I slipped out of bed while Eric was still asleep and went to the bathroom. I closed the door as quietly as I could and threw the lock into place so I could have a few minutes to myself. After our day in Golden Gate Park two weeks ago i was sure Eric was the one I wanted to be my first. Already I was down to just six weeks left in California. I knew whether I had sex with him or not it was going to be hard to say goodbye. Trying to keep my heart out of it was pointless.
I wasn’t naive enough to think I was in love, but my feelings for him were strong. Trying to put them into words was a challenge since I was still trying to navigate it all. The sex was okay. It might have even been good, but since it was my first time I couldn’t say for sure if that was true. My body was sore in ways it never had been, and at the moment I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do it again. I knew Eric did what he could to make it feel good for me and it wasn’t all bad, but it did hurt.
I started the tub so I could get cleaned up. A quick bath might help me feel better. The soak in the warm water did soothe my sore inner thighs. I leaned back and closed my eyes, trying to concentrate on how it felt to float in the tub. It was going well until there was a knock on the door.
It had to be Eric. My eyes opened and I sat up to pull the plug in the drain. I got up out of the water and reached for a towel to wrap around my body. I stepped out of the old claw foot tub and went to open the door.
“Hi,” he greeted me with a small smile. “May I use the restroom?”
“Of course. It’s all yours.” I slipped out of the room so he could have it.
Eric closed the door behind himself. I dried off and started to gather up my clothes. Maybe I’d feel less awkward if I wasn’t so naked. I was pulling up my shorts when Eric came out of the bathroom.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” I apologized.
“No problem.” He went to grab his jeans so he could pull them on. “Are you hungry at all?”
“Yeah, I could eat,” I answered, even though I wasn’t sure I was hungry. Maybe I just wanted something to do so I didn’t have to think too much. Overwhelmed was a good word to describe how I was feeling.
Eric walked over to the bed, taking a seat on the edge. He watched me for a few seconds before asking, “Is everything okay?” I was close enough for him to reach out to grab my arm so he could shuffle me in between his thighs as he looked up at me. “You have a look that I haven’t seen yet.”
“Yeah, I’m okay. There’s just a lot going on in my head that I didn’t know would be there, so I’m trying to sort it out,” I told him.
“You know I’ll listen if you need to talk it out,” he reminded me. “Maybe after lunch we can take a long walk on the beach?”
“I’d like that,” I nodded. I wasn’t sure if I could talk to him. It felt like the conversation about what I was feeling was one I could have more easily with Hadley, but then when I imagined it in my mind, I could hear her telling me I should be sharing the stuff I was feeling with Eric. Sometimes a girl just needed someone to bounce things off of. Eric may have known a lot of things, but he had no idea what it felt like to be a seventeen-year-old girl.
He stretched up to give me a quick peck on the lips. “I’m going to go clean up while you get ready.”
“Okay.” I took a step back so he could get around me. I went to my bag to find a bra to wear under my shirt. Eric went to the bathroom to get himself cleaned up so we could go get some lunch.
The beach was beautiful. Lunch was nice but I was happy to be walking some of it off. Eric was holding my hand. The ocean breeze was blowing my hair around. I paused randomly to take a picture of the water when waves were starting to break in the distance. Monterey looked like it belonged on a postcard.
After I got my picture of the ocean, Eric took the camera from me so he could take my picture standing in front of the water. I could only imagine what that picture was going to look like and what I would see when I looked back at it. Thankfully, my sunglasses were mostly hiding my eyes from the intrusive lens that missed next to nothing.
I smiled for the picture, but I wasn’t sure if the smile reached my eyes like it should have, and normally would have.
“You look beautiful,” Eric smiled when he handed me my camera back.
“Thanks.” I closed the camera so the battery for the flash bulb wouldn’t drain. I tucked the camera back in my pocket and we started walking again.
Eric reached out to lace his long fingers with mine as we walked.
“This is somewhere I could see myself living and settling down,” he told me after a few minutes.
“It’s pretty,” I added. “I can see why you like it.”
He squeezed my hand but stayed quiet. I knew what was bothering me. I’d figured it out over lunch. What I needed to do was get my big girl panties on and confront it. That was easier said than done. So we kept walking along in silence. It was awkward and weird. I didn’t like it.
Finally I had enough and blurted out, “Do I disgust you?”
Eric stopped in his tracks, his head whipping down to look at me. “Why the hell would you disgust me?” He looked thoroughly confused by my question. “Sookie, you… god, no, you don’t disgust me. That’s the last feeling I’d get when looking at you, or thinking about you.”
