• robinstratton23

30. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online

Updated: Feb 14


“IT'S REALLY PERFECT here, Simon,” Jules said, breathing in the balmy woodsy air. “I’m going to get lots of writing done. Being in nature is so inspiring.”


Lisbeth, watching Preston unload her Yamaha from the trunk, agreed. “Maybe I can finish a song I’ve been working on.” Preston’s predilection for jazz had opened her musical horizons, 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 but her, so no one else 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. It was a sad memory now, not a happy one.


“I hope we see some cool animals,” Allie said. “I don’t want to just draw trees all weekend.”

Another car pulled into the driveway, and everyone waited, puzzled, then surprised, as Kevin stepped out with an armful of red roses. His face lit up at the sight of Lisbeth, and he took several steps toward her. “Hey,” he said.


“Kevin!” Lisbeth’s felt like her heart would explode from the sudden smashing of relief and longing against shock and anger. “What…what are you doing here?”


Before he could answer, Preston asked, “Is this the ex? Ex-boyfriend and ex-drummer?”


Lisbeth endured the pain on Kevin’s face as he took it in: Preston’s Porche, white Polo shirt, leather Docksiders, Rolodex watch, and the way he was so close to her. “What are you doing here?” she asked again. She felt sick to her stomach; so sorry for him standing there handing all those roses. “How did you know I was here?”


Kevin shot Simon a resentful glare. “Called your grandfather. He told me where you guys were. But I guess I’ll go now.”


Preston said, “Long drive to just turn around and leave, man. Come on in, have a beer.”


Lisbeth was horrified at his offer—was he insane? and relieved when Kevin said, “Yeah, no, thanks anyway.”


“Nah, it’s fine. Come on in.”


“He said no.” Lisbeth’s voice was sharper than she expected, but seriously? Inviting Kevin in for a beer? She took Preston’s arm; an apology, he was just trying to be nice. “Let’s go inside.”


Kevin’s eyes burned into hers, then he suddenly seemed to remember that he was holding roses. “Okay, anyway.” Awkwardly he surveyed the crowd, then handed them to Jules. “Have a good weekend.”


No one said anything as he got back into his car, and it pained Lisbeth to see that he was still driving his “shit box.” After he pulled out, she said to Simon, “You didn’t tell Grandfather Kevin and I broke up?”


“I didn’t want to upset him.” Simon knew it was a weak excuse. “But I never thought Kevin would…Jesus, Lissie, I’m so sorry.”


Lisbeth looked at Preston, and he shrugged. “No big deal.”


Jules said, “Let’s go inside and figure out the bedroom situation.”


The other murmured in agreement, and everyone headed in. Lisbeth and Preston turned left and found a room at the end of the hall. Tim and Mandy chose the room off the kitchen because it had a private bathroom. Simon took a room that was across from Lisbeth and Preston. Jules and Allie assumed they’d share a room, but Simon told them there were two more loft rooms upstairs.

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 surprised everyone with his announcement that he was a master griller and had 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 pinecones and acorns 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, demonstrating his ability to intuit what strings to pluck.

Tim stood and held out his hand to Mandy. “Let’s go out for a walk.” 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, spoke quietly. “Can you believe he just showed up?”


“Poor Lissie,” Jules said. “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 he waited too long. Even if Lissie wasn’t with Preston now, I think she’s too mad.”


“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.” She was thinking about Michael, and he must have known that, because he smiled kindly and said, “No. But it makes life more interesting, doesn't it?”


“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, Tim, you’re right. I’m so sorry. What a bitch I’m being.”


“Not a bitch. Just…you need to look at what you have here…” He held up the canvas bag she didn’t notice he’d brought.


“What?”


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 fits.”


He stood. “I had it sized,” 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.”


“Okay.”


“And…I mean, it might be a while…I need to save up so that we can get a place together. 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.


“If you think this place is little, you’re going to think my house is a tent,” Lisbeth said.


“Nah, doesn’t matter.” They sat next to each other on the bed. “Lis, 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.


“Good.” He lowered her onto her back, and 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. “These are beautiful. You’re beautiful.”


“Really?”


“God, yeah.”


“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, moaned in delight. He was all over her; eager, aggressive, implementing a technique completely different from Kevin’s, more…what was the word? Casual. No talking. 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.


“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 likes acorns. I’m going to frame it and give it to her.” Then she 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.


“Night, Jules.”


“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…”


“Disheveled.”


“Yeah, disheveled.”


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 you liked that guy so much?”


“I don’t know. I really don’t have any idea.” She looked away, trying not to cry. “It’s so stupid.”


“Not stupid.” He put his hand on her knee, and she turned to him. Their faces were close. And then Jules 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? Jules didn’t know. “What are you doing up still?”


“I have the room above Lisbeth. And I’m happy for her, don’t get me wrong. It’s just…he’s loud.” Allie stepped into her flip flops. “I’m going to go outside and look for fireflies.”


Simon jumped up. “I’ll come with you.”

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