“Lina”

        

 

       I can still see her standing near the shore, a giant tropical printed towel tied under her arms and her feet buried in the sand. It was the end of summer, and we were just twenty two years old. Twenty years of knowing each other thanks to our parents meeting at AA and making friends and setting up “play dates” because they were so excited to have children who shared a birthday. We knew how hard it was to have parents who struggled with an addiction, and we helped in every way we could, but the beach was our escape. We had a standing date every Saturday since we were fifteen to go to the beach in our hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.

               She always walked right next to me, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes wrapping her arm around my waist, sometimes trying to reach up to wrap her arm around my shoulders. But once we hit that warm sand, she took off, dropping her things anywhere there was an open spot on the sand and practically belly-flopping into the shallow water to let the gentle waves wash over her. To me it always looked like she was trying to give her soul a running bath, head first. Maybe she was. Because every time she did that, she wouldn’t say a word. She wouldn’t look back at me, wouldn’t yell back to me, wouldn’t even acknowledge that I—or anyone else for that matter—was there for at least a half hour.

               And as she bathed her soul under that south Texas sun, I watched her and I watched the waves and I went back to watching her as I breathed in that salty air deep in my lungs. I suppose that was how I mirrored her soul bath. When she was done, she would crane her neck trying to find me around the other people who shared the beach with us, and when she found me, she always got the biggest smile on her face. Everything bad in my life disappeared when I saw that smile. Her light hazel eyes glistened with reflected sunlight as she looked at me, and she would give me a salty wet kiss on the cheek when she reached me as she grabbed her towel. She would always go back to the brink of where the waves met the sand, just far enough back so her towel didn’t get wet.

               She buried her toes in the sand to keep from burning them and spent a few more minutes just staring out at the water, even when it wasn’t all that beautiful because of debris or grime or whatever ended up in oceans and seas. I found it so difficult to keep my eyes off her. She was the one for me. I had dated other girls every once in awhile as I got closer to my twenties and she had dated other guys, but I knew that she was The One. But I never wanted to bring it up to her.

               But one of those days, I did bring it up. While we sat on the beach snacking on shredded chicken or fruit or whatever we happened to bring, there was a quiet moment. And my heart pounded as if it wanted out of my chest, but I asked her.

               “Lina, can I ask you something?”

               “You can ask me anything.”

               “It’s a serious question.”

               “So I’ll give you a serious answer,” she said, turning her whole body to face me. God, she was gorgeous.

               I swallowed hard and took a breath. “Have you ever thought about us dating?”

               She just sat there and stared at me for a few moments, blinking those long eyelashes. Her eyebrows pulled together in the center like they did when she was about to cry. It made me feel horrible that I had asked a question that might have made her cry. But then she answered me.

               “Sebastian. I’ve loved you since I was seventeen. I mean, I’ve loved you all my life, but I fell in love with you when I was seventeen. But you dated those girls and I didn’t think you were into me. I thought you wanted to keep it like I was your sister or something.”

               “Really?” It was my turn to blink at her.

               It seemed like she couldn’t say anything else, because all she did was nod. And then she tackled me, having the courtesy to make sure my chicken sandwich didn’t touch the sand. She laid me down on my back and she actually laid on top of me, her breasts meeting my chest, the inside of her thighs spread around my hips. She kissed me long and deep, slipping her arms around my shoulders to hold me tight. And that was what I had dreamed of since I was thirteen. I knew I didn’t love her until sixteen, but I knew that this was how I wanted it. As she kissed me, her light brown hair with its natural blonde highlights fell over her shoulder and tickled my neck and I couldn’t help but move it.

               She laughed and sat up, then took her place next to me again and crossed her legs. As perfectly as that bikini fit when she was standing up, it was a bit loose when she sat down, and I could almost see what she looked like under that bottom piece. She saw me looking at her and pulled her towel over herself, blushing.

               “Lina?”

               Her eyes met mine again. “Yeah?”

               I took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “Will you be my girlfriend?”

               She smiled that huge, beautiful smile and nodded. I could tell she wanted to tackle me again, but she didn’t this time. I leaned over to her, letting go of her hand so I could reach up to stroke her hair, and I kissed her.

               “I think there’s something you need to know, though,” she said when I pulled back.

               “One of the guys you dated gave you herpes.” I teased her.

               She punched me in the arm, shaking her head and smiling. Then the smile faded and she said, “No. Actually, I was never intimate with any of those guys. I’m a virgin.”

               I was so surprised when I heard the V-word come out of her mouth. “Seriously?”

               She nodded and hunched in on herself, like it was something to be ashamed of. “Sweetheart,” I said, “I’m sure those guys wanted to, and that it was your decision not to. You’re too beautiful for them not to have wanted you. And I think it’s awesome that you didn’t just give in.”

               She relaxed a little when I said that. “Do you want to know why I didn’t give in?”

               “You’re a lesbian.” I joked again.

               She punched me again and laughed. “Noooo. It’s because I wanted it to be special. And I wanted my first time to come from you.”

               “Me? Really?”

               “Yes, Sebastian. I told you, I’ve loved you since I was seventeen. None of those other guys would have come close to how I would feel if you were my first.”

               “Baby, I’m not a virgin though.”

               “That’s okay. As long as you’re clean, that’s okay.”

               I smiled. “I’m clean. I wrapped it every single time.”

               “So you don’t have any kids I don’t know about then?”

               This time I laughed. “Not a chance.”

