The last part of this short story is finally here, I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
The Boy I Never Kissed (Part 3)
He smiled. “We’re actually staying in the Keys. We leave in three days,” he said.
I didn’t ask where he was from. I assumed it was obvious by the accent. He had to be from London.
“That’s cool. We’re heading out to a timeshare in Daytona for a week and then going home.” We weren’t holding hands anymore, we were just trailing along beside each other, standing up one moment, then crouching down the next. I wasn’t sure what to say.
“What’s your phone number?”
I gave him a puzzled look. “Two, zero, four, six, three, two, one, zero, four, zero,” I replied quickly. He smiled and almost laughed.
“No, I meant the number for your hotel, and your room number.” He was staring at me again with those intense eyes and I had to look away. When I looked back his expression hadn’t changed.
“Um, I’m staying with my family. I don’t know the number, not even our room number.” I said. I knew our room was 542 or something, but I really wasn’t sure. All I knew was that there was a pool the shape of a guitar downstairs, and the rooms were all set up off outdoor balconies. I guess because it never got cold in Florida.
“Well, okay I’ll try to meet you at Blizzard Beach then,” he said.
I frowned. I knew that after today I would never see him again, that’s how this went. I met people and spent a day with them, and forgot them the next. None of the other people I had met ever stuck with me, why would he be any different? I tucked my head down and we reached the islands again. We both went down the left side, but we weren’t talking anymore. When we reached the break between islands, I found something to say.
“Did you see the new Romeo and Juliet movie?”
“No, why?” he had that look on his face again. I had trouble placing it, it was a cross between like and loathing. I couldn’t tell whether he was being a jerk or if he was genuinely trying to make conversation with me.
“Oh. It’s good,” I said as I buried my eyes in the transparent waters. I looked at my bluish tinted feet under the surface of the water as we continued to walk, pushed along by the current.
“I read the play in school though,” he offered.
I perked up, my eyes showing more enthusiasm than I had intended. “That’s great! Do you understand Shakespeare?”
Lee shrugged. “Some stuff I guess,” he said.
I laughed and crouched down in the water again. Lee moved behind me and I thought nothing of it as we neared the cave and the waterfall again. While I was thinking of other things I could safely say out loud, Lee moved closer to me, and then scooped me out of the water and into his arms. He stood up and began walking towards the waterfall.
I buried my face in my hands and turned red. I didn’t want the other floaters to see me, us, doing this. “Put me down! Put me down!” I squealed. In truth I didn’t want him to put me down, I wanted to bury my head in his chest and feel his arms wrap tighter around me. He gently set me into the water and I rolled off his arms. As I turned around I noticed that Sarah had caught up to us and Lee went over to her and picked her up. I guess I must have given him some sort of look because his eyes met mine and he practically dropped her in the water he put her down so fast. He moved over to me and scooped me up again while Sarah fought against the current a few feet away from us.
“Do you want me to carry you through the waterfall?” he asked, his thick British accent low and husky.
“No,” I said. I remembered what he had said earlier about the water hurting my shoulders, and I didn’t want to take that risk. Instead of putting me down again he created a chair with his legs and sat me on his lap. My hands were in my lap and I didn’t know where to put them, so my hand traced along his chest until I slung it clumsily around his neck. Our eyes met again, except this time we were inches apart. He could have leaned forward and kissed me that very moment, but instead he changed the subject and asked me about my weight.
“One hundred,” I answered, as I pulled my hands back into my lap and looked down.
“Really!? You’re not that heavy,” he said.
“Yeah I am. One hundred pounds,” I repeated.
“Oh, pounds. In England we use stones.”
“Well how does that work?”
“I think it’s twenty pounds for every stone?” he said.
“Well then I guess I’m five stones.” I broke out of his embrace and swam under the waterfall again. He followed me and I stood up in the cave, walking away from him.
“Hey wow,” he breathed.
I whipped around, wanting desperately to hear what he had to say.
“I think I had a dream about you,” he blurted out.
Those butterflies in my stomach returned. “Really?”
“Yeah, it was your back, same bathing suit and everything. You were walking away from me.”
“Oh,” I said. I turned away from him and continued out of the cave. I crouched down in the water and glided along. It wasn’t a very good dream if I was walking away from him. Lee caught up to me and slid his hand into mine. He stood up again. I crouched down again.
