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The wailing alarms pierce through my brain, forcing my eyes to snap open. The clock flashes 12:35 AM. Heavy smoke curls into my room from under my bedroom door. Heat skims my skin as the smoke claws at my lungs. Roaring crackles alert me as I roll from my bed and on to the floor. Panic swells inside me, causing me to shake in fear. The warmth radiating forces beads of sweat to trickle down my neck. Flames eat the door down and I let out a scream. My air escapes as I inhale smoke. With shaky hands, I bring my soft pink tank top up to my nose and mouth. I train my eyes on the window on the opposite side of my room. The window leads to my front yard, which is the only way out. Coughing, my vision flickers and my head starts to float. The scorching flames push forward as I try to shriek once more. Moving sluggishly, I know I’m not going to be making it out. Fear. Fear is the only thing holding me back, and there is no escape from the fear that is within me. A tear drips down my face as I realize how I won’t be able to say goodbye to my parents, my friends, my school, my life. The incandescence of the fire tingles at my skin. Clouds of smoke loom over me as everything goes black. “Lord help me!” I whisper as the heat continues to moves closer...
The heavy humidity smacks my face as I stride down the stone path to the narrow road. Loneliness and isolation swell inside me as I wander through the mammoth oak trees. Sunlight streams through the vivid leaves, forcing me to catch my breath. Wilmington has always been so beautiful....The cramped road unfolds, revealing the docks in the distance. Passing the Windela Run Drive sign, familiarity strikes me. God it’s been a while....The scent of salt fills my lungs as I cling to the railing of the dock. A bead of sweat trickles down my neck. Squinting, I scan my surroundings as I dig my shaky hand in my gray handbag. Lips pursed, my fingers find the container. I carefully shake the blue-capped gray pill and toss it into my mouth. As the relief absorbs my body, I locate my Ipod and slip my earbuds in. Drowning out the world with my booming pop alternative music, I make my way to the aged buildings on Carolina Beach Road.
♫ I don’t know where I’m at. I’m standing at the back, and I’m tired of waiting. Waiting here in line, hoping that I’ll find what I’ve been chasing...♫
Rounding the corner, I glance at the black and white checkered sign next to Cindy’s Boutique. A smile sneaks up on my lips as I see the records displayed in the window. The lyrics of the song playing grasps at my attention. The chorus begins and I’m lost in the song. Tugging the door open of Gravity Records, I’m greeted with a cool breeze. I brush my golden blonde hair out of my face as I soak up the shelves of music. The place hasn't changed a bit since I last left. It feels so good to be back....Piles of new records lay unopened on Chris’ desk in the back of the store. The red couch in the corner still appears unused. Taking out my earbuds, I hear the sound of Parachute’s pop rock album playing on Chris’ record player.
“Chris Dylan!” I holler, scouting the store for his appearance. Chris’ red beanie floats through the aisle. Stepping out, his coruscating blue eyes widen through his black rimmed Ray-Bans. Dimples appear under his stubble as he shakes the blonde run away hair out of his eyes.
“Dakota Reese! It’s about time you showed your pretty little face around here!” He chuckles as he throws his strong arms around me. My cheek squishes against his red plaid shirt.
“I’ve missed you and Gravity Records everyday,” I exclaim as we pull away.
“And I have missed my favorite customer! I was worried I wouldn’t see you for a while. So tell me how you’ve been? How’s New York? How’s your first year of Juilliard?” Chris questions as he treads to the back of the store to his unorganized desk. He grabs the pile of unopened records and strides through the aisles, putting them alphabetically where they belong.Trailing behind him, the sunlight from the glass windows hits my sapphire eyes.
“New York is incredible. It’s definitely a huge change, you know? And Juillard is a fantastic college, I just felt something missing. So my parents are letting me stay the summer here!”
“That’s great! North Carolina has definitely missed you! So may I ask, how are your wonderful parents?” Chris’ sarcasm forces me to laugh. Slipping the last record in it’s home, he walks towards his mini white fridge. Pulling out two bottles of Coke, he tosses one at me. Catching it, I let out a sigh.
“Still hanging around my neck of course. They barely let me stay for the summer. I had to beg them! I’m still pissed at them for following me to New York. What kind of parents follow their daughter to college? Anyways, how’s business going?” I take a sip as Chris frowns.
“Slow. Very slow. I’m worried about Gravity Records, Dakota. We might have to close down soon if I don’t gain any customers. And it doesn't help with my mom being sick. I might have to fly out to her in Florida soon if she doesn't get any better.”
“I’m so sorry. If you need me, I’m here. I can help you out, okay? Oh I have a question!”
“Go for it,” Chris utters as he changes the record on his record player.
“I heard this intriguing song while I was walking here. It’s called Down by Jason Walker. Do you have it by any chance?” Chris smiles as he moves to his desk.
“You know what to do, go look for it,” Chris jokingly says as the store phone rings.
“Thanks for help,” I whisper as I stroll down the aisle labeled under J. Digging through albums, the familiarity of being back leaves me breathless with excitement.
“Hey man!” Chris yells across the store.
“You ready to go?” A husky voice states. Finally founding a album called Jason Walker, I flip it to the back. My eyes land on song number four.
“Excuse me?” What the...Noticing the same voice, I rotate around. Dark heavy gray eyes stare back at me. I note the smell of alcohol emitting from his breath. Looming over me, he grins.
“That album...is a piece of bullshit. Don’t waste your time,” He snickers as he runs his tan fingers through scruffy dark brown hair.
Stunned, words forcefully fly out of my mouth. “Who do you think you are telling me that? Your insulting a passionate artist with talented music. These songs inspire-”
“We are going to be late. Come on let’s go! Oh I see you two have met. Dakota, this Shawn Pearson. And Shawn, this is Dakota Reese,” Chris exclaims as he starts to lock up the store.
“Pleasure to meet you,” Shawn whispers, dripping with sarcasm. He abruptly pushes past me, forcing me to drop the album. Fury runs through me as I bend down to pick it up. All of the sudden, I feel a strong force slap my butt. Appalled, I look over my shoulder to find Shawn delivering another grin. Embarrassment clouds my cheeks as fury engulfs my mind.
“Nice ass,” Shawn Pearson whispers with a snicker.
“Don’t you dare touch me!” Shawn’s black t-shirt hugs his chest as he snatches his black leather jacket from the front of the store. I note the lighter peaking out of his back pocket. Shawn gives me a wink and a huge grin as he strides out the door.
