“I know.” He nodded. “I have to keep you on your toes or you’ll get a big head and I’d never hear the end of it.”
“You’re acting like I’m moving away forever.”
“I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but I’m not sure yet. I haven’t left. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I leave. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’ll hate it and I’ll move back after the first semester, but I won’t know unless I try.”
“I understand that. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.”
In a matter of seconds, I witnessed so much emotion pass through his gaze. It was one right after the other until it landed somewhere in between sadness and uncertainty.
“If Cain hurts you, Lala, I don’t know what I would do to him.”
“I already told you. It’s not like that between us. He just makes me laugh.”
“I make you laugh.”
“I know. That’s probably why I enjoy being around him. He reminds me a lot of you.”
“Why do you need reminding when I’m standing right in front of you?”
“I just meant he’s not what I expected him to be. Cain, Ashton, Sawyer, they’re all your best friends, Leo. They’re your family, your brothers. Despite knowing them for as long as I have, we aren’t exactly close, more like acquaintances. You’ve managed to keep us all separate in our own lanes without ever truly knowing anything about each other. Up until these last few months, the only thing we’ve all had in common is you. It’s been nice to have another friend. You guys didn’t exactly make it easy on me growing up. Girls didn’t trust me, your reputations ruined that for me.”
“It doesn’t really matter what I see or don’t. As much as I would love for you to stay here, I can’t make you and I wouldn’t if I could.”
“We’re best friends, Leo. That’s not going to change because I move, or possibly live on an island Cain also happens to live on. You’ll always be my best friend. No matter what. It’s you and me.”
He pulled me into his arms. “No matter what I think or want, I don’t want to lose you. I won’t lose you, Mila.”
“You’re not losing me. I promise.”
“I don’t know a life without you in it and I don’t want to know one either. I’ll always be here for you. Please tell me you know that?”
“Of course I do.”
Once again, we fell silent. With his arms around me under the moonlight, we comforted one another in the only way we knew how.
“I love you, Lala.”
I smiled into the side of his neck. “I love you too.”
For the first time in my life, my new beginnings didn’t include Leo. I was still unsure of how I’d feel about that, but not enough…
To not try.
“Welcome graduates, colleagues, family, and friends. Congratulations to everyone moving forward with their lives today,” the dean of our university announced through his microphone, standing front and center on the stage before all of us. “I’d like to begin by thanking all of the families and friends in the audience this morning. I know how proud you must be of your kids stepping into the next chapter of their lives. I, myself, have a son who will be graduating next year, and the sense of pride I feel for him, words can’t describe.”
I couldn’t believe the day was finally here. After four years of studying, graduating with a 3.7 GPA made it all worthwhile. I got accepted into every grad school I applied to and I filled out more than fifteen different applications. So many “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted” letters but I’d only committed to one.
After much consideration over the last three weeks, I decided to take the plunge and move to St. Thomas. Cain was renting a boat slip at the marina near the University and he’d be living on it while he repaired his girl.
Cain’s words, not mine.
When I told him I’d be taking the leap and moving there as well, he told me the marina was hiring with room and board and I jumped at the chance of working and living there too. I did my interview through a Zoom call with the manager of the property. His name was Miles and he’d been working at the marina for the last twenty years, the man was older looking, very distinguished, and super friendly.
The interview didn’t take long, and I couldn’t hold back my excitement when he went into detail about what my job would entail. My job duties depended on what they needed for the day. My number one priority was to cater to the members which now included Cain. Whatever they wanted, whether that be food, drinks, gas, or random conversation, I was their girl. In return, I got paid eighteen dollars an hour and that didn’t include tips. From what my new boss informed me, the captains loved to tip.