I don’t understand. Just because it’s the first time doesn’t make it less real, does it? Even the universe has a beginning.
He’s silent. The more I think about what he’s saying, the more upset I get. But then I realize that he’s not trying to dismiss or belittle my feelings. He’s just scared. Given my lack of choices, what if I’ve just chosen him by default?
He takes a breath. “In my head I know I’ve been in love before, but it doesn’t feel like it. Being in love with you is better than the first time. It feels like the first time and the last time and the only time all at once.”
“Olly,” I say, “I promise you that I know my own heart. It’s one of the few things that’s not completely new to me.”
He climbs back into bed and throws an arm out. I curl into him, put my head into the Maddy-shaped nook of space between his neck and shoulder.
“I love you, Maddy.”
“I love you, Olly. I loved you before I knew you.”
We drift off to sleep curled around each other, neither of us talking, just letting the world make some noise for us for a while because all the other words don’t matter right now.
All the Words
I come awake slowly, languidly until I realize what we’ve done. I glance at the clock. We’ve been asleep for over an hour. We barely have any time left and we’ve spent some of it sleeping. I glance at the clock again. Ten minutes to shower and another ten to find the perfect spot on the beach to watch our first and last day together come to an end.
I shake Olly awake and rush to get dressed. In the bathroom, I slip into my one-size-fits-all dress. One size can fit all because the skirt flares out and the top is ribbed elastic that can stretch to accommodate most anyone. Forgoing my scrunchie, I let my hair have its way, and it falls curly and full around my shoulders and down my back. In the mirror my skin glows a warm brown and my eyes glitter.
I am the picture of health.
Olly’s seated on the top rung of the railing on the lanai. His position looks precarious, even though he’s holding on to the railing with both hands. I remind myself he has plenty of control over his body.
He smiles, more than smiles, when he sees me. He’s Olly and not-Olly again, eyes sharp and tracking my approach. I’m aware of every single sparking nerve in my body. How does he do that with just a look? Do I have the same effect on him? I stop at the sliding glass doors and look him over. He’s wearing a close-fitting black T-shirt, black shorts, and black sandals. The angel of death on vacation.
“Come here,” he says, and I nestle into the V of his legs. He goes still and his grip on the rail tightens. I inhale the fresh scent of him and look up. His eyes are a clear, summer-blue lake that I can’t see the bottom of. I touch my lips to his. He hops down from the railing, pushing me back against a table. Before I know it, I’m flush against him and he’s kissing me with a groan. I open for him and we kiss until I can’t breathe, until my next breath is one of his. My hands are on his shoulders, on the back of his neck, in his hair. My hands don’t know where to stop. I am electrified. I want everything and all at once. He breaks our kiss and we stand there, drawing ragged breaths, foreheads and noses touching, his hands gripping too hard on my hips, my hands flat against his chest.
“Maddy.” His eyes are a question and I say yes. Because it was always going to be yes.
“What about the sunset?” he asks.
I shake my head. “There’ll be another one tomorrow, too.”
He looks relieved, and I can’t help but smile. He walks me backward through the lanai doors until the backs of my knees are pressed into the bed.
I sit. And then stand right back up. It was easier jumping from Black Rock than doing this.
“Maddy, we don’t have to.”
“No. I want to. This is what I want.”
He nods and then squeezes his eyes shut remembering something. “I have to go buy—”
I shake my head. “I have some.”
“You have some what?” he asks, not catching on.
“Condoms, Olly. I have some.”
“You have some.”
“Yes,” I say, my entire body blushing.
“At the souvenir shop. Fourteen ninety-nine. That place has everything.”
He looks at me as if I were a small miracle, but then his smile turns into something more. Then I’m on my back, and his hand is tugging at my dress.
“Off. Off,” he says.
I scramble to my knees and pull it off over my head. I shiver in the warm air.
“You have freckles here, too,” he says, sliding his hand across the tops of my breasts.