Chapter 1: Summer Sun
Wow, what a summer! My Dad, true to his word, had arranged a grand adventure across the East Coast for almost the whole summer. He had to do some work along the way of course but we'd had a lot of time together and seen just about every sight-seeing, tourist spot along the coast in the last couple months. It had been so much fun, and one of the perks of being so busy is I didn't have much time to think about Erik; or James; or Todd and Mei-Ling's mysterious appearance. Yeah I didn't think about any of those things at all.
I pulled out the very familiar post cards and letters from my tote and looked at them again. I could feel the warm summer sun on my shoulders and heard the gentle lapping of the water on the beach behind me. I had less than a week left out here and all of my 'not thinking' about things was making me nervous about the end of vacation. A small picture fell out from the papers onto the bar and I picked it up and smiled. I'd taken it during our stop in Virginia; it was a great picture of Erik and his little brother Gavin.
"Cute kid." a somewhat familiar voice said. "Yours?"
I looked up at the boy pouring drinks in surprise. "Um, no. I'm barely 17." I said with a weak laugh.
He just shrugged as if my youth didn't mean it wasn't possible. "So, I'm Trip." he said holding a lemonade out to me.
"I didn't order this." I said looking at the pink umbrella in the glass.
"Sure you did, yesterday and the day before...oh yes and the day before." he said with a boyish grin. "You've ordered it everyday you've been here. You realize there is a beach behind you right? Most people don't come here to drink lemonade and look stressed."
I looked over my shoulder as if I'd forgotten about the beach. "Yeah well, I have a beach at home..." I said lamely.
"Yeah? Where's home?" Trip asked running a cloth along the bar.
"California." I said and took a drink from the ice cold lemonade. "Thanks." I said raising the glass slightly.
Trip just nodded. "Sooo, what's got those cute little worry lines creasing your forehead?" he asked with a smile.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Do you flirt with all your customers? I'm not even attracted to you."
He laughed and shook his head. "I'm NOT flirting with you. And thank you for that extra special ego boost by the way..."
I covered my mouth once I realized what I'd said. "I'm sorry, it's not that you aren't cute...you are, I'm just...yeah, never mind. I'm gonna go claim a lounge chair or something."
"No wait, don't worry about it, you're not my type anyway." Trip said with a smile that convinced me not to leave. "I've just seen you worrying about something and thought you might want someone to talk to that's all. No flirting, scouts honor." he held up his hand in an incorrect scout salute. When he saw me looking at it curiously he looked and corrected it and then grinned sheepishly at me. "Okay so I wasn't a scout..."
I laughed and felt some of the tension dissolve. "What do you mean I'm not your type?" I said smiling so he knew I was teasing.
"Oh I'm more inclined toward the tall, dark and muscular." he said looking past me toward a few guys on the beach.
"Oooh." I said following his gaze. I nodded in understanding and turned back toward him.
"So, tell me about the kid." he said while washing a glass. "Or maybe it's the boy..." he leaned forward to look at the picture. "Oh yeah, it's the boy." he said with a wink.
I smiled as I looked at the picture and flipped to another one. "You don't need to hear about my problems - I don't even know you."
"True but I'm here, you're here and I have about twenty more glasses to clean. Come on..." he prompted.
I sighed in defeat, knowing it would be good to talk. I held up the second picture of Erik with his family for Gavin's birthday. "This is Erik." I said. "My ex-boyfriend."
I gave him a quick recap of our relationship and break up. "We're friends now...sort of. I mean we're trying to be friends but it's awkward."
"Why is is awkward?" Trip asked.
"Just before school ended, he told me he still loves me, always had. It was wonderful and so sweet and heartfelt." I said frowning.
"So the problem is....what exactly?" Trip asked.
"Then this girl he'd been seeing last summer, right after we broke up, walked up and ruined the moment." I said.
"Tramp," Trip said with a smile as if reading my mind.
