”
“But you like Tyler? He’s a good guy right?”
“Yes but there’s a lot you don’t know about him.”
“Well I guess I’ll find out. Besides, we’re dating not getting married.”
“I know. It’s just I just don’t want to see you hurt. You’ve been through so much already.”
“Why would Tyler hurt me? What are you not telling me?” I ask beginning to get frustrated.
“I don’t know if he’ll hurt you. He’s a good kid. I’m not trying to vilify him but he’s got issues. A personal history you know nothing about that affects him deeply. And I probably shouldn’t be saying this but I see the red flag warnings of a potential substance abuse problem.”
“What? How can you just make a statement like that? He’s nineteen!”
“I hope I’m wrong but I see a lot of myself in Tyler. I’m trying to help him Lani. But being in a relationship with someone who abuses drugs or alcohol is not something I want for you.”
“You don’t know that! Just because you’re an alcoholic doesn’t mean everyone else is too!” I shout too aggressively. Dono is taken aback.
“I’m just trying to look out for you,” he says quietly.
“I know.” I take a deep breath trying to calm down. “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said that. That was cruel and you have been nothing short of amazing to me this whole time. I wanted to be honest with you. That’s why I told you. He makes me happy and I haven’t been able to smile for a long time so this…whatever is happening between us feels…healing. And who knows maybe it will be healing for him too.”
“I want you to be happy. And I know you are young and having fun and that’s probably what you both need. But don’t count on another person to heal you Lani. I can promise you that will never work.” I didn’t really have a response to that.
“I’m going to take a shower…” I tell him getting up from the table and bringing my coffee upstairs with me.
“We still on for our boat ride?” He asks gently.
“Of course! What about Tyler? Is he still invited?” Dono almost looks sad as he answers.
“Tyler is always welcome here. Lani you have to understand it was very hard for me to tell you want I did. Tyler is like a son to me. But I owe it to you to be honest. I don’t know how serious you two are but you might want to think about asking him about his past.”
“I will. Thank you.” I head upstairs thinking about everything Dono had said, another indictment of Tyler. Things weren’t supposed to get this serious. I was here on vacation! Why was everyone so afraid I would have my heart broken? Only Tyler and I knew what was happening between us. Only we were witness to the magic that was unfolding. I needed to call him, to hear his voice. I needed the reassurance that this was real.
“Hey…” I say after he picks up on the fourth ring.
“Hey beautiful…” His voice is groggy. Like he’s still sleeping.
“Did I wake you?”
“Yes but I’m not sorry.” I can hear the smile behind the words and immediately I begin to relax. It didn’t matter what other people thought they knew about him he was my Tyler. And we would navigate this together.
“Are you still planning to come over today?”
“Yeah of course! Did you tell Dono about us?”
“And?” I could hear the nervous anticipation in his voice. I couldn’t bear to break his heart.
“He said you were like a son to him.”
“He did?” I could hear the emotion behind the question.
“Yes. Of course he’s still a protective Uncle…”
“I’m going to fight like hell to be good enough for you Alana…” That took my breath away.
“Tyler…” I can’t even speak. I knew he meant it but I was afraid we’d gone too far too fast. “Just get over here will you?” I ask not trusting myself to say more.
“On the way.” We hang up the phone and I get into the shower. The water cleanses me in an effort to wash away the worries of the past twenty-four hours. Why couldn’t this just be a normal summer romance? Why were other people making things so complicated? As the warm water rained over me I tried to forget everything that Tina and Dono had said. But the memory of Tyler at Ethan’s party crept in. Why had he gone? What was he doing there? I would ask him today. And I would ask him about his family history apparently there was something there that everyone felt was important for me to know. As I got dressed I put a little extra effort into my appearance, excited that I would have someone to look good for. I blow-dried my hair despite the fact we were about to get on a boat and the likelihood of swimming in the lake was extremely high but I didn’t care the ritual which I normally hated was somehow soothing and I wanted Tyler to see me as beautiful. God I was lost. I was sane enough not to overdo it with makeup though. Just a little BB cream with a built-in sunscreen a swipe of blush and lip gloss and little mascara and I was ready. I thought I was quick but when I came downstairs Tyler was already there. He and Dono were talking in the kitchen their tones were hushed and from the sounds of things Dono was doing most of the talking.
“Hi,” I say a little too loudly. Obviously interrupting something. Dono stops his conversation with Tyler.
“I’m going to get the boat ready. Meet me on the dock?”
“You need help?” Tyler asks.
“I got it.” Dono replies, leaving us alone. I rush into his arms. I kiss him as though it had been weeks since we’d seen each other not hours.
