~Dan Auerbach, Goin' Home {love love love this song!}


1 JULY 2012 [SUNDAY] 
time: all day 
location: the beach home 
attire: casual 
event: It’s been ten years but we’re finally back in Malibu! The summer gang has been arriving all day- whether by car, train, or plane. Leave the unpacking for a later time and head outside to enjoy the beach. Nate and the other boys will be barbequing up hamburgers, hot dogs and the other staples. Of course a bonfire will follow our cookout. 

All afternoon people had been arriving. I guess when I’d gotten there the night before, I thought everyone was already there. But over the years the people I’d spent so much with, the people I’d given so much to, sort-of erased themselves from my memory. I didn’t remember all of them. I didn’t remember that girl with the pig tails who looked younger than me, but that was next to impossible considering Josh, Em, and I had always been the youngest. And that boy with the football build and army-issue cropped hair looked so unfamiliar that it scared me that Nate was letting him into the beach house. I watched from above, from the window I used to watch out of millions of times, and scanned the faces. No one noticed me up there. No one wanted to notice me. No one had said anything to me all day, except Em when she told me there was breakfast. I hadn’t gone downstairs though. I’d just stayed up there on my perch, watching. Being invisible. Pretending that was the way I always was, and always would be.

I found out from Em’s computer that she’d sent out a mass email to everyone except me about what had happened. Weirdly enough, we were back sharing our old bedroom again, and when I couldn’t go downstairs, I turned to her laptop. I didn’t know why I clicked on the email. But I did. And there it was. She had sent it a couple weeks ago, after everyone had accepted Nate’s invitation back down to the beach house. She had sent it because she didn’t want people wondering if they saw my scars. No, she sent it because she wanted people to know why she would barely talk to me, look at me. She wanted everyone to be on her side, the normal beautiful side, the side I had once walked along. 

The email was fairly brief, but it was written well because it was written by her. My eyes read through the words several times, even though I knew better than anyone what had happened.

“Hello everyone,” it began.

“I cannot wait to be back down in Malibu and see all of you again, but I would just like to tell all of you that don’t already know about Rhyanne. I’m not positive she’s coming down, but Connor’s not coming until later and I think she might want to come if he does. 

“About 10 months ago Rhyanne attempted suicide. She barely made it, but thankfully Connor found her in time. She went to the hospital in critical condition, and was released a week after it happened. She is doing okay now, but she’s not the same. I honestly don’t know what happened, but she won’t talk about it, and I don’t want everyone trying to talk to her about it because she still needs space. I just thought everyone should know.”

And that was that. 

I skimmed through the mailing list, and Josh’s name was on there. In plain sight. He had gotten the email. Yet he hadn’t acted strange around me. He acted like he had no idea. Because he didn’t. Once I clicked on his name, I realized that Em had sent it to his old email. Apparently he hadn’t kept in touch with anyone, or at least not her. He hadn’t given me the new email, but I knew from his FaceBook page, which I had scoured the night before, that he’d gotten a new one. Em hadn’t cared enough to find it. But it was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t want Josh to know. 

But Josh was down there, talking with Nate and Eric and Aiden and Luke and all the other guys and sooner or later one of them would start talking about it. 

I shut Em’s laptop, pulled on a cardigan so the scars would be covered, and slipped downstairs.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“Look who’s decided to join the fun,” Nate said when he saw me round the corner, appearing on the deck for everyone to see. They all eyed me, and I strode past them, right up to the grill where Nate stood with a metal spatula. 

“Burger or hotdog?” He asked me, his voice light. Nate had always been a nice guy, easygoing and attractive, but I knew from 10 months experience that he was trying too hard to act normal around me. It felt nice though. At least he was talking to me, acknowledging my existence. 

“I just want some potato salad,” I answered, looking past him for the rest of the guys. Josh was nowhere, though, and I could tell that Nate knew I was looking for him. “He went to grab his trunks,” he told me, nodding inside. 

“Oh. Okay.”

I smiled slightly, backing away from Nate as he continued to man the barbeque. Eric, his hair almost entirely white, piled some more hotdogs onto the grill, and the two of them laughed about something they saw down the beach. I wished I could join in on their laugh. Or anyone’s laugh. But no one said a word to me as I snaked my way toward the edge of the pool, finding a nice lonely place to sit.

The air was warm and salty, just the way it had always been, and when I glanced in the direction of the wind, I found Em crowded with girls, each of them hanging on her every perfect word. There was Brooke, scrolling through her phone and showing it to Em, who blushed because Brooke had probably pulled up some red carpet photo of her. There was Maggie, looking a little bored but still interested in Em’s glamourous life, and Dakota who smiled that gorgeous smile she had always had, looking as alive as ever. Esti was hovering over them, reminding me of myself. At least she was close enough to feel wanted.

