Chapter 2: Closer, please
Most of the next two weeks in my life are spent going on morning runs, sharing poetry with Tyler in homeroom, listening to Lola rant about her love life - which includes gushing over Pete, and enjoying the lunch breaks we're all at the beach.
Turns out Ashley and Matt have been best friends with Tyler since they were in kindergarten, and Cara has been dating him since the beginning of high school. Pete is completely free though, and definitely trying to subtly flirt with Lola every chance he gets, which mind you, isn't as subtle as he thinks.
It's a normal Friday morning when Mr. Carrine announces that after lunch, the school is shutting down for Faculty Day. It's the one day a year they set up a party on the beach for all faculty members to have a picnic, bonfire, and a little reward for all their hard work. Over the past years it's been taken over by student traditions like drinking games and dancing, but the teachers definitely do not mind.
I find Lola and the others at our table at lunch, but Cara and Tyler are nowhere to be found. Matt says Tyler texted him and they will catch up, which I have a bad feeling about but accept, so we head to the beach.
We're at the beach for about twenty minutes before Cara and Tyler show up, Tyler looking a little upset. They don't mention anything that's wrong though, so no one really asks. We settle onto our towels and lay in the sun, and a few of us break off to go swimming with some of our other schoolmates who are arriving.
I'm sitting on my towel, and grab my phone to text my father to let him know I'll be home late when I feel a cold bottle tap my forehead.
"Hey there," Tyler says with a smile, "Lemon water?"
"My favorite, how did you know?" I say playfully. He had been bringing lemon water every day to school and let me finish it since he always only drank about three-quarters.
He laughs and takes a seat beside me, careful not to pull the towel his way too much.
"Where's Cara?" I ask, secretly waiting for her to jump out of the hole Lola dug in the sand earlier and slap me for being way too close to her boyfriend.
Tyler sighs, "Over there with... whatever his name is."
I look in the same direction Tyler's eyes went and spot Cara talking to a boy from my third period class. I think his name was Dylan. They're laughing a little, and Cara puts her hand on his chest before she wraps her arms around him and they kiss. I almost threw up.
"Tyler, are you kidding?" I ask, "You didn't break up right?"
"We're not broken up but we talked about it earlier," he smiles sadly, "she said I'm free to be with whoever I want to, but we will still be together and be each other's first priorities."
"And you're okay with that?"
He pauses for a second, "Well not really--"
"Tyler!" I exclaim in protest.
"Aria, what else am I supposed to do?" He groans, "We've been together for so long I don't want to leave her. If this is what it takes, I'll do it."
"You'll just give up your happiness?"
"It's not like that," he says defensively, "you just don't get it. You've never felt like this about someone."
"I still wouldn't let someone walk all over me." I say.
"Just forget it."
He gets up and walks off, frustrated, before I can say anything else. It's times like these where I really wish I could learn to bite my tongue.
Ashley walks over to me, dripping from the ocean.
"Hey, you okay?" She asks, "I saw Tyler walk off all huffy. Did something happen?"
"Cara happened." I say angrily, "I just don't think he should be treated like that."
"I know... and it's not the first time."
My eyes widen a little, "What do you mean?"
Ashley takes a deep breath, "I wouldn't really bring it up but all of us - myself, Matt, Pete, know that Tyler deserves better. Trust me, we've all had that conversation with him, but every time he even thinks of leaving Cara, she pulls him in again with how much she loves him and if he really loves her, he'll give her the room to explore other people at the same time because she's young and now's the time to do it. She encourages him to see other people too, but when he mentions even a name, or says someone is cute, she's livid and fights with him saying he's not being faithful. It's... a lot, and no matter what we say, he won't listen because of what she says. At this point we're just hoping he will come to realize he's better off without her, on his own. And we'll wait, and support him. We're patient like that, and we get him."
In the corner of my eye, I spot Cara walking off the beach towards the parking lot with Dylan, and my heart hurts a little more.
"Thanks for telling me Ash," I say, "I'm gonna go find him. Maybe it's no use or I won't even tell him he deserves better, but he at least needs a friend right now."
"No problem," Ashley smiles, "He usually heads to the docks over there. You can swim to a little island from there."
I get up and make my way to the docks, a little nervous because the clouds are looking a little grey. When I get to the docks, I call out his name a few times to no avail. It isn't until I look out to the little island that I see Tyler laying on the sandbank, eyes closed. I dive into the water, and it's a two minute swim until I reach the sand, climb up and sit next to him.
It's quiet for a minute until he opens his eyes and smiles weakly at me.
"Hey," he says, "I'm sorry for storming off."
"It's okay," I sigh, "I'm sorry for saying something like that. I couldn't help it and I didn't mean--"
"No, no, please," he sits up, "The thing is, you're right. And I like your honesty. It's refreshing. The only people that tell me the same, and in nicer or rather, sugar-coated ways are my friends, and I figured that's only because they've known me for so long so they're biased. I always make excuses for not listening to them."
