30 Days Of Summer

One year. Twelve months. 365 days to find myself and live on the wild side in Australia. It seemed like a long time at the start. I made friends, learned how to surf, got a nice tan. The usual. Then I met five crazy Australians who changed my life. It wasn’t just the fun, the laughs, the risks, the love. They showed me a part of myself I didn’t even know existed. And suddenly, one year didn’t seem so long anymore. {http://www.wattpad.com/story/11732664-30-days-of-summer}

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22. Chapter 22

{ A/N - Sorry for the unforgivably late update. Please vote, comment and enjoy. }

 

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The engine purred faintly as I eased it along the deserted freeway, drumming my fingers impatiently against the steering wheel. Driving always calmed me, especially at night, with the streetlights wavering slightly out of focus and the shadowed empty roads stretching out before me, empty shadows pregnant with promise and adventure.

I was adorned in faded pink denim cut-offs and a white top, a grey hoody carelessly thrown on as I sprinted out of the house moments earlier. I wound down the window and a gust of bitter air drifted into the car. I shuddered in its icy embrace and leaned forward, flicking on the radio.

Instantly, the sound of sugar-coated, manufactured vocals falling back on a catchy guitar tune and booming drums came onto the speakers. I tapped my foot vaguely in time to the beat, mumbled lyrics fluttered from my mouth but I let them melt in the cool air, letting the music cradle me, crawling into the space between the notes and curling my back to reality.

I jolted the car off the main road and barrelled down a narrow, winding lane until the buildings faded into dense shrubbery, sweeping oak trees lining the road. The same diner Luke took me to on our first date stood under the soft orange glow of a lone streetlamp, and I pulled into the empty parking lot at the rear of the diner. I was plunged into the eerie darkness of the dense forest which surrounded the borders of the lot, gazing out onto the tranquil ocean which dissolved into the horizon, barely illuminated by the dappled moonlight.

I reached up to open the sunroof, shimmying out to perch on the cool metal of the roof. The ocean shimmered in the light, the dark shadows hugging the edge of the lot and lulling me into a false sense of security.

My forehead creased in concentration as deep train of thoughts flowed through my head. My mind was an unquiet one; words and thoughts and impulses constantly colliding with each other. Time had abandoned me. I had less than twenty-four hours until I boarded the plane that would take me back home, until this reverie dissolved into bitter reality.

The world is a jigsaw of wonderful things and tragedy; happiness is a treasure buried beneath the pieces of that puzzle. And by following a treasure map of catching waves, blood-racing dares and spilled laughter, I’d finally found it. How could I give that up now?

“You should remember to lock your car,” a thick accent informed me. A plain white t-shirt which hugged a toned, lean figure and a pair of jaded red Vans wriggled through the sunroof. Luke shot me a mischievous grin as shock gripped me and I glared at him.

“Luke! What the hell?”

“Or the coyotes might jump through the window and eat your toes,” he grinned.

"Luke, that's not funny," I told him. He shook his head, his mouth still shaped in a lop-sided grin. I glanced into the distance, my eyes training the dark shadows which hugged the outskirts of the parking lot. "You scared me. I was miles away."

"On another planet," he agreed.

“Hm,” I replied vaguely.

He cocked his head at me. “What were you thinking about?”

I shrugged. “The biggest decision of my life.”

Luke nodded understandingly and leaned back onto the roof, his hands propped behind his head. “Care to explain?”

I sighed. “How long have you got?”

“As long as you want me to have.”

A sigh wove its way out of my mouth again. “I’ve never been as happy as I am now. London is okay, but Australia is a dream. The beach, the weather, my friends. I’ve just met you guys – the Janoskians – and you’re already some of my favourite people on Earth. How can I let that go?”

His teeth cruised over his bottom lip. “Maybe you don’t have to.”

“That’s the decision. What if I stay? What if I just apply to a university here and maintain this happiness?”

My loose laces swished gently against the hand brake and I titled my head up to look at the sky. A dark cloud loomed over like a dark umbrella, so close I could almost reach out and touch it. The night was fresh, the breeze kissing my cheeks and the cold pulling me into its icy embrace. I shuddered, pulling my hoody around me tighter.

“I’ve always wanted to see the world. Follow a map to its edges and keep going. Forgo the plans. Trust my instincts. Let curiosity be my guide. I want to change hemispheres. Sleep with unfamiliar stars and let the journey unfold before me. I want to live, Luke. Live.”

He said nothing. The night smelt like the trees were laughing, and I exhaled heavily once more.

“I don’t get that back in London. There, my life is just a chain of events connecting to form a bigger, greyscale picture. It’s different here. This is where I want to be.”

“Sounds like the decision is already made,” he said, voice low as if the trees had ears and mouths that could give us away. “Stay.”

“I don’t have a choice.”

