25 | Honesty Isn't The Best Policy
When my alarm went off for the ridiculously early time of six am, I was not happy. Grumbling and groaning, I very reluctantly got out of my bed. My head was throbbing from last night, my muscles all achy.
Faintly, I recall moments of the events that took place last night. Getting drunk was definitely something I can remember, along with kissing some guy and Max getting angry. What I can vividly remember is my conversation with Max.
Guilt overwashes me. I asked him to do something so selfless, to basically put his life on hold for me. I’m such a selfish person.
Tumbling out of my bed, I stumble over to my wardrobe and pick an outfit to wear. The first thing I pack when I’m putting my stuff in a bag is my swimming costume and a towel. Max specifically told me to bring that - though, I’m still completely unsure why.
My parents are still fast asleep in their room. Tonight we are going out for dinner with Max’s family for a reunion meal. Wherever Max is taking me shouldn’t be so far since we need to be back for eight.
Before I leave my room, I take an aspirin for the mild headache going on in my head. Scribbling a note on the fridge for my parents, I pour myself a cup of orange juice and pick an apple out from the fruit bowl. Not long after biting into my apple, a honk sounds. Smiling to myself, I down the orange juice and swing my bag over my shoulder.
Max is seated in his expensive, flashy car, waiting for me. I open the door and let the smell of new car fill my senses.
“Hi,” I say, flashing him an uncertain smile. The feeling of apprehension stays with me. What if things begin to become awkward between us since the talk? What if Max doesn’t even want to be friends with me?
God, honesty isn’t always the best policy.
Max turns to me, his handsome face expressionless. My shoulder slump in dread, my heart stopping momentarily.
“Are you okay?” He finally speaks, his eyes lightening up for a split moment.
Nodding my head, I pull the seatbelt over my body. “I have a bit of a headache but I took an aspirin so I should be fine. What - what about you?”
Max starts the engine, letting the sweet sound of the powerful engine resound through the empty area. I hope nobody heard it.
I turn to face him, chewing anxiously on my lip. What I really want to ask him is if he’s still okay with what I said last night. Now that he’s slept on it, he’s had a lot of time to think about it. If he’s not okay with my decision, he will probably tell me today.
Max switches on the radio to tune out the silence, keeping the current track on. When I hear the song Changes by Bowie, I sit up straighter and hum to the song. The song reminds me of my childhood when I used to love watching the film Shrek 2. Max notices my excited mood and chuckles.
And just like that, it’s as if whatever tension in the car just disappears. Max joins in singing and together, with the windows down, we sway and sing.
I don’t question when we get onto the highway or when we start getting further and further away from LA. Neither do I question when we turn off the highway and onto a long road.
We drive and drive, listening to the songs and bobbing our heads up and down. After a while of Max driving on a busy road, I look at the clock on the dashboard. I nearly gasp when I see that its nearly ten in the morning. We had been driving for three hours and I had no idea!
“Okay, I think its about time I ask this,” I say. “Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see,” he answers, his brown eyes glistening in mischief. I groan in annoyance and rest my head on the headrest. “We’re close though.”
Well, thank god for that.
Ten minutes later, Max pulls up into a car parking space. I spring up in my seat and take a good look at my surroundings. Its a gloriously sunny, cloudless day. There are a few birds, including seagulls, chirping. People in beach clothing, carrying tents and bags full of things pass us, laughing and smiling together.
The strong smell of the sea gives me the final bit of information I need to know we are close to the beach. In front of us, is a grassy, hill with remnants of sand. I’m guessing that beyond the small hill is the beach.
“We’re at the beach?” I question, raising an eyebrow.
Max nods, unbuckling his seat belt. “I thought we should come back to a similar setting where we met.”
My heart hammers in my heart, banging painfully against my chest. A part of my questions whether I made the right choice, especially when says simple things like this.
“Come on, we’re wasting time,” Max says and gets out of the car. Slowly, I follow his actions and get out. A small breeze brushes a few strands of my hair over my face. Pulling them away, I watch Max go to the boot of the car and get out a frisbee and a picnic basket. He comes over to me and holds his hand out for me, waiting for me to take it.
Without a second thought, I place my small hand in his larger one, savoring the pleasurable sparks I feel. Together, we walk to the small hill.
The sounds of waves crashing onto the shore can be heard before I even see the beach. Other people pass us, skipping happily to the beach. For late to September, the weather is still relatively good.
When we reach the top of the hill, I come to a halt so I can stare at the sight before me. The sun beats down onto the sand, giving it a certain shine. The bright, blue sea stuns me to the core. I have been to loads of beaches but this one, it has something to it. I don’t know why but it captures my heart.
I wonder what it looks like in the evening when the sun sets.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Max asks me, whispering into my ear. Speechless, I nod my head. Words can’t even describe this picturesque view.
Max tugs on my hand and pulls me onto the beach. Unconsciously, my toes curl into the warm sand. Together, we find a space closed off from everyone else. An isolated place where the two of us can be undisturbed.
