“Don’t worry, honey,” he said as they passed another row of palm trees. “We’re getting closer…”
She was lying in the backseat of his ’77 baby blue Dodge Dart. Finally able to get away and head west, he had been driving for three days straight. School was out and he didn’t want to wait any longer….
They had grown up together as next door neighbors in the small town of Dunberry — spending long humid summers in his parents’ big backyard, complete with a tire swing and wading pool.
“Will you marry me?” he asked one day, as they played grown-up. “Only if you buy me a house on the beach.” “We’ll have to learn to swim first,” he said, splashing her with water from the plastic pool. She giggled and splashed back. “We’ll be together forever.…”
They had come so far, and they were right on time.
He had to find the perfect sunset spot. He drove north on the Pacific Coast Highway, heading north of Santa Monica into Pacific Palisades and Malibu. The sun was almost ready — giving off such a glare that he had difficulty seeing the highway. He inhaled the damp ocean air as he cranked down the window impatiently.
“Smell that. It’s different from the lake, isn’t it? There’s something about it. Can’t wait to touch the sand and feel the water.”
He turned to look at her lying peacefully in the backseat, and she stared up with her light blue eyes. Snowflakes, he would call her. The irises were dotted with flakes instead of the usual spirals. He’d never seen such strange, beautiful eyes….
He had proposed to her just a few months earlier. They were stretched out in the sun at Krayton Lake on a big white beach blanket — the wind catching her long, thick hair. The shore was packed with people, and he wanted to take her to a more secluded place.
“Come on, there’s something I want to show you.” He led her to a rocky alcove beyond some trees.“Let’s elope to California and live by the ocean. My parents will be shocked, but they’ll get over it.” They laughed and kissed. “We’ll have to learn to swim!” As the sun began to set and the creatures made their nightly sounds, they continued — loving each other into the morning. ‘We’ll be together forever,’ he assured himself…
“I’ll bet there’s a great view from up here.” He turned the car up a serpentine beachside road. “Just relax. I’ll find us a nice spot. ”
As the car pulled up to the top of the cliff, the sky became awash in color — yellow, orange, blue, purple . . . glowing through the mist like a beacon. He reached back and touched her hair. It still seemed damp and tangled from their time at the lake — smelling of Sam Adams and salty air. Some strands were still caked with mud. They hadn’t bothered to shower at a hotel on the way out — preferring to sleep in the car at rest stops or by the side of the road. They couldn’t wait to get out to California…
Sneaking out of their adjoining homeslate at night, the two of them tiptoed playfully — being careful not to wake a soul. Suddenly leaping into the car, she giggled uncontrollably. It was infectious, and he eventually couldn’t help but join her.
“One stop before we leave . . . please?!” she said, making goofy mouth sounds.
“Okay, but we’ve got to get on the road soon if we’re going to make it in three days.” It was pitch black, except for the low beams on the Dart, pointing the way. They pulled up behind their new favorite spot beyond the trees, got out of the car and began to undress.
“Let’s do something nasty, like skinny-dipping,” she said. She popped the top of a Sam Adams, and it exploded all over him.
He grabbed her and tickled her, pouring some of the contents of his bottle over her hair.
“You creep!” she screamed, and ran toward the water. “Bet you can’t catch me!”
He downed a bottle and ran after her. The night was humid and warm, and the water brought a shock as he plunged into it — chasing after her. He groped around for her; when he found her body, he grabbed her and kissed her passionately.
They stayed there together for what seemed like hours, not noticing that they were drifting into deep water. There was a sudden drop, and his feet had nowhere to stand. She was all he could grab onto. If he could just get up for air, he could survive long enough to save her. As he first began to sink, he gasped — instantly clogging his lungs. He reached up and pulled at her, bringing her down as he rose to the surface. Choking, his foot reached for something to stand on. It took a few minutes to find shallow water. He cried and called for her.
Her body resurfaced next to him.
He took her in his arms and brought her to shore, but he couldn’t revive her.
He stared into the night, seeing their dreams melt before his eyes, tears rolling down his face and dripping off his chin, falling on her lifeless body.
He knelt before her, shaking.
Hours must have passed, and then the tears suddenly stopped. There was no reason to be sad; everything was all right. Nothing had changed. Their big white beach blanket was in the trunk. He wrapped her in it and gently laid her down on the backseat. “We’re going to California, and we’re going to watch the sunset together.” He headed west and never looked back.
As he sat in the car on the top of the cliff watching the final moments of the sunset, he suddenly realized what he had to do. He got out of the car and opened the backseat door. Struggling, he slid her stiff, cold body out of the seat and into his arms. Her snowflake eyes still stared straight up … unflinching. He paused to notice that the color of her eyes almost perfectly matched the ceiling of his Dart. He hadn’t slept in days, and his strength was spent. Gingerly, he carried her to the edge of the cliff. He tasted mud as the wind blew strands of her hair in all directions. She was still wrapped in that dirty white blanket. He remembered how it felt to almost drown … and then felt it again. Only this time, he would not rise up to the surface. He would stay with her.
The salt air stung his eyes, and the wind ripped through his feeble limbs. He was ready….
Holding her tighter than ever before, he jumped. This time, he would not let her go.