A gust of warm, tropical wind rushed softly through my hair and fingers as I gazed up at the row of palm trees lining the walkway of the hotel. The sun had already begun to set, and the bright, vivid colors of the evening sky were slowly fading in favor of a calm violet hue. With a wearied expression, and three bags of luggage holding me down, I made my way towards the revolving glass doors, passing from scorched concrete onto cool marble tiling. My first steps onto the floor of the grand hotel lobby were met with subtle echoes from the soles of my runners, breaking the apparent silence within and rousing the attention of a single onlooker.
Making my way to the front desk, I was greeted by a very cheerful attendant, whose lively eyes and bright smile seemed fixed on my expression.
"Hello there. How may I help you?"
"Hi," I replied, taking a moment to set down my luggage against the tall counter between us. "My name is Christa, and I have a reservation for one of your rooms."
The attendant continued to smile, nodding politely. She had on a pair of rather thick reading glasses, connected by a long red string which matched the color of her frames. The torrent of the summer heat weighed heavily on her long reddish hair, and her skin seemed to glow with a light perspiration. Still, she seemed a great deal more accustomed to the sultry temperatures of the resort than I was.
"Here we are," she stated, pulling up a file on her computer. "Christa Richards: seven evenings in room 105, with a nice view of the main gardens. Sounds quite nice."
I blushed slightly, looking down at the counter.
"I hope so."
"Are you travelling alone, Miss Richards?"
I hesitated to answer, hoping to use my uncomfortable silence as a response.
"It's quite all right, of course," the attendant stated. "It's not very often that we receive reservations from guests so young... who are alone, for that matter. Are your parents going to be checking into a different room later today perhaps?"
"No," I replied, uneasily.
The attendant nodded.
"I understand, Christa. So, does this mean you'll be meeting someone else here at the resort today? I'd be happy to see if he's checked in already."
"That's okay," I answered, more than a little embarrassed. "I really am here alone. This is my first real vacation."
The attendant's smile wavered for a brief moment.
"Oh, well I'm sure someone as sweet as yourself shouldn't have any trouble meeting someone during your stay."
My slight blushing quickly filled out my cheeks in a red hue.
"Thank you, Miss..."
Reaching for the lapel of her blazer, the attendant quickly fixed her small name tag, which had been partially concealed.
"I'm Molly. Pleased to meet you."
"Hello Molly," I replied, smiling for the first time since my arrival.
"Hmm, 105," she began, tapping her fingers on the desk. "That's a single occupant room, if I'm not mistaken."
"I believe so."
"Well, I think we can do better than that," she smiled, opening up a few files on her computer. "How does two king sized beds and a nice view of the main pool area and ocean sound instead?"
I gulped, almost unable to speak.
"Is that adequate for you, Miss Richards?" she asked, happily.
"Yes, definitely, I..."
"Well, then I'll set you up in room 316 then, at no extra charge, of course. A special vacation deserves a special view to go with it."
"Thank you, Molly," I answered. "I don't really know how to thank you."
"Just promise to have a wonderful time, Christa," she grinned.
"Of course, I know I will."
Molly nodded cheerfully, standing from her seat and peering over the counter at my three bags.
"Can I get you some assistance with your luggage?"
After a short pause, I peered down at my bags and then back up at Molly, nervously.
"I'll be all right now, I think."
"Of course," Molly replied, fixing her glasses. "If there's anything you should need at all while you're here, don't hesitate to dial me here downstairs. I should be working at the front desk for the better part of your stay the next few days."
"Thank you, Molly, for everything," I smiled.
Nodding, Molly stood from her chair and quickly returned with my room key card, setting it on the countertop. With a nervous smile and a slight blush, I leaned down to retrieve my luggage, grasping the key with my partially free hand at the same time. Just before I reached the open elevator doors, I looked back to see Molly's cheerful smile as she uttered a final phrase that seemed to echo throughout the lush lobby interior.
"Welcome to Fairwater Heights, Miss Richards. Enjoy your stay."
Stepping off the elevator onto the third floor, my shoes met with a plush violet carpet, strikingly similar to the rich colors of the evening sky. A continuous string of long, blue fluorescent lighting adorned each side of the hall, both at ankle height as well as just below the ceiling. Other than that, the hallway was rather dim, mimicking the beauty of the outdoors with various tropical plants placed strategically in open corners. If there hadn't been two small exit signs and a few soda machines on either end of the hallway, it could have almost been mistaken for a jungle path. The sweltering heat of the early evening accentuated the hall's resemblance to a genuine rainforest.
Sighing, I made my way down the darkened hallway, stopping in front of room 316 and dropping all three pieces of my luggage onto the floor with a loud thud. Then, as I reached into the back pocket of my jeans for the key, I let my other hand pass through my tangled, brunette curls. After only a few hours in tropical temperatures, it was clear my hair was already crying out for a mercy, which I knew my half empty bottle of conditioner was neither willing nor able to provide.
With a quick wipe of my wet palm down the side of my jeans, I set the small card key into the electronic lock, not entirely sure how it was supposed to work. Sure enough, a quiet click sounded in my ears as the small light near the slot flashed green, unlocking the door instantly. As the door inched open, my jaw nearly dropped to the floor as I caught my first glimpse of the room's indescribable beauty.
Peering inside, my eyes widened as I stared at the meticulous layout, dropping my key onto the carpet with a silent gasp. Inside, two king sized beds rested side by side before a huge television set; and in the far corner, a clear glass table was set with tropical flowers and two unopened room service menus. Finally, at the far end of the room, drapes of long, silken material flowed back and forth in the warm breeze of the open window, which showcased the most incredible view I had ever seen. Just beyond the railing of the small balcony, the vast waves of the ocean were mounted by the light of the setting sun as it sat on the horizon, partially hidden by the clouds and mirrored across the radiant surface of the sea.
Stumbling inside, I set my three bags on the nearest bed and turned back towards the window, still captivated by the sparkling waves and deep violet sky. At that moment, I knew that all the money spent on my trip was well worth it, whether or not my parents had the time or inclination to spend it with me.
Taking one final lingering moment over the breathtaking view, I turned back towards the second bed and sat down, running my fingers across the smooth, lavender sheets as I watched the sun's light fade over the calm ocean horizon. Within moments of resting my head on the pillows, I drifted away into a comfortable sleep. This was the beginning of my first night.
It was just passing midnight by the time I rose from the soft sheets of my bed, roused back to consciousness by the nearby rustling of palm trees and the sound of water splashing outside. Curious, I made my way over to the window, stepping onto the small balcony and peering over the edge of the railing. Just below, at the base of the hotel, a large pool was lit up by bright blue lighting and filled with a great number of people. Along the sides, various chairs and tables were occupied with conversing guests and other night people out to experience the tropical atmosphere.
Looking back up towards the horizon, I noticed the yellow reflection of the sun across the waters had been replaced by the delicate glow of a full moon. The air outside had become slightly cooler, but the lingering heat of the resort could still be felt in the fresh breeze. Taking a deep breath, I turned back towards the other bed and opened up one of my bags, laying out a more appropriate outfit for the famed night life of Fairwater Heights.
Slowly, I slid out of the wrinkled pair of jeans I had been wearing and made my way to the bathroom for a quick shower. Soon afterwards, I trudged back into the bedroom with wet feet, digging into my bags for a suitable outfit in the humid evening weather. After a quick process of elimination, I settled with a nice pair of dark blue soccer shorts and a white tank top. Then, after dressing, I made my way back into the bathroom for one final attempt at making my hair seem at least presentable. Within ten minutes, I gave up altogether.
Finally, pulling off my socks and settling into a new pair of beach sandals, I made one final look out the window before turning towards the door and grabbing the key from my bed.
"This is my life," I whispered to myself, softly. "And I'm here to live it."
Outside, the night air seemed more intense than the winds I had felt from my room's balcony; and without interior air conditioning to combat the heat, the temperature seemed to double instantly.
I stayed near the pool for the first few minutes, sitting alone at a table as a crowd of guests continued to yell and laugh above the splashing sounds of the water. I lowered my head, resting my cheek on my folded arms as I listened in to the voices, hoping to hear the muses of a few cheerful couples and their families. Instead, I found myself listening to the sounds of the water and the light breeze of the wind against the hotel.
Sighing, I looked up from the table, watching as the waves made their gentle approach to the shores in the distance; free from the noise and bustle of the hotel, and peaceful under the glimmering light of a midnight sky.
After a quick breath of fervent air, I stood from the table and made my way past the pool side area towards the white sands of the beach.
Once there, I began to walk along the shore, through ankle deep waters and the rhythmic movement of the tide as it passed between my legs. A calm smile filled my expression as I stared out across the horizon, at peace for the first time in years. Closing my eyes, I lifted my nose towards the sky, taking in the soft scent of the ocean as it hung in the tempered air. Then, with another deep sigh ready to escape my lips, my exhalation quickly became a surprised yelp as my feet struck a small obstruction in my path.
"Ouch!" came a soft voice.
Hitting the sand with a thud and a small splash, my eyes darted away from the ocean sky towards the cause of my fall, which happened to be a living person. Quickly, I brought myself up to my knees and turned towards the figure, my face flushed with a red hue.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there, and..."
"It's okay," came the reply, as she began wiping the sand from her clothes. "I guess I do blend in with the sand a little bit."
Fumbling with my words, I looked up from the beach to see a bright smile and a cheerful expression looking back at me. I let out a sigh of relief just as our eyes made contact for the first time.
At first, I gazed and I gazed, somewhat blankly, searching for some kind of motive or intention behind her inherent kindness. I felt anxious, and even a little afraid, but the more I stared, the more I became lost in the pristine beauty of her simple, innocent expression. She easily had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen.
"I... I'm Christa," I stated, lost in a less than subtle stare, "and I have a reservation."
I quickly slapped myself on the forehead, cursing myself under my breath and pulling my eyes away momentarily. My reaction was met with a very soft giggle; one that brought even more color to my already flushed cheeks.
