In this scene from PS, Brendon and Elyse are finally spending some time together and getting to know each other a bit deeper than their earliest days in class. She has come to depend on his companionship, though she’s not quite ready to admit it. This moment is a bit of a turning point for both of them. For her, she is starting to realize what she’s actually feeling for him, the real boundaries of their relationship, and what it all means to her.
EXCERPT FROM: “PS, BOOK 1”
CH. 11, FALLING
One of the things I loved best about Rhode Island was the salty air that hung heavily about the quaint coastal towns. I enjoyed feeling it cling to my bare skin and the chill of the cool, watery breeze that ruffled through my hair when I walked along the scant rocky beach searching for small gem-like pieces of sea glass that sometimes washed ashore. This afternoon, I was especially looking forward to my excursion because I would be adding one more meaningful detail to the experience: sharing the time there with Brendon.
In a few minutes, I would be meeting him for a walk along the water. We’d planned this little escapade during this morning’s lit class. The stories we were studying this week revolved around the ocean, so we thought it would be a nice break to actually visit the craggy rocks that formed the shoreline we so often ignored during our usual daily activities. The air was wintery cold today, though, so I wasn’t sure how long our walk would actually last. I had thought about stopping by my apartment to pick up my heavy coat just in case I needed the extra warmth, but something held me back. Maybe it was just a sense of anticipation.
Now I stepped down from the street into the sand and walked uneasily across the rocks toward the water. I stood shivering, looking out onto the horizon for a while — noticing how rough the water seemed today — as I waited for Brendon to make an appearance. He wasn’t late yet, but I wouldn’t have minded if he was, not only because his absence allowed me time to contemplate various random subjects I’d like to hear his opinion on, but because his contributions to our conversations were always worth waiting for.
The sound of bells clanging deeply together out on the harbor filled my ears as a hand came down gently but firmly upon my left shoulder. I turned around to see Brendon and smiled, suddenly feeling much warmer than only seconds ago. “Let’s walk,” he said, accompanying me slowly down the length of the beach, walking a few feet apart from me, kicking playfully, mindlessly through the small smooth stones. Once in a while he would kneel down to pick up a small twig of driftwood, inspect it and slip it into his jacket pocket. “What are you going to do with all of this stuff anyway?”
“I don’t know… I just think it’s pretty,” I told him honestly. I wished I had a better reason for gathering all of it together, but the truth was… I just liked to surround myself with beautiful things.
He grinned sweetly at me and tucked a shard of time-worn, sea-sculpted, pale blue glass into his pocket, then noticed something I had apparently missed, right below my feet. “Look at this one,” he said coming close enough to me to skim my arm as he leaned over to secure the find in his hands — a jagged piece of old white pottery, which he then presented proudly to me for my review.
“I love it!” I said, brushing the small particles of sand off the antique painted pattern of tiny pink rosebuds and muted green vines.
“So it’s a keeper then?” His voice poured into my ear. I glanced up to find his eyes intently focused on mine.
“Definitely,” I told him shakily, and he slipped the porcelain trinket into another one of his pockets for safe-keeping.
We continued wandering silently along the stones and crushed shells, searching for something new and different, until he spoke again.
“Have you seen your band friend lately?”
“Who, Jon?” I asked dumbly, caught off-guard. “Umm, no. Well, I only see him every couple of weeks when he’s around for a show. Why?”
“No particular reason. Just making conversation.”
Something about Brendon’s phrasing made me suspicious. He was never at a loss for topics of conversation… and if he brought one up, it wasn’t for “no particular reason,” it was because he had a true interest in it.
“Did you… want to meet him or something?” I prodded, wondering what it was he really wanted to know.
Brendon stared at me for a moment. “Not necessarily. I was just wondering about him because I know he’s important to you. I thought maybe you were dating by now.” His voice sounded… hopeful.
“Oh,” I stated, considering the way Jon looked at me and talked with me, the fact that he probably still had a girlfriend who was not me, and the age difference between us. “No. We’re not dating. I mean, he did kinda ask me out the last time I saw him—”
“So you would go out with him.”
“Well, Claire likes him.”
“What about you?”
“Yeah, I guess I could—”
“So, I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” Brendon broke my sentence in two.
I looked at him with full interest, ignoring the fact that he was continuously interrupting me. It didn’t matter. I loved the sound of his voice and wanted to hear everything he had to say, whenever he felt like saying it.
“I’m thinking about going away.”
Except that. I gasped audibly and bit my lower lip. That was nothing like anything I was hoping to hear him say. Anything else would have been preferable. I took in his comment slowly, not knowing how to interpret it. “When?… Now?” My voice sounded obviously urgent, troubled.
He shook his head as a large wave crashed along the shoreline and threw both of us off-balance for a moment. He reached out his hand to steady me, but just as quickly pulled it away. “No. Not anytime soon, but… I’ve got to get out of here.”
