|Jun. 26th, 2006 01:10 am Chapter 8|
CHAPTER 83 comments - Leave a comment
Two days later I arrived at the airport with my entire family, including Ben who had finally moved home for the summer, in tow. We stood around for about half an hour while we got everything taken care of. Jeff and his parents showed up just as I was laying my suitcase on the conveyor belt to be sent off and put under the plane. I said a quick good-bye to my family, and they left as soon as they were sure that I had everything in order.
As soon as my family was out of sight, I went and stood in line with Jeff and his parents. “You sure you’re gonna make it an entire week with this dork?” Jim, Jeff’s dad, asked me with a laugh.
“Of course!” I laughed back. “I’ve been looking forward to it!”
“If you say so…” he joked. “I’m just glad to get him outta my house for a while!” Jeff’s dad took every opportunity he could find to rag on his son. When Jeff and I first started dating, it really bothered me to hear Jim talk about Jeff the way that he did… but now that I had become really comfortable around Jeff and his family, I found it all pretty amusing. Jeff really didn’t like his dad at all, but I thought he was a pretty cool guy.
“You guys are gonna have so much fun!” Mrs. Bradley exclaimed.
“Yeah, we are!” I agreed with a smile as I linked arms with Jeff. He pulled away from me, grabbed the handle of his suitcase and moved up a little further in line.
“You guys can go,” Jeff told his parents. “I know what I’m doing.”
“Aww, Jeff,” I said, “They’re not hurting anything.”
“Nah, it’s alright,” Jeff’s dad said. “We should probably get going, anyway.”
Jeff’s parents said their goodbyes to their son. Mr. Bradley even gave me a kiss goodbye on the cheek. “We’ll see you guys in a week!” Jim called out as he and his wife walked towards the exit.
I moved in closer to Jeff and linked my arm around his again. “Hey… none of that on this trip,” he ordered.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Inappropriate!” Jeff scolded.
“What? No it’s not… We always held hands and stuff on the first trip…”
“Yeah… but we’re alumni now. We’re supposed to be setting an example,” he explained.
“Alright…” I agreed reluctantly, letting out a big sigh. “Will I at least get a kiss good night?” I pleaded.
“We’ll see,” he said, pulling his arm away from mine and moving himself further up in the line. It had never occurred to me that Jeff would have a problem with being intimate with me during the trip. I had been looking forward to it as a time for us to be together. I was hoping it was going to make our relationship stronger, not pull us even further apart.
The fact that he wouldn’t let me touch him brought back the worries that I had the other night when we were at The Corner. I couldn’t help but feel like Jeff was ashamed of me. Why wasn’t he proud of our relationship? Why didn’t he want people to know that we were together? I wanted to scream it from the rooftops! I wanted to tell everybody that Jeff was my boyfriend – that we cared about each other, loved each other, and belonged to each other. But he wouldn’t let me do that. He wanted it to be a big secret, and I was supposed to be okay with that because we were “setting an example”.
I decided to wait a while before I really got upset with the situation. Maybe Jeff would change his mind. Maybe he was just saying all of this now, but as soon as we got back into that environment – as soon as we were back in the place where we first met, where we first fell in love – he would forget about ‘setting an example’ and focus on me.
After everyone had checked in and gotten their luggage taken care of, we had about an hour to wait around the airport before we could actually board our plane. Jeff and I sat together at a table with a friend of ours named Nicole who had also gone with us on our first trip. After the three of us talked for about five minutes, Jeff stood up and started walking away from the table.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“For a walk,” Jeff answered.
“Can I come with you?”
“We need to meet other people. We can’t just have it be you, me and Nicole the whole time… Don’t you want to make new friends?” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I replied.
“So don’t come with me… go walk around by yourself. Make some friends. We’ll talk later,” he ordered.
I sat back down at the table across from Nicole. “What was that all about?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Jeff wants to make new friends or something like that. He’s going for a walk.”
“Oh,” Nicole replied. “I guess that’s probably a good idea, actually.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “You want to go introduce ourselves to some people?” I offered.
