Learning to Let Go

Annalise is a volleyball all-star. One who will have the ability to go to the Olympics. It's just a natural talent. At 15, two years ago, she got involved with Seth. A sweet guy, really. But she stopped focusing on volleyball. After breaking up, she swore she wouldn't date until making the Olympics. So much for that, now she's got a new crush, one that she's trying to keep hidden. It's bad enough she has one problem, but she's moving down the block to a bigger house. Why? Because three years after her father's death, her mom is ready to marry again, to Ryan Kennedy.The worst part? Annalise has trouble getting along with Dylan, Ryan's 14 year old son.

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5. Sunday

7:20 am, on a Sunday, and my alarm beeps. Guess I forgot to turn it off, I think as I walk out of the shower. Yes. It's 7:20 and I'm already up. Having taken a shower. It's a miracle. Kidding, I like waking up early! On weekends anyway and going for a run on the beach. I pulled on a sports bra, spandex, a aqua-blue work-out shirt, and socks. I dried my wet hair and pulled it up into a pony tail. I pulled on my neon colored running shoes and ran out the back door to the beach. I stopped short, seeing Derek jogging down the beach towards me. Since when did HE jog in the morning?

I shook my head and started to walk, Derek was only a few steps behind me now. I started to jog. Derek caught up and he actually looked genuinely surprised.
"You run on the beach?"
"Yeah, every morning on the weekends."
"Oh."
We jogged in silence for a while.
Finally Derek spoke. "I feel like you're trying to avoid me."
I stopped short. "I just..."
"You just what, Annalise, you just WHAT?" Derek yelled at me, placing his hands in mine. "You just what?" He whispered.
"I just can't lose my chance..." I whispered. "A chance...a chance at the Olympics."
I looked to my right out towards the sea, enjoying Derek's touch, how my hands fit perfectly in his, how his blue eyes matched the bright blue sea, No. Snap yourself out of it! I yelled at myself. No!
I pulled my hands out of his. Should I tell him I had feelings for him? Should I tell him I can't date until the summer Olympics like I'd promised myself? A tear escaped my eye, and Derek placed a warm hand on my cheek and wiped it away with his thumb. I looked up at him, and his eyed met mine. I started noticing every little detail, how the waves crashed onto the beach, coming a little closer every time until it brushed my shoe. Derek leaned in slowly. 
And I started to, too, but then I pulled back, shook off his grasp and ran all the way home, crying. I stumbled once, and almost fell face-first into the sand. I picked myself back up and ran home. I ached SO badly to kiss him, to feel his hands on waist, to hear his heart beat against mine. But I couldn't, I had to stay focused on volleyball...
I stumbled up the stairs to my room and threw on a t-shirt and shorts. I ran back downstairs to eat breakfast. 
My mom was already downstairs cooking waffles. Hearing me come into the kitchen, she turned around and said, "Honey! I made waf- what's the matter?"
I started to cry again as I told her what happened.
"Oh," she said and hugged me. "Boy problems. Boy, I remember when I was your age-"
"Mom, I'm really only in the mood for the waffles, not the story."
"Alright."
I ate my waffles and then went to the boardwalk, thinking.
Should I go on the date? I asked myself. Derek was coming to pick me up at 11:30 so we'd probably have around a three hour date. The dilemma gave me a head ache. Right now it was 8:57, so 9 really. I sighed. I told him I'd go on the date, and on the date I shall go. I wandered the boardwalk until 10:30 and then I headed back home to get ready.
Getting home, I grabbed a white dress. The top hung over the brown braided belt at my waist a little bit, and three ruffles made up the skirt. At the middle of the top was a line of buttons, about six, maybe? Even though they gapped a bit between each button I decided not to wear a bra. The gap was so tiny who cared if a teeny bit of skin showed? I put on my Living Locket and some dangly earrings. After looking in the mirror I was happy with the way I looked and began to wait for Derek.
Promptly at 11:30 Derek came and picked me up.
"At first I was afraid you weren't going anymore," Derek said.
"I promised, though. And a promise is a promise," I said, climbing into his white convertible. 
We drove in silence for a while. Finally I asked, "So where are we going?"
"Picnic on the beach, anyone?" Derek said with a cheeky grin that made my heart melt. 
"Uh, sure," I said, kind of speechless. The way his brown, slightly wavy hair blew just right from the wind and how his blue-eyes twinkled made my heart about to burst.
I wanted to blurt out, "I hate you for being so perfect! I can't date! I promised myself!" But I couldn't. I know he'd end up kissing me, then how on earth was I supposed to be able to say no?!
"Alright. We're going to my favorite spot."
I smiled, but then I saw it. The little hill by the beach, the palm trees. How all the grass on this side of the road went straight, except for that little bump-out lined by palm trees. How it was the perfect view over the ocean.
How it was my father's favorite spot on the whole beach.
"Please tell me this isn't your favorite spot," I said, my voice starting to choke up as Derek stopped the car.
"Uh, yeah, why?"
"It's just..." My throat was getting so choked up I could hardly breathe. "My father's favorite spot..."
Then I lost it.
I remembered when I was two years old. My family had picnicked at this very spot.
"Annalise, stop chasing the poor bird!" My dad called.
"Come eat some watermelon, get some energy," my mother urged.
I gazed up at my daddy with my big, round eyes munching on a slice of watermelon.
He had brown, curly hair just like mine. His eyes were almost a brown-gold, they sparkled so much in the light. His rugged good looks and features were what had caught my mom's attention at first sight. 
All of a sudden he tickled me, and I gasped fighting for breath.
"Da-addyyy!" I complained. "Stop!"
"Stop, Hedrick, she can't breathe," my mom said smiling.
That had been a wonderful day. But now, sitting here on the grass with Derek smoothing down my hair and comforting me while I cried, it felt like someone else had been living then, someone who was happy. Someone who had a reason to get up every day. My only reason now: volleyball. I can't let anything jeopardize that. What would I do with myself?
I sobbed harder, finding comfort in Derek's arms. He was sitting cross legged, with me in his lap and my head on his chest. I could feel his heart beating against his chest. 
Finally my sobbing subdued, and Derek said, "Do you want to go somewhere else?"
"No, no, it's...fine," I said. "You...you make it feel safe," I said.
He smiled. "Ok. Here, let's get all this good food out."

~ ~ ~ ~

Three hours later Derek and I had eaten everything, gone wading in the ocean, where we may or may not have splashed each other, and then cuddled on the grass. For the first time since my father died, I felt like a male actually cared for me, like really cared for me. I fell asleep in Derek's arms and at 2:30 he woke me up saying we had to go get to practice. I smiled up at him.
He started to lean down, then hesitated, wondering if I wanted to kiss him.
I smiled brighter and placed my hands on his neck and gently pulled his lips onto mine. He placed his warm hands on my waist, pulling my body closer to his. If someone told me there was any air between us, I would have told them that's a bunch of bull manure.
I placed my hands on his head, tangling my fingers in his hair. I'd never felt anyone treat me with such passion, such love.
Finally, we broke the kiss, and I looked up at him, speechless. 
"I...I think I just fell really hard," I say after a while.
"I fell years ago," Derek said.
"Years ago?"
"Do you remember Derek, your best friend in 6th grade?"
I started at him with my mouth hanging open. I clamped it shut and said, "That was YOU?"
He laughed. "I've changed, haven't I?"
"Well, moving to Maryland then back to South Carolina is enough to change anyone," I said, leaning away from his arms to get a good look at him.
We got into the car and drove off to practice.

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