“I missed you babe,” he tells me, nuzzling my hair. I inhale deeply letting the smell of him fill my lungs. He was fresh from the shower and his hair was still damp. Obviously he had been in a rush to get over here. I hold on to him a little tighter.
“I missed you too.” I confess.
“Now that you’ve told Dono will you spend the night at my place?” I laugh.
“We haven’t even had today yet and you’re thinking about tonight?” Maybe spending the night at Tyler’s wasn’t the best idea for tonight. I didn’t want to rub salt into Dono’s wounds. Tyler grins mischievously.
“Can you blame me?” The memories of the two of us in his apartment come flooding back in technicolor.
“No. I suppose I can’t.” Other memories of from last night came flooding back too and I couldn’t suppress the urge to ask him. “How was the party?”
“Kind of lame. But after I dropped you off last night, well I couldn’t sleep…then Ethan called. I thought it was a good idea to mend fences. He’s about the only family I’ve got.” I decided to drop it. He was entitled to make up with his cousin, to go to a party without me and drink until he blacks out if he wants. I had one more week left in this town then I was leaving that was the truth, facing that reality made thinking about a future for Tyler and I seem pretty impossible.
“Dono didn’t take the news too well I can see…”
“Why what did he say to you?” I wonder.
“He just told me to take care of you. He wants to make sure I have my shit together. No more stunts like the other weekend.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Just what I told you. I want to be good enough for you. I’ll stop drinking if that’s what it takes to reassure him. Whatever it takes I’ll do…” I don’t respond. Truthfully I don’t know how. Why was this relationship so complicated already? I wanted to un-complicate it, fast.
“Let’s just have fun today.”
“Please.” He pulls me back in for a long lingering kiss before we head down to the dock to look for Dono.
My mandate for the day seemed to take effect. I was worried that my revelation to Dono would create tension. It did but thankfully it didn’t last long. Eventually the tension eased and the atmosphere became relaxed and playful. The more time I spent with the two of them together the more I realized just how deep their bond is. They have a natural shorthand with each other, obviously developed from working at the garage. Perhaps they were even closer than Dono and I. They were so comfortable with one another that I felt a little guilty for putting any kind of a wedge between them.
I didn’t catch anything and I did my best to pretend I was enjoying the exercise but eventually I gave up and just lay out on the deck in the sun. I thought about my father and how much he loved to fish and be out on the Lake with his brother. The only time my Dad would go on a “boys weekend” was to come up here with Dono and fish. I was sharing in something that they loved to do together and the thought made me happy. Then another thought struck me.
“Tyler did you ever meet my Dad?” I ask sitting up quickly. Tyler looks back at me surprised by the question. The sunlight seems to find golden highlights in his dark hair making him appear even more handsome, if that were possible.
“I did. Last summer he came up for the weekend. Dono invited me to join them fishing. He seemed like a great guy.” I smile. I don’t know why this made me so happy, that they had met and enjoyed each other’s company. Dono doesn’t add anything to the conversation. I lay back down not wanting them to see how emotional I was feeling. Dono turns on some music to cut through the silence. It’s a welcome distraction but it must have scared away the fish because forty-five minutes later they still weren’t getting any bites.
“I guess it’s not our day.” Dono says. “Shall we head home?”
“Sure.” I reply. He turns on the engine and we head back to the dock. He drives at a fast but measured pace. I love the feeling of having the wind on my face as we race over the water. And despite the fact my hair is whipping all over the place and will most likely be impossible to brush later I’m reveling in the feeling of freedom it conjures. Tyler sits beside me. We have been careful not to flaunt our relationship status in front of Dono. I think we both realize this would make him super uncomfortable. But Tyler’s fingers find mine and they intertwine. And I realize that this feeling of freedom also relates to us. Now that we’ve told Dono we don’t have to hide anymore. We can really start to enjoy each other. I place my head on his shoulder, so happy to have found him. He places a gentle kiss on the top of my head. Maybe Dono was right that no one else could heal you but being this happy felt like a good start.
Tyler helps Dono dock the boat and when their done he jumps in the Lake, a welcome relief from the sweltering heat. I decide to join him. Dono smiles indulgently at us as he locks up his fishing rods in his outdoor shed. He then goes inside leaving us alone to enjoy the water.
“Come here,” Tyler says, swimming towards me. I reach out to him and he wraps my legs around his waist. “It’s like I can’t get close enough to you…” he whispers in my ear before his mouth finds mine. I can’t get over how intense my desire for him is and how it never seems to fatigue. Admittedly it was early in the relationship but there was a passion and intensity behind it I had never felt before.