“Sure!” Nicole said. She was always eager to meet new people. Nicole was probably the easiest person to get along with that I had ever met in my life. She was always friendly, and there wasn’t a soul in the world that she didn’t like. I knew that as long as I stuck with her, I wouldn’t have any trouble making friends.
We looked around the room for a minute before noticing a girl who was sitting all alone at a table, looking through her carryon bag. Nicole turned to me and asked “do you want to go sit down over there?”
“Sure!” I said, and we both headed towards the table and sat down.
“Hi,” Nicole introduced herself to the girl. “I’m Nicole, and this is Anna. Is this your first trip?” she asked.
“Yeah,” the girl replied shyly.
“What’s your name?” Nicole questioned.
“Laura,” the girl replied, still fishing around inside her bag.
“Cool. Hi, Laura. Where are you from?”
“Stanville,” Laura replied, finally putting her bag down on the table in front of her.
“Oh, cool! I don’t think I know anybody from Stanville,” Nicole replied.
“Yeah, it’s small,” Laura said.
“Are you excited for this trip? I can’t wait to get on the plane!” Nicole’s bubbly personality never took a rest.
“Yeah, I guess. I’ve never really been away from home before…” Laura explained.
“Oh… Well, don’t worry,” Nicole assured her. “It’ll be a lot of fun. Anna and I have done this before… so if you’ve got any questions or anything, just ask us!”
“Okay, thanks,” Laura said.
“Have you met anybody else yet?” I asked her.
“No… you guys are the first to introduce yourself to me,” she answered.
“Oh. That’s no good! People need to stop being so shy!” Nicole exclaimed.
“Yeah, well, at least we beat Jeff to somebody!” I joked.
“Yeah,” Nicole agreed with a laugh. “Jeff is Anna’s boyfriend… but he’s being weird and saying that we all need to make new friends,” Nicole explained to Laura as she pointed across the room towards where Jeff was standing.
“He’s your boyfriend?” Laura asked me, sounding a little surprised.
“Yeah… for the past two years!” I responded proudly.
“Hmm…” Laura said. “Okay.”
Nicole, Laura and I passed the rest of the hour talking and getting to know each other better. We found out that Laura was only fifteen and a sophomore in high school – the same age I was when I went on my first trip. She played clarinet in the marching band at Stanville – they were actually known for being a really good band. I was excited that I had made a new friend so quickly. I couldn’t wait to tell Jeff about it.
As we were going through security on our way to get on the plane, I talked to Jeff. “Do you want to sit together?” I asked him.
“Probably not. We should meet new people,” he said.
“But its four hours… we’ve got all week to meet new people. I’d rather spend the four hour plane ride next to you,” I told him.
“No,” Jeff said. “Look at your ticket. What’s your seat number?” he asked me.
“L2” I answered.
“Mine’s D3” Jeff said. “We’re not even anywhere near each other. See? This is an opportunity to make new friends…”
“Yeah, because the guy I sat next to on the way down there two years ago was so talkative…” I teased him. “I mean, he and I hit it off so well on the plane, it was amazing!”
“Yeah, yeah… whatever,” Jeff said. “It’ll be different this time.”
“Yeah… well… maybe it’s not such a good idea for you to sit by somebody new… you might scare them off like you did to me!” I teased.
“Aww… but you’re not afraid of me anymore!” Jeff said with a big grin.
“I’d sure hope not!” I replied.
When we all boarded the huge plane, Jeff and I sat down in our assigned seats eight rows away from each other. I wound up next to a girl who introduced herself to me as Emily Maxwell. The seat on my other side was occupied by a passenger who wasn’t part of our group. Emily and I talked through the first hour of the ride down. I found out that she was also fifteen, just like Laura. She was from Alton, which was only about 15 minutes north of Morton where I lived. Emily would have been a really cute girl had it not been for the braces that overtook her mouth whenever she smiled (which was often).
