“It’s the first day of the rest of our lives, the question now is, what do we plan to do with it. I don’t know about you all, but I plan to live mine to the fullest.”
Those were the exact words I’d stood up and send in front of my entire graduating class. I knew I was full of shit, it had been three days and the most I’d done was drive to the store to get a bottle of milk for my Mom. Live life to the fullest... yeah right.
Okay, so I knew it wasn’t like my whole life needed to be planned out already. Like the old cliche states, I have my entire life ahead of me, but it wasn’t normal to have absolutely no idea what to do for the rest of my waking days… was it?
As valedictorian, I was meant to have a plan… one that included study and a career. But I had nada, truth be told, I’d forced myself to enrol for some English papers at NYU just so I was taking something. I wasn't exactly excited though.
I had three months to change my mind, to formulate a plan. Maybe by the end of August I’d suddenly have an epiphany, a know just what to do.
“Deep in thought?” My mother’s voice filtered through my ears, waking me from my standing thoughts. I looked at her, standing in the kitchen holding out a mug of coffee to me.
I shrugged and took the coffee from her. “No, just tired.” I lied. Mom didn’t need to know about my lack of motivation. Not today.
“Are you sure you can’t get Mackenzie to stay here with you while Ray and I are away?” She sounded hopeful.
I shook my head. In all honesty, I probably could have asked. But when Mom had told me her and my Stepdad were going on a cruise for the entire summer, I had serious daydreams about having the entire house to myself. I didn't want Mackenzie, best friend or not, here all summer. I knew how it sounded, but I could live with the guilt.
“No, she’s uh, busy.” I murmured. “I’ll be fine Mom. I’m a big girl.”
Mom nodded and lifted her coffee mug to her mouth. “I just don’t like the idea of leaving you all alone Olivia.”
“I won’t be alone.” I mused. “I’ll be working, and Josh will visit.”
Josh and I had been dating for almost six months. He was kind of a meathead, all brawn and no brains, but Mackenzie had told me when he asked me out that opposites attract, and I guess she must have been right because we'd hit it off. He was headed to community college in the fall, and given I was going to be thousands of miles away, I figured we’d have to talk about where things were headed sooner or later, but for now, I was happy with the status quo.
“Oh good.” She mused, although I could hear the tension in her words. Neither she, nor Ray liked Josh much. He was an acquired taste after all.
“Relax Mom. I will be fine. Shouldn’t you guys be hitting the road soon, I thought you had to be in Harrington Bay by lunch for boarding.”
“Yes, Ray is just getting the car packed now and then we’ll be going.” She placed her cup down on the marble benchtop. “I know you’ll be working through summer, but I know you’re saving that for college come fall. So I’ve left my credit card on top of the fridge.”
“I’ll be fine Mom.” I murmured.
“Even so.” She paused. "It's there."
She walked around the bench until she stood in front of me and pulled me into a tight hug, I only just managed to set my coffee down without spilling it. I relaxed into the hug, three months was going to feel like forever not seeing my her. We’d spent our whole lives together, and until she met Ray and married him when I was 14, we’d only had one another.
“I’ll miss you Mom.” I whispered. “And Ray too.”
Mom’s body shuddered a little, and I knew instantly that she was crying. Mom was a quiet crier, she’d spent most of my childhood hiding how desperately sad she was from me, by silently crying in her room. I was 12 when I first found her, in a pit of sadness. She didn’t want to tell me what was wrong, but I knew. See I’d never met my father, he’d died when Mom was pregnant with me. He was a soldier in the army and was situated in East Timor. I’d only seen pictures of the two of them, but even I could see they were soulmates.
She'd never told me she was lonely, but I knew. So I’d started hinting that maybe she should dip her toes in the dating pool. She’d brushed me off at first… but eventually she did.
Ray wasn’t the first man she had dated, or the second or the third… but he was the best. It wasn’t long till I could see the looks between them, that I’d seen in the photos of my parents growing up.
