Monday, September 12, 2011

The Last Best Day

On the last best day, the temperature was already eighty-eight degrees at eleven in the morning. It was exactly two weeks until the start of our senior year. Me and Kaycee were the first ones out at the lake.

Kaycee stretched languidly on her towel and turned to face me. Behind my sunglasses I snuck a look at her body and stifled a sigh. We wore our favorite matching bikinis, Kaycee’s in pink, mine black, but she looked so much better in hers.

She grinned at me like she was reading my mind. “Can you feel it?”

“Feel what?” I asked, even though I knew what she was going to say.

Kaycee sat up and not a single roll appeared on her stomach. “Today is going to be the Best. Day. Ever.

“For you maybe,” I said, turning my eyes to the sky. “I’ll be stuck with a bunch of drunk old people tonight.”

Kaycee laughed. “Oh Bales, when will you learn?” She flopped down on her stomach. “A party is a party. Especially when there’s free drinks.”

* * *

On the last best day, Caleb slipped his hand into mine underwater as he swam past.

“Come here,” he said, low in my ear. Water dripped from his long lashes and the tip of his nose.

I let him pull me off the raft. Our hands clasped under the surface felt like a delicious secret. Kaycee and Jake and Aaron pretended not to notice when we sneaked off into the woods, but I could tell from Kaycee’s grin that she was thinking the same thing as me. Finally.

My heart thudded in my chest when we stopped in a cove of pines. Caleb shoved his wet hair back so it stood up in dark spikes. I thought my whole chest would explode when he locked his gray-green eyes on mine.

“I heard a rumor,” he said with a slight frown, “that you’re not coming out tonight.”

Heat flooded my face. “Yeah, it’s my grandparents’ forty-fifth anniversary thing. I have to go.”

He took a step towards me. “That sucks.”

“Yeah,” I said to his feet. My eyes felt weighted to the ground, the pull stronger the closer he got.

“I had it all planned out.” He laughed a little, in a way that if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought sounded nervous. But Caleb never got nervous. That was one of the things I liked about him.

He stood so close now that my eyes were on his chest. I forced myself to look up and ask, “What?”

The corner of his mouth curled up in the way that always gives me butterflies, and my breath caught. “This,” he whispered, and then he slid his hand under my chin and kissed me.

* * *

On the last best day, my sister honked and honked from the trail, blotting out my chance for a private goodbye. “Bayleigh, come on!” She shouted.

“Crap,” I said, handing Kaycee my beer. “Duty calls.”

“Watch out for those dirty old men,” she said with a grin. “You know how they get when the alcohol starts mixing with all their medications.”

I fought the jealousy that rose up at the thought of her and her perfect body at the party with Caleb and everyone. I tried to keep my voice light. “You watch out too.”

She winked, and I knew she’d keep an eye on Caleb for me. “I will.”

I stood and grabbed my towel and Caleb stood too. “I’ll walk with you.”

The butterflies crowded each other in my stomach. “Okay.”

At the edge of the trail, my sister slouched in the driver’s seat, annoyed as always.

I turned to Caleb, feeling suddenly awkward, like we’d never kissed at all. “So…”

“So,” he said back, his lips doing the curling thing I love. He reached out and put his hand on my shoulder, and I relaxed.

My sister honked, long and loud. “Bayleigh!”

Caleb let go of my arm and raised his eyebrows. “I guess you have to go.”

I was going to kill my sister. I was so mad I could hardly speak. “Guess so.”

“Well..." he cocked his head and squinted at me. "Have fun.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, right.”

He laughed. “See you tomorrow?”

For a second I forgot my anger and smiled back. “Definitely.”

Caleb waved as I climbed into the car and slammed the door. “What the hell, Amber?”

She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Wow, seriously Bayleigh? Drinking already? Can’t you do anything sober?”

I made a mental note to brush my teeth before speaking to my parents. But I didn’t hold back from Amber. “Not if it involves hanging out with you.”

Amber put the car in reverse and started backing us down the trail. She shook her head like I was some bratty little kid. “You’re such a bitch.”

I shrugged. “Takes one to know one.”

* * *

On the last best day, while I snuck glasses of wine and flirted with the cute college boy waiters, my friends sped down Black Creek Road and took the curve too fast. They hit the ditch and flipped.

They rolled themselves right out of this life.

And left me behind.

Come back next week for an all new tangle started by Natalie!

Photo by eiram annah via flickr creative commons.

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