“Do you have a problem with me holding your hand?” he asked as we rounded another corner.
“No, I just don’t want other people to see,” I tried to explain.
“Oh.” He let go of my hand and swam ahead of me again. I sighed and tried to catch up to him. It took me a little while longer this time and when I finally did, we were outside the play structure again. He was perched on the side of the river and I went up to him and sat down. I was running through a million different things to say, but he spoke first.
“Do you think we should go for one more lap in the lazy river?” He looked at me with an expression that maybe better things would happen this time around, and I began to nod.
“Yeah, that would be good.” It was late afternoon, and the sun was beginning to dip towards the horizon.
Lee began to take off again, and then I stopped in my tracks. My little brother was coming from the wave pool towards the stairs.
“Hey! Ethel!” he called out.
I almost broke into tears as Lee heard him call out my name. Paul clamoured down the stairs and looked at me. “Mom’s been looking everywhere for you!” he exclaimed frantically.
My heart dropped, and so did all my hopes for something more to happen with Lee. I realized that it had been almost seven hours since I had seen her last, and despite the one time I passed by there, I did not check in. Lee had stopped, and was giving me a quizzical look.
“This is my brother, Paul.” I said to him. Paul looked over at him, but didn’t say anything.
“Come on Ethel, we have to go. Mom is so mad at you!” he tugged on my arm but I needed to say something to Lee.
“I have to go. You should probably go find Sarah. Goodbye.” I didn’t look at him as I followed my brother across the park to where our stuff was set up. My mom was waiting there with a stern look on her face.
“Ethel!” she snapped when I trudged through the sand and sat down on the beach lounge. “Where were you all day?” she began.
I felt panic in my chest. I knew I couldn’t tell her anything about the wonderful day I had spent with the most amazing person in the world, so I lied. “I met a girl named Sarah. I’ve been hanging out with her all day.”
Paul was standing there but he didn’t dare speak a word. My mom looked at him. “Go find your father; he’s still looking for Ethel.”
Her tone was lethal and her eyes were like darts. I felt my heart caving in on me. I wanted to run away to find Lee again but he had probably left by now. Paul took off through the sand to find Dad while I stayed there, waiting for the lecture of a lifetime.
“You didn’t check in once today,” she began.
I was going to tell her that I did check in, but then I saw a pair of eyes in the wave pool passed her. I would recognize those eyes anywhere, they belonged to Lee. My heart skipped a beat again and I stopped listening to my mom. He crept around the ledge of our overlooking balcony to the wave pool and stopped. His eyes locked on mine, and he didn’t tear his gaze away. My mom continued to ramble on and on about how I hadn’t checked in, they didn’t know if I was safe or not, and they went to the park staff to have them look for me. She paused for a moment to make sure I was listening and I glanced up at her a nodded and then turned my attention back to the set of eyes that were out of her peripheral vision.
“I need to tell the park to stop looking for you,” she snapped. I turned my attention back to her as she jumped up and looked down at me. “Can I trust you to stay here while I go tell them we found you?”
I nodded, regretfully, and she stormed off towards the front gate. I watched her go and let out a sigh. When I looked towards the spot where Lee’s eyes had been, they were gone, but he was climbing the rocks. My mouth dropped open as I watched him sling himself over the rope and sit down on the bench next to me.
“Wow, your mom is mean,” he said as he settled in.
“You have to leave!” I hissed at him. I was more afraid that all he would do was get me into more trouble, but he stayed there, planted on the beach lounge, unwilling to move.
“No,” he said firmly. He had an expression on his face that said he was staying with me no matter what, and I dropped my defences.
“Fine, but try not to say much,” I warned.
“You didn’t tell her that we came by,” he countered. He was staring into my eyes, but they were all full of pain and fear and regret and confusion.
My mom came stalking back while we were lost in each other’s eyes and I quickly turned my attention away from Lee.
“Who are you?” she snapped at him the moment she saw him. I hadn’t noticed that Sarah had also caught up to us and she was busy burying herself in the sand.
“I’m Lee,” he replied. He stuck his hand out to shake hers but she shook her head and sat down, leaving him hanging. I warned him not to stay, but now he was asking for it. My mom looked towards the girl in the sand and then back to me.
“That’s Sarah,” I mumbled.
“Oh, so you’ve been together all day the three of you?”
