The next two days seem to just drag by. I spend most of the time trying to keep myself busy by helping collect our harvestables and catching fish from the stream. I also spend some time just sitting by the stream and staring into it quietly. It is the only bit of serenity I can get with everything that is happening. I have been thinking a lot about my parents, as well as Judy. Before I left, I had not really gotten the chance to talk to her. What if I never get the chance again?
That is not the only thing on my mind. Afterall, Michael and I are still on the rocks. He now can barely make eye contact with me. Things were really not looking good. Maybe I have actually managed to push him away from me.
Abby and Charls on the other hand, seem to be in heaven. As Janice said, Abby’s ankle happened to only be slightly sprained, so after two days of resting it, she is able to walk on it slightly. I am happy for her, for she seems to be a bit more lively now.
Janice on the other hand, is completely different. While she still talks to me, I am getting a very odd vibe from her. She suddenly feels a bit distant and now has very short answers with me. Something is definitely going on with her, and in the afternoon of our fifth day on the island, I decide to figure out just what it is.
As I enter out of our tent from an afternoon nap, I see Janice sitting at the fire pit. Off at our homemade counter that Charls and Michael had made, Michael is preparing something I suspect is for lunch.
“Afternoon Janice,” I say, taking a seat beside her.
Janice looks up at me and nods. “Afternoon. Your nap go well?”
I nod. “Yes.”
We both then remain in silence when Michael and Charls join us at the pit. Abby, however, is still inside her tent sleeping.
I snag an apple and eat it in silence and Charls recounts the work he and Michael have done so far. All the while, Michael keeps side-glancing at me from the corner of his eye. My heart seems to leap every time he does this, but I try to keep my feelings at bay.
“I really don’t know if the boat is going to work,” Charls continues, looking disappointed. “I feel like it’s going to fall apart as soon as it enters the water.”
“You should check the duffel bag again,” says Janice. “I think I might have found something in the new one that could help you.”
Charls looks intrigued. “Really?”
Janice nods. “I hope it’s strong enough to hold though.”
At this point, I am barely able to concentrate. Michael is making me nervous and guilty all at the same time and I just desperately need to get out of here.
“I-it looks like our water is finishing,” I say just then. “Janice and I should make a run to refill the containers.”
Janice looks over to me in surprise, but then shrugs. “Fine. Let’s go.”
It’s an awkward walk over to the stream, for Janice does not say a word to me. Her eyes are just glued to the ground ahead and when we reach the stream, she leans over and fills up the containers without saying a thing. Finally, I can’t take it anymore.
“Janice, is everything okay?” I ask, breaking the silence.
Janice stands up and looks at me confused. “Why do you ask?”
“You’ve been different the past couple days. Especially to me. Did I do something?”
Janice shrugs. “No.”
“Then what is it?”
Janice glances down at the ground. She is quiet for a few seconds, before she responds. “I heard the two of you talking the other day.”
That catches me off guard. “Heard me talking to who-”
“Michael. I heard you and him talking over by the tent.”
“Oh.” I guess we were not as quiet as we had hoped.
“I also heard a bit of what you two were arguing on the boat about.” Janice then looks back at me. “Did you really turn down Michael’s marriage proposal?”
So she had heard that too. That was just great. I sigh. “Janice-” I start, but she cuts me off.
“Why would you do that? I thought you loved Michael?”
My jaw drops. “What? Of course I do!”
“Then why on Earth would you turn him down? You’ve said so many times how much you want to marry him, then when the time comes, you reject him? That makes no sense!”
“It’s complicated, Janice.”
“Oh, is it now? Let me guess, because your parents are splitting up?” Janice scoffs. “What kind of lame excuse is that?”
That statement completely throws me. “Janice, what are you-”
“I would give anything for Greg to want to marry me, but he doesn’t. After all we’ve been through, he still doesn’t know if he sees a future with me.” Janice shakes her head. “And now, you’re basically doing the same thing to Michael!”
