…Now, seventeen years later, Sarah sits on the examination table in the Emergency room, with a towel draped on her wet hair. It all seems too surreal. A nurse checks her vitals. She looks at the nurse who barely looks up. “I’m fine. Really.”
The nurse tapes up the stitched wound on her arm. “Let me be the judge of that.”
Sterile blue curtains block Sarah’s view from the rest of the ER, but she leans over to peek through a slit between them. “How are the others?
The nurse finally looks up with a sympathetic expression on her face. “Are you family?”
Sarah hesitates too long. “Yes. With the driver.”
Not convinced, the nurse is quick to answer, “He’s in ICU. That’s all I know” and turns back to check her vitals.
Sarah swallows hard. “Can I see him?
It’s a beautiful day and the college campus is in bloom. Lots of students lounge on the grass along Lecture Hall Row. A gentle breeze rustles through the trees.
Sarah exits one of the buildings with her backpack slung over one shoulder. She pauses at the bottom step to close her eyes and breath in the spring air. Has there ever been a more perfect day? There couldn’t possibly be, after such a perfect night. She just can’t stop thinking about Dax today. She knows that it was hardly a first date, but she really hopes that he’ll call.
She opens her eyes when someone taps her on the shoulder. Wish and you shall receive… She turns to find Dax in front of her.
He smiles and reveals just a bit of nervousness too. “I know I’m supposed to wait three days… but I couldn’t.”
She turns to see him holding a single plucked flower. She smiles. “Three days?”
He smiles and hands her the flower. “Everyone knows that you have to wait three days before calling a girl, or you’ll look too into her… but I had to see you.”
Her face lights up. “How did you know where to find me?”
“I have my sources.” He looks across the grass at Kat and Alison waving and smiling like the cat that caught the canary. Sarah laughs and waves them away, before he faces her again. “I happened to see them in the cafeteria, so I thought it might be my chance.”
Sarah’s smile broadens.
He takes her hand. “You left something on the field last night.”
Sarah looks at him curiously. “I did?”
Dax nods and steps closer. There’s a mere inch between them. He puts his hand on her face and leans in.
She loves the warmth of his hand on her cheek. His lips are right next to hers, and she can feel her breath being pulled into his, drawing her lips closer.
He nods again slowly and his lips gently brush against hers. Then he presses more firmly against them for a soft lingering moment. All the while, their eyes are open.
The more she looks into them. The more she wants to stay in this perfect moment… in this perfect kiss.
But he pulls away a bit and smiles coyly. “I have a class.” Sarah nods but doesn’t say a word. He steps backwards reluctantly and brushes her cheek one last time. “How about tomorrow night?” Sarah nods. He smiles and then turns and walks toward class. He looks back over his shoulder a few times to catch another glimpse of her.
Sarah’s feet are locked in place where he left her. The kiss still lingers on her lips. She has a class starting across campus in five minutes but she can’t move. She brushes her finger against her lips to somehow recapture the last few moments. Sure, Sarah had been kissed before, many times, well a few… but this was different.
Kat and Alison approach. Kat waves her hand in front of Sarah’s face. “Earth to Sarah.” Sarah smiles but doesn’t say a word. Alison looks at Kat and then back at Sarah. “She’s got it bad.” They all laugh and Kat pulls Sarah forward. “Come on. We’re gonna be late.”
They talk as they walk. Alison blurts out, “So, is he a good kisser?”
Sarah nods dreamily. “The kind you feel in your toes.”
Alison sighs. “I love those kind.”
A MONTH LATER…
Sarah, Alison, and Kat are in their standard-issue student-lounge cramming for finals. All three sit on the floor with books and papers spread around them. Kat frantically flips pages looking for something. “I can’t wait for finals to be over.”
Sarah looks up with a melancholy sigh. “But that means its all over. We graduate.”
Alison throws a small pillow at her. “Duh… yah, we graduate!”
Sarah throws the pillow back at her. “Well, maybe I’m not ready for this adventure to end, yet.”
The three pause and get teary eyed for a second. “Aw.”