“Yes ma’am. We even bought lunch and everything. We did come around once, but you weren’t here so we left.”
Lee had taken over all the talking and he was sounding a lot more confident than I ever had. I expected my mom to rip his head off and tell him to get lost, but instead she was quiet. She decided to use her nice mom voice, the one she used when strangers were around.
“That’s good to know, that she had some food today. But you should have waited for me, I’ve been here most of the day,” she explained. There was tension in her voice that I noticed, but I’m sure Lee didn’t notice it. I looked at him and he was looking at my mom with a glassy stare. I thought the charade might have continued, but then I saw my Dad and Paul coming towards us.
“Well, it was nice to meet you Lee,” my mom said as she stood up. “We have to leave now.”
My heart sank. If she had approved of Lee we could have had another two and a half hours together. “Mom, the park doesn’t close until seven!” It was only four thirty; I noticed it on my mom’s watch.
“We have to get going anyway,” she said as she gave me the look of death. I slid my sandals on while she handed my dad the big beach bag. She took a towel out of it and left it on the beach lounge next to me. I stood up and wrapped it around my waist. Lee finally moved from his casual position stretched out on the other lounge. He perched himself on the edge of the lounge I had been sitting in and gently took my hand. Butterflies danced in my stomach while the sorrow in my heart deepened. My heart was breaking before I had a chance to stop it. I stared into his eyes one last time, and contemplated bending down to kiss him on the cheek. With my mom only a few feet away I decided not to chance it. Instead he winked at me, and I pulled my hand away and went to follow my family who was already at the pavement.
“Goodbye,” I said again.
Lee stood up and nodded, but I could tell this was hard for him as well. I turned and walked away from him. About halfway to the pavement I stopped in my tracks and looked back towards him. Sarah had pulled herself out of the sand and was standing beside him. I thought about running away from my family, my entire life back home, and going to England to live with him and his family. I contemplated it for a second, and Lee waved, and ducked behind some shrubs. I dropped my gaze to the sand below my feet and closed my eyes, trying to ward off the tears. I turned towards my family and followed them to the locker rooms.
I never saw him at Blizzard Beach that weekend. After that day, we never met again. I went over the details of that day a thousand times, memorizing every insignificant word, action, and look. He was the first person to ever see me as more than an ugly duckling. He was the first person who cared about me. I could see it in his eyes that he more than liked me.
I cried myself to sleep every night for a year. Lee lived in my dreams, and in my heart, and he was with me even at the worst of times. When I returned to school, nothing had changed, but nothing penetrated my shields. My classmates still teased me relentlessly, they still played pranks on me, and they still disliked me. I barely noticed their hatred and loathing, because I knew that somewhere in England, Lee was missing me just as much as I missed him. And I didn’t need to kiss him to know that.
Two years later I woke up in the middle of the night from a harrowing dream. I was standing in the hallway of a large hospital, staring down the corridor at a boy in a hospital gown, with an IV and apparatus attached to him. He was staring into my eyes, as I was staring into his. I wouldn’t have recognized him if it wasn’t for the eyes. He was skinny, and pasty white, and bald. His eyes were sadder than ever, and I felt the pain hit my heart as I heard the word leukemia. People passed by in front of us, paramedics, with someone on a girder. When I saw the hallway again, Lee had his eyes to the ground, and was shuffling back into his hospital room.
It was the last time I saw him before he died.
Four years after that I found his family in Castleford, UK. I called, and found out that he had died in 1999 of leukemia. His sister Sarah said that I was all he could talk about after that day, and that the six months they predicted for him, turned into two years. She didn’t thank me though, she ended the call abruptly, and we never spoke again.
Sometimes love isn’t about the hugs, the kisses, and the cuddling. Sometimes love is about the people who showed you something about yourself you never knew before. Before I met Lee, I was certain that I was the ugliest girl in school, but the way he looked at me, and the way he treated me, showed me different. He thought I was beautiful, he saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, and he made me believe it was true.
He would have tasted like powder, and hospital food, and cracked dirt. He would have kissed me like he kissed his grandmother, and I would have been filled with joy at that. If I had been able to find him before he died, I would have stayed until the final moments, and I would have held his IV pierced hand, and I would have listened as he told me everything about his life. I would have been there to tell him the one thing I never got to say.
I loved him, even if he was the boy I never kissed.