Wish You Were Here: A Novel: Chapter 30

New Life

By two in the afternoon, I was thoroughly buzzed on Tahitian rum and tropical fruit. Sitting in my bikini on the deck outside my bungalow, reading an old tattered copy of The World According to Garp, I noticed something from the corner of my eye. Across the lagoon sat another set of bungalows, and out on his deck was Seth, waving his arms spastically at me. “Hellooooo, neighbor!” he yelled.

I stood and stared, feeling hesitant to respond. He was wearing only trunks and he was far away, but I knew it was him. I could easily make out the mess of brownish hair on top of his head. Even from a hundred yards away, I could see the ridges in his stomach. I waved, finally. “Hello!”

For me, breaking the glacier I had formed between us was going to take a lot more than a casual wave across a tropical lagoon.

“I’ll come to you,” he yelled, and dove into the water.

Oh my god, Oh my god! I looked down at myself. I was almost naked. I stood there, slightly trembling, not sure what to do, as I watched his strong body swim quickly through the water in my direction. I walked down to the lower deck right as he grasped the deck railing and hoisted himself up with agile grace onto the wooden platform.

I looked at him towering over me, grinning like a boy who had won first prize. The water was dripping off his perfect body. When he shook his hair out, I flinched. “It feels great. You should try it,” he said. He seemed unfazed by what I considered to be a monumentally uncomfortable situation.

“Um, . . . I . . .” The tension, oh god, the confusion. I couldn’t tell what I was thinking or how I was feeling. All I could see was his glistening body sparkling in the sun.

“ ‘Hello, Seth, how are you?’ would be a good start,” he said, smirking.

I blinked, still speechless. Why is he being so friendly? I broke his damn heart.

“Charlotte Martin, will you speak? I heard you have a boat and a dog now?”

“Yeah,” I said, still stunned at how gorgeous he was. I had conveniently forgotten what it felt like to be in his presence. “Dora is with my parents. How’d you know?”

“Obi told me. He likes her.” He wiggled his eyebrows. Sara must’ve told him about the run-in at the hospital.

“Ha!” I said absently, still preoccupied with his stupid muscles.

“Well, I can see this isn’t getting anywhere.”

He scooped me up like a bag of flour and threw me, not gently, into the air. “Argh!” I screamed as I flew at least ten feet from the deck before hitting the water and sinking straight to the bottom. Seconds later, I heard a crash as the water exploded around me. As the bubbles cleared, I saw Seth swimming toward me with long, expert strokes. The lagoon was perfectly cool and crystal blue. The sun blasted through it, making it possible to see every bit of white sand below us and every tiny tropical fish swimming near us. The word heaven popped into my mind as we swam together beneath the surface.

After a few moments, we came up for air.

“You threw me in,” I said, breathing heavily.

“Your powers of observation are as sharp as ever, Charlie.” He swam toward me and placed his hands on my hips. Oh god, his hands are on my hips. He was smiling that boyish, healthy smile, and I couldn’t help but smile back, despite my complete shock that he was being so friendly.

I squirmed out of his arms and dove under the water to swim away. He grabbed my foot and pulled me back like I was nothing. I had forgotten how young and virile Seth was. When I surfaced, I was laughing and spitting water everywhere.

He was laughing, too. “Are you gonna keep running away from me? You’re easy prey.”

“I’m not running, I’m swimming.” I broke loose and swam away as quickly as I could back to the bungalow. I could feel him right behind me when I reached the deck rail and lifted myself out of the water.

He shouted up at me, “Okay, now you’re running.”

I stuck my tongue out at him.

“Where’s your boat? Maybe I’ll let you take me out on it.”

“I haven’t even invited you.”

“You’re feisty today.”

“So what.” I grabbed a towel and started drying myself off.

“Let’s catch up, Charlie. I want to catch up.” He sounded more serious now.

I hesitated. Here was this beautiful man, acting as if the last few months hadn’t even happened. Was that a good thing? Did I want him to be acting this way? I’d changed so much since the last time I saw him; I wasn’t sure if I could go back to the way we were. But Adam’s words, and my conversation with Chucky in Oahu, were floating around in the ether of my mind. If Seth wanted to catch up, fine—we could catch up.

“I’ll meet you at the bar at five,” I said as I climbed the stairs to the top deck. I looked up and saw my parents standing there, staring at us with wide eyes. Holy shit.

