“Oh, fuck,” I swore, as my oars collided with those of Alissa Barton, high school skank. “For the love of God, bitch, will you please pay attention?”
My arch nemesis didn’t reply.
We were out in the middle of the lake, just over 2 kilometers from the boathouse. It was six thirty in the morning. The sun was just rising over the flat, crystal clear water on a still-warm fall day. Around us, the people inside their multi-million dollar lakefront houses were just starting to stir. We were alone, working on a pyramid of row times Coach had given us – two minutes on, one minute off and so on until we had to row in. He was far ahead of us with the rest of the team, and Alissa and I had been rowing badly and I was pissed off.
It was my first semester on the varsity crew team, and my coach had put me in a double with none other than Alissa “Blow-Me” Barton. Rumor had it she’d already done it with no less than three of the boys in our high school, including my recent ex boyfriend, Alex Abernathy. I wanted to row a boat with her about as much as I wanted to give CPR to a live python, but I’d already promised myself that I’d do anything possible to get to states this year.
“Hey, Barton,” I sneered when she didn’t respond, “any year now.” Her oars were drifting listlessly on top of the water, bouncing lightly in the soft current.
“Barton?” I felt her fall before I heard her hand slap heavily against the side of the boat. Alissa’s head dropped listlessly against my shoulder as I turned. Her eyes rolled sightlessly in their sockets.
“Fuck!” I cried out, taking her shoulders and pushing her off of me. Alissa’s head fell against her chest and lolled sideways. Without thinking, I dipped my hand into the lake and splashed her liberally. The water was lukewarm. The boat rocked dangerously to the side.
“Coach!” I screamed, but the eights were a good 4 kilometers away. There was no one around save a blue heron flying low over the water, scaring off the seagulls who lined the rocky coastline.
Alissa let out a low groan and I looked back at her.
“Hey, Alissa, wake up,” I said, trying to regain some calm, although my voice was pitchy and sounded cartoonish. I splashed her again for good measure, and she seemed to refocus on me.
“Are you okay?” I asked absurdly. She blinked.
“Are the muffins ready yet, Mom,” she said, blinking. Her voice slurred badly and her eyelids were out of sync with each other.
“Shit. Shit. Okay, hold your oars. Can you do that?” I babbled in one long stream. I took her hands in mine and wrapped her fingers around the oar handles. Luckily, she latched on and slumped, marionette style, over her bent up knees.
I turned the boat around in two powerful strokes and started for the boathouse without ceremony. Our craft felt like lead with Alissa’s dead weight, and my oars kept bumping into hers as they dangled from her hands, but slowly I picked up some semblance of a rhythm and the thin craft picked up speed, the water running against the sides of the boat in a low hum.
“Hey, if you die on me, I will kill you,” I panted, with a full kilometer left to go to the boathouse. There was no reply, but I could hear Alissa’s seat rocking rhythmically forward and back on it’s slide under her slack weight. I tucked my head into my chest and kept pulling.
The day I moved out of the little apartment on Canal Street was relentlessly dreary. The grey sky had the consistency of a murky pond, and although it was stubbornly overcast, the heat and humidity were oppressive.
Connor and I worked in silence, out worn-out t-shirts clinging to our overheated bodies. It rained at one point, weakly, a fine, cold mist that just barely puddled on the ground. We worked right through it, letting the condensation hold where it would.
Alissa was nowhere to be seen, but she’d relocated most of her possessions into her room and closed the door. Without her cheerful, personal touches, the apartment seemed alien and unfamiliar.
If there was anything of mine missing, I didn’t notice or care. I was desperately tired, fueled only by a weak cup of coffee and a grim determination to finish the job in one day. Connor seemed to sense my uneasy temperament and worked without complaint, pausing only to grab us some sandwiches from the deli down the street.
As I packed, I realized how much of Alissa and my things had become intertwined over the years. The silverware drawer was still full – all mine – but the plates were gone. The kitchen table was mine, but her chairs had been pulled to the side. She’d even gone so far as to pull down her beloved Ansel Adams prints from the walls and leave the hangers I’d bought for them hanging.
