I remember the morning we got back to L.A. with a smile. We pulled up outside our house at seven o’clock in the morning. This was after we drove in circles for a half an hour trying to find the house because neither of us could remember where it was. We got out of the ’64 Mustang, the only part of the trip that we would miss, and we used the last bit of energy either of us had to unlock the front door and walk inside. When we did we were both stunned at what we found. The place was a disaster! People were strewn along with garbage on our living room floor. Stepping over the wreckage, both of us made our way to the master bedroom. We were glad to see that Jack had made good on his promise to find us furniture but that was about the only good thing we could credit him with. This hardly changed when we found him in a queen sized bed with three naked women around him. I was pissed!
“Jack, you bastard, wake the fuck up! Look at our house!” I shouted, rousing Jack from his slumber.
Blinking up at me, he smiled. “Well welcome home, girls! Say, you know what time it is?” He asked as though I wasn’t furious.
“A little after seven. Why?” I was tired, I was angry, and I wasn’t in the mood.
“Well damn, Liz, I just went to sleep an hour ago!” He protested, apparently not getting that I could have cared less.
“Sleep? Yeah, that sounds great. So why don’t you take these…” I bit my tongue. “…girls and get the hell out of my bed so Julie and I can go to sleep.”
Without any protest he woke the girls up and got them out of the room in a matter of three minutes. However, he refused to leave the bed, saying with a grin, “Sorry, Lizzy, but I’m not going nowhere!”
“Fuck it!” I swore as I kicked off my shoes and climbed into bed, Julie right behind me. Our bags could wait, the mess our house was in could wait, the mess my life was in could wait. For that moment there was only sweet amazing sleep.
Just before I went to dream I heard Jack say, “I’ll straighten up when I get out of bed. And I’ll get rid of all these people, you know? It’s really good to have you two home.”
“Yeah. It’s good to be home.” I replied before surrendering to sleep.
When Julie and I got out of bed nearly twelve hours had passed. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t remember another time in my life when I had slept so much. However, when the two of us did get up we saw right away that Jack had made good on his word. The house was absolutely spotless! My mother could not have done it any better. And all of the strange people that were all over the place were gone. On the coffee table was a letter from Jack reminding me to finish the articles for the paper and telling me that he would be back over the weekend to exchange cars and pick up the papers. I shrugged in indifference until I glanced down at the bottom of the page. After his signature he had written, ‘P.S. Oh yeah, call your damned mother, will ya? That woman is a spaz!’
I smiled at the description. It fit her perfectly. I didn’t want to pick up the phone any more than I wanted a root canal but he was right. I needed to. Picking up the receiver of the ugly brownish orange phone Jack rented, I hesitated before pushing that god awful zero. At least I can still stick it to her by calling her collect, I mused as the operator directed my call. “The Sanders residence. Mrs. Sanders speaking. How may I help you?” From the moment I heard her overly long hello I wanted to hang up the phone.
“Hi, mom. I just thought I would call you and let you know that I’m alright. Everything is going good.”
“Where have you been all summer, Elizabeth Louise Sanders? And do not lie to me!” She seethed over the phone. I sighed. Clearing my throat I decided to tell her the truth. I told her all about my job at the paper and then I told her what I had been up to since June. “Just as I suspected.” She was clicking her tongue in the most unbecoming fashion. “You remember your father’s cousin Mildred? Well, she just came back from her vacation at that beach near Los Angeles or Hollywood…Oh, what is it called?”
“Venice Beach?” I replied, holding in laughter as I thought of Mildred walking around Venice in disgust, the long stick protruding from her ass as usual.
“Yes, that’s it! Well, you know she and the children haven’t been there since the summer of ‘60…it may have even been ’59…Anyway, she was absolutely appalled at what the kids out there have done to the place and she said the way that they are living is just unbelievable! Boys and girls are all parading around with long, shaggy hair and the girls are running around barely clothed! She heard that they are all taking strange drugs and they drink all hours of the day and night. Their music is horrible and most of the kids have no home because they refuse to work. There are shops there where you can walk in and buy drugs like you would a blouse, Elizabeth! Now that is it! I want you to come home and start the fall quarter at Ohio State. If you don’t you will no longer receive help from your father and me. Is that understood?”