“I’m so sorry about him, are you okay?” Chris asks, holding open the front door of Gravity Records. Marching up to Chris, I shove the $10 in his hand. Annoyance consumes me as I leave with a frown and the album Shawn rudely criticized.
“Nope,” I reply in a whisper.
News travels fast in Wilmington. Everyone knows everyone. I’m not quite sure if that’s a commendable thing, especially when some people get in other people’s business. Most small towns are like that, but Wilmington has had it’s fair share of memories and people. After going to Gravity Records, I went back home to my parent’s summer house and grabbed my guitar for my first set since I’ve been back at Carolina Cafe. My parent’s summer house is one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever seen. The property is surrounded by resplendent oak trees and a majestic view of the water. The house is three stories, painted a beautiful creamy white, and has glass windows everywhere. I have vague memories of the house when I was a child, but my parents claim we spent most of our summers here when I was younger.
After grabbing my guitar, I slipped my headphones in, and listened to Jason Walker’s voice sing mesmerizing lyrics of the song I heard earlier. The walk to Carolina Cafe was longer then I last remembered, and it didn’t help that I forgot to bring my second pill for the day. Finally approaching Carolina Beach Road, nervousness swirls inside me. The slight sea breeze tickles my skin as the sun shines in my face. The world here looks brighter..happier. Like every problem is just bottled up and tossed into the sea. The white noise of cars streaming down suddenly transports me back into reality. The strip of stores and restaurants continue as I catch sight of the Cafe.
Carolina Cafe has been around since my Sophomore year at New Hanover High School. The owner, Clarity, opened it as a Sole Proprietorship right after she graduated high school. Clarity got the funds to start Carolina Cafe from her job at Gravity Records. The property was originally a bar. Even though her Cafe is warm and sweet, Clarity claimed to keep the bar to tame her wild side. She was the kind of girl who knew what she wanted to do, and how she would do it. She had a dream and she took it. Many people admired her because she ran the small business, and went to college and got a business major. Clarity and I happened to become best friends when I asked her for a job my Junior year. She was hilarious, trustworthy, smart, into music, and everything you would want in a best friend. What I had in mind when I applied at the Cafe was to wait some tables, and serve the drinks and food. I only waited tables for two days when Clarity caught me playing the guitar and singing in the back. She automatically fired me and rehired me as the entertainment for the cafe, which was a dream because I got to do something I loved and receive money for it. In the middle of my Senior year, an older looking man approached me after one of my sets and told me I should apply for Julliard in New York. Who knew that I would actually get accepted and leave everything behind in North Carolina, besides my parents, who followed me because of the accident.
Swallowing my nerves, my mind travels to Shawn Pearson and anger from earlier floods through me. Who does he think he is? Why would he think that he has the right to touch me and insult great music? Why is he friends with Chris?....Who even is he? Ripping out my headphones, I comprehend the soft country music playing from Carolina Cafe. Breathing a deep breath, I push open the door of the Cafe. Like Gravity Records, Carolina Cafe hasn't changed too drastically. The same periwinkle quote filled walls stare back at me. The place is still considered bigger than some of the other stores and restaurants on Carolina Beach Road. The theme of the Cafe has always reflected Catherine’s personality. The customers have the liberty to write their favorite quotes in a old book by the front door of the Cafe. Then, Clarity paints the quotes on the walls. The place has always felt safe and warm, with soft wood furniture scattered around that faces the slightly elevated stage. To the left of the stage is a huge island, that connects to kitchen. Candles and lights are positioned throughout the Cafe, and wrap around to the bar in the back. It creates a cozy atmosphere, at least that’s what Clarity claims. The candles have always made me fidgety, but she refuses to take them away..
Hands snatch around my waist, forcing me to jump. My mind drifts to Shawn and words fly out of my mouth before I can stop them.
“Get off you piece of-”
“Wow, tense much?” Clarity’s perky voice booms behind me. Relief flows through me as I drop my guitar case and turn around. Throwing my arms around Clarity, she lets out a laugh.
“Dakota hun, I’ve missed you so much,” She exclaims as her curly light brown hair skims my cheek. Releasing, her hazel eyes flash with exultation. Clarity’s freckles around her nose and eyes pop against her purple v-neck as she smiles. She seems to have gotten taller, standing at about 5’8.
“I have missed you so much too. Sorry about snapping at you, I thought you were someone else,” I mutter as I pick up my guitar case. Swerving around tables and people, I set it on the tiny stage.
“Hey Clarity, we seem to need more tables. It’s packed and we don’t have enough room,” An employee announces as she picks up dirty dishes and places them into a bin. She sends me a smile, and turns towards the kitchen.
“I’m sorry dear, can you give me a sec?” Clarity utters as she scampers off into the back of the Cafe. My head feels dizzy as I take another deep breath. Stop overreacting...Opening my old black worn out guitar case, I carefully take out my beautiful Gibson Hummingbird Quilt acoustic guitar. The bright cherry sunburst finish on the polished wood gleams, forcing my nerves to settle down. My father gave me the expensive $3,900 guitar in the beginning of the year as an acceptance present to Julliard. Playing it for the first time felt so natural to me and it became a part of me since then.
Harmonies of voices speak as I plug my guitar in the amplifier. I can feel the stares as I brush my sweaty palms on my white and red floral maxi dress. Slipping the microphone on the stand, Clarity struts out of the kitchen with an apron full of stains and her arms full of coffee. Leaving the stage, I sit down at the nearest table. My eyes fall on the taunting flame of the candle. A shudder runs through me as Clarity shoves a cup of coffee in my face.
“I’m so sorry, we are so busy tonight! Oh, I got you your usual. No worries, it’s on the house. Now tell me, how was New York? You didn't tell me very much on the phone darling!” Clarity declares as she takes a seat. The country music switches to alternative as I take a sip. The cold sugary familiar goodness fills my mouth and runs down my throat.
“New York was amazing. Julliard was great. Everything was awesome, but I felt something missing. I’m just really happy I’m back and I’m ready for a fresh start this summer,” I state as Clarity gives me a nod.
“Well everyone missed your voice around here. Business was running slow until you showed up! But how are you really? Is everything actually okay? You need to tell me the truth Dakota, I’m worried about you.”
“Everything is great. I think left Juilliard because playing music there doesn’t feel as good as playing it here. And I missed you and Chris.”