"Well, hello, Christa," she grinned, happily. "I'm Allison. I have a reservation, too, I guess."
Looking up from between my fingers, I watched as Allison sat peacefully with her hands folded together in her lap, as if completely oblivious to my clumsy remark. Still blushing, I slowly let my hands fall back to my sides before flashing a terribly forced smile. Before long I found myself lost in a second endless glance; this one even longer than the first.
Allison's eyes were a bright shade of blue; the same blue that covered the vast surface of the oceans, and filled with the same elegance and beauty. She was about my age, and our appearances seemed strikingly similar, right down to our clothing even. The only major differences between us seemed to be the color of our soccer shorts and the pallid tone of her skin, which actually did blend quite flawlessly with the white sand. By far, however, the most distinguishing feature of her appearance was her hair, or rather lack of it. Allison's head was completely shaved, with only small tips of dark hair protruding from her scalp, along with a pair of tinted swimming goggles, which rested just above her eyebrows.
"Hhh... hello," I managed to let out, my eyes still locked on her features.
There was a short pause before Allison tilted her head to one side, instantly causing mine to tilt as well in a clumsy reflex action. My eyes continued to shift back and forth between her eyes and scalp as she smiled cheerfully, unfazed by my direct and downright rude staring.
"Do you like it?" she asked, softly. "I know it's a little much, but..."
Allison had a gentle serenity in her voice, as if she were speaking to a sleeping infant. Her words were soft and faint; just loud enough to hear.
"Do I like it?" I repeated, clumsily. "Do I like what? I mean... oh, your hair, of course. You know, I didn't even notice it until you just mentioned it just now, really. It's beautiful though."
Giggling, Allison folded her hands back together, staring into my eyes.
"Thank you, Christa," she smiled.
Swallowing my embarrassment, I moved from my knees into a sitting position upon the sand, crossing my legs and trying to ignore the small waves of the tide as they splashed against my shorts.
"Are you on vacation too, Allison?" I asked, regaining my composure.
Still smiling, Allison nodded and let one of her hands press into the wet sand.
"Mmm hmm. This is my first visit to Fairwater Heights."
"Mine too," I stated, sharing her smile. "Are you here with family?"
There was a long pause, as Allison seemed to contemplate her answer. After a few moments, she lifted her head and gazed back into my eyes.
"No. This is my first vacation on my own."
"Mine too," I replied, softly.
"Well, that's two things we have in common, I guess."
Still smiling, I moved myself across the wet sand, coming to a stop directly beside Allison's delicate figure as she watched me, silently. Our closeness seemed to bring a slightly blush to her cheeks as she pulled her hand from the moist sand and set it at the back of her neck.
"I'm nineteen, how about you?"
"Nineteen," Allison nodded, happily.
"See, now there's three things we have in common already. Umm... I'm an only child, you?"
"Yes, that's four," she stated.
"And finally we're... both glad that our parents didn't tag along for the trip, so that we can enjoy ourselves without them on our backs the whole time, yes?"
Allison started to nod once more, only this time her head remained lowered. Just as I was about to ask her if anything was wrong, she quickly raised her head up and gazed back at me.
"Mmm hmm," she pronounced, softly. "That's five things in common."
We both smiled, gazing back out at the ocean and the tranquil moonlight. Our breathing quickly fell into a calm rhythm with the tide as we found ourselves staring up at the stars.
"I think there would be more than four," I said, quietly, "if we really tried..."
"I think so, too," Allison whispered, resting her elbows on her knees.
"Except for the hair," I added, jokingly. "I think we can safely say we don't share that feature in common."
We both exchanged small laughs, as Allison leaned back up and rested a hand on her forehead, running it over her scalp as if there were full locks of hair sifting through her fingers.
"So," I began, finally gaining control over my laughter, "why are you out here on the beach at this hour, Allison?"
Calmly, she peered out across the ocean, and then back at me, placing one hand at the back of her neck once more.
"I came out to watch the sunset by the pool, but it got a little noisy for me so I came out here to the beach. Now I'm just stargazing, I guess."
"Oh," I pronounced, noticing my gaze locked on her bright blue eyes once more. Within seconds, my short glance quickly transformed into a prolonged stare, causing Allison to lower her eyes and turn partially red in the cheeks.
"What is it, Christa? Am I that ugly?"
"Huh?" I gasped, shaking myself out of my small trance. "No, no, of course not. I think you're beautiful, Allison, and I was just..."
"Really?" she replied, lifting her head back up. "You think I'm beautiful?"
I nodded, smiling.
"Yes, your eyes especially. There's just something about them... they remind me of the ocean, at night."
Grinning, Allison blinked her eyes a few times, just as we were both splashed with a slightly larger wave than usual along the shore.
"Maybe we should move back a bit," Allison stated, through squinted eyes.
I coughed out a mouthful of water.
Smiling, we slid ourselves backwards along the sand, moving just out of reach of the larger waves and coming to rest in a spot that still managed to let the tide hit our feet.
"I think you're beautiful too, Christa," Allison said softly, huddling up a bit in her now drenched clothes.
We both continued to smile, almost oblivious to the face that we were staring deeply into each others' eyes. The beach quickly became silent, but it wasn't an awkward silence somehow. Around us, the quiet waves of the ocean continued to pass between us both, splashing at our feet and near our drenched clothes as the soft rustle of palm trees nearby seemed to lull us both into a tranquil rapport. Nearly five minutes had passed by the time I broke away from our stare, which I somehow knew could have lasted forever. I almost wanted it to.
"When did first cut your hair, Allison?" I asked, breaking the long silence for a moment.
She paused, taking a deep breath while searching with her expression.
"I don't know," she replied, softly. "I've had my hair like this for as long as I can remember."
"I sometimes wish I had a different head of hair. Mine is so boring."
Allison looked up, smiling cheerfully.
"I like your hair, Christa. It's how I would wear mine if I had it long enough."
"Mmm hmm. I guess you don't really notice how much better you look with hair, until you don't have any."
Allison lowered her head, trailing with her voice. After a few seconds, I managed to smile as I spoke once more.
"I think you look nice the way you are, Allison. It shows that you're willing to be yourself, and not who others want you to be."
I noticed a slight blush on her cheeks upon my words.
"Thank you, Christa," she whispered.
There was another pause before our eyes met again with a mutual smile.
"I was wondering, what does it... feel like?"
"I suppose your head seems a bit lighter," she began, "and you can feel the wind a bit more against your skin. I don't know, I don't really have anything to compare it to."
"Oh," I pronounced, "I'm sorry for asking you all of these questions, Allison. It must be uncomfortable for you, and..."
"It's all right," she smiled, "I like it when people talk to me, about anything. Though I have to admit, I don't have too many conversations about my head."
"Oh, right," I sounded, nervously.
Smiling, Allison brought herself closer to me, resting her shoulder against mine.
"It's nice to have someone to be with, though. It's better than having to be alone, I think."
"I... I think so too," I answered, nodding softly.
Allison continued to grin, peering upwards towards the stars with a peaceful expression.
"Do you know any constellations, Christa?" she asked.
I tilted my head backwards, gazing up as well.
"Not really," I replied, almost ashamed.
Allison lifted one hand from the beach and pointed towards the sky, smiling.
"Aquila, Aquarius, Capricornus, Delphinus," she began, shifting her finger slightly with each word. "The eagle, the water bearer, the goat, and the dolphin. See, Christa?"
I squinted my eyes, trying to make any sense of the jumble of lights in the heavens.
"Ummm, no, not really," I uttered, anxiously.
"Part of it is your imagination, I guess. I just like to stare at the stars sometimes, and dream that I'm somewhere else."
"Somewhere besides here?" I asked.
"Actually, somewhere exactly like here," she smiled. "You can't see the stars very well where I used to live, but they're beautiful here, don't you think, Christa?"
"I... guess I never really thought about it, but they are beautiful," I replied.
"Maybe it takes a secluded place like this for us to really appreciate the things we have in life," Allison said, lowering her gaze back down to the water.
"Maybe," I answered, not really sure what to say.
Allison began to blush as she returned her hand to the back of her neck.
"Or maybe I'm just rambling on and you're too nice to tell me."
I started to nod, quickly shaking it off as our eyes locked together once more.
"I mean, no, sorry. I meant to say I... agree with you, Allison, entirely."
"Thanks, Christa," she pronounced, cheerfully.
We both smiled at each other again, looked back out towards the sea as a warm breeze passed overhead. I inhaled deeply, taking in the night with a great breath and letting it out in a tranquil sigh. I felt happier somehow, at Allison's side, and it made every moment on the beach seem even more soothing and peaceful.
"Where are you staying, Allison?" I whispered, finally building up the courage to speak.
"At the hotel," she replied. "I'm in 207, I think. What about you, Christa?"
"316," I stated. "So we're not that far apart from each other then. That's nice."
"In that case, would you like to walk back with me? It is getting a little late."
"Okay," I pronounced, smiling.
Slowly, we both came to our feet, wiping the wet sand from our shorts and turning back towards the direction I had come in. My old footprints were still visible along the beach, nearly washed away by the tide but still distinct in the white sand. With a graceful stride, Allison continued to smile as she walked at my side, every so often looking up at me from the sand and back down again.
"I like your white braids, Christa," she said quietly, still pacing along the beach.
With a slight blush, my eyes gazed up towards my forehead for a moment, then back down at Allison as we walked.
"Thanks," I grinned. "You know, I actually have a whole bunch of these braids. Maybe I could let you borrow..."
Before I could finish my sentence, I quickly remembered how useful, or rather useless my braids would actually be in Allison's possession. I continued to blush as she smiled back brightly.
"Well, I suppose that's one of the drawbacks of my hair," she mused. "I can't exactly style it any differently. What you see is pretty much what you get."
"On the other hand, you probably don't have to spend so much time brushing or conditioning," I added. "And, for that matter, you wouldn't have to wake up to any bad hair days."
We both laughed once more, letting ourselves come a little closer as we stepped lightly along the sand, gradually approaching the Fairwater Heights hotel in the distance.
