“Driftwood” is the second installment of a three-part series. To read the first installment of “By the Sea,” click here.
When Josh told Anya he loved her, she didn’t just hear the words but felt them, little drops of rain kissing her cheeks to ease a storm that bent trees against a backdrop of lightning and dark, tumbling clouds. The phrase was a breath that moved through her, filling her up, making her whole. When she said it back, the movements between them grew deeper, sweeter, their bodies playing to it, for it, dancing as if to a symphony.
This night, they climbed the pier, Josh whistling as the wind blew Anya’s dress up and aside, giving him a view of where he’d just been, where she’d craved him. She’d surprised him when he met her, aching more this time, grasping at his hands and running them over her as they tangled themselves on the shore and he found the liquid desire already soaking the short curls of her sex. This had made him moan and bury his face between her thighs, lapping at her as she hooked her ankles around his back. He’d whispered of her salty musk, of the sweet pool he wanted to crawl into and live in for an eternity if he could only find a way in. When he rocked forward with every thrust of his tongue, the motion sang a lullaby that built within her, making her shudder at the slide of his fingers inside. He rubbed fervently, urgently, at the bud of nerves that craved his touch, never retreating until she bucked and thrashed against the sandy floor. And when Anya had let out her cry, he’d hardly waited to slide inside her, filling her with a lusty groan that left them laying there afterward winded and surprised at how it could seem better. Familiar. Perfect.
So when they reached the top of the dock and toppled to the damp boards like two clumsy children, Josh curled himself with Anya all over again, resting his head in her lap and staring up at her while she fondled the tousled strands of his hair. Tonight the surf barely made a sound, the white crests absent from view, the water lazily slapping the piles that held this stoop up beneath them, propping them in some version of solidity they didn’t really have. A solitary seagull flew overhead, letting out its caw, and she tilted her eyes up to watch it coast through the black ocean above while her fingers stayed laced in Josh’s hair.
“What if we were real?” he asked, and Anya thought she saw the stars twinkling, heard them telling her yes, heed this question. This one is very good. It loomed between them, rife with wonder, complication. She heard his breath, a low raspy sound that made her imagine what it would feel like to sleep beside him like they did only once, the night they’d somehow managed escape and tumbled through the door of a cheap seaside motel. He’d had his hands beneath her skirt before the door was shut completely, his lips sweet on hers, kissing away everything, whispering of how much he loved her, how he had counted the minutes until they would see one another. It was as he found her hips that he confessed she made him feel alive, like they were the only two people in the world who understood one another. Anya had lifted her head in eager agreement, both of them falling to the bed, clutching at one another, needing each other more than anything. They’d made love again and again, their bodies never drifting apart in the moments between until they fell asleep to the occasional whoosh of a car on the lonely, coastal road outside. She’d dreamt of taking his hand and running into the sea, splashing and laughing like she remembered doing once long before, when she was young.
Josh squeezed her tighter with the arm he’d weaved around her waist, and drew her back with the slip of his hand up her side until he could circle her neck and reach his fingers into her hair. She’d felt this same hold not a day before from someone else, those fingers rough, tugging her to see his face, and she’d barely moved her head in muted agreement, for any other answer would never do. She had lain there, silent, smothered, kissing without kissing, her mind dancing off to remember these fingers. Josh’s fingers. They were soft, gentle pads sketching love on her scalp, reminding her that both of them were happy, here by the sea.
“What if we were?” she asked. Anya tore her eyes away from that wafting bird to the look shining in Josh’s eyes that she’d seen before. The moon was out again tonight, not as bright, but lighting his face enough to show the deep lines in his forehead from trying in his other life, and his pupils spreading like oil in the middle of two vast blue lakes. The question was as difficult for him as it was for her, because—despite his love for her and the way he came to Anya desperate for something warm, something real—to leave his life would rain a storm of agony on someone else, a fragile, loveless truth they’d avoided speaking of for some time.
Josh rolled into her lap, his body warm, so warm, knees curling up into his chest so that they grazed her hip as his arms encircled her waist. His breath fell hot through the fabric of her dress, stirring her in spite of the gravity of their words, the tenuous sanctity they shared between them. Would it be the same if they were real? Would she feel the same for him, and him for her?
Would they be better?
“I think we’d be happy,” he said.
“Do you?” Anya didn’t want to break it, this raft carrying them along.
Josh lifted his head. He grabbed her skirt and pressed it up, exposing her to the humid air as he rested his head back on her thigh and peered with a wisp of a smile at the wetness between her folded legs.
She wanted to believe him. Wanted to believe the disruption they’d cause would be worth it, that the love between them would build and overcome, powerful like the sea. Josh dipped further into her lap, his mouth grazing the tender swell of her clit. Then he puckered his lips and blew a stream of air over her, until Anya tilted back her head with a quiet moan.
Maybe it would. Maybe they could.
“I want this. You, Anya,” he said. “Don’t you see how much I love you?”
Josh pressed his mouth flush against her, his tongue swirling as he took her hips in his hands, and she trembled while the sea churned rhythmically beneath them.
To read the final installment of “By the Sea,” click here.