They married in a small ceremony at the start of my freshman year of high school. It was then that I met my stepbrother, Ray’s son Noah. though he was 7 years older than me, and already in college. In the four years Ray and my Mom had been married, he’d only been back twice.
Still, with Ray around Mom had flourished, and now she didn’t cry silently in her room.
“I’ll miss you too Olivia.” She whispered.
“Honey.” Ray called from the door. “You’ll never guess whose just pulled into the drive.”
Mom pulled back and looked at me, her head tilted. “Who?”
“Noah!” he called back.
Mom gasped and released me, rushing for the door. I frowned, I’d jinxed it, I’d thought about everything leading up to this point… I’d thought about Noah and now my summer solstice in the sun was going to be ruined. I followed dolefully behind my Mother who understandably was a little more excited to see Ray’s son than I was.
Ray and Noah, who was armed with bags, were already talking whilst standing on the front yard. Mom walked over and embraced Noah, hands full of bags rather awkwardly.
“Oh Honey, we can cancel the trip.” I heard Mom say as she looked at Ray who simply nodded.
“Trip?” Noah exclaimed
“Oh it’s nothing.” Mom lied.
I shook my head and walked out onto the grass. “It’s a non refundable, three month cruise of the pacific. They’ve been saving for the last year.”
I could feel Ray and Mom’s eyes on me, boring holes into my skin. It was selfish of me to throw them under the bus, but it wasn't just about me... they deserved this trip.
“Well, still we hardly see you.” Mom murmured.
“I don’t plan on going anywhere soon.” Noah replied. “I’ve uh, decided to take a leave of absence from work to reevaluate a few things. I’ll still be here when you get back.”
I held back a huff. This summer was meant to be a chance to unwind and figure things out… largely on my own, and if Noah was here I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do that.
Only, it seemed that maybe he was in the same boat. Maybe if he stayed out of my way and me out of his, it wouldn’t be so bad.
Mom and Ray talked quietly between themselves while I studied Noah. The last time I’d seen him he was tall and athletic, that hadn’t changed. He clearly liked to make sure he looked good in the mirror. He was taller than me by at least a foot. I hadn’t noticed before, but he had emerald green eyes so vivid that it was almost like the gemstones themselves were a part of the DNA strands responsible for the pigments in his irises. His hair was dark brown, almost black, he needed a cut, but he suited the loose curls that sat naturally. He smiled, and it was a great smile. His teeth were amazing, and at each corner had had the tiniest of dimples. But I could tell it wasn’t genuine. Something was plaguing the man I barely knew, yet was somehow my family.
“You should take a picture.” He teased.
I shrugged and looked down, away from Noah… slightly embarrassed to be caught taking him in so intently. “No, you might break my phone.”
“Ouch.” He replied with a grin, only this one seemed a little more real.
“Alright.” Ray exclaimed, breaking the awkward tension. “We’ll still go.”
“Good.” Noah replied.
“It’s a bonus actually.” Mom noted. “I was just lamenting leaving Olivia here all alone… now I don’t have to.”
“I don’t need babysitting Mom.” I hissed.
“I know.” She replied defensively. “But now I won’t spend three months worrying about you. Even though I know you’re more than capable of looking after yourself. I know Noah will keep you safe.”
I sighed, If this was what she needed to make herself feel better about going, then I had to accept it. Her and Ray deserved this break.
“Yeah, I’ll keep her safe.” Noah mused.
After a few more minutes of chatter Ray noticed the time. Before Noah had even brought his bags inside, they were gone. Noah and I stood on the grass for a minute or so afterward. Neither one of us speaking. Noah was the one to first break the ice “So, guest room still in the same place?”
“Uh yeah.” I replied. “Up the stairs, third door on the left. Hasn’t gone anywhere. Need a hand?” I asked, although I could tell Noah didn’t need my help.
“No, I’m good.” he said as he walked toward the front door.
I folded my arms and let my head fall back. I’d banked on relaxation, but now it seemed like I was going to get a whole lot of awkward.