This story is one of the July Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.

I’ve never been much of a beach person. If my friends at home heard that I’d been not just attending but actually enjoying bonfires, they wouldn’t believe it. I’ve carried around an utter disgust and fear of the beach for a long time.

That night as I peered out onto the vast unknown, a deep blue that can’t be penetrated, I remembered — all the tide ever does is steal things away. I was only seven when it stole my love for the sea, and then three years later it took away my mom. Mom loved exploring. She loved pushing the realm of possibility, but the sea can be unforgiving. One day she pushed too far, and the sea kept her until her dying breath. A sense of loss flooded over me. It may be a different beach, but it’s the same feeling.

Kyle squeezed his sandy hand over mine. A concoction of guilt and panic surged through me. I should drag my hand away, but it feels kind of nice with the warm soft weight of his palm resting on mine. I looked up at him before stealing my hand back to my lap. My conscience yelled anxiously at me… ‘Noah.’

Since Dad and I came on this vacation, Noah and I have been partaking in the magical art of writing to each other. It would’ve been so much more romantic if I wasn’t submerged beneath this huge mess.

At the start, I had everything planned out. I brought a novel along, and every day I’d read a chapter on the front patio for “nature time.” This way, Dad wouldn’t get irritated at me for spending all my time inside.

Then I made the worst decision I’d ever made. I went to a gift shop.

After browsing for a while, I decided to get two more postcards for Noah and Pixie. I noticed a vintage copy of Pride and Prejudice sitting on the counter and couldn’t help but be drawn to it. With its deep mahogany cover illuminated with gold roses on the spine, it was nothing short of enchanting.

The owner was enchanting, too.

It wasn’t his looks that drew me in; I’d say it was his wit. It’s not that he isn’t a cutie with his curly, dirty blonde hair, hazel eyes, and straight white teeth. Yes, Kyle Montiago is the furthest thing from plain, but I tried not to like him.

Unfortunately, I do. Since he’s been inviting me to weekly bonfires… he’s all I can think about.

Noah’s unopened letters sit under my pillow, and there are at least four of them.

“I’m gonna miss you…” Kyle blurted, mindlessly feeding a stick to our makeshift fire.

“You shouldn’t, though…”

He dipped one brow and turned to look at me. The fire glow spread its orange colors over his freckled face.


“I mean, you know about Noah now. If I were you, I wouldn’t even talk to me. I agreed to a date with you, and I even kissed you that one time…”

Our smiles dissolved. I don’t deserve enjoying my vacation while I crush everyone else’s feelings. I don’t deserve Noah or Kyle.

“I can’t just forget you.”

“But you will! I’m going back to my boyfriend in Minnesota, and you’re going back to Tampa. We’ll always be 1,741 miles apart, and that’s probably for the best.”

“What are you saying, Layne?”

“I don’t think we should keep in touch… I care about you but…”

“I thought this was more to us than a forbidden summer romance?!” I could hear the hurt leaking out of his words, and I winced.

“I just don’t want to lose Noah…” My eyes softened, and hot tears flowed out. His eyes only hardened, and I braced for the rest of the war.

“Just answer me. Do you have any feelings for me?”

That was easy, of course I did. How could I not? His obsessive reading habits, starry freckles, hearty laugh, and how he made me feel normal… like I wasn’t a train wreck who lost her mom.

“Yes, but…”

“Then hasn’t Noah lost you already?” The ice of his disappointment stung as he turned his back on me.

I felt like how I did that day when I was seven, hopeless and submerged. The difference was this time I had to swim to the top, and nobody could help me but me.

He’s right, isn’t he?

Kyle stormed away to escape the crushing weight of the silence, and I stared out at the roaring, dark waves. They mocked me as they crept up the shore, eavesdropping on us.

Once again, the sea has stolen from me. I’ve never been much of a beach person, and it looks like that is going to continue.


Sariah Lake
British Virgin Islands

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