I didn’t understand why, but I almost felt like it was a personal affront to me. “Why? Is something wrong?” Is it me? Did I do something I shouldn’t have? Are you mad at me? Have I hurt you in some way?
Brendon paused to pick up another piece of sea glass and pocketed it. “I just feel… closed in here.”
Closed in? How could he feel closed in when we had the entire ocean’s worth of space around us?
I collected my thoughts and spoke as calmly as I could. “You’ve never mentioned anything like this before.” I stated it as though saying it out loud would cancel out the validity of his comment. “So… where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Brendon laughed softly.
I moved around the beach uncomfortably, finding solace on the top of a large rock jutting out of the sand. I knew Brendon was trying to keep things light, but I didn’t consider this a laughing matter. He wanted to leave. And I wouldn’t be able to go with him to… to wherever it was he was going. Because he didn’t know where he was going… and he didn’t know how much it mattered to me. I wasn’t even sure why it did.
But I knew that if I kept my mouth shut now, I would never get anything more than an “I don’t know” as a response from him, and I needed a deeper explanation so I would be able to sleep tonight. I thought carefully about how to say what I really wanted to know, then finally asked him, “Well, are you talking about going away… forever? Or, just for a while?”
Please don’t say “forever”.
Brendon was standing some distance away from me now, still close to the water’s edge. His eyes focused directly on mine as I stood frozen at the top of the rock, looking down at him. Strangely, he was the one holding the superior position. I hopped back down and moved toward him.
“Maybe forever. I don’t know,” he finally admitted, unknowingly throwing a dagger into my heart. I lost my footing and slipped down the rest of the way, catching myself before I hit the ground. He reached out his hand to lift me back up. I held onto him long enough to steady myself… then released him so he couldn’t detect my emotions through my fingers, “As you know, my brother Alex has been in Europe for a while. I need to see him.”
“Is this about… your dad?” I always hated to bring up the one subject I knew may hurt him, especially since I knew I wouldn’t be able to comfort him about it.
He shook his head, “Not really. There are things about me, us — Alex and my mom — that I need to deal with.”
Why are you bringing this up with me now? It didn’t make any sense to me — yet I knew that it didn’t have to. It was his life, but… I needed to know, understand, get my mind around it. “Why… in the middle of a school year? We’ve only just begun—”
“I know,” he said, cutting me off again. “I’m not leaving yet. I’m just thinking about it.”
I took a deep breath. There was nothing reassuring in his tone. Nothing I could cling to for support. No way for me to stop the inevitable. All I could do is accept it and move on without him like a receding wave. “Okay. Well… will you let me know when you’ve made your decision, at least?”
Brendon cocked his head to the side and grimaced at me. “Of course, Elyse. I wouldn’t leave without saying good-bye.”
And there it was: Good-bye. It didn’t even matter whether or not he ever said it. One day, he was going to do it — he was going to leave.
My heart sank into the sand. I felt like a piece of broken glass that had been floating aimlessly for years, centuries, in the vastness of the ocean — waiting to wash ashore so that someone might deem me worthy enough to pick up and put in their pocket. Within the span of only a couple of months, Brendon had managed to etch his name onto every part of me. He had softened my rough edges, given my smooth surfaces dimension.
“Well, anyway,” he changed his tone of voice to one of simulated elation, “I’m here for the time being….”
I smiled back at him, feigning a sense of contentment as well as I could. We spent the rest of what had become a slow-moving afternoon talking about our usual subjects, which now seemed quite trivial to me compared with his decision to leave — sooner or later — one of these days.
I hadn’t been expecting that. Of course not. I never expected the right things. I wished there was a way for me to make him stay, but I would never want to encourage him to do something involuntarily. And because of that, I would never be able to say anything to him about it. I couldn’t ask him to stay. I couldn’t give him a reason to. If he wanted to be free… I wanted him to be free. It wasn’t my place to keep him. He wasn’t my possession. He wasn’t mine.
We sat together on the shoreline in silence, watching the sun set on the day. I got lost somewhere out on the horizon until he finally nudged me and reminded me it was time to walk home.
“So, I’ll see you tomorrow night,” he said when we reached my front door. He emptied out his pockets and placed all of our discoveries in my hands. “Can you handle all of that?” he asked, grinning beautifully.
No. I can’t handle any of it. Not without you. Please don’t leave.
“Yep,” I said, blinking my way into a cheerful smile. Brendon returned it and turned away from me.
I watched him walk down the sidewalk, down past the rows of trees, lampposts and shops, until he was completely out of view. Several minutes later, when my mind finally acknowledged that he was really gone, I closed my door on the dark, empty street and sank to the floor, spilling the sea glass and driftwood out before me like a lost treasure.