Growing In Love

Not all days last the same. 

I mean, they all have 24 hours but some seem longer and never ending. 

Gracie was looking at that pole by the lake. The same on where her and  Gabriel marked their heights year by year.

They grew up together like best friends and grew apart after the summer when she realized she loved him deeply. 

Four months she had spent in that small town since she moved there. 

It was a bold decision.  

She was far away from home  in that unique place that used to be so fun, the same place she used to visit as a kid, but everything looked so different now, at 32.  

Childhood memories crowded her mind playing with her friends and going to that same lake. 

Campouts and games  and of course, jumping from the big rock that was placed there millions and millions of years ago.

The same rock where she met him, Gabriel. 

His blond curls covering his eyes and that smile that brighten his face. Gabriel was charming and happy. The kind of person that everyone loves and wants to hang out with.

The rock had a platform shaped end  that stood out from where you could jump right in the deepest part of the lake, of course not everyone would dare to do it. 

All the kids gathered there because it was the place to be. 

At least while you were young around there.

The boys had a small club and reclaimed the big rock for them. 

All those who were brave enough to jump were considered to be part of the gang after deliberation made by Charlie. He was the designated leader that summer.

But little girls were not supposed to be part of that group so when Gracie stood up and ran towards the end of that pedestal, all the boys just looked perpless, including Gabriel. 

And she was as scared to death as she was stubborn.

But she did not think about anything else, and running towards that edge felt empowering.  

The rush of adrenaline while she approached it was almost unbearable, then, it was like flying and the feeling of joy was indescribable. 

 At the end a big splash.   

After that she became some sort of a hero among the girls and she also won the respect of the boys. 

-I can not believe you did that!- said Gabriel who was near the shore when she got out of the water

-well I did it…and it was also kind of fun. Maybe we could jump together!-

And they did.  That jump made her meet him and she felt kind of cool to have been able to, all this to get his attention. 

After the first scare and proving herself she could do it ,it was actually a lot of fun jumping again. 

They became best friends in that place where they met once a year for the summer. At least she called him her best friend even though she was clearly drawn to him. She fell for him little by little. He was her safe place , her soulmate. But she never told him. 

Not even after that night when she had too many cranberry cocktails and they ended up kissing in the back of his car. 

-its fun kissing you- said him smiling at Gracie. Those beers made him feel

 comfortable enough to dare to.

 She felt like she was in heaven.Lost in his arms  she wanted more. 

He grabbed her and kept touching her all over. She knew she could have stopped him, but it felt so good ,so right.

They ended up having sex in a blur. It was her first time and she was very emotional , enjoying every minute of it   and he, well, he fell asleep right after. 

She kept looking at him peacefully sleeping, admiring his face and smiling, realizing it really happened.

The next morning he woke up alone. 

She had left and he was not sure about what to think. 

When they met later that afternoon he acted like nothing happened and she followed his lead thinking that maybe it was better this way. He felt weird about it anyway. Very weird indeed.

Gracie was clearly in love with him and she talked about it with Marie all day. 

-Tell him something, you are leaving soon and you won’t be back until next summer-

-that’s why I won’t Marie, he hasn’t talked about what happened and that’s probably because he wants to erase it!

How could I do that? He is my best friend and …-

-And you made love Grace! And you love him! You have to tell him!!-

-I ‘ll think about it…-

She had mixed feelings about declaring her love to him, and she planned to do so. 

But her plans kept changing and she got scared of losing his friendship. 

In the end she decided to keep it to herself and not say a word. 

She left that summer and went back to her life. 

All year she thought about him but he was just the same old friend to her.  He never told her anything that was not usual and things were just as  they were before. 

The next summer was similar to all the summers spent together with all of their friends  at the lake. 

In the end she was going to go  back to her city life. 

Gracie was so in love with him it hurted. She decided she needed to talk to him before she left. 

She was confident that day. 

