Paradise

Every summer Lara would travel to the same part of the Island. The secret part that was hidden from the world and to the unknowing eye it perhaps seemed like the inaccessible part of the island. Once she reached her favourite spot she lay down on the soft grass that covered the top of the cliff. She breathed in the sweet smell of summer flowers and the salty sea breeze. It was perfect. Secluded. She felt like the only person alive and once again she was filled with a sense of peacefulness and serenity, which reminded her that the lengthy task of getting here was most definitely worth it.
She pulled out her notepad and began to sketch; she was lost in her artwork and the beauty of her surroundings when a man’s voice pulled her from her work. Impossible she thought shaking her head, no one else knew about this area of the island. In the three years she had been coming she had never seen another person.

“If you had the choice to live forever in the perfect paradise but you had to leave everything behind, would you do it?”

It was clearer this time and it was definitely a man. He had a deep, almost soothing voice, and as he repeated the question it sounded like he was trying to stifle a laugh.

“If you had the choice to live forever in the perfect paradise but leave everything behind. Would you do it?”

She turned and there, just three metres away, stood the man who uttered those enchanting words. He was beautiful. Tall, lean and tanned. He was the definition of a good looking man. Lara tried to speak but her words caught in her throat. He was wearing a pair of white linen shorts that hugged his hips neatly, leaving very little to the imagination. Lara’s mouth grew dry, she gulped trying to swallow. His abs glistened in the summer heat and his vest top hung neatly over one shoulder. His dirty, blonde, hair moved slightly in the wind and his deep blue eyes seemed to search her face, looking for her answer.

“It depends on the terms,” she finally managed.
“The terms were quite clear,” he chuckled, “if you want to live in paradise, you must leave everything and everyone behind.”

Lara looked at him, what kind of game was he playing? It felt like one of her sisters ‘would you rather’ games. Except he asked with such conviction that it felt real. It felt like her answer could change everything.

“How long do I have to think about it?” She asked, almost hoping he wanted an answer instantly.
“You have until the sunsets on Thursday night,” he said, smiling knowingly.

He disappeared back into the overgrowth almost as quickly as he appeared. The questions circled around her head, seemingly chasing each other looking for answers. But she had no answers. Only more questions. She felt dizzy. She packed away her things and began the slow descent back to her rented cottage on the beach. She couldn’t wait to get home. She needed a glass of wine and a long relaxing bath.

The next morning she made her way back to her favourite spot. She was nearing the top of the cliff when she spotted him. He sat with his back to her, his legs dangling over the edge of the cliff.

“Morning Lara,” he chimed, without turning around.

Lara stumbled, caught off guard. He jumped to his feet in a motion that on the outside looked like he was going to catch her, yet he still remained several metres away and he maintained this distance. Lara replayed their conversation from yesterday back in her head. How did he know her name? How did he know she was behind him?

“You are fine?” His stare was intense and she felt compelled to nod her head.

“Yes,” she muttered, “fine.”

She sat down, organising her things. “Would you like a coffee?” she offered, pulling the picnic blanket straight beneath her.

“No thank you, but you please enjoy,” he winked at her moving a little closer, watching her busy herself.

As the day wore on they began to talk, awkward at first but things became easier. He asked her questions and she talked. He already appeared to know the answers before she had said them but she obliged anyway. They talked about everything, but neither of them mentioned their conversation from yesterday, the unspoken words hung in the air between, silent yet deafening.

The next few days followed the same pattern. Lara found herself looking forward to their meetings and at night time she would drift off to sleep thinking about him.

On the Thursday morning she rose early. She had made her decision. She had tossed and turned all night thinking about her answer. Could she leave everything behind? She had thought about her life, she was very independent. She vacationed alone, lived alone. She barley spoke to her parents. People wouldn’t really miss her if she never returned. The decision was actually pretty easy.