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are! He loves you more than anything, Lizzie! For goodness sake, he came all the way to Marina Beach just sort things out with you, and all you’ve done is push him away!”
Janice glares at me. “He’s a really great guy Lizzie, and if you can just throw him away like that, then maybe you don’t deserve him.”
I am totally speechless when she says this. My eyes are wide in shock and I just stare at her completely dumbfounded. The words she had just said, were echoing through my head, “Maybe you don’t deserve him…” How could she say that I didn’t deserve Michael? How could she say that to me?
Janice doesn’t seem to care about my look of shock, for she just leans down and reaches for the containers of water.
“I’m going to get these back to camp,” she says. “I’ll see you.” She then turns and walks back in the direction of the forest clearing, leaving me standing by the stream. I am still so stunned by her previous words, that it doesn’t even seem to register to me that I have just been abandoned in the woods.
I don’t know how long I stand there, but suddenly I start walking. I just walk along the forest like a zombie staggering in the night. My mind is in a fog as the words Janice said to me keep repeating,
“Maybe you don’t deserve him…Maybe you don’t deserve him…”
I didn’t deserve him. That was what she said. Janice of all people, had said that to me. Only that wasn’t what was bothering me. It was the fact that a part of me thought she was right. Michael had always been there for me and loved me. He had never shown me any indication that he would be disloyal. He and I had talked about marriage, which we had both had on our minds, and now he flown all the way out to Marina Beach to talk to me, and only because I had kept my phone off so he would not be able to reach me. Janice was right, I had been treating him terribly. I didn’t deserve him.
I finally pause, feeling my eyes fill up with tears. What was wrong with me? First, I had practically neglected my sister who I was probably never going to see again, and now I was pushing away Michael, the only person I had left. I am a complete basket case.
Reaching the Beach, I drop onto the sand. The soft and warm grainy texture feels great on my body and flowing in and out of my hand, but it does nothing for my mood. At the moment, I feel like the worst person in the world. A horrible sister and an even more horrible girlfriend. Maybe I should do Michael a favor and let him go. He could find a better girlfriend, one that wasn’t so crazy and had her feelings in order.
I then shake my head; tears filling my eyes more than before. What am I thinking?
It is then that I hear the faint sounds of footsteps behind me. Glancing to my left, I see that Michael is making his way toward me. Oh, that’s just what I need. Another person to let me know how awful I am.
“I’m glad I found you,” he says, when he finally reaches me. “Everyone back at the camp was getting worried. You’ve been gone for hours.”
I’m relieved he doesn’t seem to look angry with me. I try my best to blink back my tears. “Oh, I-I guess I just lost track of time.”
Michael looks at me quietly for a few seconds and then sits beside me. We then stare out at the ocean together in silence. I can’t lie, it feels so nice to be next to him like this.
“Liz,” he then says, “please talk to me. Tell me what’s really going on with you.”
I swallow slowly. “I don’t know what you mean-”
“You do.” Michael sighs. “I know you, Liz. You say you don’t want to marry me and that it’s because of what’s going on with your parents, but I feel like there’s more to it than that.”
I look out toward the ocean and inhale deeply. Michael is right. It is more than that, and I needed to explain. Not just so he will understand, but so that I cam understand myself.
“When I got back home, everything felt off,” I say finally. “I could totally sense it. Judy all of a sudden could barely look at me and my mom just said it was teenage hormones. I didn’t believe her, but I went along with it, even though I just knew something was wrong. Maybe I just wanted to believe everything was okay.” I then explain to Michael, my mother and father’s strange behavior, leading to her leaving the house that night.
“I thought it was weird, but I just tried to normalize it. It wasn’t until I confronted Judy about it that I even found out anything, not that that conversation even went well.”
I then tell Michael about my fight with Judy.
“She was right though,” I then say. “I was a horrible sister to her, just like the sorority girls I always hated. So focused on themselves that they forget about everyone else. I never thought I would be like them.”
I pause for a moment to catch myself from breaking down. “Anyways, I talked to my dad that next morning and he told me everything.”
