People We Meet on Vacation

Page 29

He has a nice body, I think, the kind that’s mostly taut from an active lifestyle with a little pudge from indulging in his various vices. Not like Alex’s, which has been made in the gym over years with discipline and care. Not that Alex’s body isn’t great. It is great.

And not that there’s any reason to compare the two, or any two bodies, really. It’s sort of messed up that the thought even popped into my head.

But it’s just because Alex’s is the man-body I’m most used to being around and it’s also the kind I expect I won’t ever touch. People like Alex—careful, conscientious, gym-fit, reserved people—tend to go for people like Sarah Torval—Alex’s careful, conscientious, yoga-bunny crush from the library.

Whereas people like me are more likely to wind up making out with people like Buck on their floor mattresses on top of their unzipped sleeping bags.

He’s all tongue and hands, but even so it’s fun, to kiss this near-stranger, to have fervent, appreciative permission to touch him. It’s like practice. Perfect, fun practice with some guy I met on vacation, who holds no bearing on my real life. Who knows only Poppy Right Now, and doesn’t need any more than that.

We kiss until my lips feel bruised and our shirts have come off and then I sit up in the dawn-dark, catching my breath. “I don’t want to have sex, okay?”

“Oh, right on,” he says lightly, sitting up against the wall. “That’s cool. No pressure.”

And he doesn’t seem to feel any hint of awkwardness about this, but he also doesn’t pull me back to him, kiss me again. He just sits there for a minute, like he’s waiting for something.

“What?” I say.

“Oh.” He glances toward the door then back to me. “I just thought, if you don’t want to hook up . . .”

And then I understand. “You want me to leave?”

“Well . . .” He gives a sheepish (or sheepish for him, anyway) half laugh that still sounds kind of barky. “I mean, if we’re not going to have sex, then I might . . .”

He trails off, and now my own laugh catches me by surprise. “Are you going to hook up with someone else?”

He seems genuinely concerned when he says, “Does that make you feel bad?”

I stare back at him for a three full seconds.

“Look, if you wanted to have sex, you’d be, like . . . I’d want to. Like, I definitely do. But since you don’t . . . Are you mad?”

I burst out laughing. “No,” I say, pulling my shirt back on. “I’m actually really, really not mad. I appreciate the honesty.”

And I mean it. Because this is just Buck, some guy I met on vacation, and all things considered, he has been something of a gentleman.

“Okay, cool,” he says, and flashes that laid-back grin of his, which almost glows in the dark. “I’m glad we’re cool.”

“We’re cool,” I agree. “But . . . you said something about a tent?”

“Oh, right.” He slaps his hand to his forehead. “The red-and-black one out front’s all you, girl.”

“Thanks, Buck,” I say, and stand. “For everything.”

“Hey, hold on a second.” He leans over and grabs a magazine off the floor beside his mattress, digs around for a marker, then scribbles something on the white edge of a page and tears it out. “If you’re ever back on the island,” he says, “don’t stay in my grandparents’ neighborhood, okay? Just come stay here. We’ve always got room.”

With that, I slip out of the house, past rooms that are already—or still—playing music and doors through which soft sighs and moans emanate.

Outside, I pick my way down the dewy porch steps and head to the red-and-black tent. I’m fairly sure I saw Alex disappear inside the house with Daisy hours ago, but when I unzip the tent, he’s fast asleep in it. I carefully crawl inside, and when I lie down beside him, he just barely opens his puffy-with-sleep eyes and rasps, “Hey.”

“Hey,” I say. “Sorry to wake you.”

“’S okay,” he says. “How was your night?”

“Okay,” I tell him. “I made out with Buck.”

His eyes widen for a second before shrinking back to sleepy slivers of hazel. “Wow,” he croaks, then tries to swallow down a spark of sleepy laughter. “Did the curtains match the very troubling drapes?”

Laughing, I give his leg a shove with my foot. “I didn’t tell you so you could mock me.”

“Did he tell you what he was saying that whole time on the water taxi?” Alex asks through another rattle of laughter. “How many people were in the hammock with you?”

I start to laugh so hard there are tears leaking from the corners of my eyes. “He . . . kicked . . .” It’s hard to get words out between wheezes of laughter, but eventually I manage, “. . . kicked me out when I told him I didn’t want to have sex.”

“Oh my god,” Alex says, sitting up on his elbow, the sleeping bag falling down from his bare chest and his hair dancing with static. “What a dick.”

“No,” I say. “It was fine. He just wanted to get some, and if not from me, there are easily four hundred more girls on this half acre of sinking woods.”

Alex flops back down on his pillow. “Yeah, well, I still think that’s kind of shitty.”

“Speaking of girls,” I say, smirking.

“We . . . weren’t?” Alex says.

“Did you hook up with Daisy?”

He rolls his eyes. “Do you think I hooked up with Daisy?”

“Until you said it like that, yes.”

Alex adjusts his arm under his pillow. “Daisy isn’t my type.”

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