I hadn't noticed earlier when I had brought us into this small room hidden in the back of the beach house, but a large window made up the wall beside the bed. The moon shone brightly through the bare windows, forgetting the rain that had blasted through the night sky, and lit Avery's silhouette under the white covers.
Her black hair weaved itself like a web across my chest and the arm that I had around her pulled her closer to me. Her left hand rested by her hair and her fingers traced tiny circles on my stomach. Her breath came out even and the sound of the ocean was our lullaby.
"Avery," I whispered and she looked up on cue, her grey eyes questioning. A tiny dimple that I had barely noticed before appeared when she gave me the curious glance. "I want to tell you about my brother."
Her legs were wrapped with mine and I felt the shift of her weight as she moved even closer to me, never removing our eye contact. I used my free hand to gently rub her cheek as I prepared myself.
How could I say what I needed to say? How could I explain what happened without ruining our moment? Whatever the answers were they were all defeated by the fact that I needed to tell her. For some reason right now felt right.
"His name was Manuel," I began and I could feel her listening intently, taking in my words. "He was two years older than me when he died."
Avery tensed beside me, but the way her hand on my stomach twitched and continued its swirling of circles I knew she wanted me to continue.
"We were at the beach and one of our sand pails got taken in by the surf and I went after it. My mom had seen some weather report saying how bad the waves were that day and she had warned us against going in, or else we would be grounded." I quietly choked out a reminiscent soft laugh. "She told Manuel to watch me and make sure nothing happened to me."
Avery's warm breath on my chest fought to heat the sudden goosebumps that I always got from the memory. "When I had reached the pail I wasn't that deep in so Manuel just yelled at me from the shore warning me of how much trouble I would be in if mom knew." I inhaled deeply. "Everything would have been fine if a large wave hadn't dragged me off. I remember kicking my feet and trying to get to shore. I remember hearing panic every time I surfaced and hearing nothing every time I went under."
It had been strange knowing that so much was happening on the surface, but being unable to control my situation. I hadn't gone in the water for years after, it had been Claire who had finally gotten me to fight my fear when she needed me the most. I held Avery tight, fighting away the memory of Claire.
"It was so dark down there; so lonely. My lungs were burning and I just wanted to take a breath." I closed my eyes as the taste of suffocation dried my throat. "But then he was there and he was pulling on me, his eyes pleading for me to fight. I wasn't a big kid, but I was too much for a seven year old to handle on his own. Waves kept crashing over us and people were starting to gather after they had heard my brother's screams."
I bit my lip, remembering the feel of the hot salt water easing us into its tomb of nothingness.
"The lifeguard finally reached us, but by that time my world began to turn black. Manuel was nearby, no longer holding me reassuringly, but silently floating in the current." For years the sight of my brother, tanned and the brunet of the two, floating with small air bubbles escaping his mouth and nose haunted my nightmares. "I remember hearing my mother's screams first before opening my eyes after my throat had burned with sea water. Beside me lay Manuel."
Avery showed that she understood why I decided to end my memories there by gently brushing her lips against mine. "It wasn't your fault." She finally said and I realized that I was crying. She slowly wiped each tear away with her thumb and kissed me again.
As she moved closer to kiss me harder a sound alarmed us from somewhere in the house.
"Ave!" A man yelled into the loneliness of the house and several other sets of shuffling feet gave life to the once empty beach house. "We're home! Angie didn't really like it and made us come back, where are you?"
Avery froze beside me and I heard the footsteps before I could even move. A long shadow crossed over the bed that we occupied and there stood Avery's dad, his smile slowly disappearing from his face.