Wish You Were Here: A Novel: Chapter 31


Seth did exactly what he’d said he’d do. He ordered two sandwiches, French fries, and a gallon of water and walked me back to my room, where I began vigorously shoving the food into my mouth.

I held up a French fry. “Do you know how long it’s been since I ate anything fried? I don’t even wanna eat it because I love it so much.”

“Eat!” Seth ordered.

When we finished eating, I brushed my teeth and tore off my dress and threw it in the corner. I stood in front of Seth in nothing but my bra and underwear. He grinned.

“You gonna sleep with me, number twelve?”

“Been there, done that,” he said. I socked him in the arm. “Get into bed, lush, I’ll tuck you in.”

The rest of the night was foggy, but I knew for sure Seth did little more than spoon me. In the morning, he was gone and I was hungover. On my bedside table was a note, a glass of orange juice, and ice water.

You looked so cute drooling all over your pillow. I took a picture of you that I will cherish forever. Roddy wanted me to teach him to surf today, so I had to leave early this morning with him. I am his best man, after all. I think Helen had something planned for you guys anyway. I want to see you later. Don’t try to argue or bargain your way out of hanging out with me. I don’t negotiate with terrorists. Kisses, Seth.

My head was pounding. I reached for Advil from my purse and swallowed it with a few glugs of orange juice. I could hear voices from outside my bungalow. When I looked out the curtain, I saw my mom and dad sitting in chairs on my deck.

I slid the door open forcefully, still only wearing my underwear and bra. “You guys are seriously everywhere. Have I no privacy? I just spent three weeks on a boat with you two, Jesus!”

“Now you know what it’s like to have kids. Put some clothes on, grumpy, and get out here,” my mother said.

When I came back out, my father said, “Welcome to the world of the living, Charlotte. It’s past noon.”

“I had a lot to drink last night.”

“We know,” they said in unison.

“Seth asked us to check on you. He seemed worried. Should we be worried?” my dad said.

“You guys, I got drunk. It wasn’t the first time.”

“Well, you sure looked like you were having fun, honey,” my mom added with an arched eyebrow.

“Did you guys want to ask me something?” Dora’s head was resting on my mom’s knee. “You look comfortable,” I said to Dora. Her ears perked up but she didn’t move.

My dad began, “I’ll just come right out and say it. If you plan on leaving your boat down here, your mom and I will stay and sail her back when the weather permits.”

My mouth fell open. Both my mom and dad were staring at me, unblinking. “That will most definitely be months. What about Rotary Club, Mom? And Dad, what about the practice?”

“Fuck Rotary Club, it’s boring, and your dad’s practice will be fine until Chucky can take it over. It practically runs itself.”

“You both are officially never allowed to scold me again for language. I’m a little shocked right now.” Just then, I noticed Seth across the way, walking to his bungalow. I was staring at him when I said, “You’re not getting Dora, so don’t even think about asking.”

“We want the adventure, Charlotte,” my mother said. She followed my gaze to Seth, who was hanging a towel over his deck rail. He waved and we all waved back, then my mother stood up and came face-to-face with me. She was smiling. “I have a feeling you don’t want to hang out down here on a boat for the next five months anyway.”

“You’re so perceptive, Mother.” I kissed her on the cheek. “Fine, you guys can do it. I’ll see you at the rehearsal tonight. Come on, Dora,” I said before heading inside.

Dora hesitated.

“Come on, Dora!”

She finally followed me inside. When I looked back through the sliding door, my mom and dad were hugging.

I waited for them to go back to their room before I threw on my swimsuit and jumped into the water. Dora and I swam over to Helen’s bungalow. No one seemed to be on-site so I started clicking and squeaking like a dolphin. Dora doggie-paddled next to me. When Helen came out, she buckled over laughing. “Oh, Flipper, you’re still so good at that.”

“Come swimming.”

Roddy came out and stood behind her. “Hey, Charlotte.”

“Hey, Roddy, how was surfing?”

“I’m terrible at it, but I think Seth had fun. He was beat. You keep him up late last night?”

“Who, me?” I said.

I helped Dora onto the deck and then climbed up myself. Helen said, “I saw Chucky and some girl this morning.”

“Did you? I haven’t seen them yet. He must have just gotten in,” I said.

“They looked super in love,” Helen added.

“Really? Good for him. Jesus, Helen, there’s love all around, isn’t there?” I thought I was making a joke, and then as soon as the words left my mouth, I thought about Adam. And like a giant wave crashing over me, I lost my breath.

“What’s wrong, Charlotte?” Helen said, searching my eyes.

“Nothing, I just wish . . . I wish he were here.”

Helen’s smile was full of compassion. A moment later I felt a hand pressed against my back. “I’m here,” Seth’s voice came from behind. “Were you looking for me?”

Helen shook her head. “Good timing, Seth.”

“Did I miss something?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I said, smiling at him gratefully.

“We need to rehearse our nuptials,” Roddy added.

“We’ll be there in a minute,” I told them. Without another word, Helen and Roddy headed down the wooden platform, leaving Seth and me alone.

“This must be Dora?” he said. Her ears perked up. “I can see why Obi’s so smitten.”

I tried to smile back, but my face wouldn’t work. I realized that I was standing in a daze, staring at a shirtless Seth, wearing only his swim trunks and a grin. As quickly as it had entered, Adam’s image gently floated away on the waves, and now I was thinking only about Seth and his big, strong body.

