“Sorry, eh,” I mutter as I spin around and kneel to pick up the phone and bag. I glance up as I pass them over.
My heart skips quickly.
“No worries,” she says smiling shyly.
That is her smile shining at me. The smile that lights up like a Christmas tree and makes me smile in return. Her hazel eyes blaze into mine and she draws her long chocolate brown hair behind her left ear.
“Shantelle,” I breathe as I stand and run my hand through my thick black hair. We are the same height thanks to her heels.
“Eric! Howzit!” She pecks my cheek and wraps her arms around me.
Her embrace is warm as it always was and I inhale the sweet aroma maile leaves.
I do not want to let go.
She pulls away and uses her thumb to rub away crimson the lipstick. “Long time,” she chirps.
“Yeah,” I respond still in shock. “How long?”
“At least fifteen years.”
Moisture seeps from my palms and I clumsily attempt to hide wiping them on my board shorts. My stomach ties itself in knots. “Uhm. I’d love to catch up but I’m meeting friends at Rockpile.”
“Every chance I get.” I muster a smile. “Here.” I take her phone and add my number knowing she will call.
Call me chicken for not asking for hers instead. She was the strong one.
“I’ll call you,” she says glancing at her phone.
“Please.” I give her a small wave before turning around and bolting for the parking lot.
We lean on the metal railing of the Tantalus Lookout over Honolulu.
“I was ice skating with friends at a mall in San Diego when we met,” she tells me.
I chuckle at the memory of how unsteady she is on ice skates. “You fell and he helped you up?”
“No. I was flailing when he skated by. I grabbed him when my hand connected with his shirt and we fell.”
“How long were you two married before the accident?”
“Seven years. I got home that evening expecting him to be home already,” she says somberly.
“I’m sorry, Shan. You deserved a happily-ever-after.”
She turns around and hops up to sit on the railing. “You’re a catch. How could your ex leave you?”
“You know what an asshole I can be. I did the same thing to her that I did to you. But I had no excuse for her. Not that my excuse was any reason to be an ass towards you.” I cover her hand next to me on the railing with mine. Fire burns through me. “I’m sorry, Shan,” I say remorsefully.
Her free hand runs through my hair and I close my eyes to savor the familiarity. “Don’t,” she murmurs. “We don’t need to rehash it.”
“I need to.”
She tips my head up and tenderly presses her lips against mine. My body shakes and I break away to blow out the nerves coursing through me.
“You were always stronger than me,” I whisper.
“Cowards don’t surf. It’s mentally impossible. They would never make it into the water,” she jokes in an attempt to distract me.
“I was chicken for not fighting for you.”
“And I was weak for leaving when I should’ve stayed.” Her thumb lightly massages my head in circles.
“I was going to call you when I got my shit together. But the longer we were apart the more I felt the space between us had turned into an abyss.”
She slips her hand from the back of my head to my face. “She destroyed you emotionally. You don’t just pick up pieces and move on from that.”
“No. But I shut you out and pushed you away. I could’ve let you in. I wanted to. I just didn’t know how while I was so broken.”
“I didn’t know what to do either, Eric. I tried to be there for you, but you wouldn’t let me. I thought walking away was best for both of us,” she says quietly as she brushes her thumb along my cheekbone. “It tore me apart. I hate what she did to you and that I couldn’t fix it.”
I remove her hand from my face and place it over my racing heart. “You do this to me. No one else has ever had the same effect on my heart. Not even her.”
She slides off the railing and I draw her into me by her waist. Our lips and tongues play gently.
She draws back slightly. “You always had a piece of my heart.”
I suck in a breath while my heart jackhammers so fast I feel like it will pop out of my chest. I grab her head between my hands and crush my mouth against hers without giving myself time to think twice.
I pour all the years of longing and gratitude for her into the kiss. She accepts it with enthusiasm and returns longing of her own. I break away and gaze into her golden brown eyes.
Her lips curl up at the corners. Dazzling me.
“I want to drown in the brilliance of your smile,” I say breathily.
©Debi Smith, 2013