“the smell of earth after rain”
Camp Day 2
“Hey, co-captain, you’re up early.”
Alyssa turned at the sound of Will’s voice. “Well, good morning to you, too.”
He took a seat beside her on the bleachers, overlooking the field. “What are you waiting for?”
Alyssa tilted her head to the slowly brightening sky. “Sunrise?”
He laughed. “Do you always get up this early?”
“Just on the 26th of the month,” she said softly.
He looked at her shocked. “Why?”
“I used to this with someone I loved dearly,” she said finally. “This was our thing since we were children. Every 26th of the month, his parents or mine would bring us over to each other’s house and we’d watch the sunrise together.”
“Were you in love with him?” he asked her intently.
She sucked in a breath. “Yes. And a part of me always will be.”
“Why,” he paused. “Why aren’t you together anymore?”
She swallowed. “He died almost two years ago.”
He stared at her shocked. “I’m sorry.” He paused. “How did he die?”
“Déjà vu much?” Alyssa joked weakly.
He just stared at her.
She stared back, praying he wouldn’t realize who she was talking about just yet, but answered the question anyway. “Overdose.”
He was silent. A play of emotions came over his face. She looked away the moment she saw it click. She stared out into the horizon watching the play of colors as the night sky brightened once more into day.
“Are you and Will fighting?” Hannah suddenly blurted out at lunch.
Alyssa poked at her food.
Yna, Tori, and Hannah shared a look.
“Aly,” Yna sighed.
Alyssa looked up.
“He knows, doesn’t he?” Tori realized.
“He knows,” Alyssa confirmed.
“You told him?” Yna asked shocked.
“It’s the 26th today,” Hannah realized.
Alyssa smiled weakly.
“I’ll get the ice cream,” Yna volunteered. “I’m sure they have some lying around.”
“I’ll tell Kelly we’re sitting the next session out,” Hannah added.
“Thank you, girls.”
Tori stood. “Come on, Alyssa. You know we’ve got your back.”
Alyssa stood on the edge of the pool in her rash guard and their team jersey pulled over her it. The rest of her team was dressed similarly as she was. From the corner of her eye, she saw Will watching her. She stiffened.
From across the pool, she saw Drew give her a smile. She returned the smile weakly.
“Let’s go, guys!” Will called. “Let’s line up at our designated spot of the pool relay.”
Alyssa walked slowly to their spot and took the last place in line. Suddenly, someone passed her by and nudged her on the shoulder.
Alyssa turned to see Drew smiling at her.
“Want to make a friendly bet?” he asked her with a smile.
She raised an eyebrow.
“If I win, you owe me ice cream,” he told her.
“And if I win?”
“I’ll take you to that café with blueberry cheesecake you love so much.”
She laughed. “It’s a win-win for you, Drew.”
He grinned at her. “It’s the same for you. So don’t bother denying it.”
Alyssa rolled her eyes but held out her hand nonetheless. “Deal?”
He shook her hand. “Deal. May the best swimmer win!”
Alyssa grinned back. “Back at you, Drew.”
As the game began, Alyssa felt the anticipation building up in her veins. She watched as Emily plunged into the pool swiftly cutting through the water. From the corner of her eye, she saw Drew waiting by the pool side already tensing. Drew’s team reached the edge of the pool seconds before Emily did.
With a smirk at her, Drew dived into the pool. Shaking her head, Alyssa pulled on her goggles and dived the moment Emily’s hand touched hers. She cut through the water quickly. She could see Drew just a few feet ahead of her. Alyssa pushed herself just a little bit and touched his hand just in time with his stroke.
He glanced at her just as she caught up to him.
She turned slightly and waved at him before turning around and beginning the journey back to where their teams were. She slowed, pacing herself. This time, he caught up to her. She laughed, bubbles forming in the water, before pushing her limits and hitting the bank of the pool mere seconds ahead of him. She was still grinning when she pushed her head above the water.
“Good one,” Drew told her once he caught his breath.
She laughed. “That was one of the best races we had.”
He pushed himself up to the side of the pool. “Well, I guess I owe you cheesecake.”
She lifted a hand up and he pulled her out of the pool. “You love cheesecake as much as I do.”
He laughed. “True.”
“Alyssa,” Will’s voice cut her off.
Alyssa faltered, but turned to him. “Yes?”
“We need to go,” he said stiffly, barely glancing at her or at Drew.
Alyssa nodded and turned to Drew. “Sorry.”
He shook his head. “I get it.”
As she stood and turned to her team, Drew caught her hand in his. “I know today’s hard for you. It is for me, too. But he’d want you to smile.”
From the corner of her eye, she saw Will stiffen, but kept her attention on Drew. “Thank you.”
“See you at sunset?” she asked him.
“I’ll bring the comfort food,” Drew said with a laugh.
“I saw how he was looking at you today.”