“But you have an incredible life in New York, hun. You really just need to appreciate everything you have. I know you can. But it is good to have you back....Are you sure you are okay? You seem really fidgety tonight,” Clarity whispers as she glances at my shaky hands.
“It’s not really that. Do you..uh..happen to know a guy named Shawn Pearson?” I question as I take another gulp of my mocha. Curiosity streams through me. Who is Shawn Pearson?
“Yeah, Shawn came in few times with Chris. He’s sexy! I’m digging the whole bad boy vibe from him. Hmm, why are you asking?” I feel my cheeks turn crimson as the temperature in the Cafe rises.
“Stop it Clarity! I met him today and he was really rude...I just want to know more about his background,” I exclaim, pushing past my embarrassment.
“Sorry dear, I don’t know his whole life story. I know from Chris that Shawn graduated. I believe he skipped out on the whole college experience. College doesn’t seem to suit him anyways. And I know he’s probably dated every girl in Wilmington..But how does he affect you?” Clarity questions. More people enter the doors of Carolina Cafe. The music starts to be blocked out by the constant chatter of voices.
“He slapped my butt,” I utter. Clarity’s twinkling eyes bulge as she lets out a giggle. Sometimes I feel older than my twenty three year old best friend.
“Wow, he’s a troublemaker. But it came from Shawn, so I would count that has a good thing!” Clarity murmurs as she sends me a wink.
“What? Oh look at the time, you have to go perform! And I have run my Cafe! Knock em dead!” Clarity yells as she scurries from her seat. Sighing, I wipe my hands on my dress again and make my way to the stage. Pushing my guitar over my head, I sit down on the plain tan stool. Multiple eyes turn their attention to me as the background music fades. Clarity nods and sends me an encouraging smile from the bar in the back of the Cafe. Lips hovering close to the mic, I exhale and smile back to her.
“Hi everyone. I’m Dakota Reese and I’m going to be singing a couple songs tonight. So relax, get a cup of Wilmington’s most famous coffee, and enjoy. Thanks for coming to Carolina Cafe.” I can’t believe I remembered the introduction..I ponder as I begin to strum the first chords to “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. The world starts to fade away as I close my eyes. The conversing voices melt as I open my mouth to sing.
♫ When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sun rise
Well, there’s so much they hold... ♫
The world is gone and it’s just me, my voice, and my guitar. My voice carries through the Cafe as I approach the chorus of the song. I no longer care about the flames dancing at every table, or if people are judging me, or if Shawn slapped my butt, or my parent’s warnings as I left for Wilmington. The song leaks from my arm onto my guitar. The lyrics and notes spill from my mouth. Adrenaline pumps as I sing the chorus. I feel fearless, like nothing can stop me. I can hear shouts and hollers as I belt the bridge, the last chorus, the high note, and the finale run. I open my eyes to see beaming smiles and kindness extruding from the audience. Applause erupts from the crowd, warming my heart. I push a long piece of hair out of my eyes and smile as they continue.
“Thanks so much,” I answer as I tune up some of the notes on my guitar. An even bigger crowd than before has gathered in Carolina Cafe. I notice some people standing in the back at the bar because there is not enough room. I can barely make out Clarity's face as she shouts orders in the kitchen.
“This next song I'm going to be singing is called "A Drop in the Ocean" by Ron Pope. I hope you all enjoy," I announce as place my fingers on the frets of the guitar. As I begin to play, the overwhelming feeling of sobbing floats over me. This is what I needed...This is why I came back. I pour everything I have into the lyrics. Emotions swirl inside me as I sing the song. I just learned to play the song only a month ago, but my fingers know where to go. I'm halfway through the beautiful song when I see a silhouette waving at me. Squinting, I realize it's Clarity. She mouths something that I can't make out. Striding out of the bar, she motions me to stop playing. Focusing on the end of the song, my mind wanders to what Clarity believes is so important to distract me. I end the song with quick riff. Confused hands clap as Clarity points to a table left of the stage. Her face twists with panic as I follow my eyes to where she points. Sitting at a table close to the stage is a bodacious blonde with a skimpy red c***tail dress. She lets out a flirtatious laugh as she playfully touches her date’s arm. Her date flashes me an all too familiar grin at me. The lights become too bright from where I’m sitting and my stomach twists. Shawn Pearson’s stormy eyes connect with mine and rage pulses through me.
“We are going to take a quick break. Thank you everyone from coming out to Carolina Cafe,” I say in the mic as I swing my Gibson around my back. My head pounds as I make my off the stage. Clarity pulls me into a booth before I can comprehend what is happening.
“What is Shawn doing here?” I question as Clarity wipes her hands on her apron. Pushing the flickering candle away from me, I can feel my body twitching.
“Do you mean what is Shawn doing here with a slut wrapped around his arm?” Clarity questions right back at me. A pain shoots through my body as I wince.
“I can’t go back on stage.”
“Why? Nervous in front of Shawn hun?”
“No! I don’t feel so-”
“We should find out why Shawn is here with that slut. He’s never been to my Cafe with a girl before. He’s normally with Chris in the back of the bar checking out all the women.”
“I don’t think that's such a good idea. Shouldn't you be running your cafe?”
“I got Kate taking full shift. And you are more important than working right now! Come on!” Smoothing my dress, I sigh. This is not a good idea....I want nothing to do with Shawn. Sneaking around the tables, the dim atmosphere of the Cafe seems to darken as candles leap with fire.
With Shawn’s table insight, Clarity and I lean up against the bar. Clarity whispers, “Okay, I can sit you down at the table behind them.”
“What is the point of this? Shawn is trouble. I don’t need trouble in my life right now.”
“Darling, He’s sexy trouble. I think he came here with the slut to make you jealous, Dakota.”A giggle escapes my mouth.
“I met him this morning. This is so ridiculous.”
“He keeps glancing over here. That’s it, let’s go.” Grasping a menu, she leads me to the table. I can hear the obnoxious laughter of the blonde clinging to Shawn. He is wearing the same black shirt and leather jacket he wore this morning. Putting aside my menu, I slightly look over my shoulder.
"Lindsey get me another beer," Shawn says as runs his hand through his scruffy hair.
“Well aren’t you a gentlemen,” Lindsey sarcastically exclaims as she strokes his bicep.