I knew this was coming. I was just surprised that it took so long. “That’s fine, mother. Keep your goddamned money because I don’t need it. Frankly there are worse things to be than some hippie high on weed at Venice Beach. At least I am not going to be miserable my entire life because I did only what I was told to do and nothing else! You should know a thing or two about that. You don’t have to worry about me anymore because I’m not your problem. Goodbye.” When I hung up I was in tears. It wasn’t because of the fight or the money. No, it was worse than that. For a moment I actually thought about doing what she said. At least back in Ohio I knew what was expected of me and I would know how to live my life until it was over. I had been in California a year and I still wasn’t sure that I would ever figure things out.
The next couple of weeks went by too quickly. Articles were finished and fussed over, Julie got her car back only to have it break down, and I went around town to find the ugliest, cheapest car for miles to get us back and forth. In the midst of all of this there were numerous shopping trips. A new wardrobe was essential for a new school, we mused, spending all we had after we bought the car and paid the bills on the clothes. Then there was the orientation at U.C.L.A. where we had to meet with the academic counselors to sign up for classes. I was as smooth as I could be when I said to the woman, “I was told by Dean Stuart at Berkeley that Professor Brian McVie transferred here. I was just wondering if that were true and if it is, does he still teach psychology?”
She smiled a kind smile, saying sweetly, “Yes and yes. In fact, he could use a few students for his last period of the day. It begins at two and it ends at three. Would you like me to squeeze you in?”
I replied that yes, in fact I would and I thanked her. I knew what she thought. She thought I was a young girl with a crush on her teacher. She was both correct and terribly wrong; so wrong in fact that it was funny. At any rate, we went on with picking the other classes and before long we were through. I left, thanking her once more for her help. I don’t remember all of the classes I took that year but I recall that the number was either the minimal amount required or little more. There was a class in creative writing, one in journalism, and another required math class. And of course there was my last period psych class.
The Tuesday after Labor Day (which Julie and I spent at Venice Beach) was the start of the 1965-66 school year at U.C.L.A. That morning as I got ready I remembered the previous year and how nervous I had been. Now that I knew what I was getting myself into the butterflies in my stomach seemed to have doubled. I looked in the full length mirror that graced my bedroom wall admiring my new bellbottoms, my peasant shirt, and the long leather belt Julie talked me into buying. Not too bad, I mused. My makeup was as flawless as I could get it and I smelled of sandalwood thanks to the soap and the body oil from a headshop at the Beach. I looked calm, I looked confident, but inside I was ready to crumble.
“Liz, hurry the fuck up! It’s bad enough that my first class starts at the ass crack of dawn…I don’t want to be late to it on the first day!” Julie exaggerated from the living room pulling me away from my reflection. One last look and I grabbed my cloth bag and convinced myself that I was ready.
The first string of classes passed pleasantly. The instructors at U.C.L.A. were nothing like the straights at Berkeley. My creative writing professor, a guy about Brian’s age named Professor Ross, wanted us to do our first assignment based on our fears. “I don’t care if you form the assignment as a story, poem, or a song. I do not care if the finished product is one page long or forty. I don’t care if your fears are sex, drugs, or circus freaks. It does not matter to me what you write or how you articulate it as long as it is your truth and it has your emotions, your voice. That is what I want to accomplish this year if I do nothing else. I want to help you all find your creative voices. Until you have done that you can never succeed as a writer.”
I thought he was great. My professor in Journalism was in his early thirties but he was totally into the scene around him. When I said my name he got a strange look on his face and after class ended he asked me to stay behind. I was shocked, wondering what I could have done. After everyone had gone he said, “I didn’t want to embarrass you or put you on the spot in front of the class but when you said your name…and that you just transferred here from Berkeley…You wouldn’t happen to be the Liz Sanders who writes for The Full Circle, are you?”
“Yeah.” I replied, blushing. Never expected that one!
“Well, that’s far out! Jack and I go way back, man! We were both heavy in the beatnik scene. At one time we were even roommates but I came down here and he stayed in Frisco. I saw him last month and he gave me a copy of the paper. Great stuff! You don’t really need this class if you ask me but I’m happy that you’re here.”
Nothing of interest occurred with the math class. I thought I hated it ten minutes after it started and by the time it ended I was sure of it. At noon Julie and I were able to leave until our last class started at two. We went home and ate and I watched as Julie got high. I refused the weed when she offered. I wanted to be clear headed for this particular psych class. I did drink down a bit of stale whiskey Jack had had in the freezer before I left but that was more for a little courage than a buzz. By ten till two we were back at school and ready for round two. I must have smoked three Lucky’s on the ride over. Because I planned on being intentionally late to Brian’s class I smoked two or three more after Julie had gone in. Finally at five after two I walked in prepared for whatever might come.
