Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Sweet Kind of Saltiness

Lantern - 486 words
Mary Ann Loo

“I knew you’d be here,” he said, stepping through the doorway into the chamber atop the old lighthouse.

“I knew you’d find me here,” she said, staring out into the black sea. “Turn off the flashlight, Jarrod. If you’re staying."

He complied, squinting in the sudden darkness and fumbling as he settled himself beside her. His arm leaned against hers, but she didn’t pull away like she usually did when he sat too close. She was probably too distracted to notice, or she welcomed his presence. Either way, he was pleased. They sat in silence, listening to the waves crash upon the rocky shore, the wind whispering in their ears as it ruffled their hair.

She said, “Thanks for coming to the funeral.”

“Anytime,” he replied, and hastily added, “Well, I don’t actually mean ‘anytime’…”

“It’s alright, Jarrod.” She drew in her knees and hugged them. “It’s strange. I always thought I’d be happy when he’s gone, but now that he is, I really don’t know what I feel.” She absently twirled her short straight blond hair.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

She sighed, and even though he couldn’t quite see her, he knew she was subtly wiping tears away.

She cleared her throat. “My dad and I never got along. He was always angry, always complaining, always criticizing. I never wanted to be like him, but sometimes I see him in me, and I hate it.”

“You know I think you’re great, Sarah,” Jarrod said.

He felt the coolness of the night air against his arm as she shifted slightly away from him. He swallowed his disappointment, and said, “I’m sorry. Go on.”

Sarah continued, “My dad grew up in this very lighthouse. Coming here kinda reminds me that he’s human, you know; he was once a kid, he fell in love, he had dreams.” She sniffed, and her voice cracked even as she tried to keep it together. “But he always made me feel like I don’t deserve to be happy, like I’m not good enough.” She smeared the backs of her hands across her cheeks, trying in vain to stop the tears. “That’s why I can’t be with you, Jarrod. You’re perfect, and I don’t deserve you.”

Her confession startled him. He’d been in love with her three years now, but every time he tried to make a move, she’d back away, or she’d tell him she wasn’t interested. A year ago she started keeping her distance, so when she called him two days ago asking him to come to her father’s funeral, the question “Why?” had plagued him ever since.

She was sobbing now, and shrinking further from him. Despite his instinct to back off, conditioned from her numerous rejections, he reached out and gathered her into his arms. And then somehow – he didn’t know how – his lips found hers, and all he tasted was a sweet kind of saltiness.

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