No Place Like This

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Xander is looking for his MIA girlfriend, Presley.

Submitted: December 10, 2010

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Submitted: December 10, 2010

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No Place Like This
Xander pushed open the door to his apartment. His roommates sat on the couch, their eyes riveted to the TV screen as the latest football scores flashed on it. They were so absorbed; they barely noticed as he slipped off his coat and went on to the kitchen to get something to drink. He opened the fridge and took a sip from the milk jug and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
The place was in shambles; clothes and shoes were thrown in random places around the living room and hallway. Dishes were piled up in the sink and on the counter beside leftover food and unopened mail. Gnats clung to the rotting apples that sat on the windowsill above the dishwasher. Xander took another drink of the milk and slammed it down on the breakfast nook, leaning onto the countertop for support.
Kyle and Titus walked over and plopped down on the barstools. He’d gone to college with Kyle, who’d been majoring in architecture so he could take over his dad’s construction company, and had met Titus through his sister, who knew everything about the band The Split Ends. Both guys were tall and skinny, but Kyle had short brown hair and freckles, where Titus’s hair was curly, black, and shoulder- length. Titus was everyone’s favorite singer- slash- songwriter with a sensitive side whereas Kyle was the jock with a random violent streak.
“No luck?” Kyle asked.
Xander shot him a look and twisted the cap onto the jug. “What makes you say that?”
“Dude,” Titus laughed, pointing at the milk, “you never drink from the jug unless you’re depressed. What happened?”
“I basically walked around downtown for two hours, checking in every boutique and restaurant, asking people about her.” He ran his hands through his disheveled blond hair. “What if she was kidnapped?”
Kyle rolled his eyes. “No one gets kidnapped in New Harbor because everyone knows everything. You check the beach?”
“Of course I did. That was the first place I looked.” The beach in November was deserted and desolate, and she’d told him many times that it was her favorite place to be when she wanted to think. The skies were grey and the waves ice cold as they lapped at the shore. It’s peaceful, she’d told him the day they’d met. I don’t know why, but I love it here in winter. There’s no place like it.
“Look,” Titus told him, “Presley is a smart, beautiful young woman. She knows what she’s doing, even if we don’t. I’m sure she’s perfectly fine and comfortable and we’re just worrying for nothing.”
“Yeah.” Xander sighed. “That’s probably it. I mean, what’s the worst that could’ve happened since last night?”
Titus and Kyle shared a look that Xander didn’t have time to decipher because at that moment his cell phone blared from his coat pocket. He whipped it out and checked the caller ID, his heart sinking as he read his sister’s name.“Caroline, hi,” Xander greeted his little sister with false enthusiasm. Caroline was in her freshman year of college, majoring in psychology, and thought she had all the answers to Xander’s many problems.
Titus and Kyle half- saluted and raced back to the couch, arguing over who got the remote. Xander turned and walked down the short crowded hallway to his bedroom, the cleanest room in the whole apartment, thanks to Presley’s tidiness. His bed was made, his clothes all on hangers in his closet, his business papers all arranged neatly on his computer desk. Presley had spent hours reorganizing the room and renovating his heart.
“Cut the sarcasm,” Caroline said to Xander as he shut his bedroom door and slipped off his shoes. “I don’t care if you’ve had a bad day; you’re not allowed to be rude to your baby sister.”
He smiled slightly. “Sorry kiddo. What’s up?”
“I think,” she replied, “that the real question is what’s up with you. I’ve tried calling you six times today and each time I was sent to voice mail. Care to explain?”
“I’ve been out all day and I didn’t have time for chit- chat.”
“Oh. So then… I guess you didn’t find her?”
“Nope.”
Silence. He checked the phone to make sure the connection hadn’t been lost. After about a minute, Caroline spoke. “I see. Have you been to her house at all? Maybe the neighbors know something.”
“I don’t want to look like a stalker,” he snapped, disgusted with the idea of going to her house and peering in her windows.
His sister let out a giggle. “Huh. Like you haven’t already? I’ll bet you spent the whole day searching for her downtown.”
He shifted his weight, heat rising in his cheeks. “Um…” She can’t see you, Parks. Man up. “What I did or didn’t do is none of your business, Caroline. Now, I need to get some sleep.”
“You don’t even work tomorrow.”
“So? I’m not allowed to sleep?”
“Xander.” She applied his name like a brake. “Come on. You can’t let this thing take over your life. Presley is
“Not here, where she needs to be,” he deadpanned. “I’m done with this conversation.” He jabbed the END button and tossed his phone on the bed. What did she know anyway? She was eighteen, just barely an adult. How could she know how he felt or expect to tell him how to deal with his pain?
Xander didn’t sleep well that night because his mind kept flitting back to the memories of Presley. The way her green eyes glittered when she laughed. The way she was so confident in herself. The way she kissed. He ached to know where she was, even if it meant she wasn’t coming back. Knowing she was safe would’ve been enough for him.