“Shall we go in?” I ask him. Not trusting myself to say more. I was desperately wishing we were alone and if I stayed wrapped around him in this Lake any longer who knows what I would do.
“Sure. You want to come back to my place this afternoon?” He asks with a grin.
“Sounds great.” He must have read my mind. We swim back to the dock and climb out.
“You can shower at my place,” he says with a grin handing me a towel.
“I like that idea.” We dry off and head inside. Dono is already making lunch when we walk in. I guess we weren’t leaving anytime soon.
“Sorry there’s no fish to grill but I’ve got some chicken breasts and corn. You guys hungry?”
“Starving.” I say politely even though food wasn’t what I was hungry for. Tyler catches my eye and looks at me in a way that makes me blush. Obviously he knew what I meant. Neither one us wants to offend Dono we had already put him through enough so we both dutifully help with lunch and enjoy a meal together on the deck. It did go a long way towards building fences. I wanted Dono to see the way Tyler treats me. He is nothing but consideration around me and it feels wonderful. I hadn’t realized how hungry I truly was. I forgot I hadn’t really eaten breakfast so I devoured lunch. When we had all stuffed ourselves and were relaxing on the deck Dono asked us our plans for the afternoon.
“I’m not sure,” I tell him looking at Tyler.
“Do you want to see a movie this evening?” He asks me.
“Well have fun.” Dono tells us, getting up to clear his plate. “I have some work to do.” I felt this is his way of giving us his blessing. He wasn’t going to interfere with our time together.
“Thanks.” When he leaves Tyler just stares at me with the biggest grin. I can’t help but grin back.
“Wanna get out of here?” He asks. I nod.
“I’m just going to run upstairs and change out of this wet bathing suit.” It didn’t take me long to put on dry clothes and to fill a purse with a few essentials. By the time I got downstairs Tyler was already waiting in his truck.
“Bye Dono!” I call to him as I head out the door.
“Hold up Lani.” He calls back. He came out of his room to give me a big hug. “Take care of yourself and call if you need anything.”
“I will.” I promise. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he says quietly before disappearing back into his room. I knew he was worried about us. But he didn’t need to be. Tyler and I were both so happy and it felt like nothing in the world could destroy that. As I exit the house Tyler hops out of the truck to open the door for me. I climb inside and the relief is palpable between us. The relief at finally being alone, of telling Dono about us and not having him completely freak out. OK so he had a bit but he hadn’t forbidden us from seeing each other. I suppose he couldn’t really, we were both adults but I definitely left the house with a renewed sense of freedom like Tyler and I were finally beginning.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. The attraction between us was impossible to satiate but when we weren’t making love we lay there talking. Not just getting to know the lines and curves of each other’s body’s but the shape and secrets of our hearts. I wanted Tyler to tell me more about his family but I didn’t push. He talked about his Mom and how she had always encouraged his love of painting but he didn’t mention his Dad. And for now it was enough. He was letting me in, little by little, piece by piece. Eventually we both reluctantly decided to get out of bed. He went to get us water and I followed. I wanted to look at his art.
“Have you thought about going to school for this?” I ask.
“Not really,” he admits.
“But you’re so talented! You could hone your skills. Maybe make some contacts in the art world…”
“And make a career out of it?” He asks skeptically.
“Why not? People do you know.”
“Not people like me.”
“What does that mean?” I hated to hear him talk this way. I hated for him to think that his life was limited. I could see his amazing talent and potential and I wanted him to see it too. I couldn’t help but think how lucky I’d been to have two parents who believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams, no matter what they were.
“I’m lucky to have a job. There aren’t endless possibilities in a town like this. I have to survive, pay the bills. There is no one else to do it. Just me. At least you can go home when you’re in trouble, or hurt or sad. There is nowhere else to go for me. This is it. There’s no one else.” It broke my heart to hear him say it. I had never known what it was like to feel so totally alone in the world.
“That’s not true.” I tell him defiantly, tears misting my eyes. “You have someone else. You have me.” And I meant it with my whole heart but I could tell that even though he knew I was genuine he didn’t necessarily believe me. So I kissed him with every ounce of my being trying to convince him of the truth and he kissed me back with the same intensity wanting to believe it.
“I have an idea,” he tells me. “Wanna go to our beach and watch the sunset?”
“I’d love to.”
“Did you bring a suit?”
“Then put it on and we can swim. Or we can just be naked. I think you know which way I prefer you.” He says squeezing a handful of my ass.