When she arrived at their usual spot she was surprised that he wasn’t there already. He was always sat on the edge expecting her. She tried to ignore the disappointed feeling that spread through her.
Pushing the unsettled thoughts to the back of her mind she began to sketch. Looking up every now and again to see if he had arrived yet but there was no sign of him. The sun was due to set within the hour and she had her answer. Where was he?

As the hour slowly dwindled away, he still hasn’t appeared. She was beginning to worry. Maybe something had happened to him. She walked towards where he usually sat, hoping there might be some clue as to where he was, when she suddenly heard someone shout. She turned, it was him.

“Once you cross over you can never return,” his words were soft but served as a warning.

“I choose paradise,” she whispered.

“I know,” he replied ” I too chose paradise, in this exact spot, at this exact time, 300 years ago. You can’t go back, even if you wanted to, everything and everyone you ever knew will cease to exist for you. Are you sure?”

She felt her stomach churn, but she nodded her head. She began to walk towards him, mentally preparing herself for a lifetime in paradise, when her lace caught on the small branch of a berry shrub. The shrubs grew all over the cliffs and in the spring were covered in beautiful fragrant flowers. She didn’t know how she hasn’t seen it. She tugged at the branch but it wouldn’t budge. She pulled harder and it suddenly sprang free, she tumbled backwards in slow motion, falling closer to the edge of the cliff.
“Lara!!!” Her name echoed across the cliffs.
He jumped towards her, arms outstretched, it was such a quick reaction that he didn’t have time to think of the consequences. As he crossed the line, that many years ago he had been warned about, his body began to crumble and turn to ash. He had been warned not to cross the line. Time in paradise did not match time in the real world and as he crossed back into real time he had aged instantly.

Lara fell, arms outstretched, hoping in vain to clutch onto anything, but she continued to fall. Time stopped still as she hit the hard rock beneath her. She took her last breath.
The waves lapped at her long, golden hair, now matted with scarlet as the sun began to set.
Upon the cliffs the last of the ashes blew in the sea breeze and once again the secret lay hidden, and perhaps to the untrained eye it looked inaccessible. Maybe that’s what makes paradise so appealing… It’s inaccessibility, it’s unobtainability, the magic lure… It’s to die for.

Closure

Jose stared at him. He was, in her mind, an incredibly beautiful man and he was having one of his ‘famous’ house parties. Her mind drifted back to how things used to be. They used to have ‘a thing.’ Short but sweet; they used to do everything together. She liked being around him. She couldn’t put her finger on it. Perhaps it was his charismatic presence, or the way he remembered everything about her, or maybe it was that he didn’t want her the way she wanted him.

It wasn’t that he didn’t care; she truly believed that he did care for her. They had remained friends after all, he insisted. Over the summer they had gone their separate ways. Promising to rekindle what they had when they returned from their travels. However life never turns out the way you expect it to. While he had been backpacking he had met a girl. He was infatuated with her yet when they finally met after that long summer he was hesitant to tell her that he had met someone.

As he told Jose about his summer love, she had smiled, nodded her head and whispered how happy she was for him. On the outside she appeared calm and accepting. “Let’s stay friends,” he’d said. “Nothing will change. It will be just like before.”

“Sure,” she replied. How could things possibly be the same?

That night when she arrived home, she closed the door and instantly crumpled to the floor. It was like her legs could no longer bare the weight of what had happened, as she lay on the floor of her apartment she finally let herself feel. All her unspoken thoughts finally surfacing. The tears pooled and ran down her face, her breath heavy, came out in uncontrollable sobs. How did this happen? How could she have fallen so deeply for him, when he clearly felt nothing for her?

In the morning, the sunlight made her stir and for that brief moment between dreaming and waking she felt calm. However as she moved she realised that she still lay on the cold tiled floor of her apartment. Her muscles were sore, her eyes swollen and red. She glanced at her phone. She had a missed call and a message from him. He wanted to go for lunch later this afternoon. She couldn’t meet him. She couldn’t be friends. It was too hard. “We can’t be friends,” she typed.

Half an hour later her doorbell rang. She knew it was him. She opened the door, he looked angry. So she took a step back and folded her arms across her chest. He took one look at her and his expression softened. He brushed a stray piece of her from her face. “What’s wrong,’ he asked, his voice shook a little as he realised he already knew the answer. He pulled her into a hug and she began to sob. “I like you,” she cried, “I really like you.” Again her legs gave way but this time she didn’t fall upon the floor. He lifted her to his chest and placed her on the bed. “I didn’t mean to make you sad,” he whispered. “What can I do?”

The answer she gave and the answer she wanted to give varied completely. “I can’t be friends with you.”

“You’re sure that’s what you want?”

She nodded her head, not trusting herself to use words. “I’ll always be here for you, you know.” He kissed her on the forehead and held her close. She didn’t want him to leave, her tears poured down silently from her eyes leaving wet patches on his shirt.

He got up, and without looking back he walked out of the room. This was the last time he would walk through that door. The thought filled her with a heavy weight across her chest. It felt tight and everlasting.

Of course it wasn’t everlasting. One year on and things were the way they used to be. It had been hard initially and they left many things unspoken. Her feelings for him eventually began to fade. They were friends. Like he said they would be.

She gazed past him; there at the other side of the room flashing her his sexy white smile was her man. He tipped his head gesturing for her to come over. “You never dance with me,” he teased.

She smiled up at him, this incredible, patient man had made her realise what she wanted. For a long time she had held on to what she had thought she wanted. A friendship with the man who broke her heart but deep inside she knew she had always wanted more. As she searched his face she knew.

Sometimes you have to give up the things you want, for the things you want more. And everything she wanted more stood before her now.

“Let’s go,” she smiled, and without looking back they walked out of the room. She knew this would be the last time she would walk through his door and as she walked out she felt the weight finally release from her chest. Now she definitely had everything she wanted.

Lead me not into temptation, I can find my own way.

It had been a painfully long, cold and particularly dry winter. Ethan felt like he had spent the last decade of his life in solitary confinement. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt the warm caress against his skin, the dewy glow of warm bodies, the excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

He had been waiting for this day for a long time but he knew it would most definitely be worth the wait.
But he couldn’t rush it. An event this monumental had to be planned. Every little detail had to be perfect.

When the day finally arrived he unpacked the lotion from the fridge and lay it beside the hamper. He smiled as he thought about the tingling sensation of the cool cream as it was poured across the heated body of another.

Next he removed the strawberries and neatly placed them, along with the cream, in the basket beside the other delicious snacks he had lovingly prepared the night before.
His mouth began to salivate as he imagined the sweet cream dripping from the plump, luscious strawberries, ravenously being devoured by the lips of another. The though was almost too much. He closed the basket quickly, he was getting too carried away.
‘Good things come to those who wait,’ his fathers words echoed through his mind.

Swiftly he continued the preparations. He grabbed his Grandmothers giant patchwork quilt from his closet. Even after all those years it was still softer than ever. He placed it beside the picnic hamper along with the umbrella, after all, they were going to need some privacy and protection for when things got too hot.

He loaded everything into the car. His lips began to curl at the edges, the promise of what was to come filled him with a preadolescent frenzy he hadn’t felt for years. The thought of the never ending golden beauty, the sheer joy and heat, the satisfaction as he finally dove into the wet depths and submerged himself completely in the salty wonder.

Suddenly Ethan stopped in his tracks, pulled from his fantasy, he cursed. He had forgotten the most important thing. He ran back to his apartment and several moments later reappeared. He couldn’t believe he had almost forgotten this. On the first real day of summer, no trip to the beach would be complete without an inflatable Lilo!
To an outsider perhaps it sounds like a lot of preparation but for Ethan, a picnic on the beach was worth it.