He remembered the way they’d met; she’d been at Titus’s benefit concert at Marty’s in September. Xander had seen her sitting at a corner booth when a couple of guys had tried to pick her up and he’d intervened. That had resulted in a fight and the bouncer threatening to call the cops. After, in Presley’s kitchen, she’d lectured him on the importance of self- preservation and the usage of words in the place of violence while she cleaned the blood off his face and put wrapped a gauze bandage around his damaged knuckles. He recalled staring at her mouth the entire time she ranted, wondering how she’d feel if he kissed her.
The kisses. Xander’s stomach dropped as the memory of the way her lips felt on his slipped into his head. He turned onto his side and shut his eyes tightly against the yearning in his heart for the woman he loved. And he admitted it now; he did love her. Sure, she didn’t believe love existed, hadn’t ever because her parents had failed to show her any, but he’d been determined to convince her it was real. He’d been sure she was simply afraid of showing that she could care for another person, scared to have to rely on anyone else for anything when she’d spent so long fending for herself.
And it seemed he’d been right, if her MIA status was any indication.
“Presley?”
Xander pushed open the front door of the ranch- style home nestled in the quaint Kensington Woods subdivision. It was the kind of neighborhood where you’d want to start off; friendly and inviting, the landscaping well- kept and the residents were socially active in each other’s lives. He couldn’t see Presley living there, though, for some reason. She just wasn’t the extravert- type.
As he walked into the house, he saw that it was vacant. The furniture was completely gone and the food had vanished. Any inkling that a human life had been living there thirty- two hours ago was gone. Xander stepped through the house, dejected. He’d been so sure that she’d be here, or her stuff would be at least.
When did she even have the time to pack up? Surely someone would’ve told him about seeing or hearing about a moving van. Two months ago the home had been fully furnished; it had to have required a moving van and then some. He must’ve seen it at some point and missed the meaning.
He left the house the opposite of the way he’d arrived; hopeless and tired. He was beginning to think that Presley Thomas had dropped off the face of the earth and was floating around in space somewhere without a care in the world of what it was doing to him.
As he descended the front walk, he caught a glimpse of a group of women who sat in the front yard of the house across the street. They were ogling him, that much he could tell by the way their eyes were glued to his masculine form. Before he knew what he was doing, his feet were carrying him across the paved blacktop and green grass to the front porch where the women sat.
There were three of them; two blonds and a red head. The red head was staring at his chest as if she was unwilling to meet his gaze. The blonds were more outward with their feelings, however.
“Hi there,” the blue- eyed blond said, sizing him up.
“Hello.” He nodded slightly. “I’m, um… my name is Xander Parks.” Three pairs of eyes blinked simultaneously, making him nervous, although he couldn’t pinpoint why exactly. “I was wondering if you knew what had happened Presley Thomas.”
The brown- eyed blond shrugged. “No one knows.”
Xander sighed heavily. “In a community this tight- knitted I find that hard to believe.”
Blue Eyes smiled seductively. “Well, you can be a part of our community too. I’m Heidi, that’s Zara, and the red head is Arianna.”
He forced a tight smile. “Wonderful, but I came here to find the woman I love. If you can’t help me I’ll just find someone who can.” He started to turn and stalk off when Arianna cleared her throat and said, “She moved away, Xander. That’s all anybody knows. I guess she did what she does best; running.”
Xander’s hand curled into a fist. “Oh. Well, thank you ladies.”
He went back to his car in a daze, angry at everyone and everything. The woman he loved was gone and she didn’t even know how he felt. As he drove out of the neighborhood, rage swished around inside him like a riptide threatening to explode.
He wound up on the beach. He stood just out of reach of the waves that lapped around his feet and stared off into the distance, wondering where he’d gone wrong. He’d shown her nothing but compassion and had been understanding about her past. He hadn’t pushed her to admit feelings that she’d been unwilling to consider. He’d been the perfect man and yet she was gone.
But maybe that was inevitable. Maybe love didn’t exist to people who chose not to believe in it. It wasn’t something that would simply find someone if they weren’t open to the prospect. And they couldn’t be forced into believing it; they had to accept it on their own. Sometimes it came down to two things; either they wanted it or they didn’t. From there they could run from it or embrace it, and more often than not that meant that people would get hurt.
Xander sighed sadly and picked the small square velvet box from his pocket. He fingered the exquisite diamond and his heart felt like it was literally tearing in two. He nearly collapsed to his knees from the sadness that surged through him. Nothing would ever be the same again, and he couldn’t for the life of him know why Presley would’ve chosen any other place than New Harbor, but he wasn’t about to spend the rest of his life torturing himself over what could’ve been. It was time to move on, no matter how much it hurt him now. He knew it’d be worth it in the long haul.
Pulling his arm back, he thrust the box as far as he could out into the ocean and watched it get swallowed by the dark blue icy cold water.
Then, turning his back to the sea, he said, more to Presley (wherever she was) than anyone else, “There’s no place like this.”


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