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Stripped

19 Apr
Waikiki Marina and Diamond Head

Waikiki Marina and Diamond Head

Catch up here.

Our table is next to the railing separating the restaurant from Waikiki Beach. J.D. sits to my left and an entertainer plays acoustic guitar while singing Gordon Lightfoot.

Just like a paperback novel

The kind the drugstore sells

When you reach the part where the heartaches come

The hero would be me

Heroes often fail

And you won’t read that book again

  Because the ending’s just too hard to take

“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since you left my table last night,” J.D. says once we have our drinks.

“Funny. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since you called this morning.” I take a sip of my Guinness then rest my chin on the heel of my right hand.

“Is that good or bad?” he asks rolling his bottle of Heineken between the palms of his hands.

“It was pleasant remembering the happier times. Not so much with the last two times I saw you,” I answer honestly.

He cringes and rubs his hands on the napkin on his lap then presses my left hand between both of his. My body trembles from his touch and I suck in a breath. I drop my right arm onto the table.

Chocolate eyes bore into mine. e H“I made really stupid choices when it came to us in the end. I got scared and did what I do best. I ran. I’m sorry for scaring you at Max’s, ignoring you, and yelling at you.”

I wipe away the tears starting to fall with the fingers of my right hand. “Why didn’t you just talk to me?”

“Paul said everything he could to feed that seed of fear.” He lets go of my hand and lifts the beer bottle to his lips.

“He fueled the shouting match,” I guess out loud.

He nods as he swallows and sets the bottle down. “We didn’t expect you to fight back with so many people around.”

“Paul should have known better.”

He points to himself. “I should have known better.”

“Yes, you should’ve,” I chide.

A server arrives with our dinner. We start eating quietly while the entertainer continues to serenade everyone.

Think I’ll spend eternity in the city

Let the carbon and monoxide choke my thoughts away

Pretty bodies help dissolve the memories

They can never be what she was to me

“What scared you?” I prompt.

He finishes cutting a slice of rare ahi then lays the utensils on the plate rim and rests his forearms on either side of the plate. “My relationships were always more physical, Ari,” he explains unapologetically. “Our relationship was new for me. I was more invested in the emotional side of it because we took things slow. I realized I was falling in love with you. I had one more year before leaving for med school and a long distance relationship wasn’t in my plans. I didn’t think it was fair to you to make a commitment before I left.”

If we made it that long and had to decide between a long distance relationship or none at all, I probably would have chosen the former,” I say hotly. “You took that choice away from me.”

“I wasn’t thinking back then,” he says defensively.

“Clearly,” I retort as heat flushes through my body.

“Ari-“

I hold up my left index finger to stop him and furrow my brow. “I took a risk opening up to you and now I find out you weren’t willing to take a risk. I think I have a right to be bitter and irate.” I take a bite of my mahi mahi to prevent myself from screaming.

“I deserve that,” he admits long-sufferingly as he sits back.

“I never told Jerry you were my boyfriend. I told him I had a boyfriend. I just wanted him to stop. You knew that. Paul must’ve overheard Brad talking to him before Max’s party then twisted everything around.”

“Why didn’t you tell me what you told Jerry that night?”

“I was livid that night. I had to run up and down the stairs quite a few times just to calm down. By the time I got to your place I didn’t want to rehash the whole thing. And I didn’t think there was a need to replay the conversation since he was drunk. I never imagined that Paul would get in the middle. Would it have really made a difference if I had told you?”

“I don’t know.” He sighs. “After Paul talked to me, I used alcohol to cover up the shock, fear of commitment, intense desire to run away, and love for you that surfaced that night.”

“So you ran.”

“I’m not proud of it,” he says remorsefully. “I did the easy thing instead of the right thing.

“You ripped out my heart then trampled over it.” I take a deep breath. “Right now, I’m confused because I’m feeling the same magnetic pull to you now as I did three years ago. I can’t tell if it’s real or nostalgia.”

I turn my head and watch the sun drop closer to the horizon and wash the sky with a mix of yellows, oranges, pinks, and lavenders. J.D.  runs his hand over my shoulder down to my shoulder-blade and I turn back to him.

“I really regret what I did, Ari. I can’t rewrite our past. I can only ask for forgiveness.”

“Were you really in love with me?” I ask skeptically, prodding for answers.

He crosses his forearms in front of his plate. “I wanted to be with you every minute of the day,” he says with conviction. “I felt empty when you weren’t with me and I hated walking you back to your dorm. I just wanted those five extra minutes with you. I never felt that way about anyone I dated. Not until you.”

“And you threw it away,” I add softly.