Alyssa glanced questioningly at Drew as the horizon slowly darkened. “Who?”
He raised a brow at her. “Really? You want to play it this way?”
Alyssa sighed. “Can we not talk about this? At least not now?”
“There’s nothing wrong with falling in love with someone else,” he told her softly. “Kade’s been gone for almost two years now.”
“Nobody knows that more than I do.”
He smiled at her. “I know.”
“I’m not ready to talk about love again yet.”
“But, you love him already,” he realized.
Alyssa bit her lip.
She swallowed hard. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Because he blames himself?”
She blew out a slow breath. “I—“
He slung an arm over her shoulder and drew her close. “Kade would have wanted you to be happy.”
She leaned into him. “I know.”
He kissed her on the forehead. “You can do this, Lyss. I’ll be here for you through it all. Besides, seeing jealousy burn in Will’s eyes is fun.”
She laughed at him. “Thanks for having my back, Drew.”
When Alyssa finally joined her team for dinner that night, the table went eerily silent. She could feel their eyes on her. She ignored them and continued eating her food. The eyes of their team flew from one end of the table to another – from Alyssa to Will and back again.
Alyssa continued eating and ignored the entire team. Will apparently did the same.
Jack slammed his hand on the table. “That’s enough.”
Alyssa glanced up and raised an eyebrow at Jack. “Yes?”
He glared at her and at Will. “Whatever it is that’s going on between you and Will has to stop. Our team is only as strong as its captains. And right now, our captains are pretty bad. Our performance is in less than two hours. Fix this.”
Will looked away.
Jack glared at Will. “Aren’t you going to move?”
Grudgingly, Will stood and took the vacated seat beside Alyssa with a hard look at Jack.
Jack nodded at them and motioned for the rest of the team to follow him. In a matter of minutes, they were left alone in silence.
She stared straight ahead silent.
Finally, he sighed. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Are you really asking me why?” she asked him with a glare.
He looked away.
It was her turn to sigh. “Can we just forget this?”
“Forget you lying to me?” he asked her with a glare.
She stared at him, intently. “This was the reason I didn’t want you to know why. I loved Kade. I have since we were children and –“
“—and I took him away from you,” he finished bitterly.
She stared at him shocked. “You didn’t take him away from me.”
“I did,” he insisted.
“It was his choice to take those pills,” she told him. “That’s something I had to come to terms with, too.”
He looked away.
She grasped his hand in both of hers. “Look at me.”
Slowly, he looked at her.
“What Kade did was on him,” she said slowly. “It has nothing to do with you or with me.”
“Whatever you’re feeling right now, I did, too,” she admitted. “Kade, Drew, and I knew each other since we were children. We were all close friends – Kade and I more so. We – “ she swallowed hard “—we didn’t see what was happening to him. It wasn’t our fault just as it wasn’t yours.”
He gazed at her and swallowed. “Okay.”
She smiled at him. “Let’s go win this, Captain!”
They sat side-by-side, shoulders brushing. The bonfire was down to its last embers. A few other campers still mille around in groups. They weren’t talking, simply silent and enjoying the comfort there was between them.
He suddenly turned to her with a soft smile on his face. “I never really thought I would enjoy moments like this with you.”
He laughed before turning serious. “Kade used to talk about you a lot. But, he called you Lyss? That’s probably why I didn’t recognize your name at first. When I heard what happened to him, I thought you’d blame me for it. I believe this was better. I got to know you without the guilt hanging over my head.”
She didn’t say anything and laid her head on his shoulder. “I believe we met at the right time – just when we needed each other. We may be still working through our problems, but it’s not as raw as it was then. I think the timing was perfect.”
He wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
She shivered and it wasn’t entirely due to the cold.
“Cold?” he asked as he shrugged off his jacket and offered it to her.
She took it with a grateful smile and pulled it on, basking in the warmth it provided. She laid her head back on his shoulder.
He gazed down at her, sadness lingering in his eyes. “Kade was blessed to have you. I know I am.”
She closed her eyes at the same moment and a drop of water hit her face. The single droplet was soon followed by another and another. Her eyes shot open and she saw him gazing at her the same way Kade had done in the past. The droplets were slowly increasing in swiftness and settling into a slow drizzle. Commotion around them arose as people scramble for cover. But they stayed where they were – suspended in time.
“I think Kade agrees with you,” she whispered.
“I think he’s warning me,” he whispered back.
She grinned. “He can be a little overprotective.”
He glanced up at the night sky before meeting her gaze seriously. “Message received, bro. I promise to take her of her.”
A flash of light across the sky was their only received reply.
Before she could speak, he jumped up and pulled her along.
The rain began falling faster then, already beginning to soak through their clothes.
With a twinkle in his eyes, he pulled her along and they ran through the rain, leaving behind only the sound of their laughter.