I left a lot of the bigger items behind. The table, my worn out recliner, the crock pot with the bottom melted from when Alissa accidentally put it on a hot oven burner. Connor whisked away what few boxes I managed to pack into the truck he’d borrowed from his friend. We were done by late afternoon.
I left a check for the month’s rent on the table and put my key next to it. I took about leaving a note, but decided against it. There was too much to say.
“This isn’t your fault,” Connor said quietly as I ducked into my now empty room for the last time.
“It’s not not my fault,” I shot back. He looked wounded.
“I’m sorry,” I amended quickly, reaching for his hand. “I don’t mean to lash out at you. I’m just sad. It’s the end of an era.”
“I know,” he said, stroking my knuckles lightly with his thumb. “She’ll come around. Don’t worry. She’ll be standing next to you at the altar on our wedding day, holding your bouquet,” Connor added, although we both knew that it probably wasn’t true. I closed my eyes and sighed.
“I hope you’re right, Mr. Kline.”
“I do too, Mrs. Kline,” he murmured, pulling me in for a hug, “I do too.”
I was nominated for two awards yesterday by the fabulous FactoryMaid! They are over in my growing collection on my side bar – The Interesting Blogger Award, and the WordPress Family award. I’ll be writing more on that subject the instant my DRIFT countdown is over, but I wanted to thank FactoryMaid for her kind nomination.
I woke with a start, and Connor wrapped his arms more tightly around me in his sleep, pressing my head into his chest. I lay still as my breathing slowly calmed.
Outside, the storm was raging. The rain came down in sheets, like a stampede of wild horses on cement. An irregular flash of light lit up across the wall of the room, and was almost immediately followed by a rumble of thunder that cracked so loudly that even Connor, who’d previously slept through both a fire alarm and a car crash, was jolted awake. He instinctively moved to cover me with his body before he came to his senses, realized what was going on, and relaxed.
“That was too close for comfort,” I said shakily, getting up on one elbow. The sky rumbled and cracked again, momentarily throwing my own shadow in stark relief against the wall.
“It’s alright,” Connor murmured, “it’s just a storm.”
“The Lochness is out there. I think we should check on it,” I replied.
“The Lochness has weathered many a storm, and it’s going to make it through this one just fine,” he answered. “Now come here.”
Connor put his hand on my back and pulled me back into his arms, wrapping the covers around me and tucking my head down under his chin. I licked his chest in annoyance and he made a low warning grumble deep in his throat.
Within a minute, he was fast asleep. I lay still for a long time, staring into the darkness and listening to the rain dashing itself into the roof, and thinking about the fishing boat moored not 57 steps from my door.
If you’re confused, start here.
The first person I told was my best friend and roommate, Alissa Barton. We lived together in a ramshackle apartment exactly 57 steps away from the canal, where we’d been living since we moved out of our parent’s houses 6 years prior. She was everything that I was not – a hiker and a biker, a carnivore, and a land lubber. She was the turf to my surf.
“Well damn, looks like Ariel finally kissed Prince Eric,” she said putting down the dish she was washing and spreading her sudsy arms wide. I stepped into them and she hugged me tight, dripping joyfully down the back of my t-shirt.
“Did I just hear wedding bells chime?” Alissa’s girlfriend, Marlene, popped her head out from Alissa’s bedroom and yelled down the hall.
“Yes ma’am,” I called back, and Alissa grinned.
“Come give the blushing bride your blessing, sweetie,” she yelled.
“One second, girls, I’m indecent,” Marlene answered. A minute later she waltzed into the kitchen wearing an oversized t-shirt and a star spangled thong.
“Sweetie, you’re still indecent,” Alissa frowned.
“Call it a preview of the bachelorette party,” Marlene laughed, planting a sloppy kiss on my cheek, then grabbing for my left hand. She gave the ring a onceover and nodded her approval.
“Congratulations, darling. Will it be a summer wedding?” she asked.
“We haven’t discussed it yet,” I replied, “ but I don’t see any reason to rush into things. I’m sure we’ll take our time, build up our funds a little, all that.”
“Knowing this one, she’d be married barefoot on the man’s fishing boat, three years from now, holding a bouquet of kelp and a live lobster. And I’ll be the maid of honor dressed in a seashell bra and nothing else,” Alissa joked.
I laughed at that.
