Ezzy had not slept well of late, some nights less than an hour, which did not help with her depression and her mood didn’t improve when Forrest came over. Again.
As much time as he spend at their house, he might as well move in.
But then she would move OUT.
She just could not deal with the hide and seek that had to happen when he was around again, so she went for a walk.
Passing her dad’s now closed shop made her even more emotional, she stood there, staring at the empty shop, reminiscing about the treasured childhood memories here. So many of them. So many happy memories.
There had been so much laughter. Well, there still was, but her parents working together had been so great. Lunch and homework here after school, then playing with Ethan and friends. Those were the days. Now as soon as someone would buy it, they would all be just memories. Dust in the wind.
She went toward her grandparents’ home, her favorite spot, right behind the house overlooking the ocean. Calming and secluded.
Where he had kissed her.
Her first real kiss.
If only …
She closed her eyes and tried to remember how it felt and what it would be like if the precursors were different.
“Hello Ezzy.” she heard behind her, she winced, then frowned and made a disgruntled noise when she recognized Benny.
“Ezzy please, I just want to talk to you. Apologize. I never got the chance to tell you …”
“Whatever it is, I don’t want to hear it. Why are you creeping around my grandparents’ house now?”
“I saw you … from the window.” he pointed uphill to his family’s home uphill from the Camerons’.
“You can hit me, if that makes it better. I swear I felt bad the entire time and I wanted to warn you, but I didn’t get the chance.”
“Oh well, in that case, let’s be best friends and ride off into the sunset on white horses!” Esmée angrily mocked.
“Look, I don’t think you could ever imagine how this feels, how I felt, and how this messed me up, but I cannot just shake it off and move on like it never happened.”
“I know. I DO know how this feels. I have been there. Twice. That’s why my dad moved so much. People just don’t like me.”
“Then especially you should have never done that to anyone – least of all someone who has been nice to you.”
“I agree, but … and I wasn’t gonna. I swear I refused her. But she said you would spend time with me. And you did. And I … liked that. You had become so … illusive before.”
“What? Do you realize how deranged you sound?”
“Look at me Ezzy. I am just some ridiculous nerd nobody takes serious. I cannot change that. Only on TV can guys like me work out three times and come to school buff and desirable on Monday. The only reason ANY girl would ever even look at me twice, is because of my grandparents’ wealth. You were nice to me when you didn’t even know me and didn’t have to be. And I know you – in a way – through Cole. He hates that you ditched him because of me, but he is kinda my only friend, so I was hoping if you could forgive me, we’d all be okay.”
“I have to think about that. Can you just leave me alone now?” Ezzy said more to make him go away than really thinking about forgiving him.
“Sure. And thanks, Ezzy, for at least considering it.”
After he was gone Esmée shook her head and sat down to watch the clouds dance over the calm ocean.
“Seriously life? I am 16 years old. How am I supposed to make all those decisions? I have no idea what the heck I am doing here.” she mumbled to herself
“Maybe looking for the first cat to start your collection?” the words out of nowhere startled her.
“Oh my gawd! You again? We need to buy you a bell for around your neck! I just about peed my pants, you scared me!”
“I can dip you in the ocean for a quick rinse. And we need to come up with a new greeting for me. I am starting to introduce myself to people as ‘You again’.”
“Why are you here?”
“Ethan wanted to come over to you guys’ grandparents. I just had that feeling that I’d find a Xena round back, especially when I saw Benny scurry uphill when we arrived.”
“Yeah … Benny happened.”
“So did you?”
“Did I what?”
“Forgive him. Assume that’s what he wanted.”
“I don’t know.”
“Let me know when you do know. Maybe then I can plead with you to finally forgive me.”
“There is nothing to forgive .. I … it’s me. Totally me. I just can’t .. go there.”
“Damn, we’re not even dating and I am getting the ‘it’s not you it’s me – but in reality it totally is YOU’ spiel.”
“You and your unfunny jokes. Can’t you take anything serious?”
