Blake felt horrible.
He ended up having to miss the dance after all.
Last minute, too. They called him back to Del Sol Valley just the day before and there was no way he could decline it, nor make it back in time.
The worst thing was seeing Hailey so sad when he rushed over to her home as he did not want to tell her over the phone, she even cried, pleading with him, begging him not to go.
Feeling helpless and useless he sat next to her on her in her frilly room as she sobbed, trying to tell her ways on how he’d make it up to her. Promises he had no idea how to even keep, but prayed he could.
He could not shake that image the entire flight there and it haunted him every free moment.
But the summer dance would not remain the only big event he’d end up missing.
Just a little over two months later, he was calling her again from Del Sol Valley.
It was the evening before Hailey’s 16th birthday. By now it was irrevocably clear that every tiny gleam of hope to make it back in time was futile.
Sitting in the hotel room, he abhorred having to make that call, knowing he would hear the disappointment in her voice, knowing there would likely be tears after they hung up, if not sooner, and it killed him.
“Want me to sing?” Blake asked into the phone, purposed upbeat, even though that was furthest from how he felt. Acting skills came in handy now.
“No.” her reply was barely more than a whisper.
“Are you excited for the party?” he tried the upbeat voice again.
“Sure.” her words weren’t convincing.
“I got you a gift. But you have to wait till I am back. And I am not telling you what it is either. May give you a hint though. Maybe .. ” Blake tried to get at least a small percentage of the usual excitement out of Hailey.
“You didn’t have to get me anything.” was a very down answer.
It broke his heart. But he tried his best acting on her now, artificially happy he told her
“Of course I did! It’s your birthday! And I always get you a gift! 16 is extra special for a girl, I know that. Sweet 16 and all.” as he said the last few words he wanted to kick himself. Oil into the fire. Damn.
No answer, only silence.
“Hailey? You still there?” Blake’s heart sank.
Please don’t go, he thought. I need to talk to you now. Just a little while longer.
“I am kinda tired now …” she said quietly, it sounded depressed.
“Oh … okay … guess we can talk tomorrow. Maybe a video chat?” he could make it till the next day. Somehow.
“I have plans tomorrow.” His last hope crashed.
“Even at night?” he tried.
“Yes. I’ll be staying over at Marci’s.”
“Oh .. guess we’ll talk Sunday then …”
“Yeah, maybe. Look, I gotta go. Bye Blake.”
“Good night Hailey … and happy birthday again.”
The call was disconnected without another word, leaving a bad aftertaste with Blake.
He could not find sleep that night.
He hated having had to disappoint Hailey.
In all the years they had known each other, this was the first time he missed her birthday. Even before they became so close he had always been there. Still as Lyle’s best friend then.
And why did it have to be her 16th of all the birthdays?
He’d really have to come up with something super-special to show her how important she was to him and how hard this was on him.
“Where are you going!? The river is that way! Maybe you should have let me drive. Guess you spend so much time in Del Sol Valley now, you forgot your way around here.”
“Not going to the river.” Blake smirked.
“Not? The lake then? We are still going fishing, right? Please say we are going fishing!” Hailey sounded disappointed, while Blake just grinned wide. She’ll see …
He parked ‘Betsy’, the old Jeep Wrangler his grandfather had given him, told Hailey to wait, then walked around the car to open her door for her.
Her surprised face was priceless. Slam dunk! he thought. He definitely got a brownie point here.
So far, so good, he rambled to himself in his mind, nervously digging in his pant pocket for the key.
“After you, mylady!”
“In there? The fancy cabin?” she asked, doubting.
“Yes, the fancy cabin!” Blake said proudly.
“All righty … ” she shook her head, smiling, then turned and they walked to the door.
He followed her through the door after he unlocked it and they stood, both amazed as they looked around.
“You rented this?” she asked puzzled.
Blake smiled confident and proudly.
“Sure did. A luxury getaway in the woods. So you chillax AND we can go hiking, fishing and rough it if we want to! I mean, if YOU wanted to. This is all about you. All weekend. Whatever you want. Well, within the realm of legality and realism.” he told her proudly.
Hailey began to look around, while Blake went to the kitchen to unpack the food his grandmother packed for them.
“Ummm … Blake?!? Could you come look at this for a second…” she called from another room.
He followed her voice, through a bedroom to a separate bathroom with a hot tub surrounded by windows.
“WOW. That is pretty cool and fancy. Right? You like it?” he asked.
“Absolutely. But … when you booked this cabin … what exactly did it say?” she was apparently trying not to laugh.
“Don’t remember. Didn’t really pay much attention. I saw the hot tub and this was the most expensive one, so I booked it. Why? You don’t like it?”
“Did you notice the many heart-shaped boxes of chocolates all over this place? All the candles everywhere? The very romantic setting for the hot tub and the fact that there is only one huge bed in this entire cabin?”