               She moved, bringing her left hip right up against my right hip, and I couldn’t help but put my arm around her shoulders. I didn’t have a clue as to what she was thinking, so I kept quiet and gave her space to think.

               “We’re twenty-two years old,” she finally said.

               I nodded.

               “Let’s go get a room at one of these hotels.”

               “To cuddle?”

               “Among other things. I want to give it to you today, Sebastian,” she whispered in my ear.

               There was no way I was going to be able to walk to the street, much less to a nearby hotel without someone seeing the tent that was the front of my swim trunks. Lina giggled, delighted at the reaction she caused. I didn’t want to walk around like that, but I didn’t want to deny her, either. I wanted to love her like she fantasized about, and then tell her that I loved her. And then I was going to make her dreams come true for the rest of her life.

               So I decided to see if telling myself to go limp just for twenty minutes worked. And it actually did, for the most part. Well enough to hide, anyway. We got to the hotel without people staring at me with disgust, and I paid for a one-bed suite. I told them to bring up a few choice drinks from the bar as well as a dessert for each of us. She insisted that that was too much, but I was going to romance her. She deserved nothing less than the best.

               So we got up to the room and set our things down in the corner. I pulled the curtains that were really thin, but left the thick curtains open so we’d have good lighting in the room. She was putting the rest of the food in the mini-fridge. I turned the TV on to find something good to watch until the room service came and went and we had our privacy. Surprisingly, it didn’t take very long for the waiter to get there, and I tipped him well.

               I set things up on the little end table and sat in front of Lina on the bed. I had the brilliant idea to feed her her dessert, and she loved it. After a few bites, she stopped me, stood up, and faced me. I wasn’t sure what was wrong and I was about to ask her what happened until she reached behind her and pulled on one of the strings of her bikini top and released the little bow, repeating with the tie that was around her neck. She didn’t let the top fall for a few seconds, like she was nervous about it, but then she did let it fall.

               I had never noticed how beautiful her breasts were. I mean, I had noticed what size they were, but until that moment I had never noticed how perfectly smooth they were or how perfectly round. And the tips were so cute, small and so light brown they almost completely blended in with the rest of her skin. I wanted to echo her move, but I had had my shirt off since we were at the beach and I wasn’t about to make her think that I wanted to go any faster than she dictated. Especially since I was now sporting a baseball bat between my legs.

               She sat back down on the bed and I smiled at her as I kept feeding her her dessert. But she stopped me a second time and insisted that it was my turn.

               “No, babe, this is for you. I can eat mine in a few minutes,” I denied her.

               She smiled coyly and started to feed me my dessert anyway. And we exchanged feeding each other bites until they were gone. We started in on our drinks and after the first one, she told me she was going to save the other for later because she didn’t want to get too buzzed.

               I stopped with her out of courtesy. She placed her hands on my shoulders and pulled me closer to her on the bed, and I followed her lead, lying down with her and kissing her deeply. She let her hands explore my body and I almost lost it when she started to untie my swim trunks, but my self-talk came to the rescue again. While she explored my body, I explored hers as well, making my hands and face and mouth familiar with her upper body and those perfect breasts.

               She just had one problem.

               “I don’t want to mess up the bed,” she said, and I could hear the nervousness in her voice.

               “We can take a shower together,” I proposed.

               She considered it and nodded. She was about to get up but I stopped her, wanting to make her comfortable with what we wanted to do. I took off my swim trunks instead of leaving them wrapped around my thighs and reached for her bikini bottom slowly, as if I was asking permission without words. She just kissed me some more, so I slid that little piece of fabric off her legs and for the first time, noticed that she was pretty muscular. Not overly muscular, but a perfectly feminine kind of muscular.

               I caressed her as we kissed, and she was more than ready for me. I couldn’t help but bring my face down close to her so I could make my tongue familiar with how she tasted before we started anything, and it wasn’t long until every muscle in her body contracted and she grabbed my shoulders tight and said my name in a breathy, shaky voice. And I loved every moment of it.

               When she recovered, I picked her up in my arms and carried her to the bathroom, starting the water and bringing it to a comfortable heat before we stepped in. We still took it slow, but I made love to her in the shower, ignoring the pink tinted water that ran down the drain.

               That was the moment I knew no one else would ever be good enough for me. And that stands to this day, even though Fate or God or whatever you prefer to call it took her away from me much too soon, at the grill of a drunk driver’s SUV.

               She had been on her way home from the hair salon to get a new haircut and to get her nails done professionally as a treat for her thirty-fourth birthday. It wasn’t late enough for people to be going to bars, but this man was thoroughly intoxicated. Witnesses told police that the driver mistook his turn and ended up on the wrong side of the median, speeding more than twenty miles per hour over the speed limit. The road was busy enough that my Lina couldn’t change lanes to avoid the driver because there were people blocking her, and the drunk driver hit her head on. The police said she died on impact. I sincerely hope that was the case. My Lina was far too beautiful and too sweet to suffer any kind of pain, much less the pain of a severe head on collision.

               I’m sitting here by her gravestone thinking about what we’ve been through and the irony of life. Lina’s and my parents met at Alcoholics Anonymous, recovering from the urge to get drunk all the time. And Lina’s life was stolen from her by someone who didn’t have the strength to recover from his addiction. I’m a thirty-four year old widow and I know I will never court or date anyone else as long as I live. I can only hope I can have the strength to dull the pain by doing something constructive like trying to convince others to quit alcohol and not by getting intoxicated myself. May Lina rest in peace and find happiness, wherever she is now.

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