Today I’d like to share a new short story I’ve written to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I hope your day is full of love!
Love through a lens
I flicked through the photos on my laptop.
I smiled at the long golden stretch of sand in front of the picture perfect white house. I had even managed to capture how the trees had swayed in the gentle ocean breeze.
I looked out of the window of my bedroom. Back at home, my view was now thick sheets of rain pelting against the glass. I wished I was back in that sunshine. I sighed then. I definitely had the holiday blues.
I returned to the laptop, hoping that a reminder of how happy I’d been just a few weeks ago there would lift my mood. I moved past the photos of Lizzie and me at the bar in town. We’d drunk far too many cocktails our first night there. And I breezed past the ones of us dancing really badly at the salsa bar down the road. I passed by more of the beach. It really was a stunning beach. I was both eager and nervous to get to the later photos. The ones I really cared about looking at.
If only to remind myself it hadn’t all been a dream.
Then I stopped. My brain had registered something so I hit the back button on the slide show. I had quickly passed a photo that I’d taken just before sunset. I looked at it more closely this time. It was of endless sky and water. The light had changed to dusk and the silvery moon giving everything a warm glow. In the corner of the picture was a figure I hadn’t noticed when I had taken the shot. I leaned closer to the screen, berating myself for not booking that eye test.
My heart skipped a little when I recognised who it was. I had no idea I had caught him in that photo. He was obviously as unaware as I had been then. He sat on the sand at the edge of the house, his knees up to his chest, looking out at the scene in front of us. I checked the date on my camera. I’d taken it the day before we’d met.
I enlarged the photo on the screen so he was more in focus. It was weird seeing him as the stranger he was in that moment. I wondered whether if I’d have noticed him when I’d taken that picture I would have cropped him out of the frame. Or would I have been struck by his floppy dark hair and his pensive stance? Or would I have just moved my eyes passed him onto the view I had been trying to capture?
It didn’t really matter because I hadn’t glimpsed him that night. When I saw him next, it had changed everything.
But I liked the fact he was accidentally in that photo. It was a reminder that he existed before we met and he would continue to exist now. I liked knowing he was in the world even if it was so far away from my own.
I pushed the laptop away and stared up at the ceiling. The rain danced on the roof above me but I shut it out. I thought of where he was instead. I closed my eyes and let myself float back to that white house by the sea.
“I’m going for a walk,” I shouted at Lizzie who was still in the bathroom. I couldn’t get her to wake up and be ready before noon at home let alone on holiday so I was used to exploring on my own in the mornings. I left the house and paused on the deck. The view still amazed me after a week of looking out at it. I walked down the steps that led directly onto the beach.
“I’m always jealous of anyone who stays here,” a voice called out. I turned and saw a boy a few feet away. He gestured to our beach house.
“It’s pretty cool,” I replied. My cheeks flamed slightly at my lame response. Who said cool anymore anyway? I turned to walk away in shame when he stepped forward and stopped me.
“Amy,” I responded. I looked at him more closely and realised how cute he was.
He grinned. “Mind if I walk with you?” He fell into step with me and we walked away from the house together.
The morning was bright but pleasantly cool and the beach was still quiet. We strolled side-by-side and I found it hard not to keep peeking out of the corner of my eye at him. He wasn’t my usual type – he was lankier and his hair was too long but his dark eyes and the dimple in his left cheek that appeared when he smiled drew me in. He wore far too much black for someone who lived in a holiday destination but I liked his Beatles T-shirt and scuffed sneakers.
“What’s it like living here?” I asked, desperate to break the silence.
Dan shrugged. “Too many tourists.” He winked. “I’m a city person living by the seaside.”
“Better than being a seaside person stuck in the city.”
“The grass is always greener.” He stopped walking suddenly and indicated we should sit down. I flopped down onto the soft sand and followed his gaze out to the sea. I didn’t think I’d ever be tired of living with that on my doorstep. “Too many people coming and going.” He gave me a funny look and I felt another blush creeping in.
“What’s that?” I asked, looking at the brown notebook sticking out of his jean back pocket.
“My super-obnoxious journal,” Dan replied, tapping it. “It’s full of teen angst,” he added, his eyes twinkling.
“Do you like writing?”
“I have too many thoughts sometimes; it feels good to write them down. Why do you like taking photos?”
I was flattered that he’d noticed me. I’d leaned back on my hands, wondering how to form my feelings into words. “I used to be pretty shy so my dad brought me a camera. He said it would let me see and experience the world even if I was afraid. I’ve loved it ever since. I find it exciting when I capture something unexpected.” I looked at Dan and saw he was watching me. I felt embarrassed by my speech but he looked interested by it. His gaze was both intense and electric and it sent a shiver down my spine.
“I hope one day I’m as passionate about something.”
I wished he could see just how passionate he was.
Over the next few days, we spent as much time together as possible. Lizzie pretended to be annoyed when he joined us everywhere but I could tell she was happy for me. I don’t think anyone had ever made me smile as much as he did. He was fun and full of life. He loved music, art and movies and writing. His journal was actually filled with poems and although no expert, I thought they showed he had a beautiful soul. It was beautiful to me anyway.
When he had held my hand, I’d felt giddy. When he’d chased me down the beach, I’d felt free. And when he’d kissed me for the first time, I’d felt alive.
“Leaving sucks,” I said as my last day arrived. He’d walked over to watch the sunrise from the deck with me.
“You’re not really leaving me though,” Dan replied. He was so confident that he’d see me again. He said miles didn’t matter. What we had was special and things would just work out. I was nervous though. I knew I’d miss him more than I cared to admit.
A beautiful dusky orange and purple sky stretched out in front of us. I leaned my head against his shoulder as we watched the sun move past the edge of the ocean to turn everything blue.
“You don’t want to take a photo of this?” Dan asked, gesturing to the stunning sight.
I looked up and met his eyes. “No, I just want to enjoy it with you.”
He leaned down and brushed his lips against mine. Every nerve in my body tingled. “It really is perfect,” he whispered.
I opened my eyes and my white ceiling stared back at me, the sunrise having faded along with the memory. I sat up slowly. I would never forget that holiday. I’d always rolled my eyes when friends at school had come back from the sunshine with tales of holiday romances. I just thought it was yet another love cliché. But I couldn’t deny it. I’d fallen head over heels on my holiday.
I went back to my computer and continued the slide show. I found the photos of us that I had meant to take. The ones I’d been both eager and nervous to look at.
I opened up one of the two of us on the screen. I sat in front of him and his arms were wrapped around me. His head rested on my shoulder as he leant in to snap the picture. My smile lit up my face. I changed the colour to black and white and printed it out.
My phone beeped beside me.
I just booked a ticket to see you. I can’t wait.
I hadn’t dared believe that all he said to me was real. I hadn’t dared to hope that I really would see him again. I had expected these photos to be all I would have of our time together. But it looked like he wanted to keep his promises. Maybe the end of our holiday really wasn’t our goodbye.
I pinned the photo of us on the board above my desk, tucking it in between the collage of pictures, postcards and quotes I’d stuck up there over the years. I stepped back so I could see it better.
I had always been pretty sceptical about relationships but Dan had changed everything. I reached up and peeled off everything from the board save for the photo of us two.
Whatever happened in the future, I’d never forget the time we spent together. It felt like my heart was exactly where it was supposed to be – wrapped up with his.
My first love.
I hope you enjoyed it