"That's true," Allison smiled, "and I don't have to spend much on hair cuts either. I still get mixed reactions from people though."
"It is different," I replied, softly. "But that's what I love about it."
Allison lowered her head, leaning in my direction and holding her hands behind her back.
"Would you like to touch it?"
I caught her huge smile out of the corner of my eye.
"No, I couldn't..."
"Oh, come on," she giggled. "Just touch it."
Slowly, I lifted my arm, resting my fingers on the back of her head, just behind her ears and overtop the strap to her swim goggles. As I slowly moved my hand up her scalp, each tiny tip of hair brushed against my palm, as if they were small bristles, soft and gentle against my fingers. The feeling sent tingles down my spine, and I couldn't help but giggle back.
"It feels nice... It's so smooth and even."
Waiting for me to let go, Allison raised her head and narrowed her eyes, cheerfully.
"You're welcome," I sounded quietly, bringing my hand back down to my side.
The first gust of cool wind I had felt since arriving at the resort passed between us both as we finally reached the entrance to the hotel, stepping through the sliding doors. The outdoor area near the pool had emptied, and the lobby area was silent, except for the small sound of rummaging from behind the front desk by a familiar attendant.
Stepping into the elevator, Allison turned and peered at herself in the mirror along the back wall as I pressed the buttons for floors two and three. With a rather loud sniffle, she quickly turned her back towards me for a moment, holding the back of her hand at her nose. As soon as we reached the second floor, she turned back, with an almost startled look on her face.
"What room are you staying in again, Christa?" she quickly asked, nervously.
"Room 316," I replied.
"Maybe... maybe you could stop by my room tomorrow morning, and we'll have breakfast together, or something."
"All right," I nodded, "what time though?"
"How about seven? That should give us both enough time to get ready up for the day, don't you think?"
"Okay, seven sounds good," I nodded, just as the elevator door began to open. "I'll see you then, Allison."
Slowly stepping out of the elevator, Allison turned back towards me and flashed her radiant smile.
"Allie," she said softly. "That's what I used to be called... what I liked to be called."
"Okay," I said, quietly.
"Good night, Christa," she whispered, tilting her head to one side as she had done earlier, and gazing at me with her bright blue eyes one last time.
We both exchanged smiles until the elevator door finally closed, separating us for the night. Once back in my room, I made my way towards the balcony with a lively stride, passing through the silk curtains to catch one final glimpse of the endless stars, and the deep blue waters of the ocean before I found a place on the bed.
"Good night, Allie," I pronounced silently, resting my head on the pillow.
Regardless of my words, I was far too excited to sleep.
Hours passed, and I rose to the sound of a fresh morning breeze and the soothing rhythm of the tide outside my open window. It was just after six, and the sun still sat on the other side of the hotel, casting a large shadow of the building out across the sands and water. Standing from the bed, I noticed a few guests already on the beach outside, enjoying the temporary shade and the clear waters along the shore.
With a yawn and a subsequent breath of air to blow a few wayward strands of hair out of my face, I made my way towards the bathroom for a quick shower and a change of clothes.
After a twenty minute rush back and forth between my bags, which were still on the unused bed, and the bathroom counter, I finally made it out into the hallway, reasonably presentable for the morning.
My hair was in shambles, bearing more resemblance to a worn out mop than a lush head of curls. My legs and feet still felt as if they were covered in grains of sand, even though I had showered, and my eyes were still blurry from my slight lack of sleep. All of my subtle irritations were overshadowed, however, by the sense of excitement and anticipation I felt at the thought of seeing Allie again.
Stepping onto the carpet of the hallway, I looked down towards the elevator, noticing the soft rays of sunlight shining into the building from a small window nearby. As with the night, the hotel seemed to change for the morning, now resembling a warm, tropical morning rather than a dark, humid evening. As I made my way towards the elevator, the doors opened and a cart full of breakfast slid out, followed by a smiling attendant who seemed to be delivering some early room service to the floor guests.
I stood up against the wall, letting the cart pass just as the wonderful smell of the food caught my attention. I inhaled deeply, recognizing some of the menu even without having to see it. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, and even a few other delicious entrees I couldn't quite put my finger on. As soon as the cart rolled out of sight I began to feel hungry myself, quickly making my way into the elevator and pressing the button for the second floor.
Moments later, as I stepped off the elevator onto the second floor, I came upon the door to room 207, leaning forward slightly in the hopes that Allie's movements could be heard inside. Seconds passed, and I heard nothing. I looked down at my wrist, smirking as I peered where my watch would have been if I had one. Then, after a few moments of waiting, I finally built up the courage to knock on the door, listening in a second time for any sign of movement. Sure enough, after a deep breath, the quiet sound of footsteps gradually approached the door from the other side, and the door began to open.
"Good morning, Christa," came Allie's soft voice, just as quiet and calm as it had been the night before.
"Hi," I pronounced, looking down first at her attire, then back up at her expression.
Allie was dressed in a bleached yellow bathrobe, and a fresh set of wet footprints could be seen on the carpet just behind her. She had obviously just stepped out of the shower. Her head was still dripping with water, and the enchanting scent of a fruit based shampoo seemed to fill the air around the doorway.
"I'm sorry I'm late," she said, scratching the back of her head.
"That's all right, it's still a bit early," I smiled.
Allie stood back from the door, holding it open.
"Umm, would you like to come in, Christa?"
There was a pause as I peered inside and wondered if I'd be imposing by entering.
"Okay," I pronounced.
Nodding, I stepped past Allie as she closed the door and turned back towards me, her eyes bright and cheerful as always.
"I just need to get dressed, so..."
"Oh... I'll umm, wait on the balcony," I blushed.
"Okay," Allie nodded.
Making my way across the room, I looked towards the beds to find both already made. Allie's single bag of luggage rested near the table in the corner of the room, otherwise leaving the room completely spotless, and without any need of maid service.
Turning back towards the window, I made my way out onto the small balcony, looking out at the horizon and up at the outer wall of the hotel just as Allie began to rustle through her suitcase at my back. After a few seconds, the sound of her bathrobe falling to the carpet echoed in my ears as I looked upwards to see if I could find the balcony to my own room. Soon, the soft sound of Allie's voice caught my attention as she began to hum the ethereal melody of a song I knew I had heard once before. As her song continued, the sound seemed to return to me, and I found myself humming under my breath, in dulcet harmony with Allie's verse.
By the time I realized my humming had become loud enough to hear, Allie was already fully dressed and standing just at my back, smiling happily. Quickly, I turned and faced her, unable to hide my blushing.
"You have a wonderful voice, Christa," she said, cheerfully.
"Oh, thank you, Allie," I replied. "I haven't heard that song in a long time, and it just came back to me."
Allie stepped forward and took her place beside me on the balcony, peering out across the water with her beautiful eyes and taking in a deep breath of fresh air.
"I can still remember the first time I heard it."
"Really?" I asked.
Allie nodded, happily.
"I've always believed that there are some things in life that touch us so deeply, we'll never forget them. Don't you think, Christa?"
I swallowed loudly, speechless for a moment.
"Umm, yes, I totally agree with you there, I guess."
"Either that or I just played it on my piano so much back home it got stuck in my head. It's still my favorite."
"You play the piano?" I asked.
"I used to, I guess," she nodded. "I taught myself to play, but that was a long time ago. I'm not sure if I'm good at it anymore."
"I'll bet you're still great at it, Allie. I've always wanted to learn, myself."
Slowly, she turned away from the ocean and looked up into my eyes, blushing slightly.
"Maybe I could teach you sometime, Christa, if you'd like."
"I'd love that," I replied, softly.
Allie then lowered her eyes for a moment, waiting for a brief moment before taking hold of my hand and gazing back up at me, happily.
"So, where do you think we should go for breakfast, Christa?"
I peered down at our hands as they remained locked together, and then back up at Allie.
"I'm not sure," I replied.
"I remember noticing a nice, little outdoor cafe not far from where we met last night. It's right along the beach. Maybe we could go there."
"Sounds great," I stated.
Maintaining her grip on my hand, Allie stepped back through the window and off the balcony, gently pulling me along with her. As soon as we were out the door, her outstretched hand met with mine once more. We held hands as we made our way downstairs and out of the hotel.
A few minutes later, we found ourselves still walking along the ocean shore towards the cafe, in what was practically the same path we had taken back to the hotel the night before. The sun continued to rise, resting on the horizon opposite the sea, and casting our long shadows across the calm waves. As we walked, Allie's smile never wavered for an instant, and her stride gradually changed from a calm, dulcet pace into a cheerful skip along the sands.
Soon, we came upon a small oasis of rocks and trees along the beach, connected to a gravel road coming from the hotel. As we drew closer, we came across a small sign hung amidst the palm trees, which read 'Fairwater Cafe'. The sign itself was surrounded by fluorescent, which was still bright in the morning sun, and nearly every tree around the oasis seemed to be set with snuffed torches. I was surprised we had missed it the night before.
"We're here," I stated, letting out a light sigh.
With our hands still locked together, we made our way towards the entrance of the cafe, which could be seen as a small break in the waist high fence surrounding the oasis. Once inside, we walked up to a small desk at the front, catching our first glimpse of the cafe interior.
The ground was still covered in sand, with a few planks of wood at the base of a small kitchen hut in the center of the oasis, and a salad bar just off to the side. The trickle of a small fountain could be heard on the other side of the cafe, cast in shadow by the bamboo roofing, and the ocean could be seen through the surrounding palm trees, which encircled the entire hut. It was beautiful, and Allie and I seemed to have the place all to ourselves.
After a few more seconds of admiring the view, we made our way towards the fountain and sat down at a table along the edge of the cafe, next to the fencing. Within a few moments, a nearby waitress made her way out from the kitchen hut towards our table, stopping with a friendly smile on her face and a notepad in hand.
"Good morning," she said. "I didn't expect to be getting any customers just yet. Sorry about the wait."
"That's okay," I said, "we just got here anyway."
The waitress nodded, handing us each a small menu.
