Today’s excerpt is from my most popular novel to date, On a Hot August Afternoon which you can purchase just by clicking on the title!
Stephanie and Basil had a perfect wedding. By this time in their relationship they had worked through a lot and Basil was back to being his usual, happy, easy going self. They held hands at the makeshift alter, and you knew they’d be together forever.
I alternated between watching them to being distracted by Pete who chose instead to watch me. I could feel his eyes on me the whole time, and when the ceremony ended he was immediately at my side. We congratulated the newlyweds, and then stepped away from the crowd and kissed until his Uncle pulled us apart, reminding us that we were both supposed to be a part of the receiving line.
Technically I was meant to stand next to Theo, but Pete talked him into trading places, and held my hand as one guest after another congratulated him on his success. He did his best to refocus the attention on Stephanie and Basil. I must have heard him say a thousand times that this was their day and he was just happy to be a part of it. When we were finally allowed some champagne, we were all grateful to have survived and happy to be moving on with the reception.
Pete had been asked to perform the song they’d chosen for their first dance, which was Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning”, and so wrong on every level. Pete had a hard time getting through it with a straight face, but Stephanie loved it and defends it to this day. He followed that song with “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, for his mom, and then “She’s So Jaded”, which he dedicated to me. When he finished it, he jumped off the stage, took my hand and danced with me until it was time for dinner. After, he showed me that he still had the key to Steph and Basil’s apartment.
“You’re going to come back with me, right?” he asked.
“Just for tonight, because tomorrow we have to go back to just friends,” I insisted.
“There’s no going back,” he told me.
Those words haunt me now.
I row out at least halfway across the lake until my arms and back ache and I can’t go any further. The water is surprisingly calm. This being the end of summer, the lake is usually polluted by jet skis and tourists. I try to lay back but the kayak threatens to tip and I quickly sit up, hugging my knees. I try not to think about Pete but it’s impossible. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was still watching me. Sometimes that feeling doesn’t go away until long after we’ve been apart.
I shift my thoughts to the girls and their being off with their cousins. As much as being at the lake can overwhelm me, they love the times they get to spend with the family, particularly up here. Pete tells great stories about his summers growing up and they all center around the lake and his cousins. I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for all of us.
Brooklyn’s favorite tale is of one summer when Pete went hiking with Jeanette and her then boyfriend, Greg, who thought he knew all when it came to local wildlife. They turned a corner on a generally deserted path and came upon a big old bear, sunning herself.
“Go stand next to it and I’ll get a picture,” Pete laughed when Greg assured them they had nothing to worry about because he reasoned the bear was in a deep slumber if it hadn’t heard them approaching.
The idiot took a step closer and the bear let out a roar that sent them running for their lives. I wonder what adventures the girls will have up here in future summers and if I’ll be up here with them.
I try to imagine my life without Pete, and tell myself it should be easy to do. After all, we are not strangers to being apart. We spend anywhere from two to four months apart almost every year. He tours and I stay home with the kids because traveling from town to town with roadies and rock stars is no way to raise little girls.
“Come home with me,” he said the day after the wedding.
“Just like that?” I asked.
“You’ll love LA. Did you know for example, that unlike in San Francisco, in LA you can go to the beach and not even freeze? And that’s always. Every single day is all palm trees and sunshine. You’ll love it.”
“I can’t,” I hesitated.
“I love you Stace, I won’t mess this up again, I promise.”
“I can’t do it. I don’t want to end up hating you again,” I said.
“But there won’t be anything to hate. We’ll live together, happily ever after.”
“Just like that?” I asked skeptically.
“Just like that,” he smiled.
“I’ve never lived with anyone, have you? You have right? Where is she now? I’ll bet you thought that would work too, didn’t you?” I challenged.
“She is living with a friend of a friend and no, we were never going to be forever and we both knew that. We were transitory, that’s all.”
Somehow that sounded very grown up to me at the time. I wanted to believe that he knew what he was talking about and so I did. I agreed to return to LA with him to see if it was the city of inspiration that he promised me it would be. If we could really live together and be happy ever after.