Original Work: You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home, Chapter 12, Part 3
Chapter 12, Part 3
“That reminds me, I think you owe me an answer.” Joshua picked up some fries and motioned for me to bring it on. “So, are you Josh or Joshua?” It was an easy one, but I felt like it was a necessary question.
Joshua leaned closer, so close our noses were practically touching. Normally, I would have pulled away, just to reduce the awkwardness of our closeness but now, I felt rooted in my spot. “I’m whoever you want me to be.” He teased, his voice low and husky, enticing even though I knew he was kidding. He smiled and I noticed for the first time that his cheeks dimpled.
Hmm, that was something else I could relate to. I didn’t want to be the first one to pull backward but I also didn’t want to us to stay there, rooted in place, until things did become awkward. Jordan would have known exactly what to do in this situation, but my brain seemed to be misfiring. “Careful, Joshua, people might see this and think I’m trying to corrupt your squeaky-clean image.” So it wasn’t charming or witty but it was better than silence.
Joshua smirked and leaned back, which wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. Too late, I heard Jordan’s voice echoing through my head: Kiss him you idiot! Now you tell me.
“Yes, it is something to worry about.” Joshua remarked as he finished the rest of his fries. “Though, I’ll let you in on a little secret.” I looked at him expectantly. “You’re not as bad as you want people to think you are.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What makes you think I want people to think I’m bad?” Truthfully, his comment caught me completely off guard. Who would want someone to think they were bad or had a bad reputation? It wasn’t the sort of thing I would have prided myself on.
Joshua smirked. “Just a feeling I have.” He shrugged. “You’re a completely different person in front of the cameras than you are with me.”
Funny you should mention that. “Well-”
But Joshua interrupted. “I know, you’re turning over a new leaf and all that. I just wanted you to know I think it’s working.”
Schapelle and Linda would be very happy to hear that. “Thanks, it’s always good to hear an encouraging word.”
“See, the old Emilia wouldn’t have cared about encouragement.” Joshua pointed out, as though he’d completely made his point. “The old Emilia just gives the world a big f-you.”
I tried to remind myself that he was talking about Emilia and not to be offended but I wasn’t entirely sure if it was working. “Oh, so now I know what you really think of me.” I hoped my tone was teasing, but I had the feeling it betrayed a bit of the sting I felt.
Again, Joshua took my hand, as though realizing that his words might have come out a little harsher than he’d intended. He ran his fingers over my knuckles and I was very aware of the erratic way my heart had started beating. That couldn’t be medically safe. “Opinions change.” Was all Joshua said and I realized the way he saw Emilia was not the way he saw me.
Somehow, our hands separated and we finally managed to finish our dinners, continuing Joshua’s question game, but sticking to easier questions for the time being. I answered as myself whenever I could so I didn’t feel like I was lying to him but at the same time it was interesting, freeing almost, to be someone other than who I was. Back home, everyone knew me, everyone had always known me. But with Joshua, he had no idea who I was, he hadn’t been watching me grow up and didn’t know my parents or brothers. He had no idea of my boring and ‘safe’ reputation, that I always did everything by the books, did my homework on time if not early and listened to my father. I could completely reinvent myself and he’d never know. I could be Scout or Emilia or maybe a combination of both. It was exciting; I wanted to make myself into a person people didn’t consider boring or typical or safe.
The sun had completely set beneath the ocean by the time Joshua had dumped the remainders of our dinner in the trash. I looked out toward the horizon, savoring the sight of the water, so dark it was almost black, as it met the edge of the world and seemed to roll right off. I wondered what it would be like to live here and see the ocean on a daily basis; would I still find it hard to look away, the way I was doing right now?
“So,” Joshua said as he returned to my side, finally pulling my attention away from the water as it broke on the beach, “what should we do next? Your wish is my command.” He smiled.
I took that as a sign that he wasn’t trying to get rid of me and just call it a night. “We could take a walk.” I suggested, hoping that didn’t seem boring or mundane. He’d probably walked this beach hundreds of times. “Or whatever sounds good to you.”
Joshua took my hand and pulled me back toward the surf. “A walk it is.”
We still turned a few heads as we walked down the beach but the growing darkness gave us more anonymity than before and apart from a few excited whispers no one really seemed to notice.
“You never told me what you thought about me, what you were expecting when we had to dinner…well, when we were supposed to have dinner.” Joshua reminded me after we’d been walking for several minutes in silence.
That seemed to be the question of the night. I hesitated before answering, unsure of what to say. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and hurt his feelings, but at the same time I didn’t want it to seem like I was just stroking his ego. “I didn’t really know what to think.” I answered honestly. “I’ve heard so much about you from all these different places, I didn’t know what was true. And I knew that you hated me so-”
“I didn’t hate you.” Joshua interjected and he sounded genuine, not like someone hastily trying to cover up the truth.
I smiled at him and shrugged. “Okay, strongly disliked me.” This time he didn’t interrupt but there was the hint of a smile on his lips. “I was afraid to meet you because I had the feeling that you didn’t actually want to be with me. And you were intimidating.” I admitted. Joshua was the first real celebrity I’d met (aside from Emilia) and his presence was incredibly intimidating, even if I hadn’t thought he was dreading the evening. It was still a little intimidating to be standing here beside him, but the more time I spent with Joshua, the more he reminded me of Zach and the other guys I knew back home. Normal guys.
