I can smell the thick, humid and salty air blowing against my glowing skin as I allow my sandaled feet to guide me into the three-story, white beach house that is right up against the coastline. I can already hear that festivities here have begun, considering there is loud music being played by the pool and there are figures of people in costumes hovering all over the place. My mother already has a chilled glass of white wine in her hand and is eating watermelon and giggling with Mrs. Murray. How could I forget that they would be joining us? I internally roll my eyes at having to see Lucas and my sister float around like drunk teenagers all holiday.
“Oh, my dear, it’s so good to have you here!” My mother says when her eyes land on me. Her floppy hat starts dangling to the side as she stands up to pull me into a hug.
“Hi, mama. It’s really good to see you.” I admit and she squeezes me closer.
“You are always working! I haven’t seen you in so many months! Let me have a look at you my darling?” She says and then pulls back and takes in my frame. I can feel my cheeks flaring up as her eyes scan over my baggy jeans, my Puma sneakers, my large t-shirt knotted at the side and my high pony. This is really my signature look. I know it isn’t much, but it’s me for now.
“My baby, you get more and more beautiful every time I see you.” My father chirps in, his skin already tanned from the days he has been here before. I smile as he comes in for a hug, interrupting my mother's little observation. My father is beaming from eye to eye as he holds me. I have always been a daddy’s girl, whilst Milly mostly finds a connection with my mom. No hard feelings, just saying it as it is.
“Thank you, dad. It’s good to be here.” I say and then peel away from his large frame.
“Well, let me go get my things packed then.” I say to my parents who are both standing around me. My eyes flicker to the big splashes of water from the pool outside. I can hear Brett, Lucas’s little brother laughing as he plummets into the blue liquid. I smile. Such a cutie.
“Yes, perhaps put your costume on, or something a bit more summery.” My mother adds and I look down at my clothes. I don’t bother to reply, but instead, head up the stairs. One thing that becomes abundantly clear as I throw out my holiday clothes is that I only own jeans of every color and t-shirts. My family is going to be gravely disappointed in my lack of “summery” clothes. I neatly place all my things down in the cupboard of my usual room. I still have some of my old books here, which are neatly packed against the soft, blue wall. I smile as I run my fingers across the soft, sheer curtains of the bay window. My fingers involuntarily slide the sheer material to the side and I feel my face pricking as the humid air hits my face. The smell is so soft and salty against my skin. It really is a perfect day at the sea, with the vibrant blue skies sitting in solid perfection against the shining ocean. The waves seem calm against the deep, blue ombre of the horizon and the beach is buzzing with laughter. Now that my eyes scan in, I see my sister lazing down on her towel next to a large, muscular figure. He pokes at her pink skin, which is hardly covered in her teeny bikini and causes her to jump up and poke at him too. This causes a series of laughing fits to follow as they start running to the water and splashing. Who is this guy that makes my sister look like a little girl again? I smile as I watch the pair giggle and carry on.
“You coming down to the beach?” I hear someone say from the door behind me. When I turn around, I see Lucas smiling and watching me. He looks like a summer hunk in his beach shorts and no shirt. Seriously, could his arm muscles and abs be any more delicious? I shake my head to clear my thoughts. He literally insulted me just the other day!
“No, was just watching Milly.” I reply and then look back down to my sister, noticing her and the guy walking back and bumping shoulders. Lucas edges closer and looks out the window at the pair and smiles. Lucas has always had a soft spot for Milly. A pang of unbeknownst jealousy hits at the corners of my heart. He has never smiled at me before. I can feel his eyes watching me now and my cheeks flush.
“You know, we could also go down there and have some fun. What do you say?” He asks and tilts my head to think about it. The sun is really warm today and the water does look very refreshing. Flashes of Lucas and my sister laughing at me the other day starts running through my mind. More horrifying, flashes of my hideous costumes start hitting against my brain, making me frown.
“I think I should rather stay here and rest. I have a bit of reading to do…” I start, but Lucas looks at me like I have gone mad.
“Really? Look at the weather outside. It’s not the day for reading.” He tries and I put my hands on my hips.
“It’s ALWAYS a day for reading, Lucas.” I admit, feeling somewhat offended that someone would judge me for enjoying books. This is how I spend my past time. Why should I apologize for that?
“Whatever. You’re boring.” He says softly and my eyes widen. Of all the insults…
“Excuse me?” I husk out and he starts heading for the door, hardly sparing me a second glance. I follow him, feeling really agitated by his words. How dare someone calls me boring? When he turns, I see a smirk on his face and my tiny frame hits against his tall one. I almost tumble backward as I realize my hands are sitting flush against his bare and chiseled chest.
“I said, you’re BORING.” He says again, this time with a broad smile on his face. I feel my cheeks going red from how rude he is being. Also from the feeling of his body against my hands.
“How can you sa…” I start again, but my mental fog makes him laugh.
“Come on, NERD. Everyone is out there having fun and you’re here choosing to read. Seriously? No wonder you…” He tries to finish, but I don’t give him the satisfaction of finishing that sentence, so I slam the door in his face instead. I may be boring. I may be a nerd, but one thing I WILL NOT be is a push-over who just stands around in MY HOLIDAY and allows people to speak to me how they want.
Go to hell, Lucas Murray.