“Charlotte,” my mother said.

“Show’s over,” I said as I walked past her into my bungalow.

My dad cleared his throat. “I’m gonna head back to our bungalow,” he said, and then he skittered away. But my mother stood in my open doorway as I continued to dry myself off.

“That was Seth,” I told her.

“I know. Your dad and I watched some of his games.”

“We weren’t doing anything, Mom.”

“I didn’t say that you were.”

“Even if we were, do I look like I’d care?”

She started laughing. Her laugh grew into hysterics.

“What is wrong with you?” I said.

“Chucky was right.” She tried to catch her breath. “You are different.” She turned to walk away. “I think I like this new Charlotte,” she said as she left the bungalow.

“Then quit picking on me!” I called out as she walked down the wooden deck.

She turned back and made the motion of zipping up her lips and throwing away the key just before blowing me a kiss.

I couldn’t help but smile.

 

FIVE O’CLOCK ROLLED around and I was sitting at the bar in the lobby of the resort in a floral-print maxidress, my hair in loose waves around my shoulders, drinking some concoction with local booze, tropical fruit juice, and a little paper umbrella in it.

“Is this spot taken?” came a voice from behind me.

I didn’t look up at him. “Sit. We have much to discuss.”

He sat down and called the bartender over. “ ’Scuse me, can we get a couple of shots?”

“I don’t want a shot!” I said.

“You should have a shot, Charlotte.”

“I’ve been drinking since two.” I wasn’t slurring, but I was squinting hard—my tell. There was no way I was going into this potentially fraught conversation sober.

“Okay, we’ll skip the shots. Let’s discuss,” he said.

We swiveled our stools so that we were now facing each other. His hand was on my bare knee. I glanced at his muscular forearms and felt my jaw go slack.

“You were saying something, Charlotte?”

“If I have that shot, I won’t be good at anything . . . including self-control.”

“I’m fine with that.” He smirked.

“Don’t smirk at me. We’re supposed to be talking. Quit trying to distract me with your baseball body and your hand on my knee.” I slapped it away.

He laughed. “This is how I see it: I’m just sitting here, waiting for you to talk. You owe me an explanation, not the other way around.”

“Actually, I don’t owe you, or anyone, anything. I think I made my intentions pretty clear when we last spoke, and I never asked you to wait for me. But fine. I’ll tell you what’s been going on.” I was truly drunk with bravery, in addition to being drunk on tropical cocktails. “I got married to Adam, he died in my arms in the French Riviera, and now I’m a widow.”

His expression fell, but he didn’t seem shocked; in fact, I saw only compassion in his eyes. “I know. Helen told me, and I’m sorry. And you’re right, you don’t owe me anything. I just want you to know that I’m here for you.”

I waved my hand around in the air. “Maybe you don’t understand. I got married and all of that,” I said, arching my eyebrows. “I. Am. A. Widow.”

“I know. Like I said, Helen kept me posted.” Just then, the bartender brought us two shots. Seth pushed one shot toward me and held up his own. “Let’s toast.”

“To what?”

“Widows and bachelors?” He grinned. “I’m sorry. Too soon?”

“No, I’m fine. It’s just that . . . why do I feel like everyone around me is going completely insane? Is it this place?”

“You don’t want to toast, fine. Let’s play a game then.” He called the bartender over and asked her to leave the bottle of tequila.

“What’s the game, number twelve?”

“You remember my number?”

“Um, yeah? We did date, you jerk.” That made him happy. “How was the rest of your season, by the way?”

“I got a contract, actually. I’ll be staying in San Diego next season. My average was steady, although now I’m in a bit of a slump.”

“But the season is ov—oh, ha ha ha, I get it!”

“We’re not really going to have a serious conversation, are we?”

I grinned maniacally.

“Okay, you know what, we’re going to play Truth or Dare. If you don’t want to do a dare or answer a question, that’s fine, but you have to take a shot to make up for it. Got it?”

I was relieved. I couldn’t talk about Adam anymore, and I sure as hell didn’t want to dwell on the confusing morass of emotions swirling inside of me, further complicated by the fact that Seth would be in Southern California for at least one more year. “Got it,” I said.

“I’ll go first. I pick dare.”

“I dare you to do a striptease on top of this bar,” I said, waggling my eyebrows. He reached for the bottle of tequila, poured, and tossed it back.

“Your turn.” He smiled, pleased with himself.

