The first time I saw him was on July 28th 1998. I was celebrating my 6th birthday at my grandmother’s house in Osterville, Massachusetts with my family. I don’t remember a lot about that day, but the one thing I do remember was his eyes. They were as gray as a thundercloud during a summer storm over the ocean and as electric as the bolts that shoot out of the sea.
My grandmother’s backyard sits by the Atlantic Ocean. She lives on Sea View Avenue, a large island that is part of Cape Cod filled with beautiful sprawling, historical homes that have been in many families for hundreds of years. My grandfather and my father own McAllister Fishing & Co. which is one of the most successful Lobster companies in all New England with the business now expanding from Massachusetts up to Maine.
I remember my father telling me I could go for a sailboat ride as soon as we finished blowing out my candles and opening my gifts. I couldn’t care less about my presents. All I cared about was spending the afternoon on my family’s sailboat with my favorite person—my father.
Ever since I was born, my mother swore I was a daddy’s girl. Always wanting my father to rock me to sleep, play with me, and kiss all my boo boos. Even now at the age of twenty-two I have my father wrapped around my finger. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
As soon as I got the okay, I was changing out of my party dress and into my new sailing outfit: a pair of Bermuda shorts, a crisp white polo tank top that looked even brighter against my dark tanned skin, and my new pink sparkle sequin boat shoes that my parents had just given me for my birthday.
Before long my dad, my mom, and me were out in the middle the ocean with the sail open wide and gliding perfectly across the water. My parents surprised me by giving me one last gift while out on the boat. When I tore open the tiny box I squealed with glee as I popped open the tiny jewelry box and found a tiny nautical themed charm bracelet. I remember sitting on the seat staring at the bracelet as the wind and salt water whipped against my warm skin. I was staring at the tiny anchor, starfish, and sailboat charms lost in my own little world when my perfect day turned into one of the scariest days of my life.
Without warning an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in taking us all by surprise. The clouds were dark and thick as they moved in, taking away the blue skies and bright sunshine we were enjoying moments ago. In its place was high winds, causing the boat to rock about over the large waves that began crashing against the boat. My father tried to steer it back toward shore but a six-foot wave crashed over the boat sweeping me away.
Everything happened in a blur. My memory of what happened after that is jumbled, but I remember screaming for my parents as the water crashed over my tiny body, throwing me across the boat. I hit my head before falling overboard into the water. I remember everything going black and being very cold. The sound of my parents’ voices carried over the water as they shouted to me. I felt strong arms wrapping around my waist and pull me tightly against their chest. My lifejacket raised up to my face making it hard for me to see anything besides water and lightening as it cracked across the sky.
I was crying and yelling for my mom and dad as blood trickled down my head. As I looked up to see who was pulling me toward the boat, I kicked my feet and was met by gray, stormy eyes that were cold, yet comforting at the same time. He whispered down at me, “You’re going to be alright, Lucy.” I don’t know why but I believed him. A stranger who I’ve never seen before in my life, nor did I know where he appeared from, but I believed him when he promised me I would be okay.
Before I could ask him who he was he vanished into thin air. I felt my father swim up beside me as I floated alongside the side of our sailboat as it rocked fiercely against the massive waves crashing around us. He scooped me up with the help of my mother and whisked me into the cabin below to safety. I laid in my mother’s arms trying to get warm as she hummed a song I can’t remember, trying to distract me from the howling wind and crashing waves threatening to toss us all into the sea.
As I laid there with the eyes of the stranger lingering in the back of my mind, I asked my mother about the man who was in the water with me and held me safely until Daddy reached me. She told me it must’ve been a figment of my imagination, a side effect from hitting my head. But I didn’t miss the flicker of awareness in her eyes as I asked her about the strange man.
My father stayed up on deck fighting the storm like the master sailor that he is. After an hour of battling the rough waters, we finally made it back to safety as we docked the boat at my grandparents’ house. Of course, as we sailed the boat back to shore, the dark storm clouds rolled away into the distance and slowly the sunshine began to break free from the darkness and shine its warmth down on us once again.
After getting looked over by my grandmother who was a nurse, I spent the rest of my birthday lying in bed dreaming about raging oceans and dark, stormy gray eyes.
Eyes that would haunt me for the next sixteen years.
“Congratulations class of 2014! You are now officially Boston College graduates!” Jumping to my feet along with all the other students around me, we grab our graduation caps and toss them into the air. My ears ring from the celebratory cheers that fill the large sprawling courtyard beside the massive university.
I look around at the sea of black gowns and grinning smiles and let this moment sink in. Four long years of hard work and way too much partying has come to an end. My college years are officially over. Now life is going to consist of job hunting and then adulting. It feels as if these last four years blew by in a blink of an eye.
I’m filled with mixed emotions of excitement, sadness, fear and relief as I look around at my friends and let it sink in that this is the last time we’ll see each other.
We’ll promise to keep in touch & get together again, but the reality of it is we’re all heading into different directions in life. Our careers are going to send us all into new paths which sadly doesn’t include each other.
