30. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online
“It’s really perfect here, Simon,” Jules said, breathing in the balmy woodsy air. “I’m going to get lots of writing done.”
Preston, pulling his bass guitar out of his trunk, agreed. “I feel like composing something.” His predilection for jazz had opened Lisbeth’s musical verizons, and she imagined how nice it would be if they could write a song together, the way she and Simon did. Kevin had written a song for her once, a love song. But he’d said it was too goofy to sing it for anyone else but her, so no one had heard it. She could hardly remember the lyrics… something about him waiting his whole life for her, and being a better person when he was with her.
“I hope we see some wildlife,” Allie said. “I don’t want to just draw trees all weekend.”
Mandy glanced at Tim as if to say, See what I mean? and immediately regretted coming. Tim figured he was in for a weekend of listening to her complain about how amazing her sisters were, but was looking forward to spending two nights with her, and hoped to distract her with moonlit walks and great sex.
No one expected Kevin to show up, but show up he did, with red roses. His face lit up at the sight of Lisbeth, and he took several steps toward her before seeing Preston.
“Kevin!” Lisbeth heard herself say; in her voice a combination of relief and longing and shock and anger. “What… what are you doing here?”
“Is this your ex?” Preston asked. “Ex-boyfriend and ex-drummer?”
“Who are you?” Kevin’s eyes took him in, then his car, then his proximity to Lisbeth.
“Preston,” Preston said, since no one else seemed capable of speech. He even extended his hand.
“What are you doing here?” Lisbeth asked again. Despite what he had done to her, she felt terrible for him, standing there with roses, apparently all set to apologize and win her back. “How did you know I was here?”
“Called Simon’s grandfather.” Kevin was torn between gazing at Lisbeth, who seemed to have gotten more sophisticated and more beautiful and sweet looking, and staring at this guy, who was obviously rich as fuck. The shock was like a tsunami that kept hitting him over and over—She’s got a new boyfriend already! and made him feel queasy and a little dizzy; humiliated. Then furious. Throwing the roses on the ground, he turned, got back into his car—Jesus what a piece of shit it was—and pulled out and drove away.
Lisbeth couldn’t bring herself to look at Preston. Instead, she turned on Simon. “You didn’t tell your grandfather about… what happened?”
“I didn’t want to upset him.” Simon knew it was a weak excuse. “But I never thought Kevin would… ”
Finally Lisbeth looked at Preston. “I’m so sorry.”
He shrugged. “No big deal.”
Jules recovered first. “Let’s go inside and figure out the bedroom situation.”
The other nodded, murmured, and everyone headed in. Lisbeth and Preston went into the first room—her feeling awkward, and him smiling broadly. Tim and Mandy went into the room across the hall. Simon, who was familiar with the cabin’s layout, took a room that was all the way down the hall. Jules and Allie were going to share a room, but Simon told them there were enough rooms for them to have singles.
As soon as they dropped off their stuff, they met back in the large living area. Mandy and Lisbeth started putting groceries in the refrigerator, and Simon took the others outside to the deck, where there was a large grill. Tim had surprised everyone with his announcement that he was a master griller, and he’d brought all his favorite spices.
Preston had brought a case of champagne and glasses (in case the cabin only had plastic cups) and they officially settled in.
Lisbeth managed to eat, help with the cleanup, and chat; but as soon as she could, she went into the bathroom, ran the water, and cried as quietly as she could.
The evening passed in a blur, with everyone pretending not to be rattled by Kevin’s appearance. Except Preston. Jules kept sneaking glances at him, marveling at how cool he was about it. I can’t believe that didn’t freak him out. She’d ask Simon later what he thought.
Allie slipped out by herself before it got dark to find a pine cone and an acorn to draw, and Lisbeth and Simon played a song they’d been working on recently, a love song with a new wave vibe, which Preston accompanied on bass, impressing them with his ability to intuit what strings to pluck.
With a sigh, Mandy thought about the book she’d brought (a beginner’s guide to business record keeping), and couldn’t stop thinking that she was the least interesting person in the world.
“Let’s go out for a walk,” Tim whispered. “I need to be alone with you.” They got up and left, and then Preston put down his bass and motioned to Lisbeth to follow him down the hall.
Simon and Jules, left alone, decided to start a fire, find the bag of marshmallows, and look for sticks. Once outside, they spoke quietly.
“Can you believe he just showed up?”