"Well, as soon as you're ready to order, just give me a holler. Can I start you off with some drinks, perhaps?"
"Allie?" I asked, looking up into her eyes.
"Do you have tomato juice?" she inquired, politely.
"Pretty sure we do," the waitress smiled. "Would you like some?"
"Please," Allie nodded.
"I'll have a coffee," I added, peeking at the back of the menu.
"Cream and sugar?"
"Lots," I replied, grinning.
The waitress stepped back, giving us both a quick wink.
"I'll be right back with that then, girls."
As the waitress turned back towards the hut, I gently opened up my menu and began browsing, looking up every few seconds to see Allie's eyes peering at me with a wonderful and all too familiar expression. I gazed back, this time feeling something different from all the other times. I felt more alive; as if every cell in my body had been struck by lightning, stimulating every nerve of anticipation, and anxiety all at once. Beneath the table, I felt my legs begin to tremble as a soft breeze penetrated the oasis and blew a few strands of hair into my face, but leaving Allie completely flawless as always.
As she opened her mouth to speak, I felt my entire body tremble with excitement.
"So, Christa, what do you think of this place, this paradise?" Allie asked, in a soothing tone.
"I think it's beautiful," I stated, happily. "It's like something out of the perfect dream; somewhere to forget about all of your problems, and just start over. And I'm even more happy that I have someone like you to experience it with."
Allie raised her head, holding her hand at the back of her neck, nervously.
"Sure, I mean, what good is paradise if you don't have someone to share it with, right?"
"I guess so," Allie replied, softly.
"So, what are you going to be someday, Allie?" I asked.
"What do you mean?"
I smiled, gazing deeply into her angelic eyes.
"What do you want to be, Allie? A doctor, a musician?"
There was a pause, as if no one had ever asked her the question before. I waited for a response, watching as Allie lowered her head and looked away from me.
"I... don't know," she answered.
"You must want to do something, Allie," I smiled.
"Do you like to play any sports, maybe?"
Allie scratched her forehead, blushing.
"I like soccer and volleyball," she said. "I used to play them both."
"Why did you stop?"
"I didn't, really," she replied. "I just couldn't... well, both started getting a little too rough for me, I guess. I like to swim now, though."
"I do, too," I added.
"You can't get hurt if you've got the whole ocean to yourself," Allie sounded, quietly.
"You're right," I pronounced.
There was a short pause, as Allie peered down at the table.
"What do you want to be, Christa?"
"I want to see the world," I began, enthusiastically. "I want to climb the mountains of another continent. I want to sail across the ocean in my own ship, and I want to fall asleep under the stars of a far away land. I guess what I really want, is just want to live my life the way I want to, Allie."
"Is there even a real career like that out there, Christa?"
"I don't know," I replied, "but if there is, I hope I'm the one who finds it."
"I hope you do, too."
"Well, what about you?" I asked. "You still haven't told me what you want to do, Allie."
There was another pause, and Allie looked towards the ocean for a moment, still holding one hand at the back of her neck as she seemed to do quite often.
"I guess I'm not really sure, Christa. I don't really think about it that often. My future."
"Well, you should," I smiled, "because I'm sure that yours is bound to be full of some wonderful experiences."
"Maybe," Allie stated, managing a smile. "Maybe I'll look into the life of a traveller myself someday, if that particular career will have enough room for one more."
"I think it might," I stated, cheerfully.
We both managed a light giggle between us, just as the waitress returned with out drinks and set them on the table. As Allie lifted her drink to her lips, I did the same with my own, mimicking her movements. I didn't normally drink my coffee black, but the thought of sharing any experience with Allie was enough to make me try. As soon as we set our drinks down, I knew my next sip would definitely need some cream and sugar.
"You like tomato juice in the morning?" I asked, noticing that Allie's glass was already half empty after only one sip.
"Well, ya," she smiled, sliding her glass between her fingers. "I'm a fruit and veggie kind of girl, I guess."
"Mmm hmm. My mother was, too."
"I guess you could call me a failed vegetarian," I grinned.
Allie's smile widened as she tilted her head, returning one hand to the back of her neck.
"Maybe you can try again someday, if you want to."
"Maybe," I finally replied, taking a long sip from my sweetened coffee.
We both exchanged a peaceful glance, inhaling at the same time. The air itself seemed full of wonder, dancing with our senses and communicating the rich smells of the trees, the ocean, and even the planks of wood at the base of the cafe. I began to realize just how easy it was to lose oneself in the soothing tranquility of the resort.
"The perfect morning," Allie sounded, softly.
"What is?" I asked, raising my eyes curiously.
"Today," she smiled. "Sitting in the cool shade along the beach, with the cafe all to ourselves, and nothing but the sound of the tides in the distance. Don't you think it's perfect, Christa?"
"I've never really thought about it, I guess. There is something about this place though. Whenever I look out towards the ocean, I feel as if this is where I'm meant to be. I don't know though, it might just be the heat getting to me."
Allie smiled, setting her glass down.
"I don't think it's the heat," she said, happily. "I think I feel the same way."
"Maybe it's something they put in the food or water to make vacationers stay longer," I added, grinning.
We both looked down at our drinks and then back up, exchanging a small laugh.
"I hope not."
"Then again, if it is, I'm certainly not minding the effects so far," I giggled.
"Me neither," Allie nodded.
We continued to talk, smiling and laughing together until the sun finally rose and set itself in the sky overhead. We then ordered breakfast, and ate together. I had a bowl of oatmeal, and Allie had a fruit salad. By the time we finished eating, the cafe was nearly full, with almost every table occupied by those hungry for brunch.
When we finally rose from our seats and paid for our meal, Allie quickly made her way around the table and back at my side, this time standing closer than before. We held hands once more as we left the cafe, stepping from the cool wooden planks back onto the now searing sand of the beach. Within seconds, the full torrent of the sun began to bear down upon us, and we both realized that we were in for quite a humid afternoon.
"Well, that was nice," I said, cheerfully.
"Thanks for coming with me, Christa," Allie smiled.
"You're welcome," I replied. "Now all I need is a portable air conditioner and an expensive back massage and I'll be set for the day."
Allie looked up, widening her smile as we slowly made our way towards the ocean.
"Christa?" she began, looking up at me.
"What are you doing today?"
"I don't know," I replied. "I haven't really thought about it."
There was a short pause, as Allie seemed to build up the courage to continue speaking.
"Would you like to go somewhere... with me?" she asked, softly.
"I don't know, really. On an adventure, I guess."
"Is it far?" I asked, wondering if she meant somewhere a few minutes away, or somewhere beyond the resort.
"No, wait, it doesn't matter," I added, wishing I hadn't asked the question.
"It would take a while to get there," Allie continued.
"I'll go, Allie. I'd love to go somewhere with you."
"Really?" she asked.
"Sure," I said, happily. "That's why we're here, isn't it? To experience new things."
Allie nodded, stopping in her tracks along the sand, just out of the tide's reach.
"Thank you, Christa. I'm so glad I have you with me."
Slowly, I watched as Allie stepped forward, nervous at first but finally calming as she looked up into my eyes. We gazed at each other, smiling, and met with our first hug, which seemed to last forever. Allie's scalp brushed gently against my cheek, causing my smile to widen as I felt her body against mine. She seemed calm outwardly, but the strong rhythm of her heartbeat against my chest spoke otherwise. It was pounding, fast as a hummingbird's, as if she had just finished running a marathon, and yet her breath was paced and tranquil. I began to wonder if she still felt nervous being with me.
When we finally parted, Allie returned to my side, taking hold of my hand once more, and placing her other palm at her chest. Her smile seemed to overshadow any discomfort.
"So, where are we going?" I asked, a little uneasy.
"Well, I'd like to go back to our rooms before we go, to get a few things for the journey."
"The journey?" I asked, quickly imagining the distance normally associated with the word.
"You'll see, Christa," she said, happily. "You'll see."
Allie continued to smile, holding my hand tightly. As I looked down upon her, the sun's light seemed to shine down upon her face and scalp, brightening her loving expression as we walked together across the quiet morning shore.
Setting foot once again on the second floor of the hotel, we made our way down the hallway towards Allie's room, already beginning to feel the approaching heat of the afternoon even with the floor's air conditioning. Once inside the room, I made my way towards the balcony as Allie opened up one of the neatly set drawers and pulled out a hiking backpack. I stopped in my tracks, looking directly into her eyes with a confused look.
"A hiking backpack?" I asked.
"It's only so I can bring a few things. You won't need one, Christa."
"I don't have one," I replied, frowning.
Allie paused for a moment, scratching her forehead.
"Oh... well, I'm sure we'll be able to fit all of our stuff in this one bag."
"What exactly do I need to bring, Allie?"
"Well, I was hoping we might stay... just for one night. We'll come back the next morning, of course."
I continued to frown as Allie's face turned slightly red.
"Are we staying in a different hotel or something?" I asked, unable to grasp the concept she seemed to be getting at.
Allie's face turned completely red, and for a moment it looked as if she was ready to call off the journey because of my questioning. Before she could finish her sentence, I quickly stepped in, managing an adventurous smile.
"It's okay, Allie, I know what you mean. I suppose we'll need some food and water; that sort of thing, right?"
"Ya, I think so. I've got some water bottles with me but..."
"Maybe we can stop off at little shop down in the lobby and pick up some food for the trip, hmm?"
"Okay," Allie smiled, turning back towards the backpack.
After a change of clothes, and a quick trip back to my room for a few things, Allie and I made our way downstairs towards the small lobby shop. We bought some fresh fruit, a few granola bars, and one drink each. Both were tomato juice this time. With our hiking pack full, and the horizon calling, we made our way towards the hotel exit, running into a familiar face just before we passed through the sliding doors.
"Good morning there, Christa," came a cheery voice.
"Molly," I smiled, "Good morning."
She was carrying a handful of files under one arm, and her glasses seemed to catch part of the sun's reflection. Her smile widened as she noticed my companion at my side.
"Oh, and I see you've already found a friend. Hello there."