By the time I walked through the classroom door I was almost twenty minutes late. Brian, who had just sat down on his desk, looked at me as if I were a ghost. For a moment we just held each other’s gaze. He was in shock I suppose and I…Well, I was in pain. I could not have imagined that seeing him again would hurt so badly. What a fool I was. Finally I went to a seat as Brian said angrily, “Miss Sanders, you are late!”
“Sorry, Professor but I figured since you are usually late to class yourself I would be getting here right on time.” I replied, looking him once more in the eye. This time it was a challenge. The fight had begun.
“Whatever your excuse is, don’t let it happen again. Understood?”
“Oh absolutely, Professor McVie.” I said mockingly.
He chose to ignore my arrogance and went about a repeat of last year’s introduction. This time, however, instead of doing the thing about telling your name and life story, he instructed the class to tell their name and their favorite quote. “It can be from a poem, a story, a song, a movie, or just something you heard somewhere. I want it to be something that means something to you. In fact, I want you to tell us why it’s special to you. This is a way for us all to get to know each other in an interesting way.”
I was the last person in the last row so I got to hear everyone before me as they quoted everything from Shakespeare to The Beatles. There was even one cat who quoted Gone with the Wind which made me grin because that had always been my favorite movie and I had always loved Rhett Butler’s infamous exit line. Finally Brian looked at me as if I was like all the rest and he asked my name and my quote. “My name is Liz Sanders and my quote is from a Bob Dylan tune. ‘If your rooster crows at the break of dawn, look out your window and I’ll be gone. You’re the reason I’m a travelin’ on but don’t think twice…it’s alright.’”
“And why is it special to you?” Brian asked almost reluctantly. Whether he wanted to acknowledge it or not, he got my meaning.
Shrugging, I replied almost offhandedly, “It just reminds me of someone I used to know.”
There it was again, that hard gaze, his eyes locked on mine holding my mind quiet and still for a moment. The class seemed confused but no one said anything until Brian regained his composure and went on with the lesson. For that first day we got off with no assignments which worried me. Was my great professor losing his touch? There was always something he wanted us to think about and write down. There was always something for us to interpret or discover. Nothing? That was enough to worry me.
As everyone got ready to go for the day Brian said abruptly, “Miss Sanders, I want to see you in my office after class so stay put.”
I had a feeling he did not want to compliment my work at The Full Circle. I did as he said and I stayed put until everyone had gone and Brian, having gathered his things, motioned for me to follow him. Déjà Vou hit me hard as I walked behind him thinking of the day he asked me to stay behind to discuss my passion for writing. How many things can change in a year? When we got to his office, which was down the hall from his classroom, he opened the door and waited for me to sit down before closing it and taking a seat. “So why did you come here, Elizabeth?” Brian asked. He just sat there across from me flashing his pious airs as if he had a right! That was the final shove I needed. I was outraged.
In a calm, bitter tone, I answered, “Because you asked me to, Brian, or did you forget about that? Why the hell not? It looks like you’ve forgotten everything else!”
For a split second I thought I saw regret, even remorse, in his eyes. But when the moment passed he was again oblivious to my pain. “I know I didn’t handle the situation with you properly but what do you hope to accomplish now? What is the point of this?” He asked without emotion. This was not the Brian I had known. It certainly wasn’t the man I had loved.
“The situation, McVie? Is that what it is? A situation? Well, that’s just great! Super, really.” I stood up because I was all but shaking with anger and disappointment. I had to get away from him. “Alright, here’s the way I see it, Brian. You may appear to be calm and collected sitting across from me right now but I will bet that if I came any closer you would be ready to fuck me on that desk of yours. And would you like to know something else? You love me and you are scared shitless because of it! You are nothing more than a terrified little boy! What was the problem? Were you afraid that I would walk out on you the way you did me? Until five minutes ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of it. Now you have your wish. I am dropping your class this week and at the end of the term I’m transferring back to Berkeley. Have a nice life, Bri.”
I was halfway out of the door when he yelled my name. Where have I seen this before, I thought, bemused. In the hallway I stopped but I didn’t go back to his office. He was going to have to do better than that if he had something he wanted to say to me. Finally he came rushing out the door like a madman and when he saw me standing there, all but waiting from him, he was furious. Holding back his anger, he demanded softly, “Come back inside.”
“Why the hell should I do that? What do you hope to accomplish with this? What’s the point?” I mocked him outright.
“I am your professor and I am not through with you, Liz, so get your ass back in my office now!”