“Hi…” a soft voice cooed beside me, and I looked over, finding Constance settling herself into a lawn chair. Her dark hair was long and wavy, the opposite of what it had always been in her ballerina days, all piled high in tight buns, and she wore an easy smile. I immediately felt a spark of the friendship we’d once had, but then there was Violet standing above us, beckoning her away from me. I watched as Constance’s gaze fell, almost embarrassed, as she turned to Violet, engaging in a conversation that was probably much more important than the one we would have had. Violet and I had never been too close because I think she had always been jealous of me, but I thought maybe she’d grown up. I thought maybe she would’ve tried to make conversation with both Constance and I, maybe small talk, anything. But she didn’t. I knew it would be this way. I left them to catch up without me, quickening my pace as I ditched the patio and the pool and the people and went back inside.

“Annie? Hey, where are you going?” came Josh’s smooth tenor, down the hall. 

I looked back at him, pulling down at my sleeves, which had become habit. “It’s boring out there,” I said, which was true for me. It was boring for me, since no one wanted to talk to me, or even wave at me. Like I was behind a door, enclosed from their world. I knew Josh though. Everyone knew Josh. He had always been like everyone’s little brother, and they all loved him. I watched him, thinking that he had never been like a little brother to me. We had always argued about that. He was four months older than Em and I, and he used to tease us about it. Tell us he was so mature. Senior year of high school he had dropped that act. Senior year had been different. Senior year he was on that border of being more than my best friend. But then we had graduated, and he went to some community college right outside of Malibu, and I’d went off to Stanford. 

Stanford, where I met Derek.

I shook him out of my head, forcing myself to flash Josh a bright, mischievous smile. “Want to go somewhere else for awhile?”

He wiggled his eyebrows, smirking. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

“The cove,” I whispered. Then he grabbed my hand, already full-out running through the house, flinging open the front door, pounding down the porch steps, dragging me along with him as we screamed and giggled our way to our old secret hideout. 

The cove, our cove, wasn’t necessarily a cove. But when we were little, it was as much of one as it was anything else. Past the boardwalk, past the dock, and right past the fifth lifeguard stand, was a cliff barely tall enough to be considered one, but one nonetheless, and where it met the ocean, there was a hallowed out area which we had dubbed “the cove.” Josh used to build towering sandcastles outside of it, blocking any unwanted visitors. I had always been in charge of food, stealing cotton candy from Jim who worked on the boardwalk, begging Mom to hand over her stash of goldfish, sneaking gummy worms from Em’s endless supply. No one was ever allowed inside the cove except for Josh and me, and that was the way it always was.

“Are you sure you’re twenty-five?” I asked him as he ducked down, trying to fit inside. I laughed as he squatted into the sand, his legs sticking out. 

“Are you sure /you’re/ twenty-five?” he countered as I scooted in beside him. It was a lot smaller than I remembered, and we were so squished I had to wrap my legs over his to even somewhat fit. 

“I don’t feel that old,” I muttered.

“Yeah. Me either.”

We sat like that for awhile, listening to the waves and the dull chaos from the boardwalk. He played with the sand, sifting it through his fingers, and I just sat there, breathing and watching him. I wished we could just stay like, and not go back. I didn’t want to go back to the beach house. I didn’t want Josh to go back, and someone tell him about me. I wanted him to just stay innocent. Like I used to be.

“We should probably head back,” Josh suggested when it started to get dark. “Nate said they’re gonna start a bonfire.”

“Right,” I sighed. 

“You okay?” He asked, hoisting me up and out of the cove. We walked side by side along the sand, the beach house in view but far enough away that no one could see us. I saw sparks in the back, the bonfire, and knew no one was looking for me. Maybe for him. But not for me.

“Yeah, great,” I lied.

“Good, because you used to make the best s’mores,” he smiled, nudging my arm with his elbow. “Don’t tell Em, I used to make her believe hers were the best.”

“Hers always got way burnt,” I replied with a smirk. “She didn’t know how to blow the fire out.”

“Show her how it’s done,” he told me. We were back in front of the house, just standing there, and the sun was almost gone behind us. He nodded toward the front door, and we both went inside, rejoining everyone out by the fire. No one seemed to notice except Em, who caught my eye as we sat down next to Sienna and Eric.

“For you,” Nate said, handing over an iron rod and a plate of graham crackers, Hersheys bars, and marshmallows. I expertly made up a s’more, sticking it into the orange glow in front of us, my eyes mesmerized by the color.

“What’s that?” Josh asked suddenly, gesturing to my arm. My throat seized up as I realized my sleeve had ridden up, revealing the scratchy scar lines. I pulled out my rod, the s’more thankfully done, and covered my arm, dumping the s’more on his plate. He gave me a weird look, refusing to pick up my perfect s’more until I spoke.

“Had a little run-in with some barbed wire,” I lied in a whisper, so no one would hear me except for Josh. 

He sputtered a chuckle. “/You/? What, were you running from the law?”

“Something like that,” I said with a quiver, looking back toward the fire. I wrapped the cardigan tighter around me, but it would never be tight enough to make the scars go away. 

[COMMENT IF YOU READ PLEASEEE :)) @emmylou @withlove-kirsten @nifty-nikki @vicks @inglenooks @rockets-and-rainbows @turn-around-bright-eyes <<< and also girls, please let me know if you want our characters to have been friends/enemies/whatever in the past or what you want them to be now]
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