They were going to be at the lake and she was going to declare her love. But everything changed. 

 That was the day he met Sylvia.   

It was very hot. Everyone was headed to the lake as usual and Gabriel was finishing his shift at the store. 

-I need to get my stuff at Gramps Grace, just go and I’ll catch up in a few minutes- said Gabriel clearly annoyed to think he had to listen to his grandfather’s list of safety precautions everytime he went to the rock .

– Just don’t be late, we need you for the team- said Gracie, while she bounced the Volleyball . She thought about it all night.

 And she was certain about telling him she loved him. She loved being with him and anything that had to do with him and she felt confident enough to express her love so she waved and kept walking with Marie . 

Gabriel took his bike and was on its way to his grandpa’s, but he was distracted, listening to music, very distracted. 

But then he saw her, Sylvia. 

She was driving that fancy convertible with her friends, laughing and of course , she did not see him losing perspective and bumping on her rear left door. 

-are you all right?- said her to Gabriel who was lying on the floor thinking he was on a dream 

-you didn’t stop … are you crazy???- he smiled and got up

-I’m ok… I swear

-Well you scared me to death! -she said-now my father is not gonna let my drive again … and

– really it was nothing, please let me make it up to you. I‘ ll talk to your dad

Her friends giggled , he was gorgeous and very polite , and very insistent. 

She was beautiful. Her green eyes in contrast with her red hair and pale skin made her look like a ceramic doll. 

Gabriel changed after that day, that girl had him head over heels.

She was moving back to town with her family and after that little incident they started seeing each other. 

Soon enough they were together. 

It broke Gracie’s heart. 

And of course she met her. She kept hearing him talking about her all the time. 

His eyes sparkled when she was near him. 

 She knew what was happening and she didn’t know what to do ,how to react.

 It hurted in a way that she never would have thought but she was leaving in a week so  saying something about her feelings, that was not happening. 

The night before she left they had a party. They always had that party and everyone was there

But Gabriel was not the same ,he was distant. 

-They looked perfect together- she thought while she saw them dancing.

Gabriel approached her 

-I’ll miss you Grace, you know that.-

And she knew he would. But not as she would have liked 

-I’ll see you next summer.-

She never returned after that summer. How could she?

Gracie was born in a big city and lived in the suburbs in a small apartment. 

She was an only child and her parents worked as accountants for a lawyer firm. 

She was alone most of the time and going to that lake in Laconia ,New Hampshire was her escape. 

And Gabriel was her first love. 

She was happy when they got engaged 4 years later.  And also when he got married. She wrote to him a lot at the beginning but lately they felt distant from each other. Life kept going on

Gracie graduated and found a good job in the city. She had lots of friends and her life was fine.More than fine, she was making money and everything was good. 

But Gabriel was always in her heart. 

She met Spencer at a convention a couple of years later and they were good together. They got married and  had a beautiful boy named David. 

And life was good, until it wasn’t. She loved Spencer, it was not a fairy tale story between them but they were like a team. At least she thought they were.

It was not surprising for her when he left her.  

He fell in love with another woman and she understood. 

After that it was work and work until exhaustion. Life just kept going on until that day when she received that cal from Marie  

-hey girl! It’s been so long since the last time you were here.How are you?

-Hi my friend, I’m good,I guess,  I have so much work that days just go by and sometimes I don’t even know what month it is –

-You should come visit. And bring that gorgeous son of yours, maybe you can teach him how to jump from that rock!-

They both laughed about it remembering that summer when they were young and wild.

-oh my God! I don’t think I’ve told David about it- she hesitated , but she needed to ask Marie -have you seen Gabriel? I haven’t  spoke to him in years-

Marie paused for a moment.  

-About Gabriel… I barely see him to be honest with you. He has changed a lot. After he got married he was not the same.She kept him in her social circle and let me tell you, those people are snobs. And you know him, he loved to be outside and playing sports and that sort of thing.

