The Big L-Word

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Chapter Eight

On our last day, we found the skies clear and blue as we loaded the car again and checked the yurt for any residual tidying needed. Though the air was still crisp, we made a final visit to the shore where we removed our shoes and rolled up our jeans, letting our bare feet sink into the sand as the chilly ocean waves washed over them. Gene held my hand, occasionally pulling me along to chase the receding water or further along the beach. He only let me go to pick up a long, slender piece of driftwood which he used to draw a large heart-shaped line around me in the soil. Then he stood in the center of it with me, wrapping his arms around my waist as he tilted his head and kissed me while the water rushed up against us, soaking the ends of our jeans and legs.

And I found that once I’d whispered The Three Coveted Words to him, they rolled off my tongue with ease. I let the sea steal away my anxieties as I relaxed against his side, resting my cheek on his soft sweater, feeling the warmth of his body. When I caught his eyes gazing at me, I sunk into depths that hadn’t existed before. I couldn’t know what he saw in mine, but his face softened and melted into a smile every time he peered into them, compelling me to whisper the big L-word in his ear and asking if he was going to get tired of me saying it. He said that would be impossible because he loved me, and he loved hearing me say it to him.

Returning to the campground, we washed our feet in the showers and swapped our sandy and salty, wet jeans for dry ones. We didn’t see our camp neighbors before we left, but we assumed that they had taken advantage of the nice weather to take Jim’s boat out. While roasting marshmallows over the fire, the two couples had mentioned wanting to go out on it and had invited us to join them, though we drew the line at being stuck socializing for hours out at sea and had declined.

Our bones were too weary for walking more trails, so we drove around to the other side of the camp near the second lighthouse and walked up to the bluff it was perched on, overlooking the ocean. I grumbled about the steep incline that Gene had to help me navigate at points, laughing at me the whole time, but the view once we reached the top was worth the effort. The tumultuous waves crashing against the rocks below were gorgeous enough, but we had a better view of all the spruce and pine trees encircling the campground as well. Up close, we could see that the lighthouse was severely eroded by the coastal weather and passage of time. Down below in the cove, several seals had taken a break from fishing and were barking loudly.

I could finally snap photos of Gene or with him that I wouldn’t cringe over when looking at later—no hurt eyes or set jawlines, just his face genuinely glowing and full of happiness to look at me and be recorded. I was glad that we had worked through the things that had been bothering both of us. The spontaneous decision to step outside our comfort zone had significantly strengthened what we’d been building since we’d met.

Hugging me as we stood outside the white but battered lighthouse, he suggested, “We should come back here in the summer so we can explore it better and not freeze.”

It didn’t take too much math to figure out summer was nearly a year away, and he was already making plans for it. I bit my lower lip and gave him a skewed smile. “OK, but there’s some cabins and vintage trailers in a nearby retreat that sounds maybe a little more glamp-worthy than the yurt,” I told him.

“What, you didn’t like the yurt?” he asked in faux shock.

I laughed. “No, it was alright, just maybe not as comfortable as I’d like. Plus, there’s hot tubs and kayaking at the retreat. We can always drive over here and do the trails or visit the oceanfront, then relax in the hot tubs.”

“Damn, we should’ve stayed there this time. A hot tub sounds really good right now,” he said.

“Well, we’re just gonna have to wait till we get back to my apartment and we can use the indoor hot tub,” I said.

He thought about that a second and sniffed as his lips twitched the way they did when he had mischievous ideas. “That sounds really inviting. But I might be lulled half to sleep after that. I might not want to go home.”

“Hmm,” I teased him, giving him my own naughty smile. “You might have to come upstairs and fall asleep in my bed.”

“Are you suggesting that we can have a sleep over?” His mouth hung open slightly in mock surprise.

Laughing at him again, I teased him with my customary feigned formality, “I believe we just did have a sleep over, sir.”

“Yes, madam, but that was in the yurt. I’ve never slept over at your apartment,” he was happy to repay my formal language with the same tone, though the rest of what he said had a slightly more serious note.

“Well you never asked,” I scoffed playfully.

“Well I was too chicken shit to ask,” he confessed, making us both snicker.

“No, you’re allowed to ask,” I assured him.

“Wow, I’m so glad we took this trip,” he said, biting his lower lip. “I’m learning all kinds of things I didn’t know.”

“Me, too,” I concurred. He responded to that with a series of his ginger kisses.

When we’d had enough of the coastal winds chapping our cheeks and captured a final mental snapshot of the waves lapping the rocks, we traipsed back to the parking lot. We practically slid down the steep part of the hill as he walked in front of me to brace me and laughed at me every time I squealed with fright as my feet lost their grip on the gravel. I declared I was never going to climb up the bluff again, and he told me not to worry because he’d be right next to me making sure I made it safely up and back down just like he was doing right then. And I couldn’t argue with that.

“Gene,” I said to him with a serious tone once we were in the car, just as he was pulling his seat belt over his lap and securing it with a click. He looked up at me with a trace of worry, waiting for me to go on. “I just want you to know that I’m really fucking hungry now,” I told him and started laughing.

His face broke out into a grin. “Don’t you want another granola bar, Kittie?” he asked, pretending to be serious.

“Oh my god,” I moaned. “No, I do not want to see another granola bar for at least a year. I want some real fucking food.”

He laughed. “Ok, I’m gonna stop at the first restaurant with a sign that says We serve real fucking food here, so I can get my girlfriend some proper food.”

“And not fucking chili,” I warned him.

“Ok, I’m gonna stop at the first restaurant with a sign that says We serve real fucking food and we do NOT serve fucking chili here,” he joked as he turned over the ignition and looked over his shoulder to back out of the parking space, glancing at me and flashing another of his heart-warming grins.

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