I can’t get Sarah out of my mind. Not even three beers at the Canoe Club with friends or surfing in the waves could help me shake the feeling I got when she slammed the door in my face. I was just teasing her, but somehow she didn’t seem to take it so well. Was she teasing me back? I feel kind of guilty.
“Come Lucas, it's dinner time now at the house.” Milly says before hugging her “guy friend” goodbye. I shake his hand and eyeball him. In all seriousness, he is a genuine dude and seems to really fancy her but someone needs to show him that Milly is protected, you know? What else are fake big brothers for?
“Okay, coming.” I say as I swing back the last of my beer. It was good while it lasted, but I guess I am hungry. The walk back to the house is peaceful with Milly. She looks like a love-sick puppy as she tells me how she met this guy on the beach yesterday.
“You move fast, don’t you?” I laugh out as she tells me how she snuck a little kiss from him.
“Hey! Don’t judge. Besides, when was the last time you, you know?” She asks and then giggles out, realizing her question. I quickly look ahead, not really sure what to say. I have always been dubbed the jock who plays around with girls. Some even call me the hockey player with “a great butt but no brains” and girls try to flirt and get into my pants on a weekly basis. I mean sure, I have had my fair share of fun, but falling in love? That would be a no.
“No girl has ever caught my attention like that.” I say and Milly nods, almost as if she understands. The rest of the walk back is quiet, leaving me to mull over her question. In a way, I feel very misunderstood, but I guess it’s my own fault. The increasing sound of chatter brings me out of my thoughts and when I look up, I see my father turning some steaks on the barbeque, along with Milly’s dad. We both smile as we see our mothers still sipping at wine. Seriously, those two could drink five bottles a day and still walk in a straight line.
“Our babies!” My mother squeals and I chuckle out. Perhaps they can’t have five bottles? As I move closer, I see everyone is gathered around the table, which is covered in platters of mouth-watering delicacies. Only one chair sits empty on the far end. My eyes scan over, trying to account for the missing person.
“Where is Sarah?” Milly asks, answering my question and moving to take her seat next to her mother. I grab my chair and also sit down.
“She hasn’t been out of her room since she arrived. Apparently, she had some work to finish.” Mr. Nelson, Milly’s dad, replies. Everyone laughs softly at this and my eyes watch as Mrs. Nelson stumbles to get up and disappear through the slide doors. When she comes back out, she has a stack of books in her arms and places them on Sarah’s seat, causing me to lift an eyebrow. I want to ask what she is doing, but Sarah’s frame starts edging closer and Mrs. Nelson runs back to her chair with loud giggles. I can see Mr. Nelson shooting glares at her as if also wondering what she is up to. Sarah walked in as if she were moving in slow mode. She really is such a tomboy in her black skinny jeans and her loose, purple t-shirt. So plain, yet there is something very enduring there.
“What is this?” She asks, her arms motioning to her seat where a tall tower of books is now sitting. I can see she looks confused and her small smile is searching everyone’s faces. I feel awkward as Mrs. Nelson bursts into fits of laughter. My mother is also looking increasingly nervous and guilty.
“Why, that’s YOU, my dear!” Mrs. Nelson chuckles and the whole space dips in energy.
“What do you mean?” She asks softly, her voice still confused but almost breaking.
“Well, you’re always hidden behind your books, so it is you!” Her mother says again and Sarah’s eyes well up. My mother turns to say something, but Mr. Nelson chirps in instead.
“Susie, that is enough wine for you. Come…” he says and pulls his wife up to take her inside. We can all hear their bickering and protesting as he complains about her cruel prank on their daughter. Sure, Sarah is always behind her books and if this were high school, perhaps it would be funny, but it actually isn’t okay. Especially not by family. My eyes look back to Sarah, who is standing awkwardly and wiping at her eyes.
“Excuse me, everybody. I believe my appetite has disappeared.” She whispers and starts walking back into the house. My feet lift involuntarily and I follow her, managing to grab ahold of her elbow. When she turns, I notice that her eyes are now red with tears and her hands are shaking. She is really upset.
“Your mother was only joking.” I say and a tear rolls down her cheek. Her green eyes are even more vibrant, but there is that same dullness there that stretches at my heartstrings.
“And that makes it okay, right? When you joke around, it’s okay to say anything you like. Just like you, Milly and the whole college do every day of my life, right? I shouldn’t be upset because it’s true. I am a nerd and I read too many books and I am BORING. Even more so, everyone is ONLY JOKING, so I should be thankful and laugh along, hmm?” Sarah says, her voice a lot more angry and sarcastic than I have ever heard before. She has always been so gentle, so this new tone is quite a shock. Is she really that upset? Still, her words make me feel guilty.
“Ah, come on, nerd…” I start to say, but at my nickname she starts laughing, making me feel confused.
“Stay away from me.” She clips out and my mouth runs dry. My body feels glued to the Beachwood floors as she whips her ponytail to the side and turns to head upstairs. Her frame starts fading and with each step further, I feel my own body becoming deflated.
“Why would you call her that, Lucas?” A voice says. When my head turns, it sees my mother smiling at me sadly.
“That poor girl has been teased her entire life for being intelligent. I really thought that I had taught you better.” She says again and shakes her head while carrying some of the salad bowls inside. I guess the fun barbeque is over now. Even Milly has disappeared, leaving me completely alone with my thoughts. Why did I call her that? I didn’t mean to upset her or tease her in any way. It’s just a name…
My heart feels heavy as I consider what it may mean for her.