“Oh, you’re not through with me, professor?” I said his title with a laugh. “Well, that must be shitty because I am completely through with you!”
I had turned away from him, no longer able to look in his eyes or watch his jaw clinched in anger. I was about to leave him there when he said in a lowered voice that I had to strain to hear, “You don’t mean that, Lizzy.”
He used that tone that could break my heart with a sentence. “What do you want, Brian? You bitched that I’m here so I said I would go. What is left for us to talk about?” I questioned with a weary sigh.
“I’m sorry, for starters. I fucked up with you. You think that I don’t see that? I have never done something so terrible in all of my life! I have thought about this…about you…every day since I left. It makes me sick to think of what I probably put you through. It was even worse when I thought about everything you’ve done for me. I really am sorry for that. And maybe you’re right.”
“About what?” I asked with my back still facing him.
“Damn it, you know what!” He replied. A smile snuck through my lips at his resistance.
“No, I don’t. I said a lot so you’ll have to refresh my mind.”
His irritated sigh was music to my ears. “I’m scared shitless, Liz. Is that what you want to hear? Yes, after all that I’ve been through in life I am terrified of a nineteen year old girl. Does that make you happy?”
I turned to face him and my grin was indescribable. How could I forgive him so easily? And yet a part of me had. I knew that. “It’s a good start.”
“So will you come back into my office and listen to what I have to say?” It came out as a question but it was really another demand.
“You mean you have something left to say?” I asked as he threw up his hands in exasperation. I laughed at the dramatics as I walked past him, back to the room I had stormed out of. “Fine, McVie, have it your way!”
This time when we sat across from one another there were no formalities between us. He had apparently stepped down from the high horse he rode into the room. This time it was like the days we had spent together at Berkeley but there was a bit more tension because now we had something between us that needed to either be repaired or resolved. For a while we sat in silence. Brian opened up two windows and pulled out a pack of Marlborough’s and a match from his desk drawer. Seeing this I grinned, fetching my Lucky’s from the depths of my bag. Striking up a match I lit up one of my own. As I took a long drag off the cigarette Brian smiled easily. “Alright, Liz, I’ve said that I’m sorry. You must have accepted the apology or you wouldn’t be here. You seemed to have figured out the reason why I left on your own. So what should we talk about now?”
“See, I knew it! You didn’t have anything left to say!” I replied in mock outrage. Then I started to laugh, all the while wondering how one simple incident in a school hallway could take away all of the pain and the anger I had just an hour before.
“And you were right. Technically, I didn’t but I don’t want to watch you walk away yet. It’s been a long time since I saw you, since I talked to you. I missed your laugh and your smile. I missed the way you move from adoration toward me to telling me to go to hell in the blink of an eye. When you walked into my class today my heart leapt into my throat because I was so damned happy to see you. That first glance took my breath away. But then I realized it meant I had to face you and I knew I would have to try to explain to you why I walked out. That’s how I’ve felt since I left. That is why I never tried to see you or write you. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss you…it’s because I’m a scared little boy when it comes to us.” He grinned; no doubt thrilled that he could work the analysis in.
“Well, I’ll start off by telling you that since we’re speaking I’m going to have a lot of free time. I won’t have to spend my days thinking up the perfect death for you, which is a shame because I’ve come up with some pretty creative situations.” I laughed as he sat there trying to figure out if I was joking. Then I said seriously, “If we are going to salvage any part of what we had, Brian, we have to start all over. We will have to rebuild our friendship completely. Do you really think you want to bother with it?”
“I wouldn’t want it any other way. Hey, do you want to go for a walk?” He asked suddenly.
“Can we do that? I don’t want what happened at Berkeley to happen here.”
“No, it’s not like that here. This whole place is loose. They didn’t give a damn. So…?” He asked, pleading with a smile. I nodded and he grabbed the cigarette from my hand, throwing it out the window with his own.
Almost as soon as we left the room Professor Blackwell, my journalism professor, spotted us and came over saying apologetically, “Sorry to bother you, Miss Sanders, but I was wondering if you happened to have Jack’s phone number.”
Brian looked at me as if to ask, ‘Who the hell?’ but he said nothing. I laughed at the question. “The man lives over three hundred miles away and I am still on the phone with him every day. I could write it down for you if you want.” He nodded, leading Brian and me into his classroom. At his desk he handed me a pen and a piece of paper. As I wrote I explained, “The number is actually to a shop that Jack’s brother owns. During the day that is who will answer but all you have to do is ask for Jack. He lives above the store and at night, once Chris closes up, he just goes around in the shop doing whatever so if you call at night it is likely he will answer.” I handed him the number with a smile.