Arms wrap around me from every direction as my friends attack me, yanking me into a massive bear hug consisting of eight arms that squeeze me tightly.
“We did it!” Sophie cheers as she pulls me against her chest and bounces with excitement causing my head to rattle around on top of my shoulders.
Malory, Talen, and Rory all join in as their words bounce around me as does their bodies. “Time to celebrate! We’re officially done with morning class, term papers, and grumpy ass professors!” Rory shouts as everyone breaks apart and stares in awe at one another.
I let out a light sigh and smile as I try to push away the negative thoughts and instead focus on the excitement of today. I want to be happy, but it’s hard to be when I know after today all our lives are changing. Malory is heading to New York City for an internship at an art gallery in SoHo. Talen is flying back to his parents’ home in Arizona to spend the summer there while he begins his job search. Rory is flying to Florida with her boyfriend for a week-long getaway before returning to her parents’ farm in Arkansas. Sophie, who’s been my best friend since the first day I stepped foot on this campus, is staying in Boston and already has a job lined up at a private preschool. While I’ll be flying to Chicago to see my boyfriend of six years. We were high school sweethearts, and somehow we made the long-distance relationship thing work, even with him attending college in Chicago and me in Boston.
If I said it’s been easy, I’d be lying. There were many times I let the thought cross my mind to end things with him. It was hard going out on weekends with my friends watching them have fun with their boyfriends while I was the odd man out sitting alone. We video chatted and constantly texted back and forth throughout the day, always making sure we knew we were thinking about one another, but it didn’t make the fact that we were living two completely different lives any easier.
There’s been temptations for both of us. I can honestly say for myself I’ve never acted on any of the advances I’ve received from guys over the course of these last four years. Ethan swears to me every day that he’s remained faithful to me, even though it’s extremely hard to believe. I’ve watched so many couples try to make long distance work and in the end, most them crashed and burned due to one or the other cheating after a night of too much partying. I believe Ethan. He’s always allowed me to have access to all his social media never keeping anything from me. Which helped greatly with me not feeling so insecure about him being in Chicago and me in Boston.
Somehow we’ve found a way to make it work. We beat the odds and are ready to take the next step in our lives together.
How we survived four years living pretty much separate lives I’ll never know. Every time I’d have one reason why we shouldn’t work and why we should walk away from each other, there’d be all the reasons why we should fight to make it work and it always helped us get through the tough times.
He’s also graduating this weekend so he wasn’t able be here today for my ceremony, but he’s flying in Monday and then driving with me to Osterville to my grandparents’ beach house for my graduation celebration.
“Let’s take one last selfie together.” Holding my phone out in front of us we all cram together as we try to fit everyone in the picture. “To best friends and the best memories!” I shout before smiling. Everyone shouts around me before striking their best pose, and I snap the picture. We do one more making silly faces before finally shuffling out of the aisle and parting ways as we try to find our family who’ve come to watch us all graduate today.
I spot my mom and dad immediately. I break into a run as I sprint across the grass toward my parents. Seeing their familiar faces lifts my spirits. I noticed my crazy father while up on stage as he stood up waving at me and whistling as he snapped a million pictures of me receiving my diploma. No words can explain how it feels to graduate from the school my parents attended together and fell in love at. The day I received my acceptance letter was one of the rare occasions I witnessed my father cry. Of course, he claimed he had allergies as his eyes watered and he rubbed at them. But the amused smirk on my mother’s lips let me know she wasn’t buying it any more than I was.
“Congratulations, sweetheart! We are so proud of you!” my father says joyfully as he wraps me into a hug and lifts my feet off the ground.
A slight squeal escapes my lips.
My father towers over me by a good foot, and he’s built like a house. All from the years of sailing and working on fishing boats he’s had. His eyes sparkle down at me as the lines from age and the years in the sun crinkle around the corners of his eyes.
“Thanks, Daddy.” I giggle as I hook my arms around his neck and press a kiss to his cheek.
As soon as my feet reach the ground once again as my father finally releases me from his embrace, I turn to my mom who’s holding a bouquet of flowers and a card. “The flowers are beautiful. Thank you.” Reaching out I take the flowers and bring them to my nose and inhale deeply.
My mother wraps me in a hug and holds me as she cries softly into my black curls that are pulled into a side ponytail at the nape of my neck. “I’m so proud of you, honey. I know if Grandma and Grandpa could be here right now they’d tell you the same thing.”
Tears sting my eyes at the mention of my grandparents. My grandfather who was my hero growing up passed away two years ago from pancreatic cancer. My grandmother passed away a few short months later in her sleep. They said it was a massive heart attack and that she felt no pain—I felt deep in the pit of my belly that she died from a broken heart.
Like my parents, my grandparents shared a love so strong that even after sixty years of marriage they still walked along the beach holding hands, and my grandfather would write her the sweetest little love notes every day. I use to love when I slept over on occasions, waking up and searching with my grandmother for her love note. During the spring, he’d leave a flower from the garden with the sweet note proclaiming his love for her. In the summer, she’d find tiny sea shells from the shore lying with one.