He was taking care of her father’s business. 

But, there’s something I have to tell you-

-What is it  Marie, I  mean is the family business, I guess it is what he needs to do.-

-he… he had an accident. He told me not to tell you but-

-please Marie, what happened?-

– they were driving back home and this car came out of nowhere…they were fighting as usual. Gabriel was bed bound for a while and she…

-oh come on Marie! Tell me please-

-she left him, she didn’t want to take care of him.-

-oh my God, that’s awful. How is he now?-

-he is in physical therapy but he doesn’t want to see anyone.  

Gracie was devastated. She didn’t know what to do. 

-anyway I hope to see you one day-

-I will let you know Marie…Say hi to everyone!-

Gracie felt sad .She knew Gabriel and she loved him deeply. 

She wanted to take a plane and just go to him. 

She tried to call him but the number she had was disconnected. He had no social media, and she thought maybe he didn’t need her to just appear after all those years. 

Another year went by before she spoke to her uncle about the restaurant and decided to move. 

She was exhausted with her job and the idea of moving was very appealing. David was 13 at that time and he kept telling his mom to take him to the rock after he knew about her adventure.

Moving was a good idea. A change of life was something she wasn’t expecting but it came at the right time.

Summer was a lot of fun, especially for David. He met new friends and she rented a little house near her friend Marie.

Of course she looked for him .

But not intentionally. 

And he was nowhere to be found. It was like he didn’t want to see her at all. 

She looked around that lake again. 

Summer was over now and the cold winds from the north were changing the season from fall to the winter that was about to start. 

She went there because her uncle was certain she could take over that family business.  

A small restaurant that used to be owned by her grandparents before they passed. 

It had its moment when it was pretty successful , but after they transfer the management to her uncle , things started to go south

She was a trained chef and used to work in a very busy hotel in New York. 

After 10 years she was ready for a change and taking care of a smaller family owned place sounded very attractive.

Plus it was the perfect excuse to be there. 

The place needed a lot of work but it was appealing. 

Those four months had been productive and people were coming back.

It was the talk of the town. 

But not a sound about Gabriel, and she didn’t know what to do about it.

She was sitting behind the cash register at the bar when she heard someone open the door. 

-hey Grace-

Her body trembled at the sound of that voice 

She stood up and looked at him. 

It was unbelievably pleasant seeing him. All sorts of memories came back in a glance. 

-How are you Gabriel-

-I’m ok. I was trying to figure out how to get the courage to see you. –

-courage? What do you mean by that?

They talked for hours about their lives and all that happened  in all that time they lost contact. 

-how’s Sylvia?-

-she left five years ago-

-I’m sorry to hear that.. I didn’t know-

-We didn’t belong together…it was a mistake.She is a troubled woman-

Gracie tried to approach him but he stepped back. The expression of his face scared her. 

-Gabriel what’s wrong?-

-You need to know something. You are very important to me and I have loved you since we were kids. You don’t know how many times I have tried to get the courage to tell you. And now…

-I love you too -she interrupted him-and I have missed you my whole life…-

He looked at her. 

-Sylvia didn’t leave me.

Gracie was getting  worried. 

-what happened with her?-she asked

-She shot me. That day when we had the accident  I lost control of the car because of that .I was in the hospital for 3 years. I almost died . And all the therapy …

That’s why I didn’t call you. I felt so bad. I should have stayed with you…I should have told you that day when we…

Tears were coming out of his eyes 

Gracie hugged him. She felt the same. 

-my Gabriel!!-she whispered in his ear. 

They both knew at that moment that they belonged together.  

Maybe it was a mistake that they didn’t stay together in the past, maybe they needed to realize that difficult lesson of being truthful and express their feelings, 

but life happens sometimes in a way we don’t understand. 

Gracie and Gabriel believed that all happened for a reason and from that moment on, their life restarted and it was finally wholesome and full of joy. 

Culled from by Laura Annese

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