"This is Allison," I said, happily. "She's staying here at the resort as well."
Allie nodded, shyly.
"Really?" Molly puzzled. "Allison, Allison... oh yes, room 207. I knew there was one other guest staying here alone like you, Christa. It must be fate that you two young ladies met."
"Something like that," I replied, glancing over at Allie as her cheeks flushed.
"Well, enjoy your stay, girls. It's quite a lovely day out today, actually. You should head down to the beach."
"Thanks, Molly," I nodded, "but we already have plans."
"Oh?" Molly sounded, peering at the hiking pack over Allie's shoulders. The sight seemed to clue her in immediately. "Ahh, well be careful then, girls. I would recommend being back by sunset, or at least bringing an umbrella with you in that case. We might have a little bit of a drizzle soon, I hear."
"Right, thank you, Molly," I stated, turning back towards the door. "Bye."
"Good luck, girls," Molly said, waving with her free hand.
Allie and I waved back until Molly was out of sight before turning and stepping through the sliding doors of the lobby onto the sidewalk. All at once, the heat of the sun beat down upon us, making me thankful I had brought water and sunscreen. The path was set, and our journey had begun.
"Where to now, Allie? You're our guide for this trip, I guess."
"Oh, okay," she sounded, softly. "This way, I think."
With that, we were off; towards the shores of the ocean, towards the unknown. The sun became our direction, and the wind a gentle aid at our backs, as we walked together across the warm sand.
We walked for a long time, through ankle deep waters, silently and peacefully. The calm waves of the ocean seemed to provide us with a comfortable rhythm to listen to, above the sound of our breath. We held hands, and even rubbed shoulders with each step, leaning on each other for support as we crossed the flawless beaches of Fairwater Heights.
Soon, we came to a stop along the sand, near a thick brush of trees and ferns, which seemed to stick out along the beach. Letting go of my arm, Allie stepped deeper into the water and brought her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun as she gazed off towards the horizon, eyeing what looked to be a small island just off in the distance.
"That's it," Allie whispered, just loud enough to hear.
"What is it, Allie?" I asked, puzzled.
Turning back towards me, Allie pulled the hiking bag off her shoulders and set it down, holding a hand to the back of her neck.
"The island. It's where we're headed."
I squinted my eyes, scratching the side of my head.
"How are we supposed to get there?" I asked.
"We swim, silly," Allie grinned, turning back towards me.
Concealing a grimace, I gazed back towards the island, attempting to approximate the distance. It was at least a mile, but probably just over; still long enough to make even the most seasoned swimmer think twice.
"I don't... know if I can, Allie," I said, anxiously.
We stood silent for a few moments, unable to really speak, though neither of us really wanted to. After a short pause, Allie looked up with her bright blue eyes, gesturing for my hand with a gentle smile on her face.
"That's what makes life special, Christa; not knowing what happens next. Is life worth living if we can't follow our dreams?"
Allie waited for an answer I couldn't give, and after a few moments she reached out her hand, as if to help.
"Well, I guess that's for us to find out then, right?"
Finally, I managed to take Allie's hand, holding it tight and taking a deep breath before returning her smile.
"Right," I pronounced, my emotions nearly approaching the surface.
Nodding cheerfully, Allie bent down and reached into our bag, pulling out her swimming goggles.
"Well then, it's not too far to the other side," she smiled. "We'll make it, Christa... I hope."
"Oh great," I grinned, "just as you've managed to build up my confidence, now you're saying you're not sure if we'll make it. That's just great for my anxiety."
Allie scowled playfully, sticking out her tongue and sliding her swimming goggles back onto her forehead.
"Well, what can I do about that?"
I held my hand under my chin for a moment, grinning cheerfully as I peered into her eyes.
"Hmm, Maybe I could rub your head for some good luck on the way back or something. That'll get me going."
Allie tilted her head, narrowing her eyes at the same time.
"Oh, so I'm the Buddha now, am I?"
"Well, you've got the hair for it, but I think that's his belly actually," I smiled.
Allie didn't answer, and after a few moments we both went silent. Soon, her narrowed eyes changed into an almost scornful glare. Instead of correcting myself, or apologizing, I began to glare as well, mimicking the expression with an equally malicious gaze.
After almost a minute, Allie and I continued to exchange a series of contemptuous sneers for as long as we could before breaking out into laughter. We laughed, quickly finding ourselves closer together, in each others' arms, just as a humid gust of wind picked up and blew my hair back perfectly. We then stood, silent and still, with our faces only inches apart for what seemed like an eternity.
"Does this mean you'll come with me now," Allie asked softly, finally breaking the silence.
I paused, searching for an answer, never once looking away from her eyes.
"Will we be together for this journey, Allie?"
"Always," she replied.
I nodded, and Allie's smile returned, along with mine. We were ready, and with that, she slid on her swimming goggles and picked up our bag, setting it firmly over her shoulder. Then, stepping into the water, Allie took hold of my hand and gave a final squeeze before turning and diving forward into the crystal clear waters of the ocean with a small splash. Our bag seemed to float on the surface perfectly, taking the weight off her shoulders as she turned back and grinned, her eyes hidden behind her goggles.
Then, after a final deep breath, I dove in as well, feeling the warm waters soak into the remainder of my clothing as we slowly made our way towards the small island in the distance.
I had never been the best swimmer, but being at Allie's side was more than enough to keep me going, as the shores of the resort seemed to grow smaller behind us. We swam, side by side, with the summer sun high above as it shone down upon us and the gentle waves. The sky was clear, and the wind was at our backs, as if beckoning us onward towards the island, and toward each other.
Before long, our hands met underwater, locking together as we continued onward. We both smiled in silence, as if our thoughts were in harmony. I felt as if Allie and I could have swam around the world together... We could have flown.
By the time our feet met the sand near the other side, I was nearly ready to collapse from exhaustion. Before I lowered myself to the sand, I peered over at Allie just in time to see her knees beginning to buckle. Quickly, I moved myself next to her and took her hand, letting her weight fall onto my shoulders just in time. She seemed surprised at first, narrowing her eyes and still breathing heavily as I eased her down onto the dry sand. I then took my place next to her, waiting for her response. Instead, Allie lowered her head onto the sand, turning her back to me.
"We made it," I said, softly.
She nodded slightly, remaining silent. After a few more seconds, I began to feel nervous, searching for something else to say. I took a deep breath, peering out towards the ocean for a moment. I was afraid to accept it, but as I watched Allie lie motionless one the sand, I began to see that something was wrong. I wanted to believe that it was nothing, but the more I continued to lie to myself, the more I found myself realizing what I had subconsciously blocked from my mind.
Slowly, I brought myself to my knees on the sand a few inches away from Allie, almost afraid to lean in and see her expression. I watched and listened as she held her hands at her chest, struggling with her breath for a few moments and finally managing to calm herself.
"Christa?" she asked, barely above a whisper.
"Yes, are you... okay, Allie?"
Her head nodded, still rubbing up against the sand.
"I'm just tired. Very tired."
Allie then curled up, as if she was going to sleep, and I brought myself closer, feeling more nervous than usual.
"I know," I replied. "I'm tired, too.
Slowly, Allie began to turn over, finally facing me and managing a very weary smile. One side of her face was dotted with sand, and a small red stain could be seen just under one nostril. Her nose had been bleeding.
"If I fall asleep," she asked, "will you stay with me, Christa?"
"Yes, Allie, I'll stay with you."
Upon my reply, Allie's consciousness seemed to fade away, leaving her fast asleep within a few seconds following my words. Gently, I lied down next to her, holding my hands close to my heart as I felt it pounding anxiously. I didn't sleep at all.
Hours passed like days, and as I waited, not even the soothing sound of the tide seemed able to calm my nerves. I waited, until the sun began to set, and finally hid itself beyond the horizon, once again blanketing the sky in a deep violet hue. I watched, frantically aware of Allie's every movement, her every breath, as she slept. Her chest rose and fell in rhythm with the tide, but the sound of her quickened heartbeat played like a restless drum in my ears. And, though the color of the evening seemed to overshadow its severity, Allie's skin seemed more pale than before.
After a few more minutes of uncomfortable silence, I finally leaned forward and brought my hand to Allie's shoulder, feeling my eyes fill with tears for no apparent reason other than concern.
"Allie," I began, in a whisper, "are you all right?"
For a moment, Allie curled up tighter, shivering upon the sand as she seemed to wake from her sleep. Slowly, she opened her eyes, sniffling quietly and letting out a few coughs from inhaled sand.
"Christa?" she asked, softly.
Gently, I took a hold of her warm hand and held it tightly.
"Allie, I'm still here."
As soon as her vision managed to focus, Allie gazed wearily into my eyes and smiled.
"You stayed with me," she pronounced, lifting her head from the sand.
I nodded, bringing myself into a sitting position upon the beach. The low tide left the sands surrounding us dry and cool; a comforting escape from the tropical heat of the evening.
"I promised I would."
Smiling, Allie slowly pulled my hand towards her face, holding it against her cheek as she peered up at me. Then, she slowly managed to sit up on the sand next to me, wet from the tide and still weak. Her eyes slowly filled with tears as she sat silently for a few moments, before finally building up the courage to speak.
"I... dreamt that we were together, just like this, along the beach. We were walking together, holding hands, and everything was perfect."
I took in a deep breath, searching for the right words as Allie watched and waited, tears running down her cheeks. I knew something was wrong, but I found myself locking away any fears I had, in the hopes that they would disappear.
"Are you sure it was a dream?" I asked, smiling softly.
Lowering her eyes, Allie smiled back, blushing at her cheeks.
"I've only ever felt this happy in my dreams," she replied.
"Maybe this is what it means to make your dreams come true."
"Maybe," she stated.
"For both of us..."
There was a long pause, as Allie tightened her weak hold on my hand, almost ready to start crying.
"Christa, have you ever... been in love?"
I gulped, swallowing a sudden rush of anxiety as it washed over me. For a few moments I couldn't speak at all, as my mouth fumbled for the right words.
