“So, what do you have planned in India?”
I scratch the back of my head. Who would have thought I’d get tired of talking about all the things I want to do? For the past half an hour, Claire has shot me question after question about what I’m going to do in every country I visit. She’s like an interviewer on speed. Does she really want to know all this stuff?
I study her, taking my time chewing my food. Ever since we climbed out of the water and sat down, my trip overseas is all she’s talked about. I’ve tried to change the topic a few times, but remarkably she’s stayed on point. I don’t understand how she’s so happy to talk about it. Weeks ago, at her mother’s house, she had nothing but disdain for my plans to travel.
Now, though, she seems to be embracing it – the idea I’m leaving in a couple of months doesn’t seem to bother her at all. Logically, I know it’s a good thing. The lack of expectations for the future is what I wanted and asked of her. It’s just that…I didn’t think she’d be quite so okay with letting me go. Even Diana told me that my leaving would be a blow to her daughter. And in the beginning, it appeared it was. The Claire sitting in front of me now seems to be more than comfortable with what’s about to happen.
Will she go straight back to her list the moment I leave? Is she hanging out for the moment she can start focusing on her future and dating men who are more her type?
The thought cuts through me like a knife, threatening to rip me apart, but there’s no way to sugar-coat it. In October, I’ll be gone, and she’ll be looking for the man she wants to marry – the guy who’s everything she wants.
“I really didn’t think you’d be that interested in my plans overseas.”
Her smile wavers a little, but then stays fixed in place. “I’ll admit I was a little shocked when you first told me you were leaving, but I’m used to the idea now.”
“And you really want to know all this stuff? I thought you thought travelling was boring.”
Her smile drops completely. “I never, ever, said that. It’s the opposite. It’s exciting and fun.”
“But you don’t want to do it.”
I don’t know why I’m pushing this. Maybe it’s because she’s so insistent on talking about it. I don’t want to answer any more of her questions tonight. I don’t want to focus on leaving the country. Yes, I should be excited about what I’m doing in a month and a half’s time, but I’m not looking forward to leaving Claire.
“I will, just not yet.”
“Because the house and the man come first.”
After ripping off another bite of my bread roll, I force myself to swallow it. It’s like a giant burning ball the whole way down – settling like a lump in the pit of my stomach.
“Why? You’ve got time. You’re still young. You could put your plans off for six months and it wouldn’t kill you.”
“I’ve already put my plans off.”
Her words are like a punch to the stomach. “No one is forcing you to do that. You can go back to that list any time you want to.”
She flinches, which makes me feel like an asshole. I force myself to grin – to lighten the weight of what I’m saying. “I just mean you don’t have to wait until October to go back to looking for guys that fit your list.”
Though the thought of her with anyone else but me…it makes my stomach turn. I put down the baked roll with hot chicken, unable to take another mouthful.
“I know I don’t have to wait until then, but I’m having fun with you. You’re teaching me how to do things differently.” She smiles at me. “I never would have broken into anywhere before.”
I chuckle. “You make it sound like I’m teaching you how to be a criminal.”
She shakes her head. “You’re pushing me out of my comfort zone and I need that right now.”
“But travelling is too far out?”
Pushing the idea on her is stupid, but I can’t seem to stop myself.
“It’s not that I don’t ever want to, I just have my priorities and you have yours. It’s like me telling you that you should stay and do something with your loyalty to Brody’s.”
I huff out a laugh. “You sound like my boss, telling me I should try to buy the place.”
“See? If I was living your life, that’s what I’d do instead of travelling. We have different things we want to achieve in life, Dylan.”
Of course I know we’re different and that we want different things. It’s why I’ve avoided having anything outside of a sibling-like relationship with her for so long. But she surprised me with how well she stuck to her side of the agreement – just throwing herself into having fun with me.
“I never thought you could have done this – have this kind of fling. I was wrong about you and your priorities.”
Her smile is weak and she picks at something on the blanket. “I can stick to our agreement because there’s more to lose if I don’t.”
She looks up at me and my heart stops for a moment. Maybe what we’re doing isn’t as easy for her as she’s made it out to be. It sounds like she feels forced to play it this way because she wants to be with me.
My brain screams danger, but ending things between us is completely out of the question. Isn’t that what my father’s death taught me? Not to take anything for granted? I dove into this non-relationship headfirst, desperate for the one thing I’ve always denied myself. Taking it only because she begged me to. Now I’m hooked on it. I might be leaving soon, but I’ll take what I can because life is too short not to.
“You never know what’s around the corner. That’s what my father’s death taught me. You can’t take anything for granted.”
A flicker of surprise crosses her features at the heavy topic change before she tilts her head to the side and studies me. “Do you miss him?”
My laugh is a little harsh. “He was never around when I was growing up. He was always focused on making more money, rather than on the well-being of my family. I don’t know what it’s like to have a father around. He literally worked himself to death. Not the first heart attack or even the second was enough to make him slow down.”
Her smile is both sad and understanding. “You don’t want to work yourself to death.”
“Life is too short to waste it away in an office. There are so many things to do and see and feel. My father never experienced them and I made up my mind a long time ago I wouldn’t make the same mistake.”
“I get it.”
I can’t help frowning. Everything I’m saying is the opposite of what she believes in. “You do?”
She laughs lightly at my scepticism. “We’re both products of our conditioning, resisting the way we grew up. I want stability because I never had it and you want the opposite for the same reason.”
“So we’re alike, yet opposites.”
Silence falls over us, but it isn’t uncomfortable. I take her hand in mine as we lay there on the blanket, staring up at the stars. Our conversation once again reveals what I already know – that we’re completely wrong for each other. Yet right now I’ve never felt closer to another person. We might be opposites, but Claire is special to me and she always will be. I want nothing but happiness for her, and if that means her moving on straight after I leave, searching for her perfect man, I’ll be okay with it. Until October, however, she’s mine and I’m not letting her go.
A/N: I really enjoyed writing this scene between Dylan and Claire because it reveals how similar they are despite the fact they’re opposites in so many ways. 🙂