“Well aren’t you a whore,” Shawn snaps as he pushes her hand off his muscular arm. A laugh suddenly escapes my mouth. I clamp my mouth shut as he signals Clarity over to their table. Startled, she glances back at me and proceeds to the table.
“What do you want?” Clarity asks, grabbing the menus from the table.
“Hey sweetheart. You. Me. After work. You should come over, and skip the talking... if you know what I mean,” Shawn states to Clarity with a smirk. Shocked, Clarity glares at me. Lindsey clenches her jaw. A weird feeling settles inside me as Clarity opens her mouth to speak.
“Oh hun, looks like you've got your hands full already with that one.” She points at Lindsey with a behemothic smile. Striding away, I give Clarity a nod. Shawn rolls his eyes as he grasps a beer from another person’s table. Gulping it down, his eyes connect with me.
“What the hell Shawn! You are on a date with me remember? What bullshit are you trying to pull asking other girls to screw with you!” Lindsey shrieks as she pushes herself away from the table. Clutching her red coach purse, she slaps Shawn in the face. Turning, she struts away from the table. I gasp as buff looking twenty five year old with a blue checkered shirt approaches the scene. Oh my gosh....I think as I stand from my own table. The man punches Shawn square in the jaw. Shawn lets out a groan of pain. Staggering, his hands form into fists as he gets up from the table. Shouts occur as people gather to watch the action.
“That’s for stealing my beer,” The man chuckles as he punches Shawn in the jut, “And that’s for treating the fine little lady in red like s***.” Shawn throws a punch at the man, and strikes him in the cheek. I can hear Clarity yelling from the back.
“This will not happen in my Cafe! Take it outside!” Shawn delivers another blow to the nose. Blood erupts from the man’s face as he shoves the table forward at Shawn. Shawn gives another smirk as he dodges it. As if in slow motion, I watch the candle fall from the table and ignite the table cloth. The all too familiar feeling of heat lurches forward, and I find myself gagging. People start to flood out of the Cafe. I see Clarity out of the corner of my eye with a fire extinguisher. Dizziness engulfs my body as I grasp my guitar and search for the nearest door to exit from. I’m going to throw up...Fear trickles in my blood stream as scurry past tables. Pushing the back door open, I hear footsteps flooding out the building. Breathe Dakota...Breathe! Suddenly, something rams into me, forcing me to collide with the street. My skin rubs against the asphalt. My body starts to shake as I wrap my hands around my legs. Panting, I can hear someone cursing under their breath.
“Are you okay?” Lifting my head, Shawn’s charcoal eyes come into focus. He flashes a smile as he brushes his bloody knuckles on his jeans.
“What’s the deal with you?” Shawn questions, crouching next to me. The movement causes the lighter peeking out of his back pocket to tumble on the asphalt. Pain stabs at my heart, stealing oxygen from my lungs.
“Get that away from me!” I croak as I close squeeze my eyes shut. I need my pill.. I think to myself as the world lurches forward.
“Afraid of a little fire?” Shawn now towers over me. I try to move but my arms feel to weak to move.
“Something like that.” The sun’s rays hit my face. Sweat drips down my back as shivers crawl down my spine. Glancing up at Shawn, I notice his split lip gushing out blood on his black shirt. He doesn’t seem to care though as he continues to lock his eyes with mine. My stomach twists, knocking the wind out of me. Breaking the eye contact, Shawn snickers. The stupid grin on his face frustrates me. A blotchy red mark on the left side of his cheek stands out against the tan of his skin.
“What are you doing?” I spit the question at him; my voice sounding harsher than expected.
“Admiring the view."
“Don’t talk to me like that.” Shawn laughs again as I grasp my guitar case resting beside me. I manage to pull myself up, but my knees give in. The ground lurches forward in slow motion. Strong hands clutch my waist, preventing myself from falling.
“Could you be any more clumsier?” Shawn shoots back at me. What the hell... I try to wiggle out of his grasp, but he keeps his hands planted on my waist. Breathing in deeply, my knuckles turn white against the red of my dress. I try to protest, but words refuse to come out of my mouth.
“I will let you go if you pay me back,” Shawn whispers in my ear.
“What do you want from me?” I can feel his hot breath against my neck.
“You owe me for wasting my time here, when I could be doing way better things.”
“I owe you nothing. It’s not my fault that you’re jackass. It’s your own fault for-”
“I’m glad you noticed babe. Pick you up at seven for dinner. Make sure you are cleaned up and looking way better than you are right now.”
“No. There is no way-”
“See you then,” Shawn huskily exclaims as he releases me. My stomach feels queasy as Shawn slips on his dark sunglasses. He strides away from me and around the corner of Carolina Cafe. The back of his messed up hair fades away, and he doesn't look back. I can hear Clarity exclaiming the fire is out. The growing noise of cars and chatter buzz around me. Opening my guitar case, I untangle my headphones and place them in my ear. A splitting headache forms inside my brain as I can still feel Shawn’s touch lingering on my skin.
“Did Shawn just ask you out?!?” Looking over my shoulder, Clarity stands at the back entrance of Carolina Cafe. Fire extinguisher in hand, Clarity squeals.
“It’s not going to happen. Don’t remind me,” I announce as I push past her.
The sea wind feels unbelieveable on my skin against the humidity. Looking away from my intriguing horror book, I gaze out into the fulgent ocean from my back porch. The soft hum of music plays from my vintage record player. The vivid green oak trees shade me from the scorching hot sun. The sound of waves peacefully crashing against the shoreline causes the stress of not taking my pill, the fire at Carolina Cafe, and Shawn to melt away.
Clarity offered me a ride back at Carolina Cafe. She could tell that I was not feeling well and even suggested that I should go to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which I declined. After dropping me off, I went straight up to my pastel green room and grabbed my purse. Shoving the pill in my mouth, I could feel relief already coursing through me. Next, I strode to my closet and picked out dark blue athletic shorts and a white sports bra. Pulling my long straight hair into a messy bun, I picked up the horror novel resting on my bed. Heading down the white staircase, I put a record on the record player and opened the glass back door onto the deck. I sat down on the white loveseat overlooking the captivating water. Diving into my book, the cares of the world slipped away.
Time flies, and before I know it, the sun paints a resplendent sunset reflecting on the water. Setting my book down, I close my eyes and listen to the leaves dancing in the wind, the water kissing the shore, the seagulls squawking, and the music lightly playing in the background. A ringing sound disrupts me, and I snap my eyes open. I let the phone continue to ring as I get up from the loveseat and go towards the coffee table in my kitchen. The ringing stops, and my mother’s voice booms from the answering machine.