"In love?" I said, nervously.
"I guess what I mean is... how do you know if you've fallen in love with someone?"
Almost unable to speak, I looked away from Allie for a moment, choking on my emotions. When my gaze returned, Allie's eyes had become full of tears, glistening in the faint light of the ocean sky, but not yet running down her cheeks.
"I... I guess I always thought falling in love was different for everyone. It's something that, if we ever do live to experience it, will always be unique it its own way. And I believe that the only other person who can possibly understand the way it feels, is the one who loves you back."
Allie's eyes shut tightly as she allowed the first tears to course down her cheeks. I watched as her loving smile slowly returned, and her eyes slowly opened, as if she had been reborn. Allie had never looked more angelic.
"I think that's what I believe too, now," she said, softly.
Gently, I moved myself closer to her along the sand, focusing on Allie's blue eyes as they seemed to shimmer still with a few tears.
"Why did you ask me that, Allie?"
Slowly, she lowered her eyes towards the sand, waiting for a few moments before returning her gaze to me.
"I've... never had the courage to ask anyone else, Christa."
"Does this mean you..."
There was a long pause, and we both sat silent for a long time, breathing together but unable to speak. Not even our stare could spell out what we both felt, and even wished for, but it was still there. We both waited, longing for the other to speak the first words, to take the first step.
Sure enough, with my gaze still fixated on the beauty of Allie's perfect blue eyes, she took the first leap, and kissed me. Our lips met, just as gently as we held each other, and remained together as we trembled in each others' arms. The feeling was indescribable; greater than any single moment or sensation I had ever felt, and more precious than any experience I could remember. It was beyond any feeling I could put into words, and its effect on my emotions was almost immediate.
When we finally brought ourselves apart, I felt a single tear run down my cheek, as Allie lowered her head, sniffling quietly and wiping her eye. When her gaze returned to mine, I saw the same wonder in her eyes that I knew was present in mine. I felt love, for the first time. We both did.
"I... I thought you'd say no, if I asked," Allie whispered, letting a small tear roll down her face.
"But I didn't," I pronounced, softly.
"No," she said, "you didn't."
We kissed once more, this time holding each other tighter, lost in our angelic embrace as if we had been swept away by the tide. I held Allie close to me, and felt her heart pounding against my chest as it never had before. When we released each other, the words that neither of us thought we would ever hear, much less utter, were spoken, almost at the same time.
"I love you."
The shores became silent, and even the soothing rhythm of the tide seemed to fade away with the sound of our voices. All at once, I felt lighter than a feather, as if my life had changed forever.
"I love you, Christa," Allie whispered softly, holding her cheek against mine tightly. "I'm in love with you."
We embraced each other, lost in a feeling of companionship and belonging that neither of us had felt before. My heart still pounded, with fears and questions, but it somehow didn't matter. We had found paradise, along the distant shores of Fairwater Heights, together.
The sky grew darker as Allie and I walked together, hand in hand, further into the interior of the small island. Around us, the sounds of life, and the subtle whisper of the trees seemed to echo peacefully, serenading us both with nature's soft melody. It felt more like a dream than reality, but Allie's warm touch was more than enough to affirm that our feelings were real.
"How much longer until we get there, Allie?" I asked.
Slowly, she lifted her head from my shoulder, quickly remembering that she was our supposed guide.
"Oh, I'm... not sure," she replied, softly. "Hopefully not too far, Christa."
Gazing down, I watched as the deep blue oceans of Allie's eyes glimmered in the shadows of the trees. She couldn't hide her blushing any better than she could hide her smile.
"I could walk forever, as long as I'm with you," I said.
Allie lowered her eyes, widening her grin for a moment as we continued deeper into the trees. We then walked together for another few minutes before finally coming upon what appeared to be a small flowing stream amidst the trees. I felt Allie's grip on my hand tighten at the sight of the water.
"We're almost there," she whispered, almost silently.
"Almost where?" I asked.
Instead of answering, Allie took hold of my arm with her other hand as she stepped into the stream, urging us both onward. Stepping into the water myself, I let out a soft sigh, remembering the cool sensation of the waters we had swam through together. My sandals were still soaked, and the rocks at the stream's bottom pressed hard against the soles of my feet as we crossed.
As soon as we reached the other side, Allie quickly stepped out and let her body shiver for a brief moment.
"That was nice and refreshing," she said, softly.
"This water seems cooler than the ocean," I stated, stepping out next to Allie.
"This is fresh water, Christa, it's not from the ocean. I guess it's shaded from the sun during the day."
"Fresh water?" I asked, puzzled.
Allie nodded, taking a hold of both of my hands and smiling.
"This must mean we're close."
I tilted my head, looking farther upstream.
"Close to what?"
Turning, Allie took her place next to me, looking up into my eyes with a loving expression.
"Do you trust me, Christa?" she asked.
"Of course, I do, Allie," I replied. "I love you, and I trust you."
There was a short pause, as Allie's eyes filled with tears. She then held herself closer, smiling happily.
"I love you too, Christa."
"Where are we going?" I asked. "What's at the end of this stream?"
With her smile still bright, and her arm still wrapped tightly around mine, Allie looked up once more and let out a soft whisper into my ear.
We continued onward for what felt like an eternity, with only the babbling waters of the stream to guide us through the almost pitch black undergrowth of the island. Every so often, the moon seemed to peak through the treetops, lighting up our faces just enough for us to see that we were still smiling. Indeed, with Allie at my side, what initially seemed like a vast foreboding jungle had become a moonlit path to the unknown, to our paradise. After each step further, alongside the quiet stream, my anticipation seemed to grow. At the same time, I felt my head fill with questions, about the island, about our destination, and even about our newfound feelings for each other. I felt, however, that all of my queries were better left unanswered, at least until we reached the end of our journey.
When we finally did reach that end, it wasn't as incredible as I had imagined, or so I thought. Stepping backward, Allie and I looked up to see a sheer rock wall, which seemed to be spewing the stream's water out from between the rocks at the base. The wall was steep, and covered with plants and shrubs of all kinds. It was a dead end.
"What do we do now?" I asked, scratching my head.
By now, Allie seemed a little tired once more, her legs still shaking from the stream's water.
"I... I don't know, I..."
"This is a dead end, Allie. We can't go any further this way."
Allie ran a hand across her scalp, a little confused herself.
"Christa, I know we're close. I..."
"But how, Allie? How can you know we're close if you've never been here before?"
Unable to answer, Allie began to quiver softly, as if she were lost, and it seemed we truly were. She fell to her knees and held her hand at her chest, closing her eyes tightly.
"I'm sorry, Christa. I thought this place was real. I wanted to believe it was real ever since I first heard of it, but..."
Just before I opened my mouth to speak, a bright light whisked past my face, disappearing around the corner. With her eyes still shut, Allie continued to shiver on her knees, oblivious to the strange sight I had just witnessed.
"Wait," I said, in a whisper, "Did you see that?"
Allie looked up, almost frightened.
"I saw something, Allie. A light. It flew past my face, and went that way."
Turning, I pointed along the rock wall, which disappeared into the darkness a few feet away from the stream. Allie slowly came to her feet and walked over to my side, partially supporting herself on my shoulder, still shaking.
"Did you say a light?" she asked, softly.
"Yes, a small light, like it was right in front of me."
"Let's... let's follow it, Christa."
Trying not to shiver myself, I turned my head and looked down at Allie, gazing up at me with her enchanting eyes, wider than usual.
"Are you sure?"
Without answering, Allie nodded her head slowly, and turned with me towards the darkness beyond the stream. We then began to carefully feel our way along the wall, pushing through plants and tall brush until the wall seemed to disappear, causing us both to tumble onto the dirt.
"Ouch!" Allie yelled, in a familiar tone.
Slowly, we brought ourselves back up, and found that we were in almost the same exact positions we were when we had first bumped into each other along the beach. The sight seemed to wash away our fears and bring a soft smile to each of our faces.
"Deja vu," I said, happily.
"Only this time," Allie began, "I see someone who loves me, and who I love."
"You're right," I replied, softly, as we both helped each other back up.
We exchanged a small hug, managing a much needed giggle between us, as well as our third kiss. It was no less magical than our first.
Then, turning back towards what initially seemed to be the end of the wall, we saw a small hole between the large rocks, spanning from our feet to just above our waists in height. Allie was the first to kneel down, and I soon followed, looking inside to see a very faint light coming from the other side.
"Do you think it went through there, Christa? The light, I mean."
"There's only one way to find out," I answered, softly.
With that, Allie and I brought our hands to the ground and began to crawl through the small tunnel, towards the light that seemed to draw us inward. The tunnel itself seemed to echo our paced breaths, at first drowning out a strange sound as it seemed to grow louder. When we finally reached the other end, I brought myself up first and looked back, helping Allie to her feet and turning back towards the source of the sound, and perhaps the very pinnacle of paradise.
All around us, the light of a hundred stars seemed to dance around our wearied bodies, illuminating the flora of what looked to be a hidden sanctuary. In one corner, a small waterfall flowed with cool, fresh water onto the rocks of the wall, which pooled in a large waterhole covered by a cavernous rock overhang. The stream itself began from the pool, and cut the sanctuary in two with its path, leading under the rocks just off to our side, where it seemed to be continually draining out to the other side as we had seen. At our feet, the soft grass seemed to cushion our feet, relieving the tension of a day's swim and long trek through mud and dirt paths. Finally, at the center of the sanctuary, a powerful beam of moonlight shone down angelically from between the palm trees onto a small, open field of grass, just big enough for the two of us.
"Oh, Allie..." I pronounced.
"I'm home," she replied, in a whisper.
We both stepped forward, passing through a cloud of living lights, which we soon realized were fireflies. We had stumbled upon their secluded home, but it felt like so much more. It felt like a different world; a world created for, and inhabited only by two soul mates, who had found each other.
Allie reached for my hand, holding tight as the tears in her eyes glowed just as brightly as the pulsing light of the fireflies. Then, making our way towards the open grass, we watched as the lights continued to swirl around us, finally spreading throughout the entire sanctuary as we both came to our knees.