I help Max unfold the towels and neatly place them on the sand. It's silent between, the crashing of the waves; the hungry seagulls the only noise that can be heard.
“What’s this beach called?”
Max turns to face me, “Manhattan Beach”
My mouth opens in an ‘o’ shape. Slowly, I lower my body onto the towel and stare at the blue sky. Max, who placed his towel right next to me, lies down as well. In silence, we think about what has been - who we are.
“I will always love you, know that Ava.” Max blurts out quietly. Breathing in, I tilt my head to face him, putting a hand up to block the blaring sun.
“As will I,” I respond. ” But this is the right thing to do. It will prove to us whether we can live our lives as friends or if we are meant for each other.”
“You know,” Max starts, in a low voice. “When I first saw you, it wasn’t in the hotel.”
My head snaps to face him, shock evident on my face. I can recall the first time we met - the first time I saw him - and it was in the hotel. But apparently, that’s not the case. Well, not for him.
“What -” I stop, swallowing. “Well, when did you first see me?”
“On that beach, the one similar to this.” He gestures to the long beach that does resemble the one close to the hotel. “You were with your parents, laughing about something. When I saw you, my whole world stopped. You were so happy. And - and I wanted to be part of that."
My heart lips in my chest. I wanted him to be part of my happiness too.
Max smirks, reading my thoughts. "I know."
“And - and you approached me after?” I question, with a hint of nervousness in my voice.
Max nods his head, his eyebrows puckering together as if he was deep in thought. “Yes. I followed you back to the hotel and waited for the perfect opportunity for me to meet you.”
My body untenses and I relax, letting his words process. Who knew Max was a sweetheart from the beginning?
“If this arrangement is too awkward for you, we can always...resort to ignoring each other. Let each other move on with their lives.” I suggest, portraying myself as calm externally.
Max stiffens for a brief moment. “Is that what you think is best?”
I turn my head back to look at the sky. Is it really what I want? Of course not. But what I want will prove to be a challenge. What if Max was to move on with someone else? How would I react?
I would hate it. I would feel jealous.
But I wouldn’t act on it because I had my chance. If Max still wants to be with me, he knows when I’ll be ready.
“I think that’s for you to decide,” I mutter, drawing circles on my flat stomach.
Max takes in a sharp breath. He quickly gets up, dusting off some sand on him.
“Max, I think you should try and move on,” I say, copying his movements.
“Because,” I almost whine. “What we have... it’s too strong. I love you too much it hurts, it hurts to be away from you. It felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest when you ‘cheated’ on me. This... it’s not right.”
Max takes a step back, hurt on his face. “What’s wrong with it being too strong? It shows how real this is.”
Running a hand through my hair, I chew on my lip. “You’re not hearing me.”
Max cocks an eyebrow. “Oh, I’m not?”
“I knew you wouldn’t be okay with this deal.” I accuse, jabbing a finger in his direction. He lied to me!
Max huffs, stomping over to me. “I am and I’m not. There! There’s the truth. I want to respect your decision, I really do because that’s what people do when they are in love. But I also want to hate you for basically making my decision for me. Asking to make me wait for you is selfish. But a part of me wants to wait because it’s you.”
My heart stops.
“But maybe you are right. Maybe we need to distance ourselves and work out where we need to go.”
I gaze into his brown eyes, searching them for dishonesty. When I see nothing of the sort, a sense of relief flows through me.
“If you are going to discover yourself - so am I. I have spent the past two years wallowing in grief, dead. But now, now is my chance to find myself again too. It appears we are both going on a hunt for each other.”
“Yes,” I reply, smiling slightly. “It appears we are.”
“You know, I’m proud of you. You finally put yourself first and thought about what you need.” Max utters, bringing a finger up to my face. Slowly, like he’s memorizing the action, he drags it down my cheek. His finger leaves a trail of sparks, sparks that I will never forget.
“You’re the same. You are the dream guy - you know that?” I whisper, maintaining eye contact with him. “Any girl will be lucky to date you.”
“Well, Ava, in case things don’t work out between us, whilst we are alone, I want to tell you it has been a pleasure. We have made some amazing memories, we’ve had our mistakes but we are learning from them. I will always remember you.” Max says, putting his hands on my shoulders.
I feel sad at his words, knowing that it could be true. We may never act the same again, after this day, I will begin my search as will he. He may meet a new girl.
I am going to be happy for him no matter what. Whether I don’t see him anymore or if I do.
“Max, you will always have a special place in my heart. You will always be my first love, my first kiss, my first everything. I hope that if we do drift apart, that our paths will cross one day.” I tell him, insuinating that if he doesn’t see me on graduation day, that we would meet up.
Max smiles. “I’m sure they will.”
Max then closes the distance between us and pecks my lips, possibly for the last time. My eyes flutter shut and enjoy the blissful moment. I will always remember his lips against mine.
“Now, do you want to go in the sea?” He asks me and I quickly nod my head, the corners of my lips quirking upwards.
And as we walk to the sea, I get this feeling deep down that maybe, I didn't make the right decision.