“Was I really drooling last night?”

“All over me. It was disgusting.”

I felt my face flush. “Stop.”

“I’m kidding. Kind of.” He took a step forward and pressed his lips to mine, kissed me too quickly, and then pulled away. “You were cute sleeping on me, snoring, drooling. I found it all insanely charming.”

I rolled my eyes, and then jumped in the water and swam away. “Come on, Dora! We’re outta here.” She jumped in too and swam after me as Seth watched from the deck. “I’ll see you at the rehearsal.”

I didn’t look back.

IN TYPICAL HELEN fashion, she and Roddy rapped fake vows in their swimsuits while we all took our places. The rehearsal was just the four of us and the officiant, so there wasn’t much to rehearse. I stood across from Seth and could feel his eyes on me the whole time. After the officiant told us what we had to do, we had dinner in the restaurant, and after that, Helen said, “I’m staying in your room, Charlie. Don’t forget.”

She kissed Roddy goodnight and then Seth and I were alone . . . again.

“Take a walk with me?” I said.

“I’d love to.”

We clasped hands and I led him down a path to the south side of the island where Heaven was docked. It was dark, but I knew the boat like I had been born on it. “This is it; follow me.”

“Should I call you Captain?” he joked as he stepped aboard behind me.

“Yes,” I said seriously. “That’s exactly what you should do.”

I showed Seth around the boat. He asked a lot of questions about sailing and I told him I would teach him. We ended up on the deck, staring up at the stars, drinking red wine out of paper cups. We were talking, honestly, casually, finally.

“I’m going to fly back to California day after tomorrow,” I told him. “My parents are staying with the boat until they can sail it back.”

“I fly back the same day.”

“Maybe we should try and get on the same flight,” I said, “except I’m flying into LA. I need to get things straightened out at my parents’ house and then look for an apartment in San Diego.”

He reached down and squeezed my hand. “You’re moving to San Diego?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I think I am. Too many memories in LA, and I want to be closer to . . . Helen.”

“I have three days before I have to go to Arizona for spring training. I can help at your parents’ . . . if you want.”

“It will only take me a day,” I said staring off into the distance. I only had to collect their mail and check up on things.

“And then we can drive down, stop by my parents’ house, pick up Obi, and head to my place?” I gave him a side-eye. “Well, I assume you’ll need somewhere to stay while you look for an apartment. And I wouldn’t recommend staying at Helen and Roddy’s honeymoon sex den.”

I turned my head to look him right in the eye. “Seth. Are you sure?”

He sat up straight and returned my look. “Never been more sure.”

He braced the back of my neck and kissed me, then pulled away gently and whispered, “I have to remind myself to slow down with you.” He trailed kisses from my collarbone, up my neck toward my ear. Still whispering, he said, “Will you come and stay in my room tonight?”

“Helen’s staying with me tonight. Let me check with her first.” He took my hand and led me off the boat.

Back at my bungalow, we found Helen sprawled out on my bed, wearing a cucumber mask, and watching TV. She didn’t even need me to ask. “Just go for it, Charlie. I’m dozing off anyway. Need my beauty sleep.”

“Don’t fall asleep with that thing on your face. You’ll prune up by tomorrow.”

“It’s a hydrating mask.”

“Suit yourself,” I said before walking out.

Seth was leaning against the rail, squinting at me, looking pensive. “What?” I said to him.

“Nothing, just thinking about my future.”

“How’s it looking?”


“Maybe you need some shades.”

He smiled. “Can we please go back to my room now?”

Before we could even close the door to his room, our clothes were coming off and we were kissing and laughing. There was an ease with Seth, one that I had yearned for when I first met him.

And as we kissed and kissed, I thought about what had changed. When a person is ready to fall in love, it happens fast. There’s no looking back or in between to find empty space where water can put itself to freeze, to crack the two of you apart. There is no void. There’s no weighing of options or analysis of pros and cons. Everything is reduced to feelings and emotions and actions that don’t need explanation or justification. I felt it with Adam that first night, if only for a second as we stood outside my building. It doesn’t always feel like this, it doesn’t always feel easy or right, so when it does feel this way, you have to seize it. Love is a wordless secret; it’s an inside joke. Only the two of you have to understand it.

The door was closed and we were naked. Seth sat on the edge of the bed as I stood between his long, strong legs. He ran a finger down my naked side and kissed my belly. We were limbs and mouths, a tangled, twisted mass on top of sheets. We were promises solidified, named with each kiss, each breath.

WHEN THE SUN came up, a time-lapsed streak over the ocean, we watched the movement of people from bungalow to bungalow like ants from an airplane, so far away from the world that we had created in his room that night. It startled us to think we had to do anything but lie in each other’s arms for an eternity. I chose in that moment to be open to all possibilities. To honor Adam and let myself be open to love. To appreciate the fact that Seth was able to accept my love for another man, and to adopt his understanding of life, love, and soul mates. My life wasn’t over.

“We are the maid of honor and best man,” I said.

“I’m not convinced that we have to go,” Seth mumbled into my hair as he gripped the back of my knee and pulled my leg over him.

I had my head turned awkwardly to watch the people hurrying past our bungalow.

“It’s eleven a.m. We’re officially the worst friends ever. Their wedding starts in an hour.”

Seth hopped up, smiling. “You’re right. I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot in the years to come.”

I smiled back serenely, neither one of us flinching at the breadth of his statement.


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