“Hello, you have reached the Reese’s. We can’t get to the phone, but we are delighted that you called. So leave a message and we will make sure to get back to you as soon as possible. Have a fantastic day!” Sighing, at my mother’s perky voice, I recognize the number as the phone reads it back.
“Hey Dakota! Shawn passed by the Cafe ten minutes ago asking for your address. I gave it to him of course! I believe he’s going to be good for you hun. You really need to start opening yourself up to other people. You can’t be alone forever. So go have fun!” Anger bubbles inside me as I slip out the glass door. I plop myself back down on the white loveseat as the breeze forces hairs to jump out of my bun. How could Clarity give him my address? She knows that I dislike him...I don’t want him to know where I live! I don’t want to go! I open my book and try to read, but my mind wanders elsewhere. Discomfort settles through me, knowing that I’m going to have encounter Shawn the third time today. Glancing up, the array of colors in the sky catch my attention.
“Nice view.” How did he get into my house? Turning away from the scenery, Shawn looks down at me from where I am sitting. His white t-shirt forces his eyes to pop. I catch no sight of the lighter in his back pocket of his dark jeans. In his left hand is a fancy black bag. Shawn adverts his eyes from my face to my chest and I can feel my cheeks burning with embarrassment. Crossing my arms over my exposed stomach, Shawn smirks as he steps closer.
“Is this your definition of being ready for dinner? Cause if it is, screw dinner. I’d rather screw you...”
“You bastard! Get out of my house! I’m not going with you.” Getting up from my seat, I push past him. I stomp through the glass doors as the music seems to be getting louder. Shawn follows behind me and I can practically feel his eyes examining my butt. Striding through the kitchen, I try to make my way to the staircase to reach my bedroom but Shawn wraps his arms around my waist, pulling me back.
“You have three seconds to get your hands off of me,” I command, but his grip only tightens. I can feel his bicep brushing against my skin. Shivers run down my back, even though the room is full of heat.
“Or what?” Shawn laughs and spins me around so our faces are inches apart. His hand skims my thigh, only to place the black bag into my hand.
“I’m not going with you.” His grey eyes stare into mine as he releases me.
“You really think I’m a bad guy huh?” Eyes still locked, it was my turn to laugh.
“Well I have told you before...”
“I will prove it to you that I’m not.”
“You are already failing,” I whisper as he shakes his head.
“Am not. And well, if you are smart enough to go with me..I will leave you alone after I show you that I’m not a bastard.” I start to consider the offer, but then I shake my head in confusion. What am I doing?
“We had a deal, remember? Now go get ready.”
“No, I’m not-”
“Go. You’ve got ten minutes,” He exclaims as he gives me a shove.
“I wouldn’t recommend waiting to see..” Shawn mutters as I make my way up the staircase. I can’t do this..I can’t go with a complete stranger...But if I go, he said he would leave me alone...Pushing the door open to my bedroom, I twist the lock and set the black bag on my white and green polka dotted bed. I’m scared to see what is inside as I carefully take out the white tissue paper. I first grasp a rough small piece of paper. Opening it, I’m greeted with Shawn’s scribbled handwriting.
Put this on. Thank me later.
Tossing the note aside, I can feel soft fabric. Pulling it out, I lay it out on my bed. Wow...I think as I examine the dress. It’s black with a sweetheart neckline. From the tight waist, the fabric flares out. A small black bow takes up the back of the dress, forcing me to expose some skin. Shaking my head in awe, I pull out gold platform high heels with matching gold hoop earrings. Lastly, my fingers connect with a tube of bright red lipstick. I can hear Shawn’s footsteps as I change out of my shorts and sports bra. I quickly pull on a black strapless bra and slip the ravishing dress on. As I take my hair out of my bun, Shawn’s voice trails from downstairs.
“You really need to get better music.” Swiping on mascara and the lipstick, I grunt.
“I do not!” I rapidly apply concealer on my multiple freckles, which leads me to wondering why I’m even trying to look good for Shawn.
“It’s a collection of trash. Got any Eminem?” Shawn yells as I tug on the heels and put on the earrings.
“No! Rap sucks, it’s not music.” Ugh he listens to rap..of course.
“It is music! And it’s way better than your alternative crap.” Taking one last look at myself, I admit I look pretty good. I snatch my black purse and spray some perfume, which leads me wondering, again, why I’m trying to even look good, much less smell good. Unlocking the lock, Shawn is perched at the bottom of the stairs.
“Wow you look beautiful.” Did he just complement me? Puzzled, words refuse to come out of my mouth. What do I say?
“Uh thanks?” I mutter as I descend from the stairs. Smooth Dakota...I think to myself as Shawn chuckles. His smile displays his pearly white teeth and the tiniest dimples by his cheek. The wide smile is a change from his tense gaze, or frequent smirk. My heels echo on the marble floor as Shawn guides me to the door.
“Let’s just get this over with quickly because I have things I need to do,” I lie as he opens my white front door.
“Of course. After all, reading is such a priority,” Shawn states with heavy sarcasm. The heat hits my face, followed by wind as Shawn leads me down the stone path to the driveway. Parked in the driveway is a black Jeep. He places his hand on my back as he guides me to the passenger seat. I wait for him to open the door for me, but he only smirks.
“You are fully capable of opening the door sweetheart,” He adds as his touch disappears. Sighing in disgust, Shawn strides to the drivers side as I grasp the silver handle. Pulling myself into the jeep, I'm greeted with the scent of smoke lingering around the car's interior. Shawn grips the wheel as I notice how everything in his car is neatly organized and placed in a certain spot. In the backseat, a mountain of CDs are placed in a bin. The engine roars to life as we pull out of the driveway.
"I didn't know you smoke," I state with annoyance. The scent forces my head to ache. Shawn looks over at me with pure amusement.
"There is a lot of things you don't know about me. Whether or not I smoke is something that you can't conclude about..to me or to anyone."
"Fair enough." Turning my body slightly away from him, his comment throws me off guard. I can hear Shawn fumbling with the CDs as he grasps one, and slips the CD in. The booming sound of rap blares through the speakers, causing my head to pound.
"So where are we going?" I shout over the loud thumping of the track.