“It’s your life. You always have a choice.”

“But the plane tickets are already booked. I’ve already got a place at uni in London, it’s too late to withdraw that. My parents will be expecting me. My visa has run out. The logistics override any impulsiveness.”

“I now see why this is the biggest decision of your life.”

“Hm,” I replied shortly.

He nudged my arm playfully. “I didn’t realize you could be so...deep, Lilly.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m just being serious.”

His teeth grazed his bottom lip again and he glanced up at me from the corner of his eye. “Lilly, you know we’ll always support you, no matter what. No matter if you’re in London or Melbourne or Antarctica.”

I offered him a weak smile. “Thanks, Luke.”

“But you have to follow your heart. If you wanted to stay in Australia, we could figure it out somehow. If you had to go back to London, we’d make it work too.”

“That’s the problem. My heart doesn’t know where it’s going,” I frowned.

Silence. The trees whispered, the ocean danced, our hearts were heavy in our chests. He reached for my hand, his cold fingers entwining with mine, but the gesture was warm. “I’d wait for you, Lilly.”

“You mean…?” my breath hitched in my throat.

“If you go to London, finish university and talk to your parents and sort everything out. And then you can come back, and I’ll be waiting for you. We all will.”

It was a little less than a promise and a little more than a chance. And it was all we had right now. I grasped for it with both hands, burying it in the lining of my heart. I offered him a small smile.

I sighed again, blinking at him earnestly. “I think what scares me the most is that I can’t imagine a life without you anymore, Luke.”

He laughed. “Ah...I have that effect on people. I’m just such a great asset to them! I might actually start charging for the pleasure of my company – I could make a fortune.”

“I hope I get a discount,” I grinned.

“In exchange for the surfing lessons? I’m sure that could be arranged, but you’d have to speak to my PA first.”

“How exactly do I get in contact with your PA?”

“His name is Jye Brooks.”

“Great. You know, you already do get people to pay for your company?”

“How?”

“At meet and greets?”

“Hey!” he gasped, a pantomine of offence. We burst out into a chorus of laughter which echoed into the night, weaving through the dense mass of trees and rippling on the surface of the water.

I peered at him through the corner of my eye, a smile still lingering on my lips. The weight of my decision had lessened considerably just by talking to Luke; the impact of it seemed irrelevant in his presence. It’s as if when you love someone, they become your reason. I wasn’t prepared to lose that.

I wasn’t prepared to leave behind the place that had stolen my heart and the people I’d carved relationships with, but I didn’t have a choice. I had to trust that the foundations of my new friendships would stand the test of distance, of time. I had to return home for now, but I would come back. And he would be waiting.

“So, Mr Entrepreneur. You forgot to mention what you were doing in a random parking lot in a forest in the middle of the night.”

He grinned, enjoying the suspense. “Just wait. You’ll see.”

And then a firework burst over the boulevard overpass. It hung there, shimmering in the night sky before blinking into a cloud of smoke.

“Fireworks?” I raised an eyebrow, grinning at him.

Three more fireworks shot up over the freeway, contorting into purple stars as they burst against the dissipating smoke. The sky was stained the color of charcoal, the constant stream of fireworks a flash of color against the dull backdrop of the sky, a kaleidoscope of vibrant shades.

“They do them every year. I’m not sure who, or where they’re doing them, but it’s in the direction of that awful academy near the church,” he explained.

“Some reckless kids trying to host a revolt or a riot just for attention,” I guessed.

“Some uneducated adolescents rebelling against not being allowed to smoke weed in school,” he added. I laughed, leaning towards him; resting my head in the crook of his neck and letting his warmth envelope me. The fireworks sparkled overhead, pounding like drums and shadowing the bright stars which freckled the night.

“Hey,” I said, nudging him with my shoulder.

“Hi.”

“This is nice.”

“Very nice,” he agreed. “The nicest parking lot I’ve ever seen.”

I shook my head at his terrible attempt at humour. Three fireworks burst in tandem; purple-green-gold.

“I hope you’ll come back, Lilly,” he murmured, the breeze carrying his words away. Something unidentifiable was laced in his voice and I turned my head to glance at him. His face was just inches from mine; his warm hand cradling my cheek and his breath fanning across my lips, warm and slightly minty, as if he had been preparing for this moment.

“Will you be waiting?” I asked, my voice soft with fear, with hope.

“I promise.”

He closed the distance between us and all coherent thoughts were pushed from my mind. The only thing I was aware of was Like’s lips, gentle and soft yet insistent on my own. The heat of the kiss contrasting with the cold metal of the car roof against the back of my thighs conjured an invaluable sensation. My very own fireworks exploded in the pit of my stomach; even more tangible and vivid than the ones erupting overhead.

And I knew in that moment that this wasn’t the end.

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