Dax enters the lounge behind Sarah and leans over the top of her to kiss her forehead.
Sentimental friend-moment interrupted, Kat throws the pillow at Dax. “No way. No boys. We have too much studying to do.”
Dax smiles. “Cut me some slack. I haven’t seen my girlfriend in days.” Sarah tilts her head backwards to give him a consolation kiss.
Kat playfully gets up and pushes Dax toward the door. “No, no. None of that. She won’t be able to concentrate.”
Dax laughs. “Okay, okay. You’re all still comin to my final match today?… After you study, of course.”
Sarah looks at her friends with a coy smile. Alison laughs. Kat continues to push Dax toward the door. “Yes. Yes. But get out now or we’ll never finish.”
Dax gives Kat a playful peck on the cheek. “Love ya.” He runs off. Kat calls after him “Of course you do.”
Hours later, the stands at the archery field are packed with students looking to avoid studying as much as possible. The competition is in full swing.
Dax is on the field with his teammates. He’s focused and as calm as steel.
Sarah, Alison and Kat watch from the stands. Kat brought her book and only occasionally looks up from its pages. Alison, scans the bleachers for available cuties. She spots Jake and gives him the cold shoulder. That one was over before it started.
Sarah holds a camera up to her eye and focuses the lens on Dax, who is a pillar of concentration on the field as he sizes up the distance to his target. She snaps off a string of photos. It’s hard to believe that it’s been just a few short months since they met. She can barely think of life without him. He’s the face she looks forward to each day, and his voice is the first sound she wants to hear each morning. Yet, they haven’t discussed what’s going to happen after graduation. Will they plan their next steps together? Or… was he thinking the relationship ends as soon as school does?
Sarah drops the camera to hang around her neck. She looks concerned. What was he thinking?
On the field, Dax pulls his arm back for his final attempt at the bullseye. He’s tied on the leader board for first. This is the last competition of his college career.
Sarah shakes herself out of her worrisome thoughts and watches him intently. She remembers the first time she saw him like this. He was right… it’s very sexy. She clasps her hands next to her lips, then raises her camera lens to her eye.
Dax takes a breath. The stands go silent. This could be his last victory of his college career. Graduation is right around the corner. That makes him think of Sarah and how his world has changed in the past few months because she’s in it… and he likes it. He quickly forces himself to refocus.
He pulls back on the bow. Hold. Steady, steady. Eyes on his target. Inhale. His fingers gracefully release. The arrow sails across the field at its target. Bullseye. Dead center. Dax smiles to himself.
Sarah jumps to her feet, screaming with pride. She turns to those around her. “Did you see that?” Everyone is on their feet.
Dax’s name moves to the top of the leader board. The whistle sounds. The competition is over. Dax looks at Sarah with a big smile. She whoops a cheer with the others in the stands.
His teammates all collide in victory on the field. Dax doles out a few high-fives and then jogs toward the stands. Sarah is already rushing toward him. He lifts her into his arms as they connect. He nuzzles noses with her. Sarah scrunches hers. “You’re sweaty.” He wipes his sweaty face against her cheek. She wriggles playfully in his arms. “Ew. Don’t you need to collect a trophy or something?”
He plants a sloppy kiss on her. “Nah. I’m starving. Let’s go.”
She wriggles some more. “Oh, no. This is your last trophy… ever. You’re not gonna miss it.”
He nuzzles in for another kiss. “Fine.”
Sarah laughs and reminds him, “Still sweaty.”
He wipes his sweaty face on hers one last time and puts her back on her feet. “Fine. I’ll collect my trophy, shower and meet you in your dorm room in an hour.”
Back in her room, Sarah passes the time by clearing one of the two messy desks. It is always a mess during finals and the room is in general chaos. Happens every semester. She knows that she’s just keeping busy to take her mind off of the subject that distressed her earlier. It would seem impossible to weather it, if he didn’t want this to go beyond graduation. But she’s convinced herself that it’s time to bring it up. When he gets there, she’ll pick the moment and just broach the subject.