“Sure. I am serious when I say this: let’s be friends again at least. Quit treating me like I was some diseased and filthy sewage rat and we’ll go from there.”
“Why is that so important to you? You have a lot of friends.”
“I have a lot of people I know and hang out with. I’ve been where you are and learned to know the difference. I have one best friend. Your brother. I’d be interested in another.”
“You have been bullied? That’s hard to imagine.”
“Imagine it. Where do you think my charming ways come from?”
“Thought that’s just part of the package.”
“Are we talking about my package now?”
“Oh my gawd, Kill me now!”
“Hey, you owe me an answer.”
“Fine. Friends. On a test basis. I am not sure that I can stand all this full time.”
“Cool. Let’s go home and celebrate by putting that picture back up.”
“Fine, we’ll get Ethan and go home.”
“Yeah, about that … that may not have been true….Ethan may have left to meet Amy and I may just have come here alone.”
“Why did you lie about something so trivial?”
“Not a lie – more a …. fib. Figured if you thought Ethan was here, you wouldn’t attack and/or run right away. Worked, didn’t it?”
“I don’t even know what to say to that.”
“Say ‘Ooooh Forrest, you are soooo amaaaazing and smart and hunky….oooooh.” he said, changing his voice to a higher pitch making her burst into laughter.
“Two things: I sound NOTHING like that and also, you will NEVER hear those words from me.” she eventually said.
“Can I at least get an ‘Oh Forrest, you are not so bad.’?”
“Fine. Ooooh, I do declare, Forrest dear, you are not so bad.” she said theatrically.
On the way to Ezzy’s home they continued the exchange until they were laughing tears, causing some passing pedestrians to shake their heads.
When they were home she took him to her room and pulled that picture of them from a drawer, placing it back where it used to be.
“Happy?” she asked him.
“Any happier and I’d burst into frigging rainbows.”
“So now what?”
“I don’t know. What do you usually do in here all day?”
“Read. Thinking about the cats I will collect one day.” she grinned at him, since that was what he always teased her with. He caught the drift and told her.
“Sounds thrilling. Counter-offer: swimming pool?”
“Ok. Do you have swim shorts here or want some of Ethan’s?”
“I was hoping you’d lend me one of your bikini thingies.”
“If you fit into my clothes, I’ll hang myself!”
“You calling me fat?”
“If the shoe fits.”
“I have not an ounce on me! Check it out!”
He pulled off his shirt and Esmée wished he hadn’t. She blushed and stared, not sure what to say or do. What she wanted to do was touch that chest.
“That’s what I thought! I’ll be at the pool then.”
He left and Ezzy sat down on the bed. This wasn’t gonna work! Being friends was great in theory, but her mind and heart were well past that. Question was, if trying to keep up the charades would be worth it or if this was gonna end in some huge disaster. Ethan would lose his shit if he found out how she really felt about his bestie. And if things between her and Forrest really went South, she’d destroy their friendship. No. That was nonsense. So she got a bit woozy looking at him. So what? A lot of girls did. And she heard the cheer team drool over him. So, this was normal. Didn’t mean she needed to act on it.
She changed into her bikini and went downstairs, where Forrest was already doing laps.
They had fun in the pool, splashing, playing, then chilling in the lounge chairs.
“Do you guys have a pool?” she asked him.
“Couldn’t remember. Only been to your house once. Years ago and not exactly in a house tour kinda mood.”
“Yeah, that was crazy.”
“You and that awful bleach blond hair dye job .. hahahaha…”
“You and those ridiculous braids.”
“My braids weren’t ridiculous.”
“Not if you were like 6 years old. At 13, yeah they were. Why don’t you come over one day. I’ll show you around. Including that pool we don’t have.”
“Maybe.” she smiled.
“Your parents aren’t home?” she asked, heart beating fast.
“Nah, not until later. They’re both working.”
He took her to his room, and she saw the picture of them.
“You weren’t lying, you actually have it up on your wall!”
“I never lied to you, Ezzy.”