“You’re no fun. Truth.”

“Do you want me to kiss you?” he asked, staring at my lips.

“Yes,” I said.

He leaned in and then, suddenly, we were kissing. I pulled away first.

“Okay, now me. Truth. Fire away.”

“Why do you still like me?”

“That’s an easy one, Char. Because you’re compassionate, intelligent, funny; you have insane sex appeal; and you’re beautiful. Your turn.”

“Truth,” I slurred.

“Do you want me to kiss you?”

“Yes,” I whispered, growing increasingly bold from the alcohol. And then we were kissing again.

I pulled away and touched my fingers to his lips. “Your turn.”

“Dare.” He winked.

“I dare you to kiss me,” I said.

He took a shot. I gasped. He was such a tease. “Your turn,” he said.

“Dare,” I said.

“I dare you to take a shot,” he said.

I rolled my eyes. “Fine.” I took a shot. “You go.”

“Truth.”

“Did you meet anyone in the months since I last saw you?”

His eyes darkened. “I met a lot of girls. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot.” I tried to pull my hand away, but he held on tighter. “But I didn’t like any of them, and I started to get it. What you had with Adam.”

I looked at him hard. “I fell in love with Adam, Seth. I was in love with him before I even met you. I know that wasn’t fair, and I never meant to hurt you, but that’s what happened. I fell in love with him and I married him because I wanted to be his wife. And then . . . well . . . he died. And I don’t regret a minute of our time together.”

He swallowed. “I’m sincerely sorry you had to go through that.”

“It was my choice.”

“Do you believe in soul mates, Charlotte?”

“I think so,” I said.

“Do you want to know what I think?”

“What?”

“I think we have soul mates, but I think we can have more than one, just like we can have more than one career, or more than one hobby, or more than one fucking favorite food. Different people connect to different parts of our souls. I like you, Charlotte. I think you know that. And I want you to have hope that you might fall in love again.”

I was speechless, so I did the only thing I knew how to do in that moment: I took another shot. “Your turn.”

“Dare,” he said.

“I dare you to come back to my bungalow with me.” I leaned into him as I said it.

He took a shot and smiled. My eyes opened wider than possible. “You ass! Dare,” I said, looking affronted.

“I dare you to go dance by yourself on the dance floor.”

“I’m not gonna take another shot.” Now I was definitely slurring.

“Then you better get out there and get your tiki on, lady.”

I stumbled my way onto the dance floor where they were playing some Polynesian folk music. I tried to remember the dance the sister does in Dirty Dancing. I was massacring it while Seth sat smiling at the bar.

“Charlotte?” My mom and dad appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, although I will admit that I was thoroughly sauced by that point. They were sitting at a table near the dance floor. I stopped dancing and noticed that Helen, Roddy, her parents, and more friends were all watching me with amusement.

I threw my arms up. “What? It was a dare!”

Seth was suddenly behind me, propping me up as I swayed. “It’s okay everyone. I’ll walk her back to her room.”

My father strode up and cleared his throat. “Oh, hello, Mr. Martin,” Seth said.

“Hello,” my father said. They shook hands.

“Charlotte, your mom and I want to discuss something with you, but I don’t think it’s a good time now. I think you need some rest.”

“Oh Jesus, what now?” I said.

“Charlotte!” my mother scolded.

“I’m drunk, you guys. It’s not a big deal.” Seth anchored me to his side by wrapping an arm around my waist.

My mother stuck her hand out to Seth. “Hello, Seth, I’m Charlotte’s mom, Laura.” She blushed.

“Oh, Motherrr, are you blushing? He’s just a professional baseball plaaayer with twelve-pack abs and perfect hair, get over it!”

“Let’s go, drunky.” Seth pulled me along.

“Hey, Taylor,” my father said, calling Seth by his last name. We turned back to see my dad point to his own eyes and then to Seth’s. I’m watching you, he mouthed, and then he buckled over and started laughing.

“Your family is totally weird,” Seth said into my ear. “I see where you get your sense of humor.”

“Yep, they’re all right. By the way, it’s your fault I’m drunk.”

I caught Helen’s eye as we left the bar. Seth waved, she smiled, and Roddy laughed.

“I think you had a little too much before I got involved.”

“I told you that. Hey, wanna go skinny-dipping?”

“I’m getting you a sandwich and then I’m putting you to bed,” he said.

“Killjoy.”


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset