I wake to the sound of the distant, pounding surf and soft chanting. A warm breeze wafts over me, bringing with it the tang of salt and the smell of a deep green, verdant forest. The sheets are wrapped around my legs, half pulled off the bed from me and Ella’s midday sex session. I must have fallen asleep afterward. Our impromptu fall vacation has taken way more out of me than I thought it would. This is Ella’s first trip to Hawaii, and the woman wants to do everything.
Yesterday, we woke up at the ass crack of dawn for surf lessons. She’s terrible. I have so much video blackmail to get back at her for that cross-country ski incident last winter that I am gleefully looking forward to the opportune moments to dole it out. Maybe I can enlist Jane to help me. She has the kind of devious mentality that would be perfect for this. Must be where Willow gets it from.
After Ella’s fail-surfing, we spent late morning out on the water, on a chartered whale watching vessel. After landing, we ate lunch, then headed further inland to hike the volcano and watch the sun set from its western summit. Thankfully, someone picked us up in a vehicle afterward, and we were chauffeured back down to the base. We ended the night with dinner with my parents.
And this was just one day of activities. We’ve been here for a full week and I am so sore that it’s amazing I can even turn my head sideways to try and figure out what the hell I’m listening to right now.
“Sipping Mai Tais on a beach, sipping Mai Tais on a beach, sipping Mai Tais on a beach,” Ella chants, over by the drink cart, already in her bikini again, her butt twitching back and forth to the tune of the song she’s made up.
I have no idea where she gets this boundless energy. I know she’s sore too. Her feet have blisters on them. She woke me up in the middle of the night swearing and hopping up and down next to the bed, trying to alleviate the Charlie horse in her left leg. And yet here she is, next day, practically vibrating with energy. If anyone ever found a way to bottle it, they’d be a millionaire.
As I watch, she lifts a silver drink shaker and rattles it over her head along with the rhythm. She’s doing a full-on dance now. One that looks disturbingly similar to the skunkarooney time one, complete with hip-thrusts and weird elbow flares. I feel like I probably shouldn’t be turned on by the sight, especially since I’m so tired I don’t know if I can even get it up, but…
“I like the way your ass jiggles when you do that,” I tell her, my voice still rough from sleep.
She freezes, looks at me over her shoulder, and then grins lasciviously before she starts shaking her hips even faster than before. A second later, she sets the drink mixer aside to come belly flop beside me on the mattress.
“Let’s move here,” she says.
“You’re only saying that because it was forty when we left Maine.”
“Nope, I’m saying that because this place is fucking amazing.” She reaches forward to smush my cheeks together, her expression slightly manic. “You grew up just being able to go outside all year round?”
“Yes,” I say, batting her hands aside. “We can’t move here. We have the dogs and your family and all my appointments.”
She roles over onto back to mull it over for a second, chewing her bottom lip in a way that will forever make me want to pull it out of her mouth with my teeth. “We could shave the dogs,” she says. “I could start a huge fight with everyone in my family and become estranged from them. And we could schedule all your appointments for the summer and then just winter here. What about that?” she asks, rolling her head sideways to look at me.
“I don’t think so,” I tell her. “Boots and Doodle would look ridiculous shaved. And I like your family too much to be estranged from them.”
That’s the goddamn truth. Late last spring, I met them all in one go, at a dinner party at Ella’s parents that even Megan and Stacey came up for. Though a few of them had holy shit moments, much like Ella had, they quickly brushed aside my fame and absorbed me right into the family in a way that makes me feel like I’ve been there all along. Ella’s mom and my own talk so much that they jokingly call each other “besties”, a term that Anabel mistakenly taught them.
“Okay, how about this,” Ella continues, sounding desperate now. “I move here with all the dogs and you stay alone in the frigid north and we try the long-distance thing?”
In response, I push my tired, aching body up and roll on top of her. “Abso-fucking-lutely not,” I say from inches away.
She grins up at me. “Fine. Fine! But can we come out here more often? I really mean it when I say that I love this place.”
“My parents would definitely approve of that,” I tell her, smoothing her hair back from her face. “And maybe we could bring your parents with us, too.”
A little line forms between her brows as she frowns. “That would probably be really good for Mom if they came during the winter.”
“Then that’s settled. Plus, now that the foundation is growing, we might need to be out here at least quarterly to help out.”
She smiles up at me, the look more feral than warm. “Gotta put all that lawsuit money to good use,” she says.
“You’re doing that thing again. With your face,” I tell her.
“Right,” she says, blanking it. “Letting my “Ah-ha-ha, fuck you, Mr. Ex-Commissioner” feelings run away with me again.”
“That’s it,” I tell her.
She was so good throughout the trial. Her backbone and her steadfastness and her constant reassurances to me and a few of the other players that we would win it raising us up when it felt like the whole world was trying to keep us down.
I drop a kiss of thanks on her brow and then move to place one more on her button nose. “It’s like your skin has become one giant freckle,” I tease.
She frowns up at me. “Har.”
“Don’t give me that look,” I say. “I mean it in a good way. Your freckles make me want to trace them down and see justhow much of your skin they cover.”
“Please do,” she says, shifting her legs wider beneath me, so that our hips fit together.
“Don’t start that. I’m so tired,” I laugh, leaning down to kiss her, quickly, because I don’t trust myself to linger. We could have sex again right now, but then I’d probably fall asleep again and we’d miss my cousin’s birthday party that I promised my aunt we would be at. And she is not the aunt you disappoint. Not without never hearing the end of it.
“Oh good,” Ella says, grinning. “Then it’s not just me.”
“It’s not just you,” I tell her. “You’re beautiful,” I add, because I can never seem to say it enough to her.
Her sideways grin turns into a blinding smile. “So are you,” she says, snaking her arms around my neck.
The past year and a half with her has been a rollercoaster. Most of the time, we’ve been up, laughing and teasing and loving each other just like this. We’ve had our downs, too. I’ve tried to push her away a couple of times when things got bad. The clinical trial I took part in was rough. One of the side effects of the meds was nausea, which I completely ignored, because that’s been a side effect listed for just about every medication I’ve ever been prescribed and I’ve never experienced it.
Oh, what a sweet summer child I had been. I spent the entire time I was on it feeling like I was one deep breath away from projectile vomiting. It was miserable. I lost a lot of weight. Was forced to cut back on my workouts, which dropped my endorphin levels. I ended up getting snappy with her a lot. And on top of that, there were other factors driving my mood. In the middle of the trial, I had my second, more detailed PET scans done and the results showed that I’ll have to be on antidepressants the rest of my life.
So I’d tried to “save her” from myself. But it turns out Ella is stubborn in a way that would be annoying if it wasn’t so impressive. And God, am I thankful for it now, regardless of how infuriating it was at the time.
Really, I should have known better than to push her away. She meant it back when she told me she was all in. Every day, even while we’ve been out here, she’s the one to block out time for us to sit down and play some sort of brain game that’s advertised as “fun!” but without her would be boring AF. She insists on giving me scalp massages before bed every night, because one of the scans made the doctors think I could be prone to headaches. She attends half of my therapy sessions. Has even booked regular time with a therapist that her sister in law recommended to help unpack everything with her and give her tips to help me through this. And she never, ever complains when I backtrack or have a depressive bout. Or when I’ve been forced to up my meds, putting a temporary halt to our sex lives and becoming a shadow of my usual self.
She’s just…there for me. Always. In a way that makes me think she always will be. In a way that makes me so fucking happy and thankful that some days I just kind of sit and look over at her, wondering how I got so lucky.
Will it always be like this between us? I have no idea. Most of the tau is gone from my brain. The clinical trial actually worked. The treatment is now in approval process by the FDA. But my brain isn’t “fixed”. It never will be. There might be hidden damage we haven’t yet discovered. I may still experience further symptoms. The headaches I was warned about, possibly even seizures, mood swings, memory loss. We can’t know yet. But one thing I do know is that unless we do something else to fuck it up between us, Ella will be there with me through it all.
“I love you,” I tell her.
“I love you, too,” she says, raising her lips to mine.
It’s several moments before we break apart, but when we do, her gaze skirts sideways, toward the open windows and the ocean breeze blowing in through them.
She looks back up at me, and under her breath, begins to chant, “Sipping Mai Tais on a beach, sipping Mai Tais on a beach.”
Copyright © 2019 by Navessa Allen
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.