“I think I’ll wear a suit. I don’t want to get arrested for indecent exposure!” I tell him playfully swatting away his hand. We head into his bedroom to change quickly and then go down to his truck. The day was still blisteringly hot so we decided to stop for ice cream on the way. I tried to memorize the route as he drove towards “our beach”. I love that he had called in that. But it was hard to concentrate on the road with him sitting right next to me giving me the perfect opportunity to study him close up. I noticed that every few minutes his eyes would dart from the road to watch me too. We smiled at each other, knowing how both perfectly content we were to be alone.
He pulls up to the little beach and we get out, enjoying our last few licks of ice cream. The water is calling so we dive in silently enjoying a swim before sunset. After a few minutes I get out of the water and lay on the towel soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the solitude of this beautiful place.
“Why does no one else come here?” I ask him as he immerges from the water to join me, the sun at his back, glistening off his skin, he the perfect Adonis.
“I told you this was my secret spot.”
“It just surprises me that no one else has found it.” Few days had been more perfect than this one. We watched the sunset from our little beach and picked up a pizza on the way home. Then we watched a movie on his couch. I use the term “watched” loosely. We mostly kissed and occasionally caught glimpses of a movie. We both reluctantly decided it would be better if he took me back to Dono’s to sleep. We didn’t want to be disrespectful. We both loved Dono so much. We really didn’t want to hurt him more that we already had.
The next couple of days continued in the same way. Tyler spent most of Sunday with Dono and I before I had gone back to Tyler’s to “watch a movie.” And when Tyler wasn’t working we were together. He didn’t drink over these few days in fact neither one of us did. I think even Dono was beginning to come around to the idea of us being together. He invited Tyler over every night to dinner and I think he could see that Tyler was intent on making this work. But that in itself begged the question that both of us were trying to avoid. I was going home on Sunday. I couldn’t prolong my stay by another week. My mom would be home on Sunday afternoon and I was picking her up from the airport. What would happen to us when I went home? Would there still be an us? Neither one of us brought it up. We were enjoying the moment too much and maybe we were both afraid to broach the topic.
The conversation was also delayed by the arrival of Jordan. When I hear her car pull up I race outside to meet her. She jumps out of the car and runs towards me. It was a like a scene from a romantic movie and we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves. But we had missed each other, badly and until this moment I hadn’t realized how much.
“How are you?” I ask squeezing her tightly.
“You look amazing!” She says sounding surprised. “The mountain air must agree with you. You’re all tan and skinny.”
“I am?” I look down and notice that my normally fair arms do have a healthy golden glow. I suppose I had been taking better care of myself since I arrived here. I was partying less and hiking everyday…
“I know what it is…” Jordan tells me drawing her own conclusions. “You have that I’m-having-sex-glow.” I slap her arm playfully but I couldn’t really argue.
“You don’t deny it I see.” She smiles smugly at me.
“Fine I don’t deny it.”
“So when do I get to meet this stud?” I roll my eyes.
“Whatever, make fun if you want but he makes me happy.” Jordan smiles.
“That’s all I want for you babe. So are you going to give me a tour?”
“Right this way.” I show her around the house, she’ll be staying with me in my room. Naturally when I show her the view of the deck she’s in awe.
“Wow. No wonder you don’t want to leave!”
“Right?” I agree wistfully while staring at the Lake. “It never gets old.” But it wasn’t just the view I was going to miss.
“So when do I get to meet this Stud-muffin?”
“Tyler. His name is Tyler. Tonight if you want. Dono wants to take us out to a nice dinner. Then I thought we could go to this local bar, The Lakehouse. He said he’d meet us after dinner.”
“Sounds like fun! So what time is dinner?”
“Dono made a reservation for 7pm. “
“Great, it’s only 5, which means it’s happy hour! Shall we have a drink here on the deck?” She suggests.
“You read my mind. I want to hear all about your trip.” I tell her heading into the kitchen to grab a bottle of Rose and some glasses. We sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine as she fills me in on all her travels. It sounded like an amazing time. She was dying for us to go back together. She made me promise that we would do a girls’ trip to Europe after graduation. I had to admit that sounded fantastic. Seeing Jordan made me begin to miss my old life in LA and suddenly for the first time I felt excited to go back to school in the fall. I told her about my dilemma over where I would live.
“I think you need to speak to your Mom. Who knows how she’ll be feeling after the trip. But I was thinking about getting an apartment off-campus. I’m going to look at two-bedrooms, maybe we could get a place together?” She suggests.
“I would LOVE that.” I confess. I really would. It seemed like the perfect plan.