“You asked me if I wanted to shower,” I explained. “We were barely done before and I just thought maybe you thought I was gross.”
“No, no,” he said, shaking his head. “I didn’t know if you felt gross. There were a lot of new… fluids down there for you. I don’t think you’re disgusting.” He pulled me closer and leaned down to kiss me. “I think you’re beautiful and brave and pretty damn close to perfect.”
Being the silly little girl I was I started to cry, even though i tried not to.
“I didn’t care about the mess, Eric. I just wanted to feel close to you.”
“I’m sorry I made you doubt yourself.” He hugged me, holding me as close as possible. “I wanted to feel close to you too. I stayed awake for a while just listening to you breathe because it comforted me…”
Hearing that made me feel better. Some of the tension seemed to float away, which also helped. I hugged Eric back and the feel of his arms around me helped too. Knowing he didn’t think I was disgusting helped immensely. It was probably silly of me to even think it, but if I didn’t ask I’d never know. There was always the possibility he did. If that was how he felt, I’d rather know it right away than go on like it wasn’t there.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. I felt kind of stupid.
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for, Sookie.” He kissed the top of my head. His big, warm hands gently massaged my back.
“I feel like an idiot,” I said, though my words were a bit muffled by his chest.
“You shouldn’t. You’re not an idiot,” he promised. “When you explained why I can see how you’d think that.”
I wished Hadley was around. She could tell me if I was being ridiculous. It was nice that Eric didn’t think so, but I didn’t know if the things I was feeling were normal or if I was being too sensitive or what.
“We can keep walking now if you want,” I offered after a minute or so. I felt a lot better after clearing that up.
He tilted my head up so he could kiss me softly. When he pulled back he said, “I hope you’ll let me show you later just how not disgusting you are.”
“Oh, I think I will,” I answered. I took his hand and we started walking again.
“Good. I look forward to it.” He dropped my hand so he could wrap his arm around my shoulder. We were walking slowly so it wasn’t uncomfortable.
“I think I’d need to live near warmer water than this,” I said when a bigger wave came up to the shore and the water splashed up to my knees. It was colder than I would have expected it to be.
“Do you want to take a trip down to Los Angeles while you’re here?” he asked.
“You mean with you?” I had been planning to go with Hadley and Aunt Linda.
“Unless you have plans to go already, yeah…”
“I was going to go with my family,” I admitted. “But I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you came too.”
“Check with them. They may not want me there,” he said. “If I can get the time off work, I’d love to go with you.”
“I’ll ask. If Aunt Lin says no we can go north maybe,” I suggested.
“I’ve heard the drive up the highway 1 is a pretty amazing drive. It’s the highway that runs along the coast.”
“That sounds like a great ride.” My arm slid up around his waist.
“I haven’t done it, so it would be new for both of us.” He squeezed my shoulder. “I just don’t want to take away all your time with your family.”
“I appreciate that. Maybe we could go Fourth of July weekend,” I suggested. It was coming up real soon. “We could go on Sunday if you want.”
“It may take a few days depending on how far we go.”
“Well we don’t have to drive up the whole coast. What if we just went as far as the border of Oregon?” That couldn’t take days, could it?
“We can do that. Maybe drive up one day, stay overnight and then come home? It’s about a six hours drive up to Oregon from San Francisco.”
“That sounds reasonable. I don’t think Aunt Lin wouldn’t want us to try to drive home all tired,” I reasoned. Plus if I told her ahead of time about it, I was sure it would be okay.
“Probably not. I think she likes me too, so you have a better shot of getting another yes,” he smiled.
“She does like you,” I confirmed. “She thinks you’re cute.”
He chuckled and joked, “I’m glad, but I hope she thinks I’m cute for you, and not in a cradle robber way.”
“You’re safe. She knows you’re too young for her.”
“She’s okay with how much older I am than you?”
“Yeah, she is. I think if you were any older than you are it would be a big no from her.”
“Is it bad to say I’m glad I’m dealing with her and not your father?”
“Not at all. I’m glad I’m dealing with her too,” I laughed. Daddy meant well, but sometimes I thought he was protecting me too much. If I never learned how to take care of myself I would always be dependent on someone else. I didn’t want to be one of those sad sack girls who felt like nothing without a man in my life.