“I was desolate after the Johnson Hall party because the hope of seeing you again was gone for good. I still believed it was better that way, and I was too proud and too scared to find you to apologize.”

“Too scared to apologize?”

“I was afraid of your reaction and that I would change my mind if I saw you again.”

I stare at him and remain motionless.

“I told you. You’re an enigma. You’re strong, independent, forthright, and comfortable in your own skin. The women I’ve been with were needy and needed to be with a man. You didn’t need to be with me, you wanted to be with me. Seeing you again would’ve kept me drawn to you,” he pauses for a sip of beer. “And I knew I witnessed only a fraction of what you are capable of when angry. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of your wrath again so soon.”

“I may not have needed a man, but I needed you,” I say quietly.

A tear starts to fall. He palms my cheek and wipes the tear away with his thumb. My heart races as pools of liquid chocolate call to me like a siren.

“You trusted me enough to tell me about the rape and I made sure to tread carefully. Until Paul started messing with my head. I never meant to hurt you, Ari.” He catches another tear then pulls his hand away.

I drop my napkin onto my empty plate and push it towards the middle of the table. I gaze at the ocean, watching the ripples where I knew sets of swells would form.

J.D. rises out of his chair after he pays for dinner and holds his hand out to me. I glance at it then look up at his face.

“Please?” he pleads as he raises his eyebrows.

I take his hand and he leads me to the beach. I slide out of my sandals as he slips out of his shoes and socks then rolls up his pant legs just below his knees.

We meander along the beach until we find a solitary spot to sit down. I draw my knees up, slide the back of my dress behind my knees, and wrap my arms around my legs watching the sun disappear into the Pacific. J.D. rests his left arm on his knees and places his right hand between us.

“Where did you go the last night of finals?” I inquire with some detachment as I drop my hands into the sand and start playing with it absently.

“Moose’s with Paul.”

“Really?” I ask stunned.

“Yeah, why?”

“I was at Mama’s and was supposed go with Brad and Patrick to Moose’s. Not that you would’ve talked to me if I had been there.”

“I saw them there and thought it was odd you weren’t with them. Where were you?”

“I was still at Mama’s talking to a man I met.” I press my lips together for a moment. “I let him give me a ride back to the dorm. He wound up in my room, on my bed with me.”

J.D. winces, but allows me continue uninterrupted.

“I came to my senses before it went anywhere.” I settle my eyes on his. “I didn’t start dating again until over a year ago.”

“You said last night you don’t have a boyfriend. Are you seeing anyone?”

I shake my head and fold my arms on my knees. “I dated the one guy for a little while last year and it ended disastrously for both of us. I haven’t dated since. Trusting and opening up isn’t easy after being hurt again. And he didn’t mean to hurt me either,” I say sorrowfully at the memory and bow my head.

He pulls his legs in and moves around to face me while we are hip-to-hip. “What if we take a risk together?” he suggests softly.

“What?” I snap my head up.

“What if we started dating again?” he rephrases.

“Is that what tonight was about?”

He places his left hand in the sand on the other side of my feet. “No. Tonight was about giving you the apology you deserved. But I feel the pull, too. There was a tug on my heart when I saw you across Ryan’s last night just like before we started dating. I feel hollow with you right now because your hand isn’t in mine or my arms aren’t around you. I didn’t plan to ask you to take me back, but I felt the need to just now. ”

I even out my breath to slow the quickening of my heartbeat. “I’ve never given second chances where my heart is concerned.”

“That’s why it’s a risk. You were upset earlier because I wasn’t willing to take a risk three years ago. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be with you.”

“You’re not seeing anyone?”

“No. But there have been other women. Nothing serious,” he discloses and brushes my hair back with his right hand then caresses my shoulder. “I want to do the right thing. I chose our past. We can decide our future together, however long that might be. Paul isn’t around to interfere and I promise it will be better. I will be better.”

Our eyes search each other as the dull roar of waves breaking on the shore fills the silence. My heart mimics the crashing of the shorebreaks as he leans in. I drop my gaze and exhale. Our lips brush against each other once and part then graze again becoming reacquainted.

J.D. cups my cheek with his hand as our lips engage in a slow dance. An unrecognizable hunger surges through me and he matches it. Our tongues explore feverishly and I weave the fingers of both my hands through his hair. He slips his right hand around to cradle my head and his left hand around my back drawing me closer.

We gradually pull away from each other as the urgency wanes.  J.D. scoops me up, pulls me onto his lap, and wraps his arms around me. I slide my left arm around his shoulders and lightly trace my fingers down the side of his face. He tilts his head up and meets my lips for a soft kiss.

© Debi Smith, 2013

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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