“I’m so glad,” she says sounding relieved. “I was really hoping we could spend our senior year together but after everything you just went through I didn’t want to put pressure on you.”
“I still need to talk to my Mom but I really would love to do that with you…it’s just nothing is certain right now.”
“I know. We still have some time.”
“Not a lot…”
“It will work out.” Despite everything that had happened I was feeling optimistic about the future. A week ago I might not have felt the same way but something had changed, no everything had changed.
“So there is something else I wanted to talk to you about…” Jordan said. I could hear the apprehension in her voice.
“It’s Blake, he and I have stayed and in touch and…”
“You like each other?” I say, helping her out.
“Yes! Are you mad?”
“Why would I be mad? I couldn’t be happier! You are two of my best friends and you just made my life about ten times easier. If you guys get together then I can kill two birds with one stone hanging out with you!” I tease her.
“Not exactly my favorite analogy but I’ll take it. And thanks. I was worried. I didn’t know if you two had a history.”
“No way. We’ve always just been friends. And I would have told you.” I can see the relief on her face.
“Blake is a great guy.” I reassure her trying to put her mind at ease. “But if he fucks up I’ll kill him.” She laughs.
“You can tell Tyler the same thing.” Just then Dono arrives. He greets Jordan warmly and we suddenly realize exactly how much time has elapsed. We run upstairs to get changed for dinner.
Dono had made plans to take us out to one of the nicest hotels in town that had a beautiful restaurant. I was incredibly touched by the gesture. He wanted to spoil us. The hotel was really nice, the meal was delicious and by the end of it Jordan and I were both a little buzzed. Dono was going to drop us off at the Lakehouse and as we were leaving the restaurant I text Tyler and then Tina to meet us. Jordan and I were giggling from the wine we had drunk. Dono laughed at our silly jokes indulgently. I was really excited as he drove us to the bar. The truth was I couldn’t wait to see Tyler. I was deeply submerged in the buzz that a new relationship brings. I also couldn’t wait for Jordan to meet him. I could feel the butterflies gathering in my stomach on the short, yet seemingly endless drive over. Dono pulls up to the Lakehouse we thank him for dinner and climb out.
Even though it’s still relatively early the bar is already packed, busier than I had seen it yet. Tina had said that 4th of July was crazy at the Lake and I could see she was right. Everyone was in town and ready to participate in the festivities. When we walk through the door my eyes immediately scan the area for Tyler, he told me he was already here. I see him across the bar our eyes lock. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I ran towards him. I don’t know if the wine had lowered my inhibitions to the point that I didn’t care how it looked or if it was sheer joy but I literally ran into his open arms. He holds me tight and kisses me passionately, giving me the confirmation I need. I end the kiss quicker than I would have liked, aware that Jordan is behind me and I don’t want to make her feel more uncomfortable than she already must.
“I hope you’re Tyler, otherwise this could get really awkward,” Jordan jokes shaking Tyler’s outstretched hand. He laughs.
“And you must be Jordan. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Only the good things are true,” she teases.
“Then it’s all true,” he replies. Jordan nods impressed.
“I like him,” she tells me in front of him.
“That’s a relief! What can I get you girls to drink?”
“We’ll get them,” I say. “You think you could try and find us a table?”
“Sure.” He kisses me quickly before heading off to scout us out a table.
“You didn’t say he was that good-looking! I wouldn’t want to leave here either if I was banging him.”
“What? It’s true.”
“It’s more than that…”
“You really like him huh? Like really like him? I haven’t seen you so into anyone like this in a while.”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever been into anyone like this.” I confess.
“Damn.” I can see she’s stunned.
“What am I going to do? I have to leave here on Sunday.”
“Have you guys talked about it?”
“You need to. If it’s meant to be it will work out,” she reassures me.
“I’m not sure I like the idea of fate handling things. It hasn’t worked out too well for my family recently.”