Blackwell laughed. “Still the same old Jack I see. Would you know how I might get this month’s copy of The Full Circle? I can’t seem to find it around here and Jack told me there’s going to be a whole section on The Beatles’ show at Shea Stadium. Does it have pictures?”
My god, I sort of had a fan. Brian, however, seemed annoyed that he was out of the loop and he had no idea what we were talking about. “This weekend I am supposed to make the long drive up to Frisco to bring a few hundred copies down here. They’ll be at a shop at Venice Beach but I’ll just bring one to you on Monday. The article about the show is in there but there are no pictures. Our friend Jack never asked for any so I didn’t take any. All you would have seen were hysterical teeny boppers anyway.”
“Well, thanks for his number and everything. I’ll give him a call tonight. You take care.” He said and then he looked at Brian as if he had just seen him and added, “You, too, McVie.” with a wink and a grin.
Once we were down a flight of stairs Brian asked roughly, “What the fuck was that about? Why is he asking you about a paper in Frisco? And who is this Jack guy?”
I looked over and grinned at the way he said Jack’s name. He had left me high and dry and now he had the nerve to get jealous? As we walked out into the early fall afternoon, I sighed. “Officially, Jack is my boss. Unofficially he is…” I paused to watch him squirm a bit. I wasn’t disappointed. “…my business partner. The Full Circle was his brain child but all summer I’ve done all of the work. That is why Blackwell was asking about the paper and Jack, who happens to be an old pal of his. Small world.”
I found my keys just in time because when I looked up I was standing in front of my car. I motioned to Brian to get in and, after fussing with the messed up door handle, I did the same. By the time I started it Brian was all but laughing. “What year is this thing anyway?” He asked.
“It’s a ’51 or a ’52. I think it is the ugliest, most dilapidated car I have ever seen but I picked it up for forty bucks and the engine runs great. So where the hell are we going, Professor?”
“Let’s go to the beach so we can park this damned thing and walk around.”
“As you wish” I replied, speeding out of the parking lot. The radio only picked up one station and it was the sort of bubble gum pop from the ‘60’s that still makes me cringe. Brian switched it on only to turn it right back off and the rest of the drive was taken in silence.
Parking the car, we got out and as he put an arm around my shoulder I felt a shock of recognition go through me. What have I gotten myself into this time, I wondered, saying softly, “Just friends, McVie. Remember that.”
He grinned and pulled me closer until my head was all but resting on his chest. “I know, I know. Now, I want to hear about this job you have.”
“What’s left to tell? I asked, pausing a moment to take my shoes off. I wanted to feel the hot sand between my toes. “It’s an underground sort of paper that you can only get in Frisco right now because Jack is too cheap to spring for shipping costs. I write all of the content and Jack edits it and puts it all together but…”
“Wait, wait…stop a minute. The Full Circle? That’s what you said before? You can get it at that headshop we went to for a quarter?” He interrupted.
“Yeah, that’s it.” I responded.
“Of course it is! I can’t believe I never connected it with you! Then again your last name appeared only on May’s issue and again on July’s but that was only on the Dylan piece. Your boss man wrote a disclaimer for that one. I laughed about that. Christ…Lizzy, I am so fucking proud of you! You’ve got spunk, little girl. The way you defended Dylan’s performance was great. For weeks that was all I heard about was the folkies bitching about Dylan’s electric set and most of them were nowhere near Newport. When I went to the headshop and I read the cover of July’s issue I bought it. I had devoured the whole article before I got out the door. The guy at the counter laughed at me when I asked him who wrote it. When he asked why I wanted to know I told him honestly that the person knew what they were talking about, ya know? All the time it was you? That’s far out!”
“Oh, stop it. You’re making me blush.” I replied with a giggle. “How many of the issues do you have?”
“I have May’s, June’s, July’s, and last month’s but I haven’t been up that way yet this month. I can’t believe you saw Dylan at Newport! And you went around asking kids about the war and sex…I loved the part at Newport when the girl tried to pick you up. I laughed my ass off. Did I hear Blackwell right? You saw The Beatles in New York? I’ll bet that was a trip. Did you do it all alone?” He asked sitting down at the water’s edge and motioning for me to do the same.