I silently marveled over the change that had occurred in me in the last few weeks since I left Louisiana. Just three weeks ago I was resigned to the likelihood that I would end up a simple housewife, married to some boring fella in town, raising kids that I’d love but might harbor a secret resentment for because I never bothered to think outside the box. I had to choose for myself how I wanted to live my life. If my parents didn’t like it, that was just too bad. I could find a job and support myself. I was more than capable of working. As long as I was paying my own way, there was nothing they could say about the choices I made.
Of course it was easier said than done.
“You ready to start heading back now?” Eric asked after a while.
“Yes, I think I am.” We made a wide turn to start back toward the inn we were staying at.
When I spotted an older couple walking their dog, I paused to ask them to take a picture of Eric and me together on the beach. The older woman was more than willing to do that for us. I didn’t have many pictures of us together. Come to think of it, that was probably the only one I had. It would be a nice memento to add to the scrapbook I planned on putting together once I got all my pictures developed.
“If you’re nice to me I’ll send you a copy of that,” I said to Eric when we resumed walking.
“I would love that. I’m going to have to remember to be extra nice,” he said with a flirty smile.
“I’m sure you can do it. It’s not usually a problem for you.”
“You’re really easy to be nice to,” he said. “You’re the sweetest girl I’ve ever met.”
“Boy do I have you fooled,” I giggled. My mean face didn’t intimidate anybody.
“You’re cute,” he laughed. “I’m glad I met you.”
“I’m glad I met you too.”
I wasn’t sure how long it took us to get back to the inn, but when we got there I was glad to be able to put my feet up for a while. We had done quite a bit of walking.
“The view from here is amazing,” I said as I looked out at the beach across the way from where we were.
“Yes it is,” he agreed. I could tell he wasn’t looking out the window, but at me.
“You want to come sit here with me?” I patted the empty space on the window seat next to me.
He stood up so he could saunter over to where I was sitting. He sat sideways with his back to the edge of the window seat and reached out for me to come sit between his legs. I shifted over to where he wanted me. When I looked down at our hands I smiled. My mood ring changed colors, from yellow to purple.
“You know, that’s the first time in a long time it’s turned purple?” I held up my hand so he knew what I was talking about.
“What does purple mean?” He stroked over the top of my hand with his fingertips.
“Are you falling in love with me?” I felt his lips skim over my shoulder.
“I think that’s definitely a possibility.”
“Then you’ll be glad to know it’s a possibility on my end too.”
“Oh yeah?” I turned my head so I could look at him. Well, I could see his jaw, at least. “I think you’re too tall for this seat.”
“I am,” he chuckled. “I don’t mind being a little uncomfortable for a bit for you.”
“We can stretch out on that big bed if you want,” I offered. I didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. Plus, it was roomier for me too over there.
“That sounds like a much comfier option.”
I got off the window seat so Eric could get up. When I sat on the bed, I leaned against the headboard and said, “I’m more than willing to be your human pillow.” I knew he liked the snuggles. It was cute that he did. I never would have expected it.
Eric climbed on the bed, immediately wrapping his giant butt around me. “This is one of my new favorite places to relax.”
“I’m a little afraid to ask what the other one is.” I ran my fingers through his slightly tangled hair and then rubbed his back. He was snuggled into my chest nicely. I think he liked that view better than the view of the ocean.
“It’s my mom’s old couch. I haven’t been back to Colorado since I moved out here.”
“Because of your dad?” I knew all about tough dads. It sounded like his wasn’t much better, but Eric never really talked about his life before he moved to California, aside from the little bit I learned on our first date.
“That and I haven’t really had the time or money to go back. Once I got settled here I had to spend the rest of my savings on a new car,” he explained.
“Do you miss them?”
“I do. I don’t miss the arguments with my dad, but I miss my mom a lot. Which reminds me, I need to call her,” he chuckled.
“Tell her you’re robbing a cradle big time?” I teased, poking his ribs a little.
“Yes,” he laughed. “She’s going to ask me a million questions about you.”
“It may not even be worth it to mention me, to be honest.” I knew I wasn’t going to be in his life permanently.
“You mean something to me, of course you’re worth a mention.”
“I just mean that since this is just a summer thing, you know…” I trailed off, not sure how to say what I was thinking.
“I know what you mean.” He shifted his head to look up at me. “I feel like this summer is going to be one I remember for a long time.”
“I know I’ll never forget it.”
Eric was impossible to forget, even if I didn’t fall in love with him. I was learning a lot about myself as a person because of him. There was no way I could repay him for that, not that he was asking me to. I just hoped that it didn’t take forever for my heart to heal when I got back home, because I knew it was going to hurt pretty bad to leave him. I wasn’t looking forward to that one bit.