“I know,” she says giving me a sympathetic squeeze. “You’re here for a reason, maybe he’s that reason, maybe he’s just part of the healing process but if your father hadn’t have died you wouldn’t have come.” That was a lot to digest. The connection between Tyler and I felt powerful. I knew at least for me it was more than a summer fling. Fate had brought us together but it seemed that my family had to pay an exceptionally hard price. It was impossible to figure out what it all meant in the grand scheme of things. Philosophers, poets, religious leaders and profits had tried for thousand of years to figure out the meaning of existence. No one really knew for sure all we had was faith. I didn’t know if I believed in a master plan or just random coincidences but nothing about Tyler and I felt accidental. For better or worse it felt destined…maybe that was just the wine talking. Jordan and I got our drinks and then went to find Tyler. He had managed to wrangle us a table but half of it was already occupied, luckily it was with our friends Tina and Brock. They had a bunch of friends visiting for the holiday. I introduced everyone to Jordan. I had to stifle a laugh as I watched Brock’s eyes light up when he met Jordan. I couldn’t blame him Jordan was a knockout, thick sandy-blonde hair that stretched all the way down to her tiny waist. She had these gorgeous green eyes that glistened with the promise of mischief she would usually deliver on. She was gorgeous and the best friend a girl could ever ask for but I also had the sneaky suspicion that she was taken. Blake had really captured her interest so Brock was pretty much SOL. But she was friendly with him anyway. Everyone was in a great mood that night. I don’t know if it was the excitement anticipating 4th of July or Jordan’s arrival either way everyone was having fun, laughing and joking together. I even felt Tyler letting down his guard around the others. He had always been polite and friendly towards Tina and Brock just usually more reserved around them as if he didn’t totally trust them but tonight he was relaxed. We all spent most of the night on the dance floor. I did my best not to let Jordan feel left out but she’s so independent she was happy to do her own thing, chatting and dancing with her new friends. So when she was off socializing Tyler and I would stay wrapped in each other’s arms on the dance floor trying not to let the desire dancing together stimulated overcome us. We were mostly successful just stealing a few kisses here and there. I gave him sips of my drink so we were both enjoying a light buzz plus it slowed down my own consumption. It was such a fun night. One of the best nights out I’d had in months.
Jordan and I grab another drink at the bar. “That boy is crazy for you,” she comments.
“Yes! The way he looks at you…” she whistles suggestively. “Anyway he seems great. I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks.” Just at that moment the joy and excitement I was feeling immediately begins to dissipate. Ethan walks in. I can tell by the look on his face he’s looking for someone. And then when he walks right up to him I realize he was looking for Tyler. He pulls Tyler away from where all our friends are sitting.
“What’s wrong?” Jordan asks concerned, sensing my change in energy.
“Tyler’s cousin is here.” I had already filled Jordan in on Ethan. She knew I didn’t like him. I watched them talking. Ethan was obviously delivering some news and from the change in Tyler’s demeanor I realized it was bad.
“I’m going to go find out what’s happened.”
“Go, go!” Jordan encouraged me. By the time I walk over to them Ethan has already left. Obviously he had dropped some kind of bombshell and just bailed. Seemed like his M.O.
“Is everything alright?” I ask. He doesn’t seem to hear me. He’s just staring at the ground, not moving. “What just happened?”
“Nothing…” he says dismissively as if just realizing I was there.
“That didn’t look like nothing. What did Ethan say to you?”
“It’s not important.”
“Tyler please. Don’t shut me out.”
“Alana you’re leaving in five days what does it matter to you?” He snaps.
“Of course it matters to me…why are you acting like this?”
“You’re leaving in five days. What’s the point of getting to know me? What’s the point of finding out all my deep, dark secrets? Why should I expose everything to you when you’re going to be gone soon?”
“Because I care about you…” I didn’t really have an answer for him. I understood what he was saying but I didn’t know why he was so mad.
“You care about me?” He asked, he sounded so angry. I couldn’t make sense of it…
“Yes I care about you. And just because I’m going back to LA doesn’t mean this has to end.” There I’d said it I put it out there.
“Yeah…I know how that goes,” his voice laden with cynicism.
“Let’s talk about this. Tyler I really like you.”
“Well that’s just great but I’m fucking in love with you,” he spat out the words as if it was something he resented and stormed out the door. I stand there frozen. Stunned. Part of me wanted to leap for joy. He loved me! But that was drowned out by his anger and strange behavior. What is going on with him? Was he just upset I was leaving? Everything changed when Ethan walked in. What had Ethan told him? Jordan comes over.
“No. Not really. But I have no idea what the fuck just happened. I’ll be right back.” I went outside to see if I could catch up with Tyler. But remembering what happened last time I left this bar on my own I just stood in the doorway and searched for him. He must have already left. I couldn’t see his truck. I went back inside. All the joy of earlier had been totally sucked out of the bar. I felt stone cold sober and just wanted to leave. But Jordan was here and I owed it to her perk up and show her a good time.
“What was all that about?” She asked as confused as I was.
“I wish I could tell you. I think his cousin told him something that really upset him and he freaked out and left.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to put a downer on our evening.”
“It’s not your fault! Anyway it’s getting pretty late. I’m still a little jet-lagged and we’ve got a full day of celebrations tomorrow. You want to head home?”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to be a buzz-kill.”
