He propped himself up on one elbow, warm sand pressing dampness against the blanket though the forecasted storm was circling in the clouds hanging low above the water, the thunder miles away. He jerked awkwardly, trying to button his jeans with one hand and losing his balance. For a moment something like love shot through her indifference.
“I’m glad we came here tonight,” he spoke too soon, his familiar voice slicing through her affection and reminding her that high school was over.
Without artifice, she slid her arms into bra straps and reached around to fasten the airy lace, absently shrugging on her tank top and abandoning the matching scrap of a thong to the darkness beyond the blanket.
He reached out to touch her thigh, his thumb brushing sand from her skin, the pale glow a reminder that she rarely came to the beach before dusk.
With unwarranted cruelty, she met his eyes with a level glance and smoothed her skirt back to her knees, pushing his hand aside and looking to the sky as the moonlight darkened.
His hand hung in the air for a moment, snagged in the humidity between hope and hurt feelings, his eyes following hers to where clouds now blocked the moon.
Lost in the twenty-seven day countdown between tonight and forever, she didn’t notice the nearness of the thunder until the first drops fell into the space between them, the summer rain dripping warm tears onto her skin.
He moved quickly and surely, grabbing his shirt to hold over her head, though it didn’t make a difference, lightning flashing as rain poured in rivulets around the island of their blanket.
Still, he held the shirt above her, the soaked cotton falling heavily against her hair.
She knew he wanted her to stay.
She knew he thought he loved her.
Without speaking, she finally met his eyes again, seeing the confusion there, the promises they’d made to each other since freshman year pleading with her.
It wasn’t love, but he would have to realize that on his own.
Finally he tossed the shirt aside, defeated, his eyes far away.
The almost-love washed over her and she embraced the tenderness, letting it speak for her as she touched his face, her palm tilting into the memorized planes of his jaw.
She felt his promises and hope in the urgency of his lips, and she closed her eyes, wondering if he could taste the goodbye in hers.