This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
It seems strange to me now, at this point in my life, to feel so strongly and think so long on such a small decision made so long ago. With the sun getting so high, why should such a little thing haunt me?
I was only a kid. Fresh out of college, throwing myself headlong into my work, thinking about my future. Walking to the office one morning. Bag slung over one shoulder. Tie hung loosely about the neck, blowing in the wind. Looking down. Used to look up. Now, always looking down, deep in thought. Alive! But starting to feel that tingling numbness in my fingers.
And then a car drives up, breaking my train of thought. A sporty red convertible. Blonde at the wheel, brunette shotgun. Young girls, younger than me. Full of life, saturated with it. They stop next to me, and the brunette takes off her sunglasses.
“Wanna take a ride?”
And being what I am, I do want to. But -
“I can’t. I’m headed to work.” And I point ahead of me.
“We’re headed to California.” And she points behind me.
I look over my shoulder, and I can taste the ocean. I can feel the sun’s rays. And the warm breeze. I can feel the girl’s kiss, her hair, her waist, her shoulders. Her smile smoldering red hot against the back of my eyes.
“I can’t just ditch. Lots of work, projects, loose ends.”
And before I can ask her name, her number, anything -
“Suit yourself.” And she disappears. Forever. And what gets me more isn’t my reaction, but hers. Somehow, I had it that she would argue, convince me to go. Just for the day. Just around the block. And I looked down again, deep in thought, and went to work. After a few weeks, didn’t even think about it again. Until now.
Now, that I’m married thirty-five years. Kids grown. Happy. Complete. A good job turned great career. A good woman turned great marriage. Good kids with great futures ahead of them. The Great American Dream. The perfect life, in the little yellow house and the white picket fence, the dog, everything. Reading by the fire. Playing ball in the backyard. Building a fort. Painting that white picket fence, the distant twenty-year-old inside me chuckling. Making love to a woman after thirty-five years. Putting two kids through college. I loved my life. I love my life.
It just wasn’t the life I wanted. When I was little, I wanted to be an explorer. The Seven Seas. North Pole. Safari. India. Mt. Everest. The deepest cave and the highest cliff. An astronaut. Test pilot. And not just like everyone else, either. I remember. I embraced it. Loved it. Stories, movies. I honestly remember a time thinking, “When I’m fifteen…”, as if it was far beyond the horizon. There was just so much time in the world. Like grains of sand on the beach, the minutes of life spread out before me. I would conquer the world by fifteen.
And by fifteen, I had new ideas, a bit more grounded, but just as fantastic. I would be a rock star. A writer. A surfer. Rock climber. Travel around the world and back again. In college, I would be a millionaire, a CEO. International Business major. Switched to marketing. And on that hot day, content at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, aiming high as I could see. That was the threshold, that day, the point of no return.
Two years ago, sitting at my desk, the memory of that day came back all at once. For some reason, I can’t shake it. Men my age - I think - go out and screw women like her and buy cars like hers and take vacations to places we used to dream of, where they build hotels to mock our adventure. But not me. I just wonder what happened. I wonder what happened to me, what forces of my own biology and culture squandered me. That when a lark flew by my cage to sing to me, I turned the other way.
What is it that snuffed out that candle inside me? I don’t know. There is nothing I can imagine, and yet it was me, the whole me, that turned her away. Not just a gut reaction, but a full body instinct. The thought of getting into that car turned my body to stone. It was all of me, my own freewill that turned me down this road.
And here’s what gets me more than anything. What wrenches my heart out of my chest. She was beautiful. Even two hundred feet away she caught my gaze, and two feet away she stole my heart. I can’t say if she was truly the perfect woman or if that’s simply what she represents in my mind. All I know is that she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. More than my own wife.
I’d always thought of her as a lark, beautiful, free, and uncatchable. In reality, she probably went to school or married or waited tables or had a child. She’s probably still alive - my age - and would never in a million years remember me. She and her friend just picked up some other guy, had fun on the beach, and returned home. But to me, she would always be that beautiful, that unattainable, that wild and free, that daring thing.
I love my wife. I love my kids. I love my job. I’ve led a good life. But all that emptiness and loneliness and regret, that stinking regret inside of me, leads back to that day. One day on the sidewalk. One hour in the sun. One minute talking to that girl. One little minute, tiny and delicate. It is lonely and small as a grain of sand, plucked off a beach from a sea of sand. And it is truly everything.
Sometimes I catch myself crying. As my sun is setting, I think about that minute. That one grain of sand that defined my life. I think about a sunset on the Pacific, lying on the sand, in an ocean of time. And she’s right there beside me. Around the world. Deep inside me.
I suppose I’m too old for such thoughts, but I find myself watching sunsets. Waiting. Waiting to take that last ride.
ElusiveBadwolf: I loved this book so much! It's a shame that i already came to the end of this. I really enjoyed the story, and i liked it how everything became in the end. It was a great book and i can say that you are a great writer too. Keep it that way and i think you can make it in the writing business!
Sandra Estrada: I loved every minute of it and I thank my lucky stars that brought me to the story, it's been a whirlwind of emotions, plot twist after plot twist but I never got tired of them. Abby and Kade's story is a hard one to understand but once you're submerged in their story and love, you can't help but...
emmaneal74: I loved this booked. Would definitely buy it when published and read it again. The story flowed in such a way I just couldn't put it down. I was never confused about the characters or their roles in the story which can happen sometimes with so many lead. I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to r...
brettylee: The narrative is slick yet punchy. Life, Family and Friends I believe is the core message so it’s easy to relate to. It’s surprisingly action packed. The author does a good job at keeping you guessing. Just when you think all is right, whack, the unexpected happens. The dialogue is energetic and ...
Dru83: This is perhaps my favorite part of the Olafson story just because it is here that were are introduced to his "gang". The characters are so diverse and complicated that each of them could just about spawn their own story. Eric's buddies are just so captivating and the plot just rolls along. Again...
Flik: Hi! ^.^ huge fan of yours on ff.net! When I saw the note about this contest on The Way We Smile, I couldn't help but rush over here, create an account, and vote! XD Seriously love this story and would recommend it to anyone! :D best FT fanfiction out there. Amazing story, amazing concept that wa...
Dru83: This is the second or third time I've read this one and I just love it. It has just about everything you could ever want packed into one scifi story. It still has some parts that are a little rough in terms of grammar, punctuation, and word usage, but it's still an awesome story. I love how detai...
annie08c: I really like this story, I can relate to it a lot and with how she feels, the boyfriend and the events that happened but I'm a little bit younger. It was really good plot, really liked how you stuck to the topic and you had a new title for every chapter making me guess what's going to happen. Ma...
Erin Crowley: The concept here is really strong, but the execution is definitely lacking. Tenses, grammar, etc are all off, with at least one or more errors per 'Page' on my phone. The writing style is almost broken- sentences move into each other awkwardly, and are filled with an excess of "filler words", lik...