I sat replying, “No, Julie was with me. We had a lot of fun this summer but we were glad to see California again. Being back east, especially around Illinois and West Virginia, we were just too close to home for comfort, ya know? I felt like I was running away all over again sometimes. It was like I couldn’t exhale until I saw our house and I knew that it was safe again. But we saw the Beatles and it was a trip. They sounded great and John was adorable. Had there not been thousands of screaming little girls it would have been perfect. Then again, it wouldn’t have been as noteworthy, either. I’ll take it and Dylan’s performance with me to the grave.”
“Did you get to meet Dylan? I saw your Q & A with him.”
“No but I met someone in his crew who was really nice. He carried the questions and answers back and forth for me. He did say that my questions made Dylan laugh or amused him or something like that but after the show I think the backstage area was crazy with people wanting to see Dylan. I was told I could wait but it was suggested I not. So I didn’t. I had seen an amazing show and I had a paper that Dylan touched, wrote on, and even signed his name to the bottom. It was great!”
For awhile neither of us said anything. I sat there listening to the ocean’s waves dance and crash around us. If I ever went back to a place like Ohio I imagined I would miss that sound. Softly, Brian said, “You have changed so much since I first met you. Last year you were completely terrified of the people here and the things they do. Now you have a place right here in Los Angeles. A year ago you never would have taken off and traveled the country like that and you sure as hell wouldn’t have gone up to total strangers and asked them the things you asked those kids this summer. My dear Elizabeth, I think you have emerged from your shell. You are not just on the right road to being who you want to be. You’re driving seventy-five. Look at the way you challenged me today. The great girl I knew at Berkeley is becoming an amazing woman. I really am proud of you.”
He had read much more into my journey than I had. I hadn’t thought of the things I had done in that way. My emotions had been running so high since Brian left that I hadn’t thought about anything I did before I did them. I just sort of went with it. Looking at it from his prospective I could see his point. Since I came to California I had changed. “Thanks, Bri, but it’s really not that big of a deal. I traveled the country because I had a job to do and I wanted to do it. As for moving here…Well, I had a point to prove and I proved it. All of it seems so simple when I break it down like that. Maybe subconsciously I figured if I could run away from my safe middle class life in Ohio to come to a place where anything could happen, I can do anything. From here on out, nothing I can do will ever be as hard as coming out here.”
“You might be surprised about that.” He responded, singing a little bit of The Times, They Are A’ Changin’. “There is always chaos with mass change and, in case you didn’t catch it in those articles you wrote, America is on the brink of change. I hear it in music, I read it in papers, and I feel it. In my heart I feel the nerves on edge of everyone around me. This is the calm before the storm and I think this summer you were chasing the start of the tornado whether you realized it or not. You may end up doing many things that make leaving Ohio seem like a walk in the park. Keep your eyes open and your pen ready because I have a feeling you are going to end up in the middle of it all.”
“The psychic professor.” I mumbled sarcastically but his words created a tension in me that I couldn’t explain. The message seemed like a forewarning, a brief description of the months and years to come. The idea made me uneasy. I did not feel ready to stand in the middle of chaos and change and I doubted I would have my eyes open or my pen in hand if such a thing happened. I wasn’t that strong yet. Sighing I said softly, “Well, McVie, it’s been fun but I should probably go. I have a paper due Monday for my creative writing class and I should probably start it.”
“What is it about?” He asked, stalling as usual.
“My fears.” I laughed. He grinned in a mischievous way that both amused and annoyed me. “So I have to split, I guess. Do you need a ride to where you’re staying?” I asked.
“No, I can hitch a ride later. I wish you didn’t have to go yet.” He said with a small smile. Maybe it wasn’t all bullshit. Maybe he had missed me.
“I have to. I’ve got work to do and Julie is probably worried about me. It isn’t like I’m going far. I’ll see you tomorrow, ya know?” I said softly, suddenly caught between really wanting to go home and never wanting to leave that beach, or Brian, again.
Standing up at nearly the same time we just sort of stared at each other for a while. How many times had I yearned for a moment like this one in the last four months? How many times had I dreamed of the boyish smile he was giving me? When he hugged me tight I let him without saying a word. I felt relieved suddenly. I had not backed down from him; I had not backed out of the confrontation that I had planned for months. I stood my ground and I think I earned his respect that day because of it. If nothing else he knew I wasn’t going to simply lie down and take his shit. “So I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then. ‘Til then, stay out of trouble. Stay away from Sunset Strip. Oh, and don’t go looking for any seedy little bars that might let a minor in.” He said this with a chuckle and then he just turned and began walking toward the road. As I watched him go I remember thinking that L.A. might not be so bad after all.