"I... don't know what to say, Allie," I whispered.
For a moment, we were both silent, lost in each others' eyes like so many times before. Like every time before, Allie's endless blue eyes glistened like the ocean, with the light of a full moon and the sparkle of a thousand fireflies dancing in her pupils. It was a stare that was so similar and yet so different than all those before it.
"You don't have to say anything," Allie replied. "Just... be with me, Christa."
Her words struck deep, and all at once, every question, every inhibition, and every fear holding my heart back seemed to fade away. We gazed at each other, longingly, like only two lovers could. In silence, we spoke to each other, realizing through our emotions what neither of us had the courage to say in words.
Holding each other tightly, I let my shoulders fall to the soft grass beneath us as our lips met with a deep kiss. Then, tilting her head back into the glow of the moonlight, Allie let out a deep sigh as my lips traced their way down her cheek to the base of her neck. Her warm skin seemed to pulse with the quickened rhythm of her heart, and soon we both found ourselves breathing together, slowly and heavily.
My mind raced, unable to focus on anything but the moment. Around us, the humid air of the island seemed to grow more intense, as beads of sweat began to form on our skin. Slowly, Allie raised herself up, resting comfortably upon my hips as her scalp glistened in the moon's soft, retreating light. I looked up, watching as the moonlight reflected from both the deep hue of her angelic eyes, and the rolling tears on her cheeks. It was that moment when I truly realized I had found paradise.
What began as a week's vacation to a tropical resort, became my rebirth into a life of love and happiness. From the look in her eyes, I knew Allie felt the same way. We both did, as we held each other, slowly disrobing until our bare skin finally glistened in the moonlight.
"Allie?" I pronounced softly.
Slowly, she lowered her head towards mine and rested it near my shoulder.
"I've... never done this before," she whispered, trembling in my arms.
"Neither have I," I replied.
"I'm not sure what to do, Christa."
I lowered my gaze, falling back into the abyss of Allie's perfect eyes.
"I guess it's something we'll both have to learn," I smiled.
"Together?" Allie asked.
"Together," I said, softly.
As we spoke, our bodies wove together, bathed in the soft beam of the moon and the fluttering light of the fireflies. Their glow became our flame, and our bodies the heat, as our skin glistened in amber radiance. We made love, as the grass below us and the trees above us swayed back and forth in the warm winds of the island. I held Allie close, taking flight upon invisible wings as we rose above the soothing sounds of the trees and the stream. We soon became as one; flying together through an endless white light that pulsed with each touch.
Voices stuttered, and limbs trembled as we both drew closer to the first climax of our arousal. Inside, I felt every cell in my body burn with the heat of ecstasy as Allie pressed herself against me, breathing heavily into my ear and moaning softly. When the moment finally came, neither of us held back. My hips jerked, and Allie rose up with her back arched as we both cried out towards the stars. It was the single most incredible feeling I had ever felt, and I shared it with my Allie.
Our moment felt like an eternity, and I never wanted it to end. When it finally did, Allie collapsed onto my chest, letting her weight blanket me as she rested her head just above my shoulder. I listened, and felt each exhalation escape her lips; passing into my ear, onto my glistening skin, and sending light shivers down the length of my neck. Even as we rested, our breathing kept its soft rhythm, melding with the sounds of the rushing waterfall as the world around us seemed to return.
We lied together, under the stars of a full moon, and amidst the light tickle of the gently swaying grass. For each minute that had passed I listened silently to the soft sighs which escaped Allie's lips, and the violent pulse of her heart against my chest. Enough time had passed, but her heartbeat hadn't slowed with her breath; it remained as it always had. I closed my eyes, and I felt Allie tremble in my arms, calm but somehow uneasy in her rest. I found myself able to smile, free from my anxieties, at least for a while.
With her trembling body close, I remained silent, and we each took one final deep breath before the night consumed us both. Reborn in each others' arms, Allie drifted away into a peaceful sleep as I listened and felt; the question still burning in my heart. I didn't sleep, and I never left Allie's side once again.
When day finally broke, I opened my eyes to see a faint glimmer of awareness in Allie's expression. Making sure not to disturb her, I managed a small smile, waiting for her reaction, if any. Sure enough, after staring blankly for a few seconds, Allie reciprocated my smile with one of her own, and I knew she was awake.
"Hi," I said, almost silently.
"Hi," she replied, just as softly.
"Did you sleep well?"
Allie nodded faintly, letting out a small yawn, and catching a few strands of my hair with her mouth in the process. We both giggled as she pulled away and cleared her throat.
"I haven't had that problem in a long time," she whispered.
"I'm sorry about that, Allie," I replied.
"It's okay, Christa. It's always okay. I like being close to you. I feel... safe."
I took in a deep breath, unable to hide my own fragility.
"I'm not very strong, Allie. I don't think I could protect you if..."
"I don't need someone to protect me," she interrupted. "All I need is someone to be with, Christa. Someone to laugh with and cry with, and someone who can understand how I feel. That's what makes me feel safe, being with you."
"Even if you're with someone who probably has trouble lifting half her bodyweight?" I asked.
"Yes," Allie pronounced, managing a faint smile.
"Well, that's a comforting thought," I stated.
Slowly rising from the grass, I reached for my clothes and began to dress as Allie sat naked, slightly curled up and watching me with her enchanting eyes. Minutes passed, and I finally slipped back into my wrinkled attire, never taking my eyes away from Allie as she watched me. Around her, the light of the sun shone on her perfect figure. Her entire body seemed to glow with life, from head to toe. Her arms and legs became bathed in a golden light, and her scalp reflected the sun's radiance even more intensely than her limbs. It was as if an angel had fallen from the heavens, and landed on the secluded shores of Fairwater Heights.
After more than a few long minutes of admiring the view, Allie raised one hand into the air, pulling me away from my blissful stupor.
"Earth to Christa," she grinned. "It's not like you haven't seen a naked girl before."
I shook myself back to reality, wishing that I had brought some instant coffee along for the journey.
"A naked bald girl, no," I replied, smiling, "at least until last night."
Acting pleasantly shocked, Allie grabbed the nearest article of clothing and threw it directly at my face, laughing.
"Then go put on a skull cap and look at yourself in the mirror," she giggled.
We both laughed as Allie rose from the grass and snatched the article of clothing away from my hands, bending down for the rest.
"I doubt it would be the same," I said.
"Well, maybe a good shave is what you need," Allie grinned.
"Maybe, someday," I smiled.
"That's my top, by the way, Christa," Allie added, taking a closer look at me.
I looked down.
"No it's not."
"Those are my shorts, too," she continued.
I looked down a second time, getting a better look at my attire. Sure enough, Allie was right. I was wearing the better part of her attire, and I hadn't even noticed.
"They fit pretty well though, you've got to admit."
"Maybe, but they're still mine," she replied.
I rested my hands on my hips, giving Allie a dirty look through my smile.
"Aren't my clothes good enough for you?"
Allie scowled back, slipping a toe underneath a piece of clothing and flicking it towards me.
"No," she smiled.
We both began to laugh as Allie stepped forward into my arms, hugging me softly and resting her head on my shoulders. After a few moments, we both raised our heads and met with a loving kiss.
"You could always stay naked, Allie," I smirked, finally severing our embrace. "I wouldn't mind."
Blushing slightly, Allie huddled closer to me, covering herself.
"I'm sure you wouldn't, Christa," she replied, grinning.
Following a few more minutes of laughing, arguing, and redressing, Allie and I both managed to get all of our discarded clothes sorted and back on. We then decided to take a small walk out of our hidden sanctuary, towards the nearest edge of the island. Once there, we both took a seat upon the sand, just outside of the tide's reach as we gazed out towards the endless horizon of the ocean.
"I don't think I've ever been this happy, Allie," I said, softly.
"Me too," she replied, reaching for my hand.
I looked down, peering at our hands as they locked together and smiling. I felt complete, but all of my happiness could not overshadow the questions I had, still yet to be answered.
"What are we going to do though, once our vacation is over, Allie?" I asked.
She looked up from the sand at me.
"What do you mean, Christa?"
"I mean, how will we see each other?"
"Oh," Allie pronounced. "I guess I've never really thought about it."
"Why? How much longer do you have here, Allie?"
She lowered her head, peering down at the sand for a few moments before returning my gaze once more.
"I... don't know, Christa."
"What do you mean, Allie? How long have you been here?"
Allie lowered her eyes once more, this time looking as if she were holding back tears. My questions seemed to be hurting her, but the more she turned away, the more I wanted to ask.
"A long time," Allie finally pronounced. "I've been here for a long time, Christa."
I paused, halting my questioning for a few moments as I watched Allie tremble nervously beside me. Only minutes after we had been laughing together, I had managed to bring us both close to an awkward silence with only a few questions about our future.
"Why can't you talk about your past, or our future together, Allie? What's wrong?"
Allie leaned closer to me, resting her head on my shoulder. Her trembling managed to slow as she took a deep breath.
"I... I love you, Christa," she said, softly, "and I wish that we could just stay like this forever."
"But I don't want to hurt you either, and that's why I know we can't."
There was a long pause, before I built up enough strength to speak again.
"Why, Allie? What could you possibly do to hurt me?"
Her voice faded, and tears began to course down her cheeks as she trembled in my arms. I felt my heart ache with fear, as Allie turned away and slid onto the grass, weeping silently.
"Allie, I'm afraid," I said, feeling my own eyes blur with tears. "When you hide from me like this, it does hurt me, and I... I don't know what I can say that will help. I know something is wrong. Why can't you tell me?"
Allie backed away, barely able to hold her gaze with mine as she spoke.
"Just promise that you won't always be sad for me, Christa. Promise me that, whatever I tell you, it won't ruin what time we have left together."
I blinked away tears, truly hoping that it would be a promise I could keep. I already knew what she was going to say; I had known it for the longest time, and the thought of it alone seemed to cast a looming shadow over the happiness we had. I began to realize just how hard I had been trying to hide the truth from myself. I still needed to hear it though. I needed to.