"I get that," I say, "Someone used to treat me very poorly, and I didn't listen to anyone until it got so bad I had to leave them. And I'm not saying it will get there for you and Cara but you do deserve better, even if that means just loving yourself more."
"Thanks." He replies, turning towards me, "Sorry to make you swim out here to talk to me."
"You never asked me, and I did it because I wanted to," I smile, "It is a bit windy now though."
"We should swim back if we want to take cover from the incoming rain, and maybe grab a bite to eat."
As soon as he says that, we hear a whistle from the beach. The beach is clearing because you could hear faint thunder rumbling in, so we run to the edge of the water and prepare to speed-swim back. Suddenly we hear the engine of a boat - there's one going through our path and docking right in front of us.
"Great, what do we do now?" I sigh, "We can swim to the far end but I'm not sure if we can do that before--"
KSSSH-! As if nature was answering me, a lightning strike crashes in the sky.
"It's too dangerous to swim now, this storm came out of nowhere," Tyler says, he points to the far end of the island, "Let's get out of the rain and wind at least. There's a small cave on the banks that we can take shelter in."
We run to the cave, a small, covered area with sand and stone lining the inside. It's small enough that we can see the back, and big enough that the bit of sand in front of us isn't pushing us back out into the ocean.
"I'll text Matt to let him and the others know where we are," Tyler says, pulling out his phone, "Good thing my phone is waterproof."
"Thanks," I reply, "The teachers will probably have them leave though if the storm doesn't pass. I'll call Lola and have her pick us up after if we need. The walk isn't far, but after all this, I'm a little tired."
"That sounds good," He says as he moves closer to me, "I'm really sorry about this."
"Oh no, Ty," I smile at him, "Please, this wasn't your fault at all. This is mother nature angry because we humans have basically ruined the Earth."
"You really do say everything that comes to your mind without thinking, hm?" He laughs as he playfully shoves my shoulder with his, "I like that a lot."
"I like you a lot." I sigh.
For a moment there's silence as I look at him, a faint, pink blush forming in his cheeks. He moves to say something but I cut him off.
"I don't mean like in a romantic way," I say, "I just like you as a person, a lot. You're a good person."
He smiles, "You give me way too much credit."
"No, I believe it," I say, closing my eyes, "You're a good person and nothing you could do would ever disappoint me."
And suddenly the silence is heavy. Not in the way where it's awkward or anything, but the kind of silence where you both know what the other person is thinking. But in this case, there's also something else on my mind. Cara.
I open my eyes and lean on his shoulder, my hand reaching up to lay on his chest.
"You're warm," I whisper, and that's all it takes.
Tyler looks at me, his eyes dart from my face to my body, and back. He moves a half-inch closer, but almost pulls away, and before I realize, I reach up and hold his face in my right hand.
Closer, please, is all my mind is saying. And I barely hear the words escape my mouth. I barely process that I've said them before pulling him close to me, and pressing my lips against his.
It's as if we were in two bubbles that were suffocating us, taking our breath, and we suddenly broke through, gasping for breath we were both giving and taking from each other. He kisses were rough, and passionate. They made me feel like my whole body was on fire, even in the middle of the thunderstorm.
I feel my back make contact with the sandy ground, as he moves his lips down my neck, caressing my body as he went. I feel his tongue trace my collarbone, and a gasp escapes my lips before I can stop it. I want him, maybe in just this moment, maybe in another, but right now I want him more than anything else.
"Tyler," I moan, sitting up and pulling him towards me again, "Tyler." I can't get enough of him. I feel his chest, his muscles, just him. I grab him and he moans.
"Damn, Aria," He kisses me again, his hands at the edge of my underwear, fingers just sneaking in.
He's hard, and I want so much for him to indulge me as much as he can. I want to lose my head over this, but it strikes me.
"Wait, Tyler," I say, "I- um, we don't have a condom. Unless you're secretly hiding one."
He stops and chuckles, "No... sorry, I don't."
We both smile for a minute and laugh together.
"Maybe it's a good thing we don't have the means right now," I say, "We're not exactly thinking clearly."
"You're right," He looks at me, "But let me say something please."
"Aria... you are like no one else I know," He says, taking my hand, "You feel like no one else I have ever touched. I swear I wanted to kiss you when I first saw you enter my class. I felt like, I feel like I know you from before we met and I can't place it."
My eyes widen a little and I can't help but feel my heart beat even faster, "I know what you mean, and I can't explain it. I... I just want you, and right now it's mostly physical because, well, of that, but sometimes it's more. You're familiar, in the best way."
He sighs and stands up, "We'll be able to get back now."
I look out and see the storm clearing, the sounds of thunder and lightning distant and fading.
"But Aria," He turns to me again, "I won't do anything you don't want me to. I'll wait until you say you want me, I'll figure things out with Cara, and I'll wait until you want me to be yours."