The door swung open. Mrs. Beck smiled at him. “Jason, what a nice surprise. We haven’t seen you around here lately.”
Jason shifted nervously from foot to foot. “Mrs. Beck, I was wondering if I could talk to Cadence. I would’ve called, but her phone broke.”
Mrs. Beck smiled at him. “You know you’re welcome over any time, Jason. Unfortunately, Cadence isn’t here. She went for a ride on her jet ski. If you think you know where she went, you’re free to take one of the skis and find her.”
It would never cease to amaze Jason how free the Beck’s were with their possessions. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.”
Jason followed Mrs. Beck through the house. It shocked him that so many things had changed since his last visit. Had it really been so long? He walked out onto the dock and climbed onto the jet ski he usually took possession of. Mrs. Beck tossed him the keys. “Don’t be gone long.”
Jason took off. He knew where Cadence would go. An airplane flew toward him, heading into Washington Island. He smiled when he saw it. The smile immediately dropped from his face. A storm was blowing in from the west. It was coming hard and fast. Jason bent low over the ski and the speedometer edged its way up to 70.
The water started getting rough when Jason only had a mile more to go. He had to drop his speed below 30 to stop himself from being thrown off. Half a minute later he couldn’t go more than 5. Poverty island was just ahead. Thunder crashed over him. He couldn’t see Cadence’s wave runner anywhere. Whether she was there or not didn’t matter anymore. Jason had to get out of the water.
He accelerated as much as he could and rode the ski all the way up onto the beach. He was certain the Becks would forgive him. He could barely see through the drilling rain as he made his way to the protection of the lighthouse.
* * * * *
My jet ski had completely disappeared below the waves. The rain blinded me, even from my position. I crawled to the trap door and climbed down the hole. I closed the hatch, but water continued to drip around the edges of the door. My clothes were soaked through. I sat on the top stair and thought. I really was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The only way I could think of getting back to civilization would be to make my trek north to Fairport; a seven mile journey, three of which I would have to swim.
I inched down the stairs one at a time. I was sad, upset, and angry, but that didn’t make me careless with my life. I reached the bottom and picked up my discarded bag. I stripped off my shirt and wrong for all that it was worth. I put all my frustrations into it. I shook it out and slipped it back on over my head. I pulled my blanket out and wrapped it around my shoulders.
The storm seemed to roar loader for a minute. It abated again just as quickly. My mind began to think through all the scenarios that could cause that. I only came up with one answer. My tired mind was running sluggish and I didn’t realize it until too late that it had been the sound of the main doors to the house opening and closing. I didn’t realize it until the door to the stairs where I was sitting opened.
Jason stood in the door.
And I had thought I was wet. Jason was soaked to the bone. When he saw me, some of the tension drained out of him like the water that puddled beneath his feet. Before I had time to react, he crossed the room and wrapped me in a hug.
My heart stopped, but only for a beat. It started up again with a vengeance. I pushed him away. The parts of my blanket he’d touched were instantaneously soaked. I let the blanket fall and began inching my way back up the stairs.
“Wait, Cadence!” I didn’t. “I’m sorry. I was just relieved that you were here and not caught somewhere out there.”
I don’t think that he realized I was trying to get away from him, not his display of emotion. “What are you doing here?!”
He stepped up onto the first stair, trying to keep me in view on the curving staircase. “I needed to talk to you.”
“You’re not welcome here!”
“Oh, I’m not!” I heard the sarcasm slip into his voice. “I’m the one who discovered this place!”
“That was before,” I shot back, “this is now!”
He switched tactics to sincerity. “Please, Cade. We really need to talk about this.”
“I don’t need to talk about how my life is a freakin’ Taylor Swift song, okay! Just go away!”
His sincerity disappeared. “Cadence! Stop!” Fear exploded out of him.
The warning came too late. I’d reached the spot where the stairs had fallen away. I screamed and flailed, trying not to fall into the space. I grabbed at the walls to no avail. There was no hope. I was going down.
Jason leapt toward me and snagged my flailing hand. He yanked me away from the hole. I crashed into him. We rolled down the stairs in a tangle of arms and legs.
My head thudded on the ground. I groaned. Lights flashed in my vision then cleared. Jason got up weakly on all fours from where he’d landed next to me. I thanked God that he hadn’t landed on top of me. I tried to sit up and was overcome by a wave of nausea. Jason seemed to be fine. His sports med. Training took over and he started quizzing me.
“Does anything feel broken?”
“Are you seeing lights?”
“Do you feel lightheaded?”
He helped me sit up. I closed my eyes until the nausea passed. “Thanks,” I said quietly. The moment I almost fell flashed across my frame of vision again. My heart beat quickly, catching up on all the beats it had missed during the incident.
“Don’t mention it,” he said.
We sat quietly for what seemed like forever while I regained my equilibrium. I moved so that my back was against the wall. I rested my head on my knees. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“You and Cassidy are my best friends. It’s not my place to come between you guys.” I couldn’t lift head to look at him.
Jason’s cold fingers touched my cheek. He made tilt my head up. I tried not to gasp when I saw how close his face was. I was frozen as his lips came down over mine.
My mouth curved into a smile, and I pulled away. “What was that for?”
“That was my way of saying sorry.”
My eyebrows frowned. “What do you mean, you’re sorry?”
He leaned up against the wall next to me. I didn’t even notice how wet he was when he put his arm around my shoulder. “I mean, I’m sorry I didn’t wait for you.”
I leaned up against him. “Stop answering with half answers.”
He smiled. “Cadence, I’ve loved you from the moment I first saw you. That’s why I tried so hard to be your best friend. I was just waiting for the day that you would look at me the same way that I looked at you.
“Last year I realized that that day was never going to come. I knew Cassidy had a crush on me. I decided that I would let her dream be fulfilled, even if I didn’t get to have mine. I guess I got caught up with her and didn’t notice the day you started looking at me.”
We sat in silence while I processed the information. Outside, the storm still raged. “So, what now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you and Cassidy are kind of together.”
I looked at him in shock. “You broke up? Because of me?” A seed of guilt curled in my stomach. Cassidy was my good friend. I didn’t want to steal her boyfriend.
“It’s cool. We talked about it after you left. We decided that maybe being together wasn’t the best thing. She wanted to come talk to you herself, but I thought it best that I came alone.”
Something didn’t seem right about that. Cassidy wasn’t one to go down without a fight. I wondered if maybe he was massaging some of the details just a bit. “You’re promise she’s cool with this.”
Jason tipped up my chin and kissed me again. “I’m positive.”
I pulled the blanket over us and we snuggled together against the cold. I could still taste Jason on my lips for hours after. For once, everything in my life seemed to be going right.
I listened as Jason’s breathing deepened. I was far from sleep. My body felt exhausted, but I knew there was no way I was going to sleep just yet.
I felt indescribably happy. All my hopes were coming true. But, I felt like something was missing aside from sleep. For an instant, the image of a dark haired boy with blue green eyes appeared before me. Then it was gone. I couldn’t bring it back. I had no idea who he was, but there was a feeling inside me that said he was important.
I closed my eyes and thought about the mystery boy as I tried to go to sleep. When the storm had passed and morning risen, the sun found me awake still, trying desperately to fall asleep. And to remember the boy.