Her stomach is all butterflies. Why? It’s just Dax, relax. Conversation is always easy with him. Why should this be any different? She walks toward the door.
Dax enters before she gets there. He’s freshly showered and changed. He moves across the room to her in two strides, and envelopes her in his arms. He leans in and kisses her.
He’d been thinking about her in his arms ever since the field. But who was he kidding… He’s thought about her in his arms every moment of every day since the first time they talked. Why should this be different? But somehow it is. Graduation is looming ahead and they’ve never talked about what was next for them. He knows that he wants her in his life. He thinks she wants the same thing. But they’ve never seriously brought it up. He planned to today. But now that he’s here, all he wants to do is kiss her. Maybe a little bit more, if he’s being honest.
As he kisses her playfully, he walks her over to the bed. He falls onto it and pulls her down on top of him.
She laughs between locked lips. “I thought you were hungry?”
He puts a finger to her lips. “Shhh. I’m distracted.” He continues to kiss her.
Sarah giggles again, and their lips pull apart. She remains on top of him, her arms folded on his chest to rest her chin. He props up his head to see her better. They look into each other’s eyes. Both have the same thought. Both feel far more for each other than they’ve truly revealed. But words just don’t come. But they can feel it.
Their gentle smiles transform into a passionate gaze. Sarah’s breath quickens and he can feel her chest rise and fall against his. He pulls her up along the length of his body so that her face is even with his. His lips gently collide with hers. They are both ignited. Their bodies press firmly together, moving over the other. His hands move down to pull her jean-clad bottom even closer into him. He hesitates, half expecting her to stop him, afterall they haven’t gone that far yet… But there are no objections.
He exhales a slight moan as he pulls her even closer, then rolls over on top of her. Their kissing reaches a fever pitch until he abruptly pulls himself away, suspended above her. “You sure? Because I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to stop again.”
Sarah doesn’t answer with words. She wants him, of course she wants him. Right now she might burn into ash if she doesn’t have him. Her questions can wait. She needs this. She needs Dax. He asked if she was sure, and she’s going to show him. She pulls him down to kiss more deeply. They both let a moan escape.
KEYS RATTLE at the door. Sarah looks at the door but doesn’t move. The sound of books drop outside. Not now… Lord not now. The door begins to open and Dax jumps off of her. They quickly scramble to look natural, seated on the bed. Dax puts a concealing pillow in his lap.
The door fully opens to reveal Kat standing there. She picks up her books in the open doorway, when she notices the pillow in Dax’s lap. Then looks at Sarah who gives her crooked eyes. A look of recognition comes over Kat. “Hey. Oh Wow. I’m so sorry. Should I go back out.”
She doesn’t wait for a reply, but comes in and plops her stuff on the opposite bed and pulls out a bag of pretzels.
Sarah motions at her profusely, behind Dax’s back. Of course, she should go back out.
Dax is more generous. “No, we were just going to grab a bite.” Kat offers the open bag of pretzels to Dax and Sarah. Dax sticks his hand in the bag and smiles back at Sarah. “Thanks. I’m starved.” He grabs a handful and kisses Sarah on the forehead.
Sarah sits in the salmon colored ICU waiting room with a bandaged arm, staring at the ICU doors. A couple struggles with the vending machine a short distance away. It’s holding a bag of pretzels hostage. Sarah’s brain is literally numb. She still can’t figure out if this is actually happening.
The ICU doors open and she straightens in her seat as a doctor walks out. Is it his doctor? Is Dax alive? But the doctor turns down another corridor. Sarah slumps back down in her seat. Not knowing is killing her. Yet fear of knowing is worse.
It’s been fifteen years since she last saw Dax, that is until today. The moment it ended had been the worst of her life. It was a regret that she has carried with her for the last fifteen years. She truly never thought that she’d see him again. There was no communication between them. She didn’t even know that they were on the same coast. And if you asked her today why it ended, she couldn’t give you a good-enough answer.
But why was he near the Outerbanks. Why were they on the same stretch of road at the same exact moment? Will he wake up? But most importantly, will she have the courage to face him if he does?