Joshua laughed. “You were intimidated by me?”
“That was when I first met you. Now I know better.” I poked Joshua in the side and he laughed. “Now I know you’re just…Joshua.”
Nodding, he smiled. “I can live with that.”
From behind us, a voice shouted, “Heads up!” and we both turned in the direction of the shout. There was a light-up Frisbee arching wildly through the air and two distressed looking college-age guys chasing after it.
“I got it!” Joshua jumped up to snatch the Frisbee out of the air. But any points he might have gotten for athletic prowess were quickly forfeited because instead of making a smooth landing, he fell backward onto me, his foot stomping on mine, knocking both of us to the ground. If Joshua hadn’t landed right on top of me, I probably wouldn’t have had the wind knocked out of me but an elbow in the gut definitely solved that problem.
Quickly, Joshua scrambled to his feet; I could hear the Frisbee guys trying not to laugh somewhere in front of me. I gasped for my breath, my eyes filling with tears. “I’m so sorry!” Joshua grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet, though I wasn’t entirely ready for the change in position. “Are you all right?” He looked at me closely, as though searching for bodily injuries. “Emilia, I’m so sorry, I cannot believe I did that. That’s the last time I try to show off.”
“I’m fine.” I managed when I finally got the air back in my lungs. “Just a ruptured spleen.” I smiled slightly.
Joshua returned the gesture. “And sand on your face and in your hair.” He pointed out.
Before I could reach up to brush the sand away, Joshua put his hand on my cheek and rubbed my skin with his thumb. I met his eyes and suddenly he’d leaned in and his lips were on mine. For a minute, I was so surprised I could barely process what was happening. But my surprise didn’t last for long and I put my arms around his shoulders and closed my eyes, hoping I wouldn’t make a complete idiot out of myself and mess this up.
“Uh, dude, can we at least get our Frisbee back?” Laughed one of the guys, whom I’d completely forgotten about.
I felt Joshua raise his arm and undoubtedly toss the Frisbee in the general direction of the voice but he didn’t move his face away from mine, which I had no complaints about. Sure, I’d been kissed before, a couple of awkward and quick kisses at parties or behind the gymnasium in between classes but this, this was completely different. This was electric, it was perfect, it was like the kiss at the end of a movie that makes you go “ah” in the very pit of your stomach.
When our lips finally parted, I couldn’t have told you if a minute or an hour had just passed by. All I knew was that I probably had the world’s stupidest smile on my face but Joshua was smiling too so it somehow seemed perfectly normal.
“I’ve been wanting to do that all afternoon.” Joshua confessed.
I cleared my throat, swallowing before I trusted myself to speak. “Well…you should have spoken up earlier.”
Joshua laughed and brushed a piece of hair behind my ear. “I won’t make that mistake again.” He was kissing me again, his arms around my waist and, I’ll admit, a part of me expected to hear music swelling around us because I felt my heart and my jitters and nerves and excitement swelling in my chest but all I could hear was the sound on the surf and the whistling of the college-guys as they returned to their Frisbee game with a final teasing cat-call.
Aside from the necessity of breathing what finally caused Joshua to pull away a second time was the ringing and vibrating emanating from inside his pocket. I was glad to see that Joshua looked slightly disappointed as he fished his phone out, looking at the screen with a scowl. “It’s my mom.” He said with a flush of embarrassment, like he couldn’t believe his game had just been squashed so completely and suddenly. But I just smiled.
“Hi Mom,” Joshua said as he answered the call. “No, I’m fine, I’m fine.” He rolled his eyes at me and I giggled slightly. “I’m just at the beach. Enjoying the view.” I couldn’t help but notice the way his eyes were still on me when he said that. “Okay, fine, yeah, no, that’s fine, I’m on my way. Okay.” There was a slight pause before Joshua added, “Yeah, Iloveyoutoo,” with another flush of embarrassment.
Quickly, Joshua put the phone back in his pocket and looked at me apologetically. “I’ve got to get home and help decorate the house for my dad’s birthday tomorrow. God that sounds so corny-”
I shook my head. “No, that sounds great actually.” Maybe I was a little jealous and more than a little homesick. We always decorated the house and had a family party for everyone’s birthday with balloons and streamers and a cookie cake. I wondered what Emilia and Linda did for birthdays, probably nothing short of renting out a club for the night. “I’m sure my mom is wondering where I’m at anyway.” Unlikely. Maybe Garth was wondering.
Joshua picked up my stuffed tiger and dusted the sand off before we turned and headed back in the way we’d come. I didn’t realize that we’d covered so much distance until we were walking back, not that I minded because it gave me more time to spend with Joshua, even if it was just time spent walking hand in hand down the beach. My lips still had that electric feel to them, like they were vibrating and humming with excitement and impatience. I mentally took back all my reluctance and regret for having come to California.
When we got back to Joshua’s car, he opened the door for me and kissed me again, tossing the tiger into the passenger seat so that he could run his fingers through my hair. Okay, so I’ll admit it, as girly and cliché as it sounds, I’ve always wanted someone to do that, to run his fingers through my hair as we kissed, his hand around my neck as he held me close. It seemed that dreams really did come true.