"Je t'aime. It's a French restaurant on the border of Wilmington," Shawn responds, clenching his jaw. His eyes are unreadable under his black aviators.
“How did you come across the restaurant?” I ask, trying to keep the conversation going.
“I don’t know..Can you just stop talking? I’m trying to listen to this song,” Shawn snaps as he makes a sharp left onto a road surrounded by a forest of trees. Gosh...I open my mouth to defend myself but I decide against it. We sit the rest of the car ride with unspoken words and with the obnoxious lyrics and melody of Shawn’s music. The sky’s colors fade into dark indigo blue, revealing scattered stars on the horizon. The Jeep takes a sharp left and I catch sight of a small brick building stringed with light bulbs. The rap music ceases, but I refuse to make an eye contact with Shawn. He perfectly parks his back Jeep and tips out the keys.
“After you,” Shawn states with a lack of emotion. Confusion ripples inside me as I step out of the car. Shawn lightly presses his hand onto my back, guiding me towards the door. The summer breeze feels amazing against Shawn's warm skin. This was such a bad idea...Pushing the door open, French music trickles through the speakers. The atmosphere is dark with lights strung around the interior. A huge mural of the Eiffel Tower in black and white spreads around the walls. The tables are lined with white cloth, red napkins, and a black lamp hanging from the ceiling.
“Table for two?” The hostess exclaims with a genuine smile.
“Yes please,” I answer as she gathers some menus.
“Let me just say, you look stunning dear,” She says to me as she guides us to a nearby table.
“Oh thanks-” I start to say but Shawn interrupts.
“I would have to agree. Easily the most beautiful girl here,” Shawn adds as we take our seats. I can feel my cheeks burn as Shawn’s lips form into a playful smile.
“Welcome to Je t’aime. Can I start you off with some drinks?” The hostess asks as I gaze at the Paris themed menu.
“I would like a glass of your finest wine,” Shawn mutters. His soft gray eyes study me and I force myself to look away because my heart starts to beat faster than before. S***...
“And for you?”
“Oh uh water please,” I respond as Shawn’s lips form into a grin.
“Just to let you know, the special today is Shrimp Fra Diavolo. The Italian the word, “Diavoli” means devil which represents the crushed red pepper and garlic that lays over the fresh cooked shrimp. There is also a side of buttered noodles and steamed asparagus,” The hostess chirps as Shawn hands her the menu.
“That sounds delicious. I’ll have that.”
“Same,” I add as I hand her my menu.
“Sounds good. Your drinks and food will be ready shortly.” Good.. I think to myself as the hostess heads off into the kitchen. Sighing, I place my napkin on my lap and wait for a sarcastic comment from Shawn, but he doesn’t speak. The loud silence between us starts to become uncomfortable. Shawn stares blankly behind me as I clear my throat.
“So how long have you lived in Wilmington?” Shawn clenches his jaw and continues to look away from me.
“Alright..um do you have any family here?” I try again, but he only shakes his head.
“Not that you need to know of. But enough about me, Chris told me you used to live here? What happened?”
“I moved to New York because of college,” I mumble as Shawn laughs.
“Why New York?”
“Because I go to Juilliard...you wouldn’t understand.”
“Every musician's dream, if I’m correct.” How would he know that? Puzzled, Shawn interrupts my thoughts. “What brings you back to North Carolina?”
“I don’t know...” The aroma of pasta fills the air as the hostess serves our food. Digging my fork into the pasta, Shawn takes a long sip of his expensive wine.
“So how did you meet Chris?” I ask as the taste of tomato sauce explodes in my mouth.
“I’ve known Chris for a while, actually. Childhood friends. How do you know him?”
“I used to work at Gravity Records.”
“Of course you did,” Shawn mutters with a smile.
“Why are you so driven by music?” Shawn asks sincerely, which throws me off guard yet again. Annoyed at his constant changing personality, I snap.
“Because I am, okay! Why the heck do you care?” Shawn looks down at his plate. He opens his mouth to speak but is cut off by a noisy vibrating sound. Grateful for the interruption, Shawn pulls his phone out of his pocket.
“I have to take this.” Excusing himself from the table, he strides towards the exit. A weight lifts off my chest as his figure disappears. Taking a sip of my water, I start to eat more of the flavorful pasta. The soft hum of violins forces time to slow. Waitresses pass, and my full plate of food is now gone. Straightening my dress, I can feel the eyes watching me. Twenty minutes pass, and I am left with a sick feeling my stomach. The waitress slowly approaches my table and hands me the check without a word. My head forcefully pounds as frustration courses through my body. He stood me up….I think to myself as I stare at the expensive check left in my possession. Tears start to form as I dig through my purse and place the only leftover money I had saved from the gig at Carolina Cafe. Skimming down to the tip, I see Shawn’s familiar handwriting.
I’m not a decent guy.
Pushing myself up from the table, I make it out the door before tears spill down my cheeks. I inhale the crisp air as I dial Clarity’s number. Pressing my phone to my cheek, the displeasure of Shawn winning this little game of ours makes me want to gag.
“How’s the date going?!” Clarity shouts as I let out a sigh.
“He stood me up,” I whisper.
“Oh, darling I’m so sorry…” Clarity states with hesitation, “I’m coming to pick you up right now.”
“Don’t be sorry. People always disappoint,” I mutter as the ache of anger pinches at my heart. I was too naive to believe that Shawn was something better than he actually was….
The steamy air forces sweat to trickle down my neck. Armed with a frigid cup of Carolina Cafe coffee, the liquid feels incredible against the sweltering sun. Even in shorts and an aqua blue v-neck, the heat causes the little energy I had to melt away. Passing the stores on Carolina Beach Road, I plop my pill in my mouth as I open the worn black door of Gravity Records.
It’s been a week since I’ve last seen Shawn. He keeps appearing in my thoughts, and the feeling of abandonment and irritation quickly follows. His sudden disappearance keeps fooling with my mind, and his ignorance of leaving me alone at a restaurant without a way of transportation home sends rage in my veins.
“Dakota!” Chris exclaims, pulling me away from my ongoing annoyance of Shawn Pearson. The smell of dust and music overwhelms my lungs as I make my way past the shelves of music towards the back of the store. Heavy alternative blasts through the speakers. Chris is leaning over his desk, his face twisted with panic. His grey t-shirt and beanie force his bloodshot eyes to pop from his big glasses. Rubbing his stubble, he motions me to come over.