“Seriously. I want to pace myself for tomorrow.” So we schedule our Lyft ride and say goodnight to our friends. We had made a plan with Tina to meet up tomorrow. Brock was taking the boat out and we would join them on the Lake. It was going to be really fun. At least that was what I had thought before. I wish I knew what was going on with Tyler. I checked my phone he hadn’t called or texted.
“Kind of dramatic the way he left.” Jordan comments.
“Yeah, I guess. He told me he “fucking loved me” and stormed out. Go figure.”
“Geez.” Jordan seemed as stunned as I am.
“I don’t know what to make of him Jordan. He runs so hot and cold. I wish he would open up to me more.”
“I think you need to talk. And you both need to be honest about how you feel. I mean I can understand him not wanting to open up to you when he thinks you’re about to leave. Why don’t you go see him?”
“Now? I can’t leave you.”
“Why not? Seriously I’m just going to pass out. I’m exhausted. I think you should try and resolve this tonight. Tomorrow is 4th of July and selfishly I don’t want to be dealing with any drama OK?” I couldn’t help but laugh.
“OK.” So I dropped her off and headed over to Tyler’s house. I hoped he was home and I really hoped he was home alone and wanted to see me. I was nervous as a climbed the spiral staircase up to his apartment. But Jordan was right we needed to talk about this tonight. I could hear the music coming from his apartment and I knew he was home. I knocked on the door. I heard the music turn off as he walked over to answer it. He opened up and I could tell he was surprised to see me. He had a beer in his hand. His shirt was off and his hands were covered in paint.
“Hi…” I say hoping he’ll invite me in.
“Hi.” His eyes burn into mine and in that moment I know exactly what I’m feeling.
“I came here to tell you that I fucking love you too.” That’s as much as I can say before he reaches over scooping me in his arms his lips finding mine with a frenzied passion. I let myself be transported by his kisses momentarily forgetting that I had come over to talk, to figure what was going on between us but the chemistry was just so undeniable. He pulls me inside, kicking the door shut behind me never taking his lips off mine. He pushes me up against the wall his hungry hands all over my body. We’ll talk later I tell myself, hoping that will be true. He carries me into the bedroom silently. He’s different tonight, more aggressive. Not violent, not at all but before he had been gentle and reverential. Tonight he feels fired up. He strips me naked rushing to pull off his own clothes, I help, then pull him on top of me wanting to feel his full weight. It feels like heaven and madness all at once. It’s fast and deliriously passion-filled. After we’ve both come he wraps me tightly in his arms as if he doesn’t want to let go.
“I love you,” he whispers in my ear.
“Please Tyler, don’t run out on me anymore because I love you too.” He buries his face in my neck, inhaling my scent. I can tell something is wrong that something is bothering him.
“What is it? Talk to me please.” I plead with him. He sighs heavily as if debating. He rolls on to his back and lies there silently for a moment. I let him. I don’t push I just wait.
“Ethan told me something tonight that I wasn’t ready to hear.”
“What is it? What happened?”
“About my father. He’s up for parole, his hearing is on Friday.” I didn’t really know what to think.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” I ask tentatively.
“No. Not for me. My father is a cruel, violent, alcoholic and he doesn’t deserve to have his freedom.” There isn’t anger in his voice as he says this, but a coldness and a hardness I’d never heard from him. It was also a really big statement. I had no idea he felt this way about his father.
“How long has he been in prison for?” I ask trying not to overwhelm him with questions but desperately curious to know more.
“Eight years.” That was a long time. I did the math that would have made Tyler eleven, right when his mother passed away. That must have been heartbreaking for Tyler to lose his parents so close together.
“Did he go to prison before or after your mother died?” Tyler sits up violently, throwing his legs over the bed. But he doesn’t get up he just sits on the edge his head in his hands.
“I don’t know if I can do this with you Alana.”
“Do what? We’re just talking…getting to know each other on a deeper lever.” I sit up behind him, wrapping my arms around his waist, pressing my naked body into his bare back.
“Why? After Sunday will any of it matter? I’ll have bared my soul for you and you’ll be gone. What does it get me? Just another person I have to say goodbye to…” he stands up abruptly, picking up his discarded jeans and putting them back on. He walks out into the other room, leaving me alone. How could he make love to me like that and just walk away? How could he separate himself? I realized there was some deep, deep hurt surrounding his parents and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. But no matter what kind of pain he was carrying I wasn’t going to let him get away with treating me like this. I get up and find my own clothes, hurriedly dress, then follow him into the kitchen. He was standing in front of the fridge knocking back another beer.