“One?! Oh shit, I didn’t even think to check for two bedrooms. So sorry, I’ll take the couch! I am sorry.” Blake felt embarrassed. Dammit. Idiotic oversight.
Hailey giggled, then finally said with as much of a straight face as she could
“Pretty sure you booked the honeymoon cabin!”
“I … oh crap. I sure did, didn’t I?” Blake was embarrassed, cheeks aglow, cursing his impulsiveness and not reading through it all. He had this idea, got his grandpa’s okay and just booked the fanciest cabin he could find. Never bothered with the details. Argh.
Hailey was still laughing, and it was contagious.
“Hailz, I really am sorry. I just wanted this to be really special to make up for missing the actual day of your 16th birthday.”
“Don’t be. This is great. And you are just something else.” she said laughing.
“An idiot is what I am. Grandpa always tells me I am scatterbrained and need to be more detail-oriented.” he said more serious again. Luckily she was a good sport about that, when all this could have ruined everything.
“I think it is adorable. Now, are we getting into that tub or not?”
“Not yet, we’ll eat first. Grandma made some awesome food. Then, fattened up, we’ll go dive in that tub. Well, probably more like roll over to it and then drop in somehow.”
“Ummm … problem: nobody told me where we were going, not even a decent hint, especially that it would be overnight, so I didn’t pack anything other than my fishing rod and stuff. No change of clothes, toiletries, bathing suit …”
“Okay, you champion, I can go into the tub in my underwear, but then what? Hang out naked by the fireplace? Or go commando in the only clothes I have, which I will have to wear again tomorrow?”
“I have a clean shirt … you can wear that, sleep in it, would that help?” Blake offered.
“Sure. That’s fine. But if anyone comes to the door, YOU are answering. I am not going to even try to explain to anybody how this is not what it looks like.”
Blake was still embarrassed about his mistake, but he had not seen Hailey laugh or smile this much in weeks. So what if it was at his expense. It was worth it!
“Now, Cassanova, about that amazing food you advertised …” she said when she just stood there.
“Right. You hungry? I am hungry.” he instantly began to head for the kitchenette.
“Just hoping it’s not oysters … ” she giggled.
The dinner was great.
She put him at ease with funny stories about growing up on a farm, he countered with hilarious things that happened while filming.
When they went into the hot tub, it was a bit unnerving for some odd reasons, but once they were in, it was great.
They were silly, giggled and talked for hours. It felt so good to have her back, being able to bare his soul like he always had.
He was stuck.
Darkness swallowed him like an abyss. He could not see a thing. Only complete and utter blackness.
The air was too thick to breathe.
Thick and heavy mud encased him, putting pressure on him from all sides, the more he struggled, the deeper he sank. It now came almost up to his throat, a false move and it was higher, he was inhaling it while trying to scream, but no sound came out.
His heart was racing, as the mud level kept rising, now entering his mouth. The foul, mossy taste, the feeling of it sliding down his throat, clogging it up, as he was trying to catch a breath, the mud higher now about to swallow him whole, darkness and cold all around him.
Suddenly someone pulled on him, pulled him to safety.
Suddenly he could breathe again and did so, gasping for air, his eyes now wide open as everything started to calm down around him.
He felt a gentle touch, a soft voice speaking calming to him as he realize he was drenched in sweat and breathing heavy.
“Blake. Hey, shhh, it’s okay. Just a dream. A nightmare. I am here. Everything is okay.”
“Hailey!” Blake yelped, sounding a lot more excited and relieved than intended.
She was gently petting his back, shoulders, arms.
“Do you have those often?” she asked softly.
“Every night. Sorry, forgot about that too. Didn’t think that I would freak out and you’d hear me. Such a dumbass. Sorry for waking you. And probably scaring you. IDIOT!”
“Don’t say that! I am your friend and I am here for you. You don’t apologize for stuff like that! Have you sought help yet?”
“Like therapy? No. I don’t see how that is supposed to help me. Won’t undo what has already happened, or help me unsee what I saw, which is where the problem lies.”
“Loosing loved ones is always hard. Especially like that. If you are not ready for professional help, maybe you can talk to me. Get it off your chest.”
“No need scarring you for life too.”
“I am stronger than I look. Try me. Good way to show me you are serious about making things right with me. Show me you REALLY trust me. Even with your deepest, darkest secrets.”
“Would you really forgive me then?”
“I already have.”
“OK, here goes. I told you my mom died and how, but what I didn’t tell you is: I am the one who found her. Dead. In the bathtub. Cut her wrists. Blood everywhere. Before that she was going insane, like a totally different person in the same body and then suddenly, she would be fine again. Between that and the time at that center for troubled teens …. those kids were seriously messed up. I mean, I know I am too, but they were … yeah. I got hazed and bullied bad for a while. And now, every single night: this.”
“No wonder. Look, I am not going to insult you by telling you it’s all going to be okay, but I am telling you this: you are too big for this couch. You are sleeping in the bed.”
“Oh no! Especially not since this is in your honor. Happy belated 16th – now sleep on the couch. Come on, not even a doofus like me would do that.”
“I didn’t say I was gonna. Look, this already is so weird and odd, what’s one more thing. It’s a huge bed, we can totally share. At least that way, if you have another nightmare, I don’t have to catch death to ‘rescue’ you from the monsters. It is freezing in here and all I have is your donated shirt.”
“It is cold. Want the blanket? I can light a fire …” Blake offered.
“Nuh uh! Our butts are going to sleep pronto. I set my alarm, we are so going fishing tomorrow first thing!”
“Hailey Loughlin – don’t take this the wrong way, but I think I love you! You are just perfect!”
“I won’t be if I don’t get some sleep.” she smiled and winked at him, then gestured with her head to the bedroom, he got up and followed.
Laying next to her in the bed got his heart racing and it wouldn’t calm down. Seeing her in his shirt had him all twisted. It was just so tempting.
Get a hold of yourself, Cameron! he reprimanded himself.
He fell asleep. Finally.
Suddenly he came to outside in the cool, clear, woodsy air of a dark forest at night, where he was standing, not sure how he got there. Sleepwalked?
Then he felt her close behind him. he just knew it was her without even looking.
He turned to her, they looked at each other. Knowing. Something.
Then there was a kiss. Blake just let it happen.
It felt so damn good and he forgot why he didn’t want that in the first place, so he responded in kind.
He couldn’t say how in between more kissing they were suddenly atop the bed like a scene change in a movie, still kissing, but now sans what little bit of clothing they started out with.
This was going to happen.
She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Quickly he grabbed the condom from his jeans, a KC quirk, he had been quietly slipping those into Blake’s pant pockets for years. Every time Blake got upset about not needing any, all KC would mumble was “Cameron curse” and “never know”.
So it happened. There was no confusion, no hesitation, just a seemingly natural flow of things that were meant to happen just as they were happening.
Slow and steady, fast and furious, calming and exhilarating at the same time. Most of the time he swore he was only dreaming this.
Once it was over they lay next to each other atop the bed. He looked over at her.
One more smile, then she got up and went to the hot tub.
Mesmerized he watched her silhouette in the candlelight on her way there.
She still looked all like sweet, innocent, gentle Hailey.
It was too tempting, so he wanted to follow her, join her, but suddenly the floor seemed warped, for a split second he felt like he was floating in the air, then he landed on the floor with a thud.
It hurt. He looked around confused. It all felt so different. Colder.
Suddenly there was Hailey again, but now wearing his shirt. How did she get dried off and dressed so fast? Even her long hair was bone dry. And didn’t she just have braids?
He could only stare at her, as she looked down at him worried.
“Oh my goodness, Blake, are you okay? That’s a pretty hard floor.” she sounded worried.
“Fine. Weren’t you just in the hot tub?” his voice raspy.
“What? No. I was asleep next to you. Well, for a good part at least. You moaned and groaned a few times, loud, but slept like a baby, big grin on your face mumbling something I couldn’t understand so I just assumed it wasn’t a nightmare.”
“We went to bed after the nightmare, but didn’t we get up in between? Like go outside and … go back to bed … together?” Blake asked.
“What? No. You were sound asleep. We were definitely in bed that entire time, one of us sound asleep during all of it. The other one was me, worried you were having another nightmare. But pretty sure you didn’t.” she told him as she offered her hand to help him got up off the floor.
“Hailey, we did not get up, and go outside and … do other stuff?”
“What other stuff? No, we were here like I said. Asleep. Then a loud thud, which woke me, and obviously you too. You didn’t hurt your head falling, did you?” the last part sounded genuinely worried, not sarcastic.
Blake could only stand there and stare. A dream? It had been only a dream? None of this really happened? He felt disappointed, yet also relieved, but had to know for sure. He grabbed his jeans and found the unopened condom pack still in there.
His heart sank.
Now the disappointment was in the majority. But it was good right? Better this way, right? But it had seemed so real .. and since when did he dream about stuff like that?!
“Hey, you look like you have seen a ghost? Did you break your butt break falling out of bed?” she teased, amused.
“Yeah, it’s got a big crack in it now!” he retorted, making her laugh.
Hearing that sound lifted his disappointment, making way for a comforting feeling as he realized something more valuable than any riches in the world to him.
They were gonna be all right.
They’d be friends forever.
But right now he just wanted to be young and have a fun trip with his best friend for life.
The next morning they spent fishing.
They hiked all over the woods and stopped whereever catch seemed most promising.
Maybe they didn’t end up with their first time, but this was definitely a trip he would never forget and he had a good feeling that she wasn’t gonna either.
This was a weekend getaway he wanted to never end.