He was so close, right in front of her now, she could smell him, almost feel the warmth radiating off him. And those eyes … and lips … they were coming closer …. ok, this time she would not fight it. She felt his hand on her waist, the touch sent those bolts of lightning through her entire body.
They heard the front door unlock and just after Forrest’s mother’s voice – and both froze.
“Hey baby, I am home early. Are you in your room? Saw your car and your keys.”
“Uh oh.” Forrest said as they stepped away from one another.
The door opened.
“Oh! I didn’t realize you had company. Hello, I am Forrest’s mom.” Mrs. Gray offered her hand to Ezzy, shooting warning glances at Forrest. No doubt he would hear the spiel about girls in his room with the door shut later. Why did his mother have to be home early today of all days?!
“Esmée. Nice to meet you Mrs. Gray. Again.”
“Mom, this is Ezzy, Ethan’s sister.”
“Oh, right .. you are … oh!” Kaila Gray’s facial expression reflected that she remembered Ezzy.
“Yeah. That was me.” Esmée said forcing a smile. Awkward.
“No worries, mom. She only beats me up a little bit these days.” Forrest grinned.
“Only when you deserve it.” Ezzy quipped back, thanking him in her mind as that joke did take the edge of this uncomfortable moment.
“Saves me from having to. All right. Are you kids hungry?” Mrs. Gray smiled as well.
“No thanks, I think I need to get back home anyway.”
“I’ll drive ya.” Forrest offered.
Secretly both were hoping for another moment like the one in his room, but when he dropped her off at home, her dad was taking the trash out.
No chance for even a kiss goodbye in the car now.
One Friday evening a bunch of teens went to Everett Heights to hang out, just let loose, have a BBQ, some would camp overnight, just like many generations of young people had done before them.
Surprisingly even Esmée went.
She had forgotten how much fun things like this could be.
Watching her brother and Amy, and several other couples, she decided she’d be even more brave.
When everybody was busy, she gestured Forrest to meet her away from the crowd, behind some bushes and trees.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Kiss me.” she told him.
“Girl, you’re killin’ me! You told me to never do that again.” he wasn’t sure if he was hearing things.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!”
She reached up, pulled his face close and kissed him. Just a quick kiss. Over too fast.
“Whoa! Am I dreaming this!? Better make sure it’s real!”
He kissed her back. Much longer than her kiss had been. And this time, she didn’t push him away. She returned the kiss.
Afterwards she smiled and put her forehead against his chest, with a slight sigh.
“Did I pass?” he asked.
“Just shut up, will ya?” she mumbled.
“Hey, I deserve to know what I am risking my life for here. You know Ethan would kill me if he knew I just kissed his little sister.”
“I am not the little sister, I am two whole minutes older!”
“Let’s get back before I only have two more minutes left to live.”
The entire rest of the night there would be glances between them, secret touches of the hand, brushing up to each other … it became a game.
All the others were busy with themselves, nobody paid much attention to either Forrest or Esmée, and when the first ones started to go home or went to sleep in their tents, only a few hardcore party animals remained.
This was when Ethan came over and sat down next to Forrest who was still in a bit of a daze.
“What? All alone? I thought you and Amy had your imaginary braces stuck together. Looked like it all night.” Forrest teased, Ethan barely acknowledged it, instead told him.
“Tonight’s the night. Wish me luck!” Ethan said, looked about ready to burst for anticipation.
“What night?!” Forrest asked confused.
Ethan pulled a condom package from his jeans, briefly flashing it at Forrest, then stuffing it back in the pocket, looking around him to see if anyone saw.
“Oh – right. Well, good luck, dude. Hope you and little Ethan don’t end up choking.”
Once more Forrest’s joke was completely ignored by a nervously fidgeting Ethan.
“She’s into it. She said so. She even brought it up before I had figured out how to say it. And I know I am. Ready for it, I mean. It’s gonna be great. Right?” Ethan pressed.
“Sure! Well go rock her world then, don’t make the lady wait or she may go find Aaron instead.” Forrest chuckled.
“Not funny, dude. Not funny at all!” Ethan left, Forrest watched him grab Amy’s hand, she giggled as they made their way to his tent.