“Are you okay?” I ask as I make my way to his cluttered desk. Piles of new shipment are scattered everywhere. Splitting the records, he hands a pile to me.
“I need your help. My mom is very sick and not doing well at all. My flight leaves for Florida in an hour, and I need someone to take care of Gravity Records while I’m gone. You are one of the only people I trust to take care of the place. I promise I will pay you when I get back,” Chris exclaims as he starts to put the records in their homes. Following behind him, I make my way through the maze of music.
“Of course I’ll watch over the store. It’s the least I can do,” I answer as I push music into the shelves. Startled, strong arms wrap around me. Giggling, I bury my face into his shirt.
“I owe you one,” Chris mutters. As he lets go of me, I finish putting the last of the records into the shelves. Sitting on the blood red couch, Chris hands me an emergency contact sheet with his number and an unknown number.
“Whose number is below yours?” Chris lets out a chuckle.
“You didn’t think I’d leave you all alone to manage the store by yourself, did you?”
“I’ve worked here for years. I’m fully capable of-” Suddenly, Shawn Pearson casually strolls through the overused door. His smoky eyes connect with mine.
“Well hello there sweetheart.” Smirking, he strides past the couch towards Chris’ desk.
“Looks like we are going to be working together,” Shawn adds. My heart sinks in my chest as Shawn strips off his leather jacket, revealing an unknown band t-shirt. This whole situation is torture, laughing at me..mocking me.
“I have to get going, I’ll check in with you guys later. Keep the store safe!” Shawn grabs Chris’ luggage and carries it through the pathway of music. The shirt hugging his back catches my attention. His muscles working to lift the heavy weighing suitcase forces my heart to beat a little faster.
“Take a picture, It’ll last longer,” Chris whispers as he gives me a quick hug. Heat rushes to my cheeks as he lets go and waves goodbye, exiting the ugly black chipped painted door. Sluggishly moving behind the checkout counter, I’m greeted with a smirk followed by a piercing gaze.
“If you are looking for an apology about last week, I’m not going to give you one.” Shawn swiftly moves behind the counter and places his hand on my waist. My skin tingles at his touch. His breath is hot against the back of my ear. His hand inches around my waist as my breath is stolen from my body.
“I wouldn’t accept your apology anyways,” I grunt, squeezing my eyes shut. Chuckling, Shawn’s touch disappears. My head spins. My heart stops. My eyes snap open. He reaches for the pile of used CDs resting in front of me. I can picture his grin as he snatches the CDs.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” He whispers into my ear. Breaking away from me, he starts to put the CDs into place. Catching my breath that Shawn stole, I can hear the annoying chime of the door opening. A middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair quickly approaches the desk, his green eyes wide with urgency.
“My seventeen year old stepson’s birthday is today and he is big into music. I have no idea what he listens to, but my wife said that this would be the place to go to get him a present. What do you recommend?” The man fixes his black tie as he sets his briefcase on the dusty floor. He definitely doesn’t have a clue about today's latest music….I conclude as I nod in reassurance.
“Well rock alternative is a genre that has taken the music industry by storm that many teenagers are into. He may also be interested in pop, jazz, country, rap, blues, and so much more. To narrow it down, may I ask his interests?” I ask as I stride around the checkout desk. The man scratches his stubble as he follows me down the aisles of music.
“He’s kind of quiet, and doesn’t play sports. He likes video games and isn’t doing that well in school. He likes skateboarding...Excuse me for saying this, but how does this help? I-”
“Rebel teenage phase?” I ask, and the man hesitantly nods. “Rock alternative is the way to go..bands like Green Day, the Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, you can’t go wrong with any of them. I will just grab-”
“Excuse me sir, but I couldn’t help but overhear your dilemma,” Shawn smirks as he hands the man a pile of cds, “I was once a seventeen year old boy who, at the time, was going through the same situation your stepson is in. I would suggest, after having experience, that he would be interested in some rap albums. Ya know, artists like Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Drake, Kanye West, 50 cent, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg. If you buy five of the albums, I’ll even thrown the last two in for free. Whaddya say?”
“Well that sounds-”
“I don’t rap is the right genre that your stepson would be listening too. I guarantee that it’s alternative rock. I have a couple albums in mind that I can go grab-”
“The albums in your hand are the ones that your stepson will like. Rap in one of the biggest genre’s in music, and every guy listens to it. You can trust me when I say that your money will be well spent. If you just follow me, we can check you out and-”
“No, you’re incorrect. I’m absolutely certain that rock alternative is what he listens too. He’s predictable and his rebel stage often turns to rock alternative music. It’s just a fact!”
“No one is predictable, especially what music they listen too. But I’m damn right to claim he listens to rap because I’ve been there! Now quit pointlessly arguing, because this kind man wants to buy the rap albums. Am I right?” The man’s gaze switches from Shawn, to me, and back to Shawn again.
“Yes, I’ll buy those five albums with the two free,” He exclaims as he follow Shawn to the cash register. Defeat settles in my stomach as the man pays and nods to me as he hurriedly glides out the store. From behind the register, Shawn begins to move towards me. His ashy eyes stare directly into mine.
“You tried,” Shawn snickers and starts to close the distance between us. Gently placing his large hands around my face, he presses his lips to mine softly. My head spins, and I have a sudden lack of air. Breaking away from the kiss, the hunger in his striking eyes forces desire of my very own. Pushing me into a shelf of music, he runs his hands through my long hair and forcefully presses his lips to mine. My hand rests on his bicep as the pace of the kiss quickens. Wrapping my other arm around his neck, his warm lips against mine influences my heart to beat vigorously.
“You’re a jerk,” I manage to whisper as his mouth moves expeditiously to my neck.
“So I’m told,” Shawn answers as goosebumps form from where his mouth touches my skin. His lips discover mine again, and a fiery sensation engulfs my body. Dizziness clouds my thoughts. Pleasure invades mind. Confusion suddenly ruptures the thrill of Shawn’s smile against my lips. I break the kiss before his hands start to roam, and stare intently into his frisky eyes.
“You have no idea what you are getting yourself into.”
“Not knowing is half the fun,” Shawn mumbles huskily. He kisses my cheek, and the little breath I had escapes from me.
“I can’t do this.” My thoughts jumble. My mind screams at me to kiss him. My heart whispers to stop. Shawn extends his arm against the shelf of music, blocking me in. His band t-shirt raises, forcing him to expose his tan skin.