When Emily and I ran out of things to talk about, I looked around the plane. I couldn’t help but wonder if Jeff had hit if off with whomever he was sitting next to. I strained my neck to try and catch a glimpse of the seats on either side of him. To my relief, I saw that he was between two other guys. There were only about 10 males traveling with us, versus the 25 or so females on the trip. I could see that Jeff was engaged in a pretty animated conversation with the guy sitting on his right side. I was glad that he was making friends – that’s what he wanted, anyway.
I didn’t even have to wonder if Nicole had found somebody to talk to. Whoever wound up next to her was lucky, I thought. I would have loved to have somebody as friendly and knowledgeable as Nicole to ease my mind on nerve-wracking trip down to Florida my first time around.
After a little more looking around, I realized that one of our adult leaders was sitting in the row right across from me. Her name was Suzy. She hadn’t been able to go on my first trip two years ago, but I knew that she had traveled in the years before that, and also last spring when I wasn’t able to go. Jeff and Nicole were both lucky enough to go last year, and they had so many good things to say about Suzy, so I was really interested in getting to know her. Seeing that she wasn’t really talking to anybody, I called out her name to get her attention. Suzy looked over in my direction.
“Hi,” I said, introducing myself. “My name’s Anna. I’ve heard so much about you from Jeff and Nicole…”
“Oh! Hi!” Suzy responded. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you, too!” she said.
“Oh really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Suzy told me. “Jeff and I talk a lot,” she explained.
“Ah… so you’ve heard THOSE kinds of things about me…” I joked.
Suzy laughed. “No, no… nothing bad, I promise!”
Suzy and I spent most of the remaining time on the plane getting to know each other, or rather, validating the things we’d been told about each other. I already knew that she was a councilor at Eastbrook (Jeff’s school) and that she’d been involved with this spring break program for a really long time. She, of course, knew that Jeff and I had been dating for two years now, and that we had met on this very same trip.
I was glad to be starting a friendship with Suzy. Jeff seemed to have a really special relationship with her. After they had returned from their trip last spring, the two of them talked almost on a daily basis. Their correspondence slowed down after a while, but Jeff still constantly brought Suzy up in conversation. I was interested in knowing what it was about her that warranted so much of his attention. I hoped that becoming friends with Suzy would help me get more involved in Jeff’s ever-growing, seemingly secret world.
As soon as we stepped off the plane, Jeff, Nicole and I met up. “How was your flight?” I asked, giving Jeff a hug.
“It was good,” he responded, pushing me away lightly. “None of that though, remember?” he said, sternly.
“Okay, sorry,” I apologized. “Did you make any friends?” I asked.
“Yeah, I did,” he said.
“A couple of guys… Aaron and Dan,” he responded.
“Oh, good!” I replied, still glad for the fact that Jeff was making guy friends rather than the hoards of girls he seemed to have around him all the time. “What are they like?” I asked him.
“Dan’s gay,” Jeff said bluntly.
“Oh… your type, eh?” I teased.
Jeff laughed a little and then continued talking. “Aaron goes to Morton. Maybe you know him? He plays hockey,” Jeff told me.
“Hmm… I don’t think I know any Aarons,” I said.
“He’s a sophomore,” Jeff explained.
“Oh… well then yeah, I probably don’t know him. What is up with all these sophomores, anyway?” I asked.
“I dunno… we were sophomores on our first trip,” Jeff reminded me as we started making our way towards the baggage claim area. I stood back and watched while Jeff pulled my, his and Nicole’s suitcases off of the conveyor belt.
“Aww, thank you!” I exclaimed as he rolled my huge bag towards me. I leaned over to give him a quick peck on the lips, and he pulled away abruptly.
“Why did you have to come on this trip…?” Jeff mumbled, almost under his breath.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Jeff said.
“No… did you just ask why I had to come on this trip…?” I said hesitantly.
“I was just kidding, Anna,” he said, giving me a quick hug before walking over to talk to Suzy.
“Everything okay?” Nicole asked, noticing the worried expression that had grown on my face after Jeff walked away.
“Yeah… I mean… I don’t know…” I started. “I don’t think Jeff really wants me here…” I told her.
“What? Why would you say that?” Nicole asked, sounding surprised.