In her bedroom still lies a trunk filled with her gifts she collected over the sixty years they spent together. Dried flowers, sea shells, lace gloves, brooches and many other trinkets he collected on his trips for her.
It’s going to be hard returning to their house. My mother inherited it after my grandmother passed. Her and my father use it as a summer home and live up in the suburbs of Cape Cod closer to my father’s office. He took over my grandfather’s business, and since his passing my father’s managed to make it grow bigger and more successful which is an astounding accomplishment, especially during these difficult economic times.
“I miss them so much. I’d give anything to have them here,” I confess softly as my mother releases me and backs away before forcing a smile across her perfectly red painted lips.
My mother is beautiful. With the same violet colored eyes as me and raven black hair, her skin is flawless making her look more like my sister rather than my mother. We inherited the olive colored skin and dark hair from my grandfather. But our mystical violet eyes that my father claims bewitched him the moment he saw my mother that day out front of their American literature class, we got from my grandmother.
“No more tears or sad talk from here on out. You hear me, ladies?” My father tells us matter-of-factly as he drapes his arms across our shoulders and walks us toward my group of friends who have gathered a few feet away taking pictures in their cap and gowns.
“Deal,” I laugh as I blink up at him pushing my tears away. “Now let’s go take the gazillion pictures I know you’re dying to take, Daddy.”
With the last boxes in our arms, Sophie, Ethan, and I make our way down the stairs of my apartment to my Kia Sorento parked out front.
I give the apartment one more quick glance before shoving the box into to back of my car.
I’ve shared this apartment with Sophie and Talen for the last two years. I didn’t think I’d be this sad leaving my best friend and the place we’ve called home since the beginning of our junior year.
Sophie already has two new roommates lined up to take over the now two vacant rooms now that Talen is back in Arizona and I’m heading to Chicago next week.
“Well, that’s the last of it.” Slamming the tailgate shut, Ethan looks from me to Sophie before settling his cobalt blue eyes back onto me. Shoving his hand into the pocket of his jeans he pulls my keys out. “I’m going to wait for you in the car…give you two a chance to say goodbye to one another.” He gives us a sympathetic smile before disappearing around the side of the car.
As soon as we hear the drivers side door shut, Sophie lets her shoulders sag. “I can’t believe you’re really leaving. You can still change your mind you know.”
Her words come out slow and filled with sadness. We’ve had this coversation a few times over the last few weeks leading up to graduation. She doesn’t understand with Ethan having a degree in sports broadcasting why he insists on us settling down in Chicago. Massachusetts is the home of the Red Socks, the Boston Celtics, New England Patriots and the Boston Bruins. I tried to explain to her that Chicago is where he wants to be. He was offered a great position broadcasting the sports for the biggest news station in Chicago thanks to his father who’s an ex-NFL player. He’s now retired but has a lot of connections in the sports world.
I can find a graphic design job anywhere. He can’t find an opportunity like this in just any city with a starting salary like they’re offering him.
“I promise to come see you see you every time I fly in to visit my parents. You’re going to be so busy chasing a classroom full of four-year-olds I doubt you’ll even have time to miss me.”
Rolling her eyes, she blows a puff of air out between her lips that pressed into a straight line across her face. “All I know is you better not throw your dreams away once you get out to that stupid Windy City, rushing into marrying him and popping out a dozen kids. I expect to see you working for one of the richest Fortune 500 companies designing their brilliant and million-dollar deal worthy advertising.”
That’s another conversation we had recently. Whether I thought Ethan would be popping the big question soon. Especially since he asked me to move to Chicago and be with him.
I don’t know what Ethan wants or where our relationship is going. We spent the first two years of our relationship as young, hormonal teenagers, and then the last four years as lovers who saw each other during school holidays and summer breaks. We’ve never had a real relationship with trials and tribulations that would make me say—Yes, this is my soul mate and the man I want to grow old with.
I’m terrified about picking up everything and moving. But it’s what you do when you love someone. I love Ethan. I think with time I’ll fall even more in love with him. Waving my hands in the air, I laugh nervously, “No marriage or kids for Ethan and me for a very long time!”
The sound of the car horn beeping causes us both to jump.
“Sorry to rush you, Lucy, but we really gotta get on the road,” Ethan shouts at us from the car.
“Ughh. I really hate you right now, Luce.” Sophie stomps toward me with her arms outstretched and a pout on her face.
“Stop it before you make me cry and ruin my makeup. I’ll text you the entire car ride home. It’ll be as if I haven’t even left.”
We hug each other goodbye and then I reluctantly climb into the passenger seat and watch as Boston slowly disappears in the side mirror.
Ethan laces his fingers with mine, brings our entwined hands up to his mouth before pressing a soft kiss to my knuckles. “You have no idea how happy I am that you’re coming with me to Chicago. You’re going to love it. I promise.”
Turning my head to face him, I give his hand a gentle squeeze. “I can’t wait.” As the words leave my mouth I find myself feeling icky inside because I just lied to the man I love. Inside I’m a bundle of nerves as the reality of what I’m about to do sinks in.
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