“You’d do it for me, wouldn’t you, Lis?” I teased.
“I’d do anything for you, Sarah,” Alissa said, smiling. We made eye contact, and she didn’t look away.
“Hello, standing right here?” Marlene interjected. She grabbed Alissa’s hand and pulled her in for a kiss. I rolled my eyes.
“Really, Sarah, I’m happy for you,” Alissa added, grabbing my arm as I turned to go. Marlene released her own grip on Alissa.
I awkwardly patted Alissa’s hand with my free one.
“Thanks, Alissa,” I replied, “I’m happy for me, too.”
I turned and walked down the short hallway to my room, closing the door behind me. I could hear sounds of hushed dissent coming from the kitchen, and I sighed. First Paula, then Josephine, then Alice, and now Marlene.
I found myself subconsciously twisting the ring around and around my finger and I looked down at my hand. It was a pretty thing, carefully crafted, and it fit my finger well, but I’d always found wearing rings to be awkward. I took it off and flexed my fingers.
I just need a break, I thought. I put the ring on my dresser.
I looked at the clock. Jesus, it was 9:15. I had work in 45 minutes. I stripped off the clothes I was still wearing from the day before and ran for the shower.
Hey internet. So I just found out yesterday about Glimmer Glass’s June Open Fiction Contest, which closes on June 30th, and I decided, yesterday, to enter the contest with a story I haven’t actually written yet.
So in honor of my temporary insanity, this blog will be dedicated to the story I’m writing, working title Drift, until the 30th, because frankly I don’t have time to write a story and a blog post at the same time.
I’m just going to post sections of the thing, unedited and in random order, and when it’s done I’ll post the polished version.
Deal with it.
The day that Connor proposed was hot for May, and as we walked along the shoreline the foaming waves rubbed against our ankles like well-worn lace. The sensation was welcoming nudging the soft sand in between our toes as it came and pulling the ground away from us as it went. Connor was my anchor, calm, quiet, accepting of the pull of my hand as the water pulled at me. He always walked just above the waterline – I always had my feet in the ocean, no matter how cold.
“The tourist season will come early this year,” he remarked, as we climbed the steps to the pier. It had become a tradition of ours to picnic on the first nice weekend of the spring.
I nodded, stepping lightly down onto the floating docks right at the end of the pier. It was reserved for incoming boaters who pulled up to take lunch in the few restaurants that dotted the shoreline, and although it was a nice day, the dock was empty.
“I already have tour groups booked through June and into July. Looks like paddle boarding is finally going mainstream,” I replied.
“You don’t say?”
“I do say. I might even turn a profit this year.”
Connor chuckled, taking off his backpack and sitting down at the edge of the dock. I joined him, dangling my feet off the edge so my legs were splashed by the salt spray dashed against the hard wooden edge of the structure. My feet, already numbed by the cold, looked bleach white under the water, rippled by the currents forming around my ankles in the gentle tide. The dock rose and fell gently, and I felt Connor’s arm reach around me to brace against the movement. I snuggled into him, and we watched the seagulls wheeling in the distance.
“I do think your new Paddlebrew tour is going to be a huge hit,” Connor said to fill the silence.
“If they don’t end up getting too drunk to paddle home,” I laughed.
“Well, that’s why you’re dating a boat captain,” he joked, “I can come pick you up.”
“You’d put ten inebriated strangers on The Lochness for me?” I smirked.
“I’d do a lot of things for you,” Connor said, suddenly serious. His eyes searched for mine and I met his gaze.
“If you let me, I’ll keep doing things for you as long as I’m able to. I love you, Sarah.”
Just like that, the ring was in his hands, a flashing sapphire in a sea of diamonds perched on a thin silver band. I felt the dock underneath me buoyed up on a great wave as I inhaled.
“Oh,” I exclaimed, out of surprise. Connor raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, yes,” I exclaimed, as the dock gently floated back down, rattling against it’s metal mooring.
“Yes,” I added, although somehow the ring was already on my finger, and he was kissing me, and far above us, the wheeling seagulls were crying out.
Yes? a little voice inside me whispered as my heart started to beat faster, but the sea kept flowing beneath me, and the dock kept rising and falling, and Connor kept his arms around me until the high tide came and went.