"I promise," I whispered.
There was one final pause, as Allie waited and breathed, her back still turned to me.
"Will you still be happy with me, Christa? Will we still be happy?"
"I'm happy, Allie, and I hope we will always be," I answered.
Gently, Allie turned back to me, raising my hand and holding it tight against her chest until the palpitations of her heart began to play against the center of my palm.
"Can you feel it?" she asked.
"Yes," I whispered, the tears coursing down my cheeks.
"I'm going to die, Christa."
Her words struck me like a dagger, instantly causing the totality of my emotions to spill outwards. I began to cry, and the sight of my unhappiness quickly brought more tears to Allie's eyes. Untold, the question had burned in my heart; but spoken, the answer nearly split it in two. The world seemed to slow to a stand still, leaving us both trapped in a moment neither of us were ready for.
"I don't... understand, Allie."
"Do you remember when we reached the island yesterday?" she asked, softly.
"You... said you were just tired," I pronounced.
"I was told before I came here. They said I... I don't have much time."
Allie's speech faded as she broke into tears, covering her face with both hands and shrugging away my attempts at holding her. Around us, the air seemed to grow cold to the touch, and even the sweltering heat of the sun couldn't stop our bodies from shivering. We cried together, as if we were connected through our emotions. I almost believed we were at that point.
"Why?" I asked, sobbing. "Why are you here then? Isn't it treatable, at a hospital, or somewhere? Can't something be done?"
I found myself mumbling, hoping and wishing for some way to take back that one minute of our lives, and to forget Allie's words and our tears. I felt helpless. I felt... alone.
"I'm sorry, Christa," she said, softly.
I reached over Allie's shoulder forcing her to turn back to me. She did, and our eyes met once more, this time blinded by tears.
"Allie," I pronounced.
"Hold me," she replied.
We quickly found each other with a tight embrace, crying onto each others' shoulders, as the paradise around us seemed to fade away, like tears into an endless sea. Allie was dying, but upon hearing her words, it began to feel more like I was, inside.
"How long do you have?" I whispered, stuttering with every word.
Allie held me closer, stifling her tears.
"I don't know, Christa. Not... very long, I don't know anymore, but..."
My voice rose above hers, loud and heartfelt.
"Please don't die, Allie. I don't want to be alone anymore."
Slowly, Allie released me and looked up into my eyes, wiping a tear from her cheek as she struggled to answer.
"I'll be okay, Christa. I'll... be okay, as long as you're with me. I don't want to be alone anymore either."
As she spoke, I watched and I listened, as I never had before. In her eyes, I saw the white sands, the midnight sky, and the calm waves of the ocean glistening along the quiet shore where we had first met, remembering how much my life had changed in just two days. I realized just how special our time together was, and why I couldn't bring myself to sleep even a second of our time away. We were living the dream I had never been able to imagine, and I wanted to be awake for every second of it.
As much as my questions had served to tarnish the happiness of our dream, there was one last thing I had to know, even if it meant destroying our paradise forever.
"Allie?" I asked, more softly than ever before. "Will you die here, with me?"
Allie lowered her eyes, and paused, searching for a response that wouldn't plunge my heart deeper into darkness. I was already prepared for the answer when she began to nod, and it took all of my strength not to break down in front of her once more.
"Christa?" she finally asked, in the same tranquil voice I had heard when we first met.
"Yes?" I pronounced.
"There's one last thing I need to know, too."
"What is it, Allie?"
"Do you still love me?"
There was one final pause; a pause that felt endless, encompassing all of the thoughts and fears that we couldn't put into words without causing us more pain, and all of the feelings we shared for each other. My answer soon followed, with no question on my mind as to what the words would be.
"Will all my heart, Allie, I love you."
As the day wore on, Allie and I remained together along the quiet shores of the island, watching the great blue sky soften into another violet evening. We held hands, and even went for a little swim along the beach with our clothes on, smiling and laughing as we once had. Paradise had returned, if only for a short time as the sadness we felt seemed to silence itself for the sake of our promise. Allie began to seem more pale in my eyes, even in the light; and as we walked, I began to notice her pace linger at times for a series of deep breaths. I wanted to believe that her liveliness hadn't changed, and that my love for her had blinded the same flaws from me earlier. I soon realized that Allie was gradually fading away, and that it wasn't just because of exhaustion.
When the sun finally set, we made our way back to our sanctuary, just in time to see the first fireflies begin their dance in the darkness. Smiling, we passed through them and made our way back towards the grass where we had slept the night before. Our indentations could still be seen, bathed in the glow of fading moonlight as a dark cloud seemed to circle the island, yet leaving the center temporarily open to light. It wouldn't last forever. Nothing lasted forever, I thought to myself.
With her head surrounded with soft light, Allie sat down and waited for me to take my place next to her before she leaned in rested her head on my shoulder.
"Today was beautiful, wasn't it, Christa?" she asked, softly.
"Yes, it was," I replied, holding back tears.
"I wish every day could have been like today. That would be my paradise."
"Mine too," I pronounced, holding her close.
Smiling, Allie raised her head up and gave me a light kiss with cool lips.
"For being with me, for loving me, and for helping me realize who I am," she replied.
"I've done all that?"
I looked down, peering at Allie's clothes... my clothes. We had given each other everything we had to wear for the day, and it seemed to fit, despite the fact that Allie was smaller than I was.
"Who were you," I asked, "before you came here, Allie?"
She smiled, lowering her head and placing a hand at the back of her neck. I realized that it wasn't just a reflex. She was rubbing her neck, as if it was sore.
"I was... alone. I was someone who wasn't appreciative of all the time we are given in life, and I was someone who didn't know what true love was. You changed all that, Christa."
I paused, finding Allie's hand and holding it tight.
"So did you," I whispered.
Allie lowered her eyes to our hands, just as a tear rolled down her cheek. I looked down as well, watching as a first drop of rain met our skin. The single drop became a few more drops, and gradually the few drops became a downpour of cool rain against our warm bodies. We gazed up, just as the moon and the stars faded away behind the growing clouds. Darkness fell, and we were still together.
After a time, Allie took in a deep breath and squeezed my hand, sniffling quietly.
"Would things have been better... if we hadn't met, Christa?"
There was a long pause.
"Never, Allie. Never ever think that."
"But you wouldn't have to cry. We wouldn't have to cry for each other, and you would still be... happy."
I took in a deep breath, holding Allie tight as I looked up towards the sky and then back down at the earth, finding the right words somehow.
"Tears don't last forever," I whispered, "but love does, if it's real."
Upon my words, we found each others' eyes once more, gazing just as we had when we first met; when the skies were clear, and when our love was still blossoming. I knew we were both crying, but our tears became lost in the falling rain. It was our last reminder that paradise could still exist, even in the shadow of uncertainty.
Finally, after our clothes and skin had been drenched from the downpour, we both stood and found shelter under the leaves of the palm trees. We were both tired, and we seemed to lie down together instinctively, holding each other close despite the state of our clothing. Allie felt cold in my arms, and her lips were blue, but she still smiled. She cried and smiled in my arms as she faded away.
"I wonder if this is what heaven feels like," she said, in her beautiful soft voice.
"I don't know, Allie," I replied, holding her tighter. "I don't know."
"I... guess I won't be able to... teach you how to play the piano, Christa. I'm sorry."
Allie's voice weakened with every word, and I felt my entire body ache with emotion.
"Don't be sorry, Allie. We'll go home together, and we'll be together forever. You'll be the best teacher, I know it."
My voice stuttered with heavy breaths as I struggled not to break down entirely. Allie remained calm, as she rested in my arms.
"Maybe... when we get back, I'll grow my hair, and I'll use some of your white braids. I like those."
"Of course, you will," I uttered, holding her head steady. "We'll both wear them, together."
Allie managed a soft smile beneath her tears.
"Will you stay with me... if I fall asleep, Christa?" Allie whispered.
"Always," I replied, tears coursing down my cheeks
Allie raised herself up, supporting herself with her own strength as we gazed into each others' eyes one last time. Then, amidst our longest stare, we came together with our one final kiss. It was the happiest moment of our lives, and I never wanted it to end. I had come to realize that nothing lasted forever, but it was my acceptance of that fact which became my greatest accomplishment. It was the last thing that Allie had taught me during our time together.
When we finally parted, Allie rested herself upon the grass, and turned towards me with a soft serenity in her expression that was finally able to set my emotions at ease. The storm around us was gone, and we were together, as one.
"You remember when we first met, Christa? How I said there are some things in life that touch us so we'll never forget them?"
"I hope this is one of those moments."
I smiled, holding Allie's body tightly against my own. I felt her heart beat with mine, finally slowing to a peaceful pace. Allie closed her eyes.
"I hope so, too," I replied, running my hand across the back of her scalp softly.
"Christa?" she asked, barely making a sound with her fading voice.
"Yes?" I whispered, holding my breath.
"I love you."
Her last words echoed in my ears, and at that moment, my heart stopped. Everything I thought, about life, and about love was changed forever, and I knew that I would never be the same. My pulse returned, and I uttered the words that finally brought us both together, forever.
"I love you, Allie. I have always loved you."
With my last gesture, I brought my head to rest and let my own voice fade as well, leaving us both at peace for the first time in our lives. Allie died in my arms, and I fell asleep for the first time since we had met. Our life together was complete, and we had found our paradise; a paradise that would last forever in my memory, and in my heart.
>From then on, Allie remained with me. Her memory became my guide, lighting my path when I stumbled in the darkness. She would be there at my side, whenever I looked out towards the ocean. She would be in my heart, whenever I felt sad or alone, smiling happily and resting her head on my shoulder. Allie would always be my best friend, and the first one I truly loved; and I knew that she would always be waiting for me. Waiting for the day when our paths would cross once more, and we would find each other in paradise. Along the distant shores of Fairwater Heights.
For my readers, who waited so patiently for me to find the right words.
"Tears don't last forever but love does, if it's real."