I understood why he lied because, in my own selfish way, I was lying too.
There was an awkwardness between us now, like as if we both knew that we would eventually have to confess. But we weren't ready. Yet.
I thought this over the morning after the uncomfortable encounter with Claire. I'd been witness to both their bodies tensing at the sight of one another and I could feel the solidity in their embrace because it had been the same with Jacob. Whenever we had a moment it was the two of us and no one else.
"If you were here you would help me out." I whispered aloud to my dead Jacob.
We had met before the start of freshmen year. The summer had been humid and heavy with the preparations of untold summer adventures and various clouds had put us in deep shadows. He'd been fourteen then, older than me by two months, and I had never seen someone so especial. His dark hair had several cowlicks that fought for dominance over his head, soft pale skin had echoed the weather of Toronto, and dark green eyes had gazed carefully over the railway tracks to see if the Go Train West was approaching. His red Abercrombie shirt had been too long for him and his cargo shorts were sitting loosely at his shirt covered hips. I'd glimpsed him out of the corner of my eyes, not wanting him to see some strange undersized girl gawking at him.
He'd smelled of cherry blasters and fuzzy peaches, the candies that most boys our age ate and the scent of him had carried softly over to me on the warm afternoon breeze. I told myself that I was being silly because I was so young, but a part of me felt something promising from his presence. Which is why I'd approached him after breathing in heavily.
"Hi," I'd said, holding out my hand like I had seen my dad do to so many of his clients. "I'm Avery Jones."
He'd looked at me for a few moments, as if trying to place me, and after giving up he'd held his hand out in the same awkward way.
"Jacob Thrift." He'd smiled and the rest fell into place.
We'd somehow ended up in the same school and this brought our romance to a reality and we became our own environment; everything we'd ever need. He'd seen birthdays with me, and I'd kept him company on his. He'd helped me speak in class without nerves, and I'd helped him understand his math homework. I'd given myself to him, and he had protected and devoured me at the same time. If someone would have told me that love only happens when we are established in life, after problems have left their scars on us, after we've experienced some of life's biggest surprises, I would have simply given them a smile that only Jacob and I knew.
I walked down the small, cracked streets of Pueblo, the only footsteps on the solid cement were my own. The sea air made the overhanging royal palm fronds sway heavily in the above sky. A car or two passed by, usually full of tourists like myself, and the sound of nature intermingled with the sound of the ocean.
It only took me ten minutes to walk to Habana Vieja, the Rodriguez Gomez family restaurant, and I held my hand over the door handle. A sign on the door said, "Bienvenidos todos, we hope you can come in and enjoy a bit of paradise with us!" What was I going to do here? Eat some rice and be on my way?
Just as I was turning to leave, the door opened and a single bell jingled its goodbyes as a family of three children, two girls and one boy, leaped onto the sidewalk beside me. Their voices were content and the mother urged the youngest girl, Stacey, to please hold her hand. A strong breeze blew and I let it sweep away my second guesses as I pulled the heavy glass door open.
It had happened in March. School had just finished and teenagers were itching to escape the confines of high school. The one thing I never asked my parents for was a car because then the walks with Jacob would never be the same. The sky was overcast and Jacob's hair had been oddly tamed, no cowlicks that marked his inner child and his smile had been tired. His eyes had asked me silently to hold him, but I had jokingly pulled away. When we reached the lights that led to the streets where my house was located his hands had found their way around me.
He had kissed me softly and told me that we should play some of our especial games when we got to my house before my parents were home. We'd become very good. The excitement had been ever-increasing as we crossed the road while the lights were red.
"I bet you anything that tomorrow my team will beat your team in gym class." He'd joked. We were playing a mock soccer tournament in gym class for the last two weeks and our teams were up against each other the day after.
"Please, being cocky has never been your strong point, why don't you let us handle the winning prize, okay Hun?" I'd answered unhooking myself from under his arm.
"Come on baby," he'd insisted. "You know I'm good at soccer, it's in the blood!" Jacob's second cousin twice removed was a good friend of David Beckham, and according to Jacob, this cousin had been training with good old Dave way before he was famous.
"He isn't blood related though," I'd retorted, laughing. "And go faster, the light isn't going to stay on red forever!" And then I'd pushed him forward.
And a red car hadn't followed the law.
I hadn't even seen the look on his face when it hit him because I became paralyzed. With fear, with hope--with everything imaginable, anything but reality. When I had finally awaken from my trance I was being held by my crying mother. I couldn't see his green eyes anymore, or his dark rebellious hair. All I saw was a gurney with a white sheet over a lump. A dead lump.
He wasn't even eighteen.
Rosana stood at the counter that instantly met anyone walking into the restaurant and she smiled warmly at me. She asked me if I was there too see Alex and I told her that I was just there to have some Cuban lunch.
But I think she even knew that I wanted Alex to be there with me so that I could finally confide in someone. Share my guilt with someone, no matter how selfish, and fall in love again with someone that could help the pain of losing Jacob become less intense. I needed Alex to be the one to turn my painful past of Jacob into a memory that no one could ever erase.