Monday, April 11, 2011

"Vacation, part 4"

Yeah, this is the fourth installment in my drama/romance mini series "Vacation". Hey, I just got back from a destination wedding in Miami. What did you expect, another horror story?

I recommend reading part onepart 2 and part 3 in order for the whole thing to make sense; they're none too long, and pretty good reads (if I do say so myself). If you're short of time, part 3 should get you caught up on what's going on in the story.

“Vacation, Part 4”
Aaron Matthew Smith- April 11th 2011

Had this whole thing been a huge mistake?

Allison had known when she agreed to come with Roger on his vacation that things were liable to get… awkward. But she figured she’d be able to handle it. They were best friends, after all. They should be able to share a vacation house together for a week, right?

Yeah, that went down the tubes on the first night, she thought.

She’d half expected her feelings for Roger to come out sometime this week, but she hadn’t expected to confess them on the first night after a beer-assisted kiss. Nothing else had happened- they’d talked it over. He was still hurt, less than a week after his fiancé had run off with Prince-Sales-Rep-Charming. And she…well, Allison thought, I’m pretty much always a basket case.

That was three days ago. Since then their vacation had been as series of awkward near-misses and uncomfortable pauses in conversation. Roger had been sleeping on the couch, insisting she take the king-sized bed. She’d accidentally walked into the bathroom while he was changing into his swimming trunks the other morning and screamed. Over dinner last night, he’d leaned in to kiss her and aborted at the last second, turning the motion into an awkward cough into her ear.

You need to take it slow, she reminded herself.

Slow was fine, but anything was better than this.

“Allie, you coming?” Roger knocked on the bathroom door.

“Yeah!” Allison said a little too loudly, snapped suddenly out of her daydream. “Almost done!” Her eyeliner was only half-applied. She signed and grabbed the little pencil.

“I still say this is too expensive,” Allison said as the valet opened the car door for her.

“Don’t worry about it,” Roger said, dropping his car keys into the hands of a teenager in a red jacket. “Tonight it’s on me.”

“You made the reservation months ago, didn’t you?”

“Non-refundable,” he confirmed, sticking out his elbow. She took his arm and the two of them walked inside.
Soft jazz piano greeted them as the host led them onto the rough wooden deck to a private booth that overlooked the sea. The sun was setting against the water, dying the green, whitecapped waves with watercolor hues of orange and purple.

“Wow, this is breathtaking,” Allison said.

“Yeah,” Roger agreed, something distance in his voice.

Allison felt like she could read his mind; the perfect place for two newlyweds to spend their evening together…

Oh no. How could she have been so stupid? Coming here was a huge mistake- it was just going to make Roger remember how miserable he was. Should she say something? Could anything she say make a difference?

“Roger,” she started.

“Do you want an appetizer?” He smiled, passing her a menu. “The she-crab soup is supposed to be great.”

“Uh, sure.” It was killing her, seeing him like this. She tried to read the menu, but all she could think about now was how to not make Roger miserable. Her words from a few nights ago echoed in her ears:

 We’ve already spent a lifetime together. I don’t want to mess it all up by doing this part wrong.

What if she did do this part wrong? What could be the only thing worse than losing your fiancé a week before you get married? Losing your best friend in the same week.

And having to buy her an expensive dinner beforehand, a cynical voice in her head added.

“Allie? Do you want a drink or not?” Roger’s voice shattered her concentration; she looked up to find the waiter standing at hand.

“Uh. Wine, please. A cabernet if you have one.” She said quickly.

“Allison, are you okay?” Roger asked as the waiter walked off.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she lied.

Roger’s brow furrowed. “You don’t need to lie to me, you know.”

Aw, crap. He’d been able to do that ever since they were kids.

“I… Roger, we need to talk. I just…”

L, is for the way you look at me…”

Allison glanced up.

O, is for the only one I see…

“Oh for Christsakes…”

Three men had approached their table; the guitarist strummed a Latin version of the Nat Cole classic, and the man with the bongos slung around his neck kept perfect rhythm while the third crooned out the next verse.

V, is very very, extra-ordinary…

“No, please!” Allison pleaded. “No music!”

The musicians stopped suddenly, the singer’s face dropping. “But ma’am, it’s included with the special Honeymoon Package. Perhaps some Julio Iglesias…” he snapped his fingers, counting down for another number.

Allison pushed her chair back the table and strode away, her heels thunking across the wooden deck. She stopped at the end of the short little pier, leaning on it and staring out across the ocean, letting the sound of the wind and the waves carry the music away.

Maybe Allison was listening for Roger, but she was able to hear his footsteps on the deck as he came up behind her. “What’s wrong, Allie?”

“I just…” How could she tell him?

“Ever since the first night, you’ve been acting so weird.” Roger spoke up. “Okay, I get it. I shouldn’t have kissed you. I’m sorry, I—”

“What?” She turned around. The sunset reflected in his glasses.

“You’ve been acting strange ever since that night.”

“But not… oh god, Roger, you think I regret kissing you!”

“Well… don’t you?”

“Of course not you big dummy!” She slapped his arm.

“Well then why’ve you been acting so weird?” He asked.

“I’m… I’m scared, that’s all.”

“Of what?”

“Of hurting you!”

Roger took his glasses off the way he always did when he was exasperated. “Allie, look at me. I’m fine. Or I will be. I’m going to be okay.” He crossed his arms over his tie. “What’re you really scared of?”

It hit her, right then. Allison hadn’t been scared for Roger, not entirely.

She’d been scared for herself.

“I just… I don’t want things to get weird. Between us.” The words tumbled out of her mouth faster than she could stop them. “I don’t want things to change. Things are good. Things are great, the way they are.” She turned back to face the ocean. The white noise and the sunset gave her something else to focus on. “I don’t want to lose my best friend.”

She felt his hands on her shoulders. “Allison,” his spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully. “Things have been weirder this week than they ever have between us.”

“See? What if it gets worse?” She said miserably.

“It’s only been that way because we’ve been avoiding each other!” he sighed. “I’m still the same Roger, and you’re still the same Allison. The only difference is now you know how I feel about you.”

“I feel that way about you too,” Allison replied softly. “But, what if we rush it? What if it goes too fast and we wreck it?”

He spun her around to face him. His brown eyes were warm in the sunset. “The only way it’s going to get wrecked is if we’re both too scared to do anything!

She laughed. It sounded so stupid, but it made sense. Like a lot of things Roger says, come to think of it. Allison stood there for a moment, just looking at him. She felt like she had something on the tip of her tongue, but couldn’t find the right words. After a moment, she settled on,

“Let’s move at a pace that works for us, okay?”

“Deal,” Roger said, and Allison recognized the smile she’d known for twenty years. He led her back to the table, where the trio was still waiting, instruments at the ready. The band leader looked thrilled that his audience was returning. Just as they struck up a Latino rendition of “Unforgettable,” the waiter returned.

“And have we decided what we’re having tonight?”

Allison looked up to find Roger’s eyes on her. His eyes flicked from the menu back toward the restaurant and the parking lot. Allison found herself smiling, but something in her hesitated. Stuffing down her fear, she turned to the waiter. Together, she and Roger said,

“Can we place an order to go?”