The Love Chronicles with Kristine Atterbury - Light and Dark

Published: Sunday | October 18, 2009

Kristine Atterbury, Contributor

They lay side by side, backs against the cool, damp sand, the chirping of the crickets mingling with the soft whispers of waves breaking on the shore. The Full Moon hung low, brilliant and white in a cloudless sky.

They lay close, but not quite touching, fingers lightly brushing every now and then, their soft, slow breathing matched. She wondered if tonight he would leave her.

He slapped at a mosquito that had perched on his shoulder, and leaned closer, stretching over her to fan the others away. She stared at his arm, long, lean and slightly muscular, with skin the colour of burnished gold, a complete contrast to her milk chocolate complexion. Light and dark.

Any moment now he would say it. She imagined his dark brown eyes, framed by lashes far too long for a boy, eyes that would be filled with regret as he tried to find the words to let her down gently. She had made up her mind that she would accept it quietly.

Still, here he was, fanning mosquitoes away from her face, his toes pressing against the arch of her feet, his body warm and solid next to her. She loved him fiercely, but would never allow him to see even half of what she felt. The mere idea of that was too terrifying.

"Is it time yet?"

"Is it time yet?" she asked, her voice low and expectant. He slid his BlackBerry out of his pocket and glanced at the screen.

"We have almost 30 minutes left," he replied.

She clutched at a fraying thread on the hem of her dress, and waited.

A mosquito buzzed nearby and she stiffened as a familiar pinprick of pain struck her shoulder. She slapped at her skin and a moment later his hand was there, rubbing away the sting.

"That's the third bite," he noted. "Do you want to go back early?"

"Do you?" she asked too quickly. He only smiled and hooked one finger through hers, leaning back once more to rest his head on the sand. She could hear the whisper of the ocean from there they lay and she idly wondered how many other girls he had brought there. She dreaded the knowing, sardonic look on her grandmother's face that she would have to face every day once he stopped coming to see her.

They had been coming to this beach nearly every other day for several weeks now. They would listen to his Ipod, as he held her hand, and told her jokes, and asked her question after question about her life. Eventually they would simply lie on the sand together and watch the sky in silence.

Break things off

Earlier that afternoon, in the middle of helping her grandmother pin wet laundry to the clothes line, she had made a decision. If he didn't break things off with her tonight, she would have to do it herself. Each evening as she waited in her hot, cramped room for the sound of his car as it slowed at her gate, she felt the end looming.

How much longer could they go on, meeting at night for an hour and a half, exchanging caresses and false promises while the sand bit into their skin, and the soldier crabs scuttled along the beach?

She felt almost ill each time she walked out of the house, her grandmother's disapproving eyes heavy on her back, his expectant eyes warm on her face. She was always expecting the worst and waiting for it had become unbearable.

She felt him move next to her and suddenly he was shifting his body over hers, his hands planted on either side of her face, his breath on her mouth, his eyes boring into her own. Her breathing became slightly shallow and she tried not to stare at his lips.

"Don't feel like talking?" he asked. She bit her lip and shook her head. He rested his head against hers and his voice dropped an octave. "Ten minutes left. What should we do?"

She realised at that moment, that he was not going to end it, at least not tonight, and the words she had practised began to form in her mind, how much better off he would be, how they belonged in completely different worlds, but then without warning he was kissing her, softly and sweetly, and her body was responding without her permission, her arms sliding around his neck to bring him closer, her fingers winding through the curls at the nape of his neck.

All too soon

All too soon their time was up, and they were trudging back to his car. Instead of opening the door, he stopped and stared at her for a long moment. He stepped closer and tugged at one of her braids.

"What now, pretty girl?"

She took a deep breath and plunged in. "Now, I need to go home. And we probably should stop talking." As he blinked in surprise, she rushed on.

"It would make your mother happy, right? And you can go find somebody that suit you better than me. I don't want to be a burden, it just make sense for us to go our separate ways, and you can do better." Now she was repeating herself, and stammering, and this was nothing like the calm, collected speech she had rehearsed so many times in her head.

Frustrated and suddenly feeling like she was about to cry, she crossed her arms and stared down at the sand.

Don't want to stop

Minutes passed and she finally looked up at him. He faced the ocean with his back to her, and in that moment he felt horribly distant. After a long, painful moment he spoke. "What if I don't want to stop?" He turned to face her. "Do you want to stop?"

She was blinking furiously now and staring at a speck on the hem of her dress. "No," she said. "But ..."

Before the words left her lips, he had taken two long strides, moving closer until she was backed against the car, and suddenly his mouth was on hers, he was tugging at her dress, and then he was kissing her throat and breathing deeply, as if he couldn't get enough of the way she smelled. She gasped as one of her shoulder straps tore against the strain of his fingers, and wrapped her arms around his back, revelling in the lean muscles beneath her hands.

The stereo of a passing car blared at them, and he drew back and smoothed her hair away from her face, his eyes intense as they focused on hers.

He grinned at her, and all at once her doubts seemed silly and melodramatic. Suddenly, it didn't matter how much his mother disliked her, or how unlikely a couple they were, or how dubious his friends would be. She felt terrified, but exhilarated.

In his eyes, she saw the promise of what could happen, and felt it in his strong, sure hands as they held her close to him.

"Alisha," he said softly.

"Brendan," she replied.

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