“I don’t know. He just seems really annoyed or something…” I explained.
“Aww. Don’t worry about it, Anna. He’s probably just tired from being on the plane. He’ll be in a better mood tomorrow,” she assured me.
“I hope so,” I said.
“But for now, don’t worry about him! We’ll have fun!” Nicole said, smiling.
As soon as everybody had retrieved their luggage from the baggage claim, we headed for the huge charter bus that we would use anytime we went anywhere as a group during the trip. The leaders roped a few of the guys into helping load the luggage underneath the vehicle. When we walked onto the bus, I started to sit down next to Jeff.
“Ah, ah, ah!” he scolded. “Sit with Nicole or something.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because,” he said. “I want the whole seat to myself.”
“Fine then,” I said, reaching up to put my bag in the overhead compartment above the next seat back. I sat down right behind Jeff, next to the window. Nicole sat next to me. As the bus rolled out of the parking garage, I stared out the window in silence.
“Are you okay?” Nicole asked.
“Yeah… I’m fine. Maybe you should ask Jeff that question,” I told her.
“Aww. Anna… let’s just ignore him the rest of the day,” Nicole said in a voice that was purposely loud enough for Jeff to hear.
“Fine by me!” Jeff called back.
I decided to take Nicole’s advice and give Jeff some time to adjust after the flight. Hopefully all he needed was some time to relax and a good night’s sleep, and everything would be back to normal tomorrow morning.
Our first stop was a restaurant about twenty minutes away from the airport. Nicole and I walked off the bus without saying a word to Jeff. “Let’s sit with Laura,” Nicole suggested as we looked around the restaurant.
“Good idea,” I said, trying to locate Laura. I saw that she was already sitting alone at a table near the back of the room, and Nicole and I made our way over towards her.
“Hey!” Nicole greeted Laura as we sat down. “How was the flight for you?” she asked.
“It was okay,” Laura answered.
“Make any more friends?” Nicole asked.
“Not really…” Laura replied.
“Oh well,” I joked. “We’re the only friends you need!”
Nicole and Laura both laughed at that remark. A couple other girls ended up sitting down at our table, including Emily, the girl I had been next to on the plane. Nicole introduced herself and I to the rest of the table, making sure that everyone knew that we were alumni to the program. The other girls who were sitting with us asked a few questions, and we were glad to be able to answer them.
I managed not to worry about Jeff throughout all of dinner. I was having fun just sitting and talking with these girls… I didn’t even bother telling them that Jeff was my boyfriend. I figured they’d find out soon enough, anyway.
After dinner we all got back on the bus and headed to our first hotel. The way these trips were set up, we stayed at a different hotel every night. We would spend the night at a hotel near a beach, and then spend the next day studying it… then, that evening we would drive on to the next hotel, spend the night there, and repeat the process for the rest of the week. Changing hotels nightly meant that we also changed roommates every night.
On our first night, I roomed with two girls named Mary and Emma, who were both a lot of fun. The three of us sat around in our room for a while, talking about what we hoped the rest of the trip would be like. About 45 minutes after we had settled into the room, there was a knock on the door. I opened it up to see Nicole and Jeff standing in the hallway. “We’re going out to the beach… do you want to come?” Nicole asked.
“Yeah! Just a sec!” I replied.
“Your roommates can come, too…” Jeff called into the room so that Mary and Emma could hear him.
“Come where?” Mary called back.
“To the beach!” Jeff exclaimed.
“Awesome. I’m on my way!” Mary replied.
Emma decided to stay in the room and go to bed early while Mary, Jeff, Nicole and I headed down to the beach to watch the sun set. When we got there, we saw that there was a pier that led out into the water. The four of us walked out and sat at the edge, dangling our feet in the water. We sat and talked while we watched the sun set. About an hour and a half later, Nicole looked at her watch. “It’s almost 11!” she announced.