"I know right?" I said with a chuckle. "That's not really fair of course, we weren't together when they dated so I didn't have any claim....and of course there's the fact that my boyfriend walked up shortly there after."
"Oooh, the plot thickens." Trip said putting the glass in and rifling through the pictures.
"He's cute." he said looking at the picture. "Kid's not bad either" he said with a wink. "Okay, tell me more about this Erik guy, you still have feelings for him?"
"No. I'm with James...." I said with very little conviction.
"Yeah that was convincing, I thought you were from California - don't they teach you how to act out there?" he said with a grin.
I smiled weakly. "I AM with James...but Erik...well he's Erik. I can't deny that him telling me he still loved me and that Val, she would be the tramp," I explained. "That Val didn't mean anything to him....yeah that gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies."
"So dump James and get back with Erik." Trip said before resuming washing the glasses. I was about to explain further when my phone rang. I was shocked to realize it was almost five o'clock.
"I have to go! I'm supposed to meet my Dad for dinner in half an hour and have to change." I stuffed the letters and pictures back into my tote bag and grabbed my towel. "Thanks..." I looked away and then back at him. "Will you be here tomorrow?" I asked hopefully.
"Yep, same bat time..." Trip said.
"Same bat channel?" I said with a laugh.
"Very good...hey you didn't tell me your name!" he called as I'd started to back away to leave.
"Ginny! My name's Ginny!" I called back and then waved and hurried away from the beach to get back to the hotel.
The next day I headed down to the beach feeling lighter than I had for the last week. The troubles were still the same but I felt like talking them out was helpful. I looked toward the bar and didn't see Trip there, I decided to stake out a lounge chair for the day and was happy to find an empty pair. I was barely settled into my own chair when I heard someone sit in the one next to me. I turned and was surprised to see Trip. "Slacking?" I asked with a playful smile.
"Day off." Trip said.
"But you said..."
"I said I'd be here, and here I am." Trip said grinning. Before I could reply he motioned toward my tote bag. "Tell me the rest" he said. "Why shouldn't you just dump the James guy and get back with Erik?"
"Well James is...pretty much perfect." I said wistfully.
"Nuh-uh, doesn't exist." Trip interrupted my thoughts about seeing James in Washington DC.
I shrugged. "If he has flaws, I haven't seen them. He's a gentleman, he's cute, he's funny, he's charming, he's smart."
"Wow...what happened between you two after Erik's declaration?" he asked.
"Not much, my Dad and I left on vacation and James went to Washington D.C." I said. "We stopped for a week or so in D.C. and I saw James then. It was like nothing had changed...aside from location."
"Well did you tell him? What Erik said? Cause if not, as far as he knows nothing HAS changed." Trip pointed out.
I grimaced. "Well no, I mean how do who broach that subject anyway?"
"If you still have feelings for Erik but don't tell this guy - it's not really fair to him is it?" he pointed out.
"Ugh, you're supposed to be helping...I don't have feelings for Erik...not really! It was just a moment of..." I trailed off. "I don't know what but I like James!"
"But you LOVE Erik." Trip pointed out, when I turned to glare at him he just shrugged it off. "I'm just sayin' Tell me about the rest of your visit with James."
I grumbled for a moment and then continued. "James showed me around D.C., we did the touristy thing even though he'd been there for a couple months for his internship. It was a lot of fun. He had some great stories about the other people in the Senator's office. I didn't realize how much I missed being with him until I had to leave at the end of the week."
"He told me about an opportunity he has to graduate a semester early....I told you he was smart!" I said as if I'd scored a point for James.
"I didn't doubt it." Trip said simply.
"Anyway, we go to different schools back home so it's hard enough to get together, he'll be pretty busy this semester it sounds like." I said feeling sad again.
"And after? Is he staying on the West Coast for college?" Trip prompted as I sunk into my own thoughts.
"Um, huh?" I asked shaking my head to focus. "Um, you know I'm not sure." Trip was silent as I started trying to think if James had mentioned his college plans. I don't know how long we sat in silence but soon music started playing from the band and dance area and Trip was dragging me to my feet and out of my thoughts.
