We last saw Summer and Kyle at their sudden and more or less unexpected reunion… This week, the prompt was midnight – and I used it twice – once for each character. 🙂 From work in progress Return to Summer:
With a strangled cry, Summer gulped the last of the wine in her glass. “Memories” was far too mild a word. The details of sitting for Kyle Sebastian had been burned into her soul with searing kisses and heated touches that had awakened yearnings she hadn’t known existed. His unsteady voice as he told her how beautiful, how perfect she was, echoed through her memory.
But there were things he hadn’t said, too. He hadn’t once told her that he loved her. Never said that he wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
“Earth to Summer?” Tim’s touch on her elbow brought Summer back to the gallery with an emotional jolt. “You didn’t tell me you knew Kyle Sebastian.”
Had she ever truly known Kyle? She flicked a glance at him, then back to Tim. “It must have slipped my mind.”
Adjusting her features, she met Kyle’s even stare. The amused light in his eyes suggested he knew exactly where her mind had been. Touché, pal. She cast him a demure smile and raised her wine glass in a silent toast.
“Actually, it’s a little more than knows.” That deep, smooth voice she’d once enjoyed now grated on her one remaining nerve. “She offered me her body once.”
A startled cry worked its way out of Tim’s throat. “Wait, what?” Poor Tim. Behind as usual.
“Yes, it’s true, I did. But if memory serves, he had to paint my portrait instead.” Summer tilted her head toward the lady in red on the canvas before them. “It’s been . . . nice . . . seeing you, Kyle. I hope we catch up again before we leave.” Within the next two minutes.
Kyle inclined his head. “Maybe I’ll see you after the auction. It’ll be nice to catch up.”
Summer’s smile felt stiff. Any moment now she was going to throw up. Laying her hand on Tim’s arm, she snugged herself against him and pinched his wrist when he tried to pull his arm away. She paused, turned to face him, and angled her face toward Tim’s. With a completely phony smile pasted on her lips, she whispered in his ear. “Kiss me right now or I’m going to stomp on your foot with my incredibly spiky heels.”
Shock registered in his eyes just before she planted her lips on his.
The steady stream of people divided around them. Her lips still stuck to those of her best friend, Summer ignored everything but the man across the room. Through half-closed eyelids, she studied the man who had awakened her to love and then ditched her. He watched them for a moment, an indefinable emotion showing on his face. When he turned away, Summer waited for the thrill of the win.
And Tim was still kissing her. She pushed her hands against his chest.
“Blech. Stop. That was like kissing my baby brother.”
“What the– You told me to kiss you.”
For a split second, she considered stomping his foot anyway, but the moment passed. “Well, now I’m telling you to stop.”
Confusion clouded Tim’s eyes but Summer didn’t care. She needed fresh air. She needed to leave the gallery and never come back.
“What was all that about?” Tim stopped walking. “You never told me you knew Kyle Sebastian.”
Too close! They had to get further away before she would have this conversation. She tugged on his hand. “I’m leaving.”
“But the auction!”
“The last thing I plan to do is stay for that.”
Tim recoiled from Summer’s glare and stilled his protests.
“Take me home, Tim. Now.” She was being a witch and part of her knew he didn’t deserve it. But desperation to get away from Kyle held the reins that drove her.
“Uh-uh.” He stood unmoving and unmovable, shaking his head. “Not until you tell me what just happened.”
Irritation sparked. Summer leaned in close. “You want to know what just happened? You just met the reason I don’t do this scene anymore. Now, are you taking me home or do I call a cab?”
He was a coward, sticking to the shadows, watching her with a hunger that had never been sated. Seeing him had obviously spooked her but she’d recovered well. He wasn’t so sure about her date, though. The kiss had looked lukewarm at best. Then the argument had ensued and Kyle wondered about that. From a distance it was difficult to tell what they were fighting about, but they were fighting, no question. Then the couple had simply left, and Kyle was alone in the crowd of his admirers. Exactly the way it had to be.
He wondered about the change in Summer. She was harder, more seasoned. Her frozen demeanor must make her mother proud. Who had brought her from childhood to womanhood? Not the surfer boy she was with tonight. He simply didn’t have the heat she would have required to ignite her fire. Kyle concentrated on relaxing the hands he’d balled into fists. He scanned the room, took in the faces of the people who had come to see his work, as he fought for control of his heart. Time might heal, but apparently five years hadn’t been quite long enough for the process to begin. He wanted Summer St. Aubin every bit as fiercely now as he had the last time he’d seen her.
Summer bit her lip until it hurt, and concentrated on stilling the trembling of her hands. She couldn’t insert her key into the lock of her apartment door. Tim plucked the key from her unresisting fingers, easily sliding it into the lock, and opening the door. She entered, unsurprised when he followed. He’d want an explanation.
Summer had no intention of satisfying his curiosity. Not tonight. “Thanks, Tim. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She held the door open.
“Ah, are you—?”
“I’m fine.” She opened the door wider. “Go home to Val. I’ll see you at the office.”
With a last long look, her best friend nodded and took his leave into hallway, barely making it back across the threshold before she shut the door with a thunk that echoed through her apartment.
Why had she gone to that stupid exhibit? Why hadn’t she taken more care to find out whose show Tim was taking her to? The past had been well and truly buried, but in less than a minute, that grave had been exhumed.
Her mantle clock struck twelve. Midnight. The moment between yesterday and tomorrow. Was that what her life had been for the past five years? A moment hanging in the balance while Fate had merely waited for her path to cross with Kyle’s again?
She shrugged out of her cloak and kicked off her sandals. Pausing in front of her CD collection, Summer scanned the titles until she found the one she was looking for. After she inserted the disk, she punched up Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and stood with her eyes closed while the tide of her emotions swelled and dragged her under at the first tentative strains of Summer.
The flat portfolio case was large and blue, nestled in her bedroom closet next to a box of her most cherished childhood toys. It had rested there for years, safe yet out of sight. But never far from her thoughts . . . or her heart. She stretched to reach it, hauled it out and cradled it in her arms like a lover. It was heavier than she recalled, or maybe it was the weight of her memories she felt. Summer ran her fingertips over the clasp, tracing the cool metal without releasing the catch.
“A real artist needs a real portfolio,” Mrs. McLeod had said when she’d presented it to Summer the night before she’d left. “I thought you could keep some of those drawings you call memories in here. You certainly made plenty this year, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” Summer whispered as she carried the case into the dark living room and sank to the floor in front of her sofa. “I have plenty of memories from that summer.” As the first tears spilled from her eyes to roll over her cheeks, Summer undid the clasp and opened up the treasured memories from a summer five years gone.
A folded piece of paper lay on the top. It was high-quality sketch paper and hadn’t yellowed or faded a bit in five years. Summer opened it and laid it in her lap, gently smoothing the creases. Her fingers traced the face of the man, followed the angular planes of the face she still remembered so well. He had changed little in five years. And looking into that gaze had still made her want him with everything in her. She traced the face of the child in the picture. Only a child of her heart, never a reality or, as it had turned out, a possibility. She set the sketch aside.
A black velvet pouch was hooked by a black cord to a snap on the side of the case. Summer stretched open the top and pulled out a slender silver bracelet, inlaid with highly polished pink and white stones. Her fingers caressed the smooth surfaces of each agate, her artist’s eye appreciating the subtle differences in color and shape of each stone.
One by one, she carefully examined the remnants of one beautiful summer. A cedar pencil case with her name monogrammed in swirling gold letters. Woodpecker feathers dangling from a pair of silver and turquoise earrings. For happiness, she recalled, scrubbing the tears from her cheeks.
The twin quarter-sized aggies were polished only by the sand and water of Lake Superior. A moan escaped her lips as she clutched them to her heart. The room around her dimmed and faded, and a vision washed in shades of blue took its place. Brilliant clear blue sky, deeper blue of cold water. As the strings playing on her CD swelled, her ear tuned in to the memory of swelling surf, brutally pounding a shore covered with rocks upon more rocks.
Summer pulled herself back to her present, lifting the last item out of the portfolio case with unsteady hands. For a moment, she sat perfectly still except for one restless finger tracing the edges of the book. The cover lifted easily to reveal various shades of gray that began to make sense as her mind adjusted to what she was seeing. Lines and areas of shading formed into images, the memories she’d created that summer. Summer blinked the hot tears back, and focused on the drawings she had made so long ago.
Gordy, Norm, and Jerry in their period costumes, brandishing instruments in one sketch, firing long muskets in another. She turned the page and greeted once again the nameless people she’d sketched along Huron Street.
A little impatient, she flipped the pages ahead until they fell open on Kyle’s face. Smiling, laughing, frowning in concentration. She traced his likeness with a single fingertip, something she’d found herself eager to do to Kyle himself earlier that evening. Just being near him had shown her that love was not yet dead . . . might never be.
She held her breath and turned the page, aware of what the next one held: the little fishing marina, where she’d finally captured him hard at work sketching the little fishing wharf.
The place where they’d finally succumbed to the first stirrings of the passion between them. A sob escaped, and Summer leaned back against the couch, allowing her memories to carry her off.
The room was a cage, a luxurious one but a cage nonetheless. Slightly out of rhythm with the Vivaldi piece issuing from the iPod dock, Kyle paced in front of the windows overlooking Jefferson Avenue and looked out at Detroit. She was out there somewhere, enfolded in the mass of humanity reflected by the glow of lights below him. He’d almost gone after her. If she’d stayed for the auction and met him afterward he might not have been able to let her go. But she’d left. He’d spent the rest of the evening seeking her face in the crowded rooms and never seen her again.
Most of the last five years had been spent the same way, waiting to meet her again. And now that he had, he’d been forced to let her go again. His glance raked the laptop sitting on the desk across the room. The screen was white, the search engine cued up, awaiting his input; mocking him. The time in the bottom right corner of his computer read twelve. Without a doubt Preston was mad as a wet hen that Kyle had slipped out of the exhibit well before midnight. He’d endure the little man’s wrath for the next several days for that stunt but too bad. For as much money as the Frenchman made on his commission alone, he could certainly provide adequate cover for Kyle’s absence.
Unable to shed his unsettled impatience, Kyle allowed his fingers to hover over the keyboard. He clenched his teeth and began to type in her name, paused at the fourth letter, then backspaced it all away. Finally he began typing again. His hands shook with the effort. He hesitated before he hit enter, looked at the words in the little box again: Mackinac Island. With teeth clenched against pain that pulsed between heart and brain, he punched the key that would take him back to everything he’d once had and all he’d thrown away.
RETURN TO TUESDAY TALES!