“Lucky bastard. He’s going THERE and I am over here freaking out because of one little kiss. Well, two. Ah, one and a half. But man, I worked hard for the one or two kisses. And already wish there’d be another.” Forrest mumbled to himself.
At the same time Esmée, who never drank alcohol, had pilfered an almost empty Vodka bottle, and was sitting in her tent with it.
“Liquid courage … let’s see how well you work.” she drank some, frowned, trying to get it to go down, felt a bit dizzy from the alcohol and disgusted.
“Oh my gawd, this is nasty. Blech!”
Once the music shut off and it became dark, she left her tent, snuck over to a particular tent in the outer corner of the campground, looked around herself, then opened the zipper and slipped in.
“Ezzy?” he whispered surprised.
“Expecting someone else?” she whispered back.
“Yeah, the group of strippers I ordered. And a pizza.”
“Well, they took the pizza and left.”
“Dammit, I hate it when that happens.”
“Room for one more?” she asked, crawling over next to him, smiling.
“Are you … drunk?” he asked surprised when he smelled alcohol on her breath.
“Maybe a little.”
Esmée took all the courage she could muster and touched his chest, then kissed him.
He returned the kiss, they made out for quite a while.
Forrest held on to her hand as it was hesitantly making its way down his body and sat up.
“Ezzy, no … not like this. Not when you are … impaired.” he whispered, his voice husky now. With any other girl he wouldn’t have cared, but not with her. Not like this.
“Why?” she halted.
“I don’t want to take advantage of you. And I want us both to be fully … present for it.”
Esmée sat up and started sobbing. He sat up, too, cursing himself. Not again!?
“No no no, Ezzy, I am sorry, I don’t mean no .. just not … like this… I am not saying no to you…. definitely not!”
“I know ….” she sobbed.
“Then why are you crying?” he whispered confused.
“Because you are so sweet.”
He put his arms around her, pulled her close and just held her for a bit, then said
“That’s new. From ‘you are an asshole’ straight to ‘you are so sweet’.”
“I still sound nothing like that, there was an ‘oh Forrest, you are not so bad’ in between, remember? And can I confess something too?”
“I am not drunk. I tried to, but couldn’t get more than a sip down. I have no idea how people become alcoholics. Eeew. I just said that so in case you didn’t want what I was doing, I could blame it on the alcohol.”
“In that case ….”
She giggled when he shoved her onto his sleeping bag but stopped when he kissed her.
They started making out until he began just caressing her face, still not sure he wasn’t just dreaming this.
“You remind me of my dad.” she suddenly said.
“That is a really weird and awkward thing to say right now. Or ever, actually.”
“No, I mean, eww, not like banjos and stuff. Just … you do. My dad is amazing.”
“OK, I am not gonna say that you remind me of my mom, cos, you don’t. And I am glad you don’t. I love my mom, but … yeah. Not the image I want in my head.”
He nestled himself in next to her, she placed her head on his arm then sighed quietly, contently.
A period of silence followed, Forrest smiled, wondering how insane all this was and how oddly happy he was right this very moment.
He turned his head as said.
“So, what was your plan after you got into my tent?”
“Don’t tell me you fell asleep already…”
He moved slightly and realized she was breathing evenly.
“She fell asleep. What a first date. Glad she waited until AFTER the making out. Man, this girl is gonna be the death of me. Esmée Cameron, you are definitely one-of-a-kind. Oh well, guess we’re gonna sleep then.”
He stretched out and closed his eyes too, opening them briefly a few times to make sure he hadn’t imagined that she was right there next to him.
What a ride.
As happy as he was right now, he knew there wasn’t going to be a romantic reveal where they would stand before their friends and families and everyone applauded their new love excitedly.
But right now, he would just enjoy the moment.
In his arms.
Editorial Note: Everett Heights has been in my game since very early on, when Generation 2 was still children, and a fun fact about it: the twins’ grandfather, Everett Cameron, was actually conceived right there, which is why he was named after the location. You can read about that here (Click).