Vivian

There's just something about you that makes you stick in my mind, no matter how hard I try to forget you, you stubbornly stay. But now I can se…

A soft knock sounds on my bedroom door.

"Come in," I call as I close the notebook.

Trace walks in, his black hair a windblown mess. A hot windblown mess. "Homework?" he asks as he sits next to me on the bed and gestures to the closed notebook in my lap.

I tuck my hair behind my ear. "Um, no, something else," I say as I put the notebook in the drawer in the mahogany nightstand by my bed.

Trace nods.

"But I'm sure you didn't come over to see if I was doing my homework," I say as I turn back to him.

He runs a hand through his hair, making it even messier. "Well, there was something I wanted to talk to you about." He sighs and looks down before slowly bringing his eyes to meet mine. "I haven't been able to get you out of my mind since I met you, and I really like you."

I blink, in shock. That's exactly how I've been with him.

Trace takes my reaction the wrong way. "I'm sorry for making this awkward, we should probably just stay friends if that's how you f…"

I quickly lean forward and briefly press my lips against his. "Yes."

"Yes?" he asks, confused.

I smile and blush. "Yes to the halfway asked question of you asking me out."

Trace grins, and for the first time, I notice a small scar that pulls the left corner of his lips up into a lopsided smile. I love that smile. He leans closer and puts one hand pressed against my hair half on my neck and the back of my head. He hesitates for a moment, then gently kisses me. His lips are soft and firm against mine. Slowly, he parts his lips and deepens the kiss. My hands go from my lap to one pressed against his chest and the other on his neck, pulling him closer. Almost reluctantly, he pulls back slowly.

I smile and look away.

Trace moves his hand from my hair and stands up. "I should probably leave, it's getting a little late."

I shake my head. "It's only ten, and tomorrow's Saturday. Stay."

He smiles and pulls me to my feet. "Let's go to the beach."

I slip my feet into the sandals by my bed. "And what are we going to do at the beach?"

Trace smiles and intertwines his fingers with mine. "You'll see."

I return his smile as he pulls me out of the apartment and down the hall to the elevator. We run across the lobby, waking the concierge at the front desk.

Trace pushes the glass door wide open and we run into the sand. The sound of the ocean waves pounding the sand sounds even more beautiful at night.

"There's a dune farther down where we can talk for awhile," Trace says.

I nod and let him lead the way down the beach. We don’t have to walk very long before we reach the dune he was talking about.

                He gently puts his hands on my hips and sets me up on top of a rock on the dune, then sits down next to me.

                “So what’d you want to talk about?” I ask, watching him out of the corner of my eye.

                “Not too sure yet,” he confesses with another slightly lopsided smile. “But I wanted to test a theory of mine.”

                “And what theory would that be?”

                “I wanted to see if the night stars are dimmer than your smile.”

                I smile and look down. “And the results are?”

                Trace reaches out and cups my chin in his hand, pulling my face so he can see my smile. “I was right, your smile outshines them.”

                I move my face out of his hand and smile, my hair falling between us.

                “I know what I want to talk about, if it’s okay with you.”

                “What?”

                “Tell me more about your past, where you came from. Why your mom lets your dad beat you like that. I want to know why your eyes are so sad,” he says softly, leaning down to look me in the eyes.

                I sigh. “It’s a really sad story that no one else has heard before. I’m not sure if I can even tell it.”

                “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, I just wanted to know,” he says quickly.

                I shake my head. “I think you might be the only one who will ever hear it. It’s…just going to take some time to talk about some parts.”

                “We’ve got all night, and you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to,” he reminds me.

                “My mom left when I was five. I honestly don’t even think she and my dad were ever married, actually. I just remember them fighting one night when he came home with a hooker and then waking up the next morning and her being gone. I haven’t seen or heard from her since. I don’t know why she didn’t take me with her, but she left me with him. And I’ve grown up in a house where I had to start taking care of myself the day after my mom left. All my dad cares about is himself. I’ve been paying the rent and working and grocery shopping and running a household since I was five. I never had time to be a kid, never had time to party and be a regular kid. And when the prep school was accepting scholarship applications, I knew that it was right for me. It was the only way I was ever going to get out of there, and it was a miracle that I was accepted. But I’m happy I did, because I finally got to leave him, and I met you.”

                Trace stays quiet for a moment. “How long was your dad beating you?”

                I look away, suddenly uncomfortable. “Too long.”

                “Like how long? A week? Few months? Few years? How long, Viv?” he asks.

                “Look, I really don’t want to talk about it. Just know that he’s a bad man and I’m beyond happy that I’ll never have to see him again. He’s out of my life for good now, and that’s how it’s staying.”

Trace nods. “Okay, I won’t push you. But one last question, and you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to, but what’s the worst he’s ever hurt you?”

                “Don’t worry about it,” I say quickly, suddenly regretting how harsh the words sound.

                “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. But I wanted to know how long it would take me to get through the maze you built around your heart.”

                I half smile. “He has nothing to do with that, so don’t worry about it.”

                He nods, like he’s half convinced, then points further down the beach. “Do you see that dock out there?”

                I look where he’s pointing and shake my head. “No, it’s too dark.”

                “There’s a light blinking on and off on it. But that’s the dock by my house, just in case you ever need me.”

                I see the light go off and nod, then turn back and look at him. “Why are you doing this?”

                “Doing what? Showing you where I live? Just so you know you’re safe.”

                I shake my head. “Not that, why are you being so nice to me? We just met yesterday, and you’ve bought me a penthouse apartment, taken me away from that jerk who thinks he’s my dad, and asking me out.”

                “It’s because I care about you, Vivian. I don’t know why, but there’s something about you that makes it almost impossible for me to stop thinking about you, no matter what. I want to give you everything you deserve, but I know that I can’t. But that’s not going to stop me from trying my damn hardest to try and make sure you get what you deserve. I just really want to make you happy. You’re the type of girl who should always have a smile on her face, and I’d like to be the guy who gets to keep it there.”

                I look at him, not sure what to say. My mom was a Christian, and she tried to raise me as a Christian before she left, but after my dad, I though God didn’t exist. But Trace is starting to make me wonder if he does.

                “Are you a Christian?” I suddenly blurt out.

                Trace shakes his head. “I mean, not really, but I still do good things and all that, like good karma and stuff. You?”

                I shrug. “I don’t know. I kind of thought that after my mom left, God didn’t exist because if He’s supposed to be a God of love, then how could he let my dad happen, you know? But after meeting you, maybe He does exist.”

                He smiles. “Thanks. And I think there’s someone that would like to talk to you.”

The End

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