“Is that how you treat the people you love? Walking out on them.” My arms are folded over my chest, I realize I’m not giving off the most inviting air but I’m pissed.
“I think you’re the one who’s doing the walking away,” he replies.
“Tyler I don’t live here. I’m going back to school in the fall I have to be back in LA but if we talk about this we can make it work. I want to make it work. Do you? Because right now the way you’re acting makes it seem like you’re not interested.”
“That’s not fair!”
“Isn’t it? You’re trying to push me away. And if you keep it up it’s going to work!” I tell him. He just stops and stares at me then leans over on the counter as if he’s using it for support.
“What do you want from me Alana?”
“What do I want from you? I repeat his question shocked. “I want you to mean it when you say you love me!”
“I do mean it!”
“Then show me. Let’s try and make this work! This place in two hours from LA, an hour and a half with no traffic, we could switch off weekends. I could come here one week, you could come to LA the next. If you love me you’ll try. If you don’t then don’t say it!” I can feel the emotions bubbling inside me. I want this to work. The thought of not seeing him anymore literally takes my breath away, he feels so vital to my very existence. How could he not want to try?
“You say this now but when you start school again, back in your old life, with old friends, new guys. You’ll forget about me. This will just be a summer fling. Something to relieve the boredom of being alone on the Lake,” he says, the unmistakable hint of bitterness in his voice.
“If you really believe that about me how could you say you’re in love with me? What kind of person do you think I am?”
“I think you’re the best kind of person and that’s what scares me. That’s why I’m afraid,” he admits.
“Afraid of what?” I ask taking a tentative step towards him.
“I’m afraid for you to know more. I’m afraid for you to see more. I’m afraid I’m going to lose you. I’ve lost everything I’ve ever loved.” My heart breaks for him. I take him in my arms and I feel him fight the tears as he hides his face in my chest.
“You’re not going to lose me Tyler,” I reassure him. I want to ask him more about his Dad but I feel like he is too vulnerable right now. It’s too much for him. And I understand. I may not have gone through the same thing with my parents but if someone were to ask me right now to talk about my Dad it would be too raw, too painful. And I see that in Tyler, so I don’t question him. I just let him hold onto me.
“I’m sorry…” he says eventually. By now I’ve started to sober up and I can tell he’s still a little buzzed.
“Don’t ever be sorry for being vulnerable.” I sit up on the kitchen counter, pulling him towards me, wrapping my legs around his waist. “So what do you think? About coming to visit me in LA?” He brushes the hair out of my face.
“You couldn’t keep me away,” he says before kissing me defiantly.
“So we’re going to do this you and me?” I ask him. “I want to know if this is for real?” I say laying it all out there. I didn’t want to pretend anymore. I wasn’t going to play coy. I needed to know if I was to invest anymore emotionally that we were both on the same page.
“This is the most real thing I have ever felt in my life,” he tells me leaning his forehead on mine.
“No more running out OK? Even when it gets hard, especially when it gets hard.”
“Are you going to the parole hearing?”
“I’m not sure. The lawyer wants me to make a statement.”
“To help get him released?” He laughs, almost bitterly, I couldn’t tell for sure. Then he shakes his head.
“No. To help keep him locked up.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what that meant. “Are you going to tell me why he’s in there?”
“Yes, but not tonight. We’ve had enough revelations for one night.”
“The fact that you love me is to me, a total revelation.” He kisses me, then asks, “Are you going to spend the night?”
“I think I should be home when Jordan wakes up. I feel bad enough that I abandoned her to come see you.” I confess.
“She seems like she can handle it.”
“She’s a great girl.”
“Well if you have to go, I’ll drive you home,” he says going to grab his keys.
“No way. You’ve had too much to drink.”
“I’m fine!” He insists. I give him the look. He gets it. “OK but I’ll be over bright and early tomorrow morning.”
“I can’t wait.” I say and I mean it. It was painful to have to leave him.
“I love you Alana,” he says before kissing me goodnight. Just hearing that made it worth it.
“I love you too.” He smiles down at me.
“I love the way that sounds.” I call a car and we wait together, quietly. I think we’re both done talking for the night the emotional toll has left us exhausted. When my ride finally arrives he walks me to the car, kissing me again.
“Text me when your home?” he asks. I nod. “I’m following her route,” he tells the driver referring to the app on our phones. I roll my eyes.
“Are you sure you’re just nineteen?” I ask kissing him one last time.
“The only thing I’m sure about in this world is how much I love you.” I don’t have an answer for that but all I know as the car drives away that my heart is literally singing.