“Poor Lissie… did you see her face? It must have killed her to see him.”
“Wonder what would have happened if Preston hadn’t been here?”
“I think a few weeks ago she would have flown into his arms,” Jules said, “but I think he waited too long. Even if Lissie wasn’t with Preston now, I think she’s too mad. He waited way too long.”
“He’s been acting so fucked up,” Simon shook his head. “Remember what a great guy he was? Once he split with Lissie, man, he just… it’s like he’s a completely different person. I wish that… ” his voice trailed off.
“Me too,” Jules sighed. Then she added in a little voice, “Nothing works out the way you plan, does it, Simon.”
He knew she was thinking about Michael, and felt sad, too. “No,” he said. “It doesn’t.”
“But did you see how Lissie can just… compose a song… after the shock she had, with Kevin showing up? She’s still able to just sit down and… ” Mandy’s voice trembled. “Allie will be drawing all these amazing things, and Jules will write ten short stories. What will I be doing?”
“Mandy… ” Tim stopped walking. “You’ll be with me. The greatest guy in the world. Who loves you.”
“Oh honey, you’re right. I’m so sorry. God, what a bitch I’m being.”
“Not a bitch. Just… you need to look at what you have here… ” He held up the book bag she didn’t notice he’d brought.
He pulled out a bottle of champagne. Handing it to her, he put the book bag on the ground, and then gave a nervous laugh. “This might be ill advised.”
“What might be? Drinking champagne in the woods?”
“No, this.” He got down on one knee. “Mandy… ”
Her hand flew to her mouth.
“I didn’t bring a ring, I didn’t know I was going to propose. But all day long I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to go to bed with you tonight and wake up with you tomorrow… and I realized that… that’s what I want to do every night and every morning for the rest of my life. So… ”
As she watched, he mimed withdrawing a little box from his pocket, opening it, and offering it.
“Yes,” she said. She took the imaginary ring from the imaginary box and slipped it onto her finger. “It’s exactly the right size.”
He stood. “I know,” he said. Their kiss was long and tender. But when they went to toast their engagement, he realized he hadn’t brought glasses. Or a corkscrew. “Well, so much for the perfect proposal.”
“No. It was perfect. It was so perfect. Should we tell the others?”
“Let’s wait until I get a ring. Okay? I don’t know why, it just seems weird if you tell people you’re engaged and you don’t have an actual ring.”
“And… I mean, it might be a while… I need to save up so that we can get a place together. Unless you want to live with Stan and me. That’s why it’s so great that you have this new job… we’ll be able to get married sooner now.”
She nodded, couldn’t speak. They found a secluded spot, and even though it was buggy, they celebrated.
“Nice little place,” Preston said.
It’s bigger than our house, Lisbeth thought. “Yeah.”
He took her hand, led her to the bed, and they sat side by side. “You haven’t told me much about your ex, just that you had a big fight and he didn’t call to apologize. But for him to show up like that… all ready to get back together with you… I mean, do you want him back? Should you and I not share a room? You could bunk with Jules or Allie. I’d understand. I’d even… I’d even leave in the morning, and you could call him and—”
“No!” She thought about what Kevin had done, and she thought about the nights of torment and agony and devastating disappointment. Preston had been so nice… taking her out to expensive places—never McDonalds or Burger King! All the eating out had actually put some weight on her, and she knew she looked better now than she ever had. He was easy to be with; they laughed a lot. And he never pressured her. He’d kissed her, sure—from the first date he’d been kissing her and holding her hand. But he’d never suggested they get a room. He called every single day, either to hear how her day was, or to see if she wanted to get together. On the 4th of July he came over in a huge limo and took her and her sisters and Simon and Tim to see the fireworks in Boston. And it was nice to belong to someone again. “No, I want to be with you tonight,” she said.
Relief showed on his face. “Good. I was so scared you’d say yes.”
He kissed her and lowered her onto her back. His hand crept under her tee shirt, up her tummy, until he reached her bra. Lisbeth was panicked by this moment of truth: when he realized how flat chested she was, would he still be interested in having sex with her?
His hand slipped around to the back, unsnapped her, lifted her shirt, and then his fingers were on her nipples. Then his lips. Lisbeth felt tingles.
“These are beautiful. You’re beautiful.”
“I’m so small… there… ” she said in a voice filled with shame.
“That’s what I love about them. I’m one of those guys who hates big tits.”