“Oh! We should probably get back to the hotel,” I said. We were all supposed to be in our rooms by 11:00, but Jeff, Nicole and I knew that the leaders would be more flexible since they knew and trusted us. Nonetheless, we stood up and walked back towards the building. We dropped Nicole off at her room, and then Jeff walked Mary and I down the hall to where we were staying. Mary opened the door and walked into the room before me, and I let the door shut after her.
“Aren’t you gonna go to bed?” Jeff asked.
“Yeah,” I responded. “I just wanted to say good night to you!” I said.
“Oh,” Jeff replied as I wrapped my arms around him to give him a hug good night. To my surprise, he didn’t object. When I pulled away from him and tried to give him a kiss, though, he turned his face away.
“What? There isn’t even anybody else out here!” I said.
“I don’t care… we can’t do that,” Jeff told me.
“Yes we can. We did last time! What’s your problem?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Jeff said, leaning forward to give me a very quick peck on the lips. “Now go to bed,” he said, walking towards the stairs to go up to his room on the floor above mine.
“Good night,” I called out.
“Good night,” he said.
“I love you,” I added, but Jeff didn’t respond.
ORIGINAL END OF CHAPTER 8. BELOW CONTENT WAS ADDED LATER.
I watched him walk away before I opened the door to my room. Once he was out of sight, I walked in and threw myself down on the small cot that was set up in between two queen-sized beds (I had already offered to let Mary and Emma take the beds).
“How was the beach?” Emma asked. She was lying in bed in her pajamas, with a book in her hand. Her light brown hair, even curlier than mine, was pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head.
“It’s really pretty,” I told her. “I can’t wait to get down there tomorrow in the daylight.”
“The sunset was awesome!” Mary called out from the bathroom where she was washing her face and getting herself ready for bed.
Emma and I chatted for a few minutes. I found out that she was from Eastbrook and knew Jeff from school. She was also a member of HEARTS – a Christian drama group that a few of my friends were a part of.
About the time that our conversation died down, Mary walked out of the bathroom. Seeing that I was sprawled out on my back on the cot, she asked “are you alright?”
“Yeah, why?” I questioned.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “Is Jeff your boyfriend?” she asked, a little randomly.
“Yeah,” I said. “We’ve been together for almost two years now,” I told her.
“That’s what I heard,” she said. “But I wouldn’t have known from the way you guys acted tonight.”
“Yeah…” I replied. “Jeff doesn’t want to be intimate or anything. He thinks that he and I are ‘setting an example’, so we’re not allowed to touch each other… and he’s on this kick right now where he wants us both to make new friends,” I explained.
“Ah, I see,” Mary said. “That’s gotta kinda suck for you, doesn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess,” I replied. “I had to fight with him to get him to kiss me goodnight…” I said with a sigh.
“Aww,” Mary replied. “I bet it won’t last long. Maybe he’ll lighten up once everybody gets comfortable with each other” she offered.
“I hope so,” I agreed.
Emma had been quiet while Mary and I were talking, but the entire time she looked as though she had something she wanted to say. When it became obvious that Mary and I were finished, she piped up. “I didn’t even know Jeff had a girlfriend.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I mean, it’s not like anybody at Eastbrook ever sees us together. I don’t spend much time out that way.”
“True,” Emma replied. “But I mean… I didn’t even know Jeff liked girls,” she said, letting out a nervous sounding laugh.
“What do you mean?” I asked, a little worried by her remark.
“Oh, I don’t know…” Emma said. “I mean, I don’t know him that well, I just know that he always hangs out with Brandon. Do you know Brandon?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, I definitely know Brandon,” I told her.
“Yeah. Well… everyone at Eastbrook knows that Brandon’s gay, and that Jeff is his best friend. Rumor has it they’re a little bit more than just best friends… but like I said, that’s just a rumor,” Emma explained.
“Yeah, well… people like to spread rumors like that,” I said. “Obviously Jeff isn’t gay… I mean… what kind of gay guy dates the same girl for two years?” I asked with a laugh.
“True…” Emma said slowly. “He’s about done with high school, anyway. I’ll try to make sure people stop that rumor when we get back to school,” she assured me.
“Thanks,” I said. “That’s a good idea.”