I shake my head. “I couldn’t believe it. My mom had an affair. An affair! My mom of all people!” I scoff. “Then when I asked her about it, she used all the cliché excuses. Got close to someone from work, one thing led to another…you know.
“But that’s not even what got to me. It was what she said before I left. ‘“No one can predict the future. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. You’re still young, Lizzie, so it’s hard for you to understand, but sometimes, things just happen. ’”
“I guess I just started thinking, if my parents could be so in love and one of them could still end up falling for someone else, how do I know that won’t happen to us?” I bite my lip feeling tears escaping from the corners of my eyes. “Michael, you yourself said, these things happen. I don’t want us to get married and be so in love and in the end, we just end up hurting each other.”
I then blink in realization. That’s it. That’s what was stopping me from being with Michael. “If my mom can fall in love with someone else, how do I know it won’t happen to me?”
Michael, who has been surprisingly quiet all this time, finally exhales deeply. “Lizzie,” he starts, but I cut him off.
“I love you Michael and I don’t think I will ever love anyone as much as I love you. But honestly, after everything, I’m scared.”
He sighs again. “Look, I’m sorry if I was a bit harsh when talking about your parents. I guess I was kind of inflecting my parents’ marriage onto yours. They divorced a long time ago when I was still a kid, but their relationship was nothing like your parents. In fact, it was completely the opposite. So I can see why you’re so affected by what’s going on with them.” Michael then moves closer to me.
“And about us getting married, honestly, I’m kind of scared too. With everything that went down with my parents, I didn’t really have the best example to look up to, but what I know for sure Lizzie, is how much I love you. That I know, will never change.”
My heart seems to leap when he says this. I feel the tightness that has been in my chest for weeks, slowly begin to fade.
Still, I can’t help, but ask him one last thing. “But how do you know it won’t change?”
“I just do.” Michael smiles. “It’s true that we don’t always know what the future is going to be, but if we live in fear, we’ll miss out on so much more. And I don’t want to miss out on one day with you.”
I don’t know if it’s the way he said it or the sincerity in his eyes, but all my tension and anxiety seems to vanish. He then leans over and kisses me, the first time we have kissed in almost a week. I feel my whole body tingling from my lips to my toes as my heart races inside my chest. Our sweet kisses grow longer and more passionate and suddenly, something takes over me. I pull Michael closer to me and soon we are lying in the sand kissing furiously.
My hands are moving all over his back and I can feel his slowly moving up my front. It takes me back to the first time we ever got this close and how nervous I had been, but this time, I feel different. My body feels different. Instead of fear, I feel excitement. My body is quivering under Michael’s touch and when his hand slips under the fabric of my dress, a small gasp escapes my lips. My whole body is tingling and I feel an unescapable need building within me.
For a moment, I pull away from him, staring into his light blue eyes. “Michael,” I whisper, as I stroke his cheek gently; his nose softly pressing upon mine. “I love you.”
Michael smiles and kisses me, sending tingles back down my spine. “And I you, Elizabeth.” The sound of my name rolling off his tongue sends shivers through me and I pull him closer to me. I then press my lips upon the sensitive spot on his neck making him shudder slightly, as I unbutton his shirt and toss it onto the ground.
Moments later, we are both lying undressed and pressed against each other; the warmth of his bare flesh radiating me to my core. I let out a little squeal when he kisses the subtle spot on my shoulder; his hand slipping beneath the thin cloth between my thighs. At once my mind lets go of everything. All the stress, worry and fear I had been feeling for weeks just vanishes and my body finally relaxes. My breath staggers in shallow gasps and I close my eyes, grasping Michael tighter.
“Michael,” I whisper again, but I am able to say no more. Suddenly, the intimate passages I wrote of Selena and Paul, are resonating with me more than ever before.
As I lie in the sand with Michael’s lips caressing the sensitive skin of my chest and his touch sending me into overdrive, I finally feel one with myself and at peace.