Lisbeth, who didn’t know there existed such a creature as a guy who hated big tits, moaned in delight.
“Amazing. It looks totally real,” Jules said, looking at Allie’s drawing. “I feel like I could just pick it up.”
“Acorns are like the easiest thing in the world to draw.” Allie studied it with a critical eye. “Mom loves acorns. I’m going to frame it and give it to her.”
“She’ll love that.”
Allie nodded, then yawned. “I might go to bed.” She stood, put her arms around Simon, and kissed him. “Thanks for this, Simon. It’s so fun, us all being together.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, surprised. Great kiss, and right on the lips.
“Night, Allie.” Jules watched her disappear down the hall, then turned to Simon. “And then there were two.”
“The two best ones.” He strummed the guitar on his lap. “Wonder how Lisbeth is doing? I kind of thought they’d come up for air.”
“I think Mandy and Tim did it in the woods.”
“I know. Mandy had leaves in her hair, and they both looked… ”
Jules thought about sex with Michael and sighed. Even though it hadn’t been good, she missed it. She missed being in his arms. The way he smelled in the morning, and the way he was so passionate about the theatre. She’d never been the type of girl who thought about what man she would marry, but Michael had made her realize that he would have to be creative; he would not be someone with a 9-5 job.
“I gotta start playing again, Jules,” Simon’s voice broke into her thoughts. “I go crazy when I’m not.”
“I know what you mean. Do you believe I haven’t written a single poem or short story since… well, since May?”
“Wow, that’s a long time for you.” He put down his guitar and moved over onto the couch next to her. “How come? That guy?”
Embarrassed, she shrugged. It didn’t come as a surprise that he knew; the April girls were incapable of keeping anything from him.
“Allie said he was a jerk.”
“He was. He is.”
“How come you liked him so much?”
“I don’t know. I really don’t have any idea.”
Simon looked at her for a long time. It broke his heart to remember how she’d started out the school year so happily. She hadn’t expected this. He sat back and sighed.
Jules looked away, trying not to cry. “It’s so stupid,” she said.
“Not stupid.” He put his hand on her knee, and she turned to him. Their faces were close. And then such a weird thing happened to Jules: she saw her hand reach out and touch his cheek, and she heard herself say, “Simon… ” His chin had stubble; no longer a boy, but a grown man… and his eyes were so blue, had they always been so blue?
Suddenly Allie reappeared, adorably dressed in a baby doll nightie. Her eyes took in the scene, and she stammered, “Oh! Sorry, I was just… ”
“No, we were just… ” Just what? Simon didn’t know.
Jules asked, “What are you doing up still?”
“I have the room next to Lisbeth.”
“This is a weekend full of sex,” Jules declared, not looking at Simon.
“I’m happy for her, don’t get me wrong. It’s just… he’s loud. A little loud. Well, the bed is loud.” She stepped into her flip flops. ““Let’s go outside and look for fireflies.”
Simon, who couldn’t help noticing that in the right light he could see through the filmy fabric of her nightie, jumped up. “Okay!”
Mandy and Tim were up first. A quick shower together, a handful of dry cereal, and they left quietly to walk to the lake. Half an hour later Jules was noisy as she cracked open a diet Dr. Pepper and started digging through the refrigerator in search of bagels. Simon appeared a moment later.
“On the counter,” he said.
She looked and sure enough, there was the bag. “Oh! Thanks.” She took one out, and dropped both halves into the toaster. “Make you one too?”
“Yes, please.” From the top shelf of the refrigerator he took the carton of orange juice and poured himself a glass. “Soda first thing in the morning. Gross.”
“You used to drink it too, Simon. Diet Coke. You forget?”
“No. I remember. Still gross, though.”
“I think juice is gross.”
“Coffee,” Allie said. “Why is there no coffee?”
“Just about to make some.” Simon held up the carton, but she wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “Juice is gross.”
“Ha!” said Jules. “Told you.”
Lisbeth, in bed, sighed contentedly. She couldn’t hear what was being said, but the sound of their voices made her happy. Preston, lying next to her, looked amazing in the sun coming through the window. His technique was of course very different from Kevin’s… he’d been more… what was the word? Casual. Kevin had started out very careful with her… and so respectful… so deeply in love (oh, it hurt to remember!) but thank God she had a new boyfriend. No more crying over Kevin or waiting for him to call!