"Okay, so James sounds like a great guy - I changed my mind - you should stay with him. But you should be honest about your maybe, possible feelings for Erik - at least with yourself." Trip said as we danced.
"I don't have any feelings for Erik." I denied. Even as I said it, I wondered if it was the truth.
"Yeah, right." Trip said with a smile and an eye roll.
As Trip nearly fell to the ground doing some bizarre dance moves, I dissolved into giggles. "You dance like Todd!" I said through laughs.
"And who is Todd?" Trip asked, still dancing. "Another of your many suitors?"
"No! Not since Mei-Ling anyway!" I said with a chuckle. "Todd's my neighbor and my best friend."
"And what happened before Mei-Ling?" he asked
"I had a huge crush on him before I met Erik, but it never really worked between us. We work much better as friends." I said.
"So Todd was the prequel, Erik is the main story and James was the sequel?" Trip said with a mischievous grin.
I rolled my eyes. "Well there was an awkward kiss between Todd and I - after Erik but before James. How does that fit into your script?"
Trip waved that point off. "Sounds perfectly juicy but not enough for a feature film. Besides, he's with this Mei-Ling now yes?"
"I think so...I mean she showed back up. The same night as the whole Erik and the Tramp. You see she was an exchange student and she a Todd dated and then she went back to China. This last year was brutal on Todd but he was recovering I think and then she showed up."
"And? Surely one of those letters contains details as to the why?" Trip prompted.
"Well, apparently she applied for college here and student visa - I guess she was done with her required education in China? I don't know exactly but she's now a student at CSU, about an hour or so from where I live." I said. "Todd is still grounded for life so they haven't had much time together since she showed back up from what he said." I said. "Not alone anyway. She comes over for family nights thought I guess."
"Why is he grounded for life?" Trip asked confused.
"Underage drinking and driving and crashing his car into a tree." I explained.
"That'll do it," Trip said nodding. The music stopped for a few moments and Trip and I decided to head back to the lounge chairs then. "What about your other friends? Or are all of your friends romantic interests?" he asked with a chuckle. I kicked some sand at him in protest and he laughed, dropping into the chair.
"Well I have another guy friend but definitely not a romantic interest and then there is Veronica. I have no idea what's up with her, haven't talked to her all summer." I said looking down at the tote where I knew there was no picture, letter, postcard or email from V. "Thanks for this, by the way." I said leaning back in the chair.
"What?" Trip asked.
"Talking, listening. Boy problems isn't really something to talk to my Dad about ya know?" I said looking over at him. "And Veronica sometimes sucks as a girlfriend." I said with a sad laugh.
"Mhmm. No problem." Trip said. "You seemed like you needed to talk, or ramble." he teased.
I grinned. "I did...and I don't ramble. I can't believe how much of the week I wasted just sitting at the bar." I said. "I leave tomorrow morning."
"None the wiser despite talking about any of it?" Trip asked.
I shrugged. "Maybe, I don't know really. But I have a long flight to think about it and a week before school starts." I said. My phone rang and I looked at it. "It's my dad, I gotta go."
"I'll walk you back to the hotel." Trip offered.
I grinned, "I have a better idea, I'll race you." I said jumping up and starting to run before he was even out of his chair. It didn't take him more than a few long strides to catch up to me.
"That wasn't really fair ya know." Trip said laughing.
"I know. But you're taller than me..." I said as we neared the hotel. I stopped to catch by breath when we reached the doors. After a moment of rest I pulled out an empty post card and wrote my name, number and email on it and offered it to Trip. "Wanna be my pen pal?" I asked hopefully.
Trip took it and nodded. "Sure. So, in spite of the boy problems - did you have a good summer?"
"Yeah, I did." I said with a smile, and it was true. I had a mess of emotions waiting for me back home but it had been an amazing trip. "Thanks again Trip." I said giving him a quick hug before waving and walking inside to the hotel.