“I can.” Studying his skin, I notice the all too familiar splotches of red trailing around his torso. Squinting, A pang of agony shoots through my body, and the vexatious memory tugs me from my consciousness.
My vision flickers as the heat lurches forward. The booming crackling vibrates my skull. Silent tears spill down my cheeks. Weakly dragging myself towards the window, each pull washes a new wave of dizziness over me. I faintly hear shattering glass. Shards rain down from the black clouds of smoke as I cover my face with my arms. The heat from the flames behind me is excruciating. Straining my neck, I can make out the daunting flames eating my bed. Fying pieces of debris float around my room. A shadow suddenly looms over me. A piece of smoldering debris ignites the bottom of my tank top and searing pain numbs my body - I am on fire. Pressure wraps around me, and I feel the sensation of being lifted. Strong arms cradle me. I try to scream in warning, but no sound comes out of my parched lips. The cloth of the figure’s shirt catches ablaze. The heat of the flames against my skin produces paralyzing agony. The figure curses as they gain immense speed, dousing some of the flames that yank us closer to death. Jumping through the cracked window, we land with a thud on the nicely mowed grass. The figure rolls my lifeless body on the grass, extinguishing all flames. My breath is knocked out of me, and I can’t seem to form any thoughts or feelings. I can’t feel my body. My vision begins to flicker once more. The last thing I see is a pair of wild ashy eyes as I slip into unconsciousness.
“Dakota!” I find myself lying on the stone cold floor. Shawn arm’s are protectively wrapped around me. Tremors tingle up and down my arms and legs. My cheeks are damp and my body feels weak.
“Damn it Dakota! What the f--k just happened! We need to get you to a hospital! I-” The concern on his face frightens me as his words seem to slip away. The realization dawns over me, and I’m left gagging at the thought. I can’t believe I didn’t connect this sooner….
“I have to go,” I murmur, pushing myself out of his arms. Regaining my balance, I break for the door.
“S***! Are you okay?! You can’t just get up and leave after that! Get the f--k back here!” Shawn barks, but I’m already out the door. The humidity punches the wind out of me as I pass down the stores on Carolina Beach Road. Turning left, I can make out the sound of Shawn’s motorcycle roaring to life. My feet move automatically down the pier, and the overpowering scent of salt burns my throat. Time seems to stop as I jog for what seems like hours. I can picture the wreckage in my mind as I slow down my pace due to my lack of breath. The state of Wilmington didn’t want to clear the damage of the accident because of the cost of rebuilding my old house, and because of of it being secluded by a forest of trees. The ocean fades from my view as I enter the familiar dirt road. I haven’t been here since the fire...I ponder. The clattering of Shawn’s motorcycle dies, and I hear footsteps chasing after me. Ignoring them, I pass through the vivid trees. I expect to see the big yellow house holding all my childhood memories, but the damage in front of me is appalling. A sooty frame of the house is barely standing, which is surprising since the fire happened five years ago. All around the wreckage is pieces of debris and singed wood. The grass is dead; so different than the bright green meadows surrounding the house. Shuffling through the charred door, I sit on the dirty soil. My heart hurts, and tears drip down my flushed cheeks. Shawn’s silhouette approaches as my thoughts twist. Peering up, Shawn’s dark brown hair sticks to his sweat covered forehead. His expression is one that I’ve never seen before - pure and utter shock. He kneels next to me, and more tears flood down my face.
“It w...was you, wasn't i..it?” I choke out. Shawn stares into fiercely into nothingness.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I know you do. It was you…You s..saved me that night.” His face turns pale. Rubbing his silver eyes, he sinks to the ground next to me. He remains mute as he gazes at the rubble around us.
“Just talk to me Shawn..please, “ I beg once more.
“I don’t understand...She died that night. The girl I rescued from the fire...she died..” Shawn’s gaze hardens.
“She never died...I’m-”
“Damn it Dakota! She died that night! Her parents said she died after having a seizure because of her epilepsy...” Shawn’s eyes widen and he turns to face directly towards me. He forcefully pulls me into his arms. Why would my parents lie? How did Shawn find me? How did I end up here? Multiple questions pour into my mind, but I decide to focus on the most important ones.
“Why did you save me?” Shawn’s clenches his jaw. His grip around me tightens. “What happened that night?”
“I was getting away from my dad,” Shawn’s voice quivers as he slowly exhales, “My mom died after giving birth to me. And, he blamed her death on me...not on all the drugs she was hooked on before I was born. The night of the fire he snapped at me and started beating me and I just ran away..instead of facing up to him. I was friends with Chris at the time, and he said if I ever needed to crash with him, I could...So I started walking to his house with the alcohol I stole from my dad’s big collection. I had my rap music on full volume. I was a complete mess. I lost my way to his house and I just ended up in a forest. I saw heavy smoke in the sky, but I thought it was all the alcohol I consumed messing with my mind. Suddenly the song on my phone randomly switched to a song I had never heard before, and I had this strong urge to just stop breathing. But the smoke in the sky was so noticeable and curiosity took over, and I remember stumbling through trees and just seeing this massive bright light. The fire was so big, and I was so scared. The song pumping through my ears just made me feel so weak and useless. I just wanted to feel something, compared to the emptiness and pain I was feeling. I...I ran towards the flames and could hear the loud shrieks even over my blaring music. Not having plan or an objective, I just punched the window and found you laying there. I don’t remember anything beyond that point besides carrying you out and the pleasure of the flames burning my skin...because I finally felt something,” Shawn’s arms loosen around me and he rubs his eyes, “Later at the hospital, I was told that the girl I saved died. After that, I promised myself that I would live for her..” He sucks in a breath as tears continue to flow down my cheeks.
“Shawn..I’m so sorry, I never knew-”
“Wanna know the song that played that night?” Shawn interrupts. His icy gaze cuts through my thoughts, concerns, and astonishment.
“What song was it?” I ask, but I already know the answer deep in my heart.
“Down by Jason Walker. A goddamn alternative song..” He whispers as he moves the fabric of my shirt off my shoulder. Studying the swirling red damaged skin, he presses his cracked lips to the haunting scars of the fire. The world stops, and the summer wind forces the burned debris to fly around us. His lips make their way to mine and for once, I feel complete and content with my past and my future.
Ossipee, New Hampshire
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"Nothing is impossible; the word itself says 'I'm possible'!" -Audrey Hepburn