Four months later
I glanced up from wiping down the counter as the bell signaled we had another customer.
“Hello!” I greeted with a smile. “I’ll be with you in one moment.”
It was mid-September now and with the cold came the tourists since the lake usually froze over and was turned into the area where our Frost Festival was held. A bit dangerous if you ask me, but it did get extremely cold in the Fall and Winter here (just like it got extremely hot in the Spring and Summer). With the extreme cold came lots of snow and ice that helped to freeze the lake over. We’ve never had it crack even in the slightest before no matter how many booths and rides were set upon it.
Of course I was talking about the public lake and not the one hidden deep in the woods beside the MacMiller house. The public lake was just outside of town on your way driving into Sunfire Falls. Even so we would get some of the tourists that would drive ahead into town to buy a room at the motel or check out all our little shops.
Shortly after Zak and the crew had left, I signed on for a job working at Luke’s pizza shop after one girl had quit because she was going off to college in a different state. How she had afforded it was beyond me. This town wasn’t exactly known for its riches.
I picked up my pad of paper and took my pencil out of my pocket. Thinking about the fact that I hadn’t seen or been in contact with Zak these past four months really bummed me out, but I expected it from the moment I won the chance to go on lockdown with them. It still hurt though.
I shook my head clear of any sad thoughts and forced a smile onto my face. I couldn’t entertain those thoughts right now when we were so busy.
I walked up to the table. “Hi, my name is Aerolynn. What would you folks like to drink today?” I asked with the mundane greeting we were supposed to say to all the customers.
“Just water with a lemon for me, please,” the wife ordered before glancing at her husband.
“Coke for me,” he answered.
I nodded and wrote it down on my notepad.
“Alright, I’ll be right back with your drinks,” I smiled before turning away.
As soon as my back was to them, my smile died. Once more I turned around at the sound of the bell. My heart fell when I saw it was only more tourists.
I don’t know why I kept expecting him to show.
He was never going to come back.
“Hey, Aero, sorry I’m late!” Luke called out as he jogged over to me.
“It’s no problem. I just got here myself,” I chuckled wrapping my arm around his.
“Alright cool. So where do you want to start first?” He asked, his baby blue eyes sparkling with happiness.
“Where we always start, silly. At the sno-cone booth!” I grabbed his hand and dragged him along behind me on the ice.
Every year whenever the Frost Festival came around, Luke and I attended every day and visited a different booth each day and rode a different ride. Since the festival was only for three days and was packed with rides and vendors, it was very easy for us to not visit the same place twice.
“Where do you want to go after we get sno-cones?” I asked him as we approached the booth where, fortunately, not very many people were waiting in line.
“The swings,” he smiled mischievously.
“You and those swings,” I laughed. He wanted to ride them every year. He was such a child.
“I could say the same for you and these sno-cones,” he retorted.
“Touché,” I winked at him.
Luke walked me home as the sun began to set below the horizon. We had had quite an interesting day at the festival to say the least, but then again when I was with Luke things were ALWAYS interesting.
We walked arm in arm eating on an ice cream we had each bought before leaving the festival. It was strange how loud and crowded it was on the lake, but as soon as you got into town things became eerily quiet.
We approached my apartment building and came to a stop outside the door. I finished up my ice cream and swirled my tongue around my lips to make sure I didn’t have any ice cream on my face.
Luke laughed. “You still have a little bit near your mouth,” he informed me.
“I do? Where?”
“Right…here,” he whispered leaning down to flick his tongue out and lick the side of my mouth.
My eyes widened in shock as I met his gaze. His once light blue eyes had now deepened into something darker and more sensual. As he inched his face closer, I felt the world around me come to a stop. My heart pounded hard against my chest slower and slower each time like it was about to give out. Everything just seemed to slow down. Even my breathing was coming out slow and raggedly. What was happening right now?
Luke’s eyelids fluttered closed as he hesitantly pressed his warm lips against mine. The ice cream he had been eating dropped from his hand onto the ground as he placed one hand on the small of my back and the other behind my neck. I was too stunned to even think about closing my eyes as Luke pressed our bodies closer together. It’s not like I hadn’t kissed Luke plenty of times before, but this time it felt different. Even when we had been going out and went to our secret lake to make out, it didn’t feel like this. It had always felt mechanical like we were supposed to do something like that since we were dating. But this felt…strange. The more he pushed to get me to kiss him back, the emptier I became. I couldn’t bring myself to lie to him and kiss him back the way he wanted me to. I just couldn’t. I felt like I was betraying Zak in some weird way.
Coming out of whatever funk I had been in, I gently pushed Luke away. He must have been expecting it because he put up no resistance.
“I love you, Aerolynn!” He blurted interrupting what I had been about to say. “I have since we first became friends back when we were kids and it only grew stronger as we grew older. Then when we finally dated in high school after much pressuring from our friends, I was ecstatic because I thought then maybe we’d find out that what we have goes beyond a normal friendship. Unfortunately, you didn’t feel that way and broke it off a few months later. So I started dating Jenine in the hopes it might get you jealous, but when it wasn’t really working the way I wanted it to I broke it off with her.
“Then when I heard rumors throughout town that you were going to be on lockdown with Zak and the crew, it got me angry because I knew how much you liked him ever since you saw him on television. I was afraid he would realize how amazing you were and take you away from me. So when I was watching through the window that night at the motel, I saw you guys approach the door and him leaning closer to you. I didn’t want you to fall for him nor him fall for you so that’s why I interrupted you guys. But you have no idea how relieved I was when you called me to come pick you up at the motel because Zak had left and you didn’t feel like being alone at the time. I thought it would be my chance to comfort you and maybe have you see that we’re meant for each other,” he quickly explained hardly taking a breath at all during the time he was talking.
I blinked, completely shocked by what I had just heard. I knew our friendship was different from others, but I never knew that by having that kind of relationship it would cause us to come to a misunderstanding with each other. Slowly, as seconds passed, more and more sank in. So he had interrupted Zak and me on purpose.
“Why? Why would you interrupt us when you knew how much I liked him?” I asked quietly. I felt like I had been betrayed.
“Because I didn’t want him to take you away from me,” he lamely explained.
“I TRUSTED YOU!” I screamed at him as tears fell from my eyes. “I trusted you…” I repeated more quietly. The hurt and betrayal was evident in my voice.
“Aero, I’m sorry, I just love you so much,” Luke stressed. Tears were forming in his eyes as well.
“Just go,” I whispered turning away from him. I wasn’t mad at Luke for what he did. I understand why he did what he had, but if he hadn’t have interrupted then maybe Zak and I would at least still be talking right now. Maybe not dating, but at least talking.
“Aero…” Luke pleaded gently touching my shoulder.
“LEAVE!” I yelled angrily flinging his hand off my shoulder. Without looking to see if he left, I ran up the stairs to my apartment and flung myself inside after unlocking the door.
I fell back against the door and slid down to the ground bringing my knees up to my chest.
I sat like that for over three hours just crying my aching heart out over everything I had kept bottled inside until now: the hurt, the ever growing emptiness, and most importantly the loss of a love that would now never be.