I wasn’t sure if it was the plane ride, the fact that there was different soil underneath my soles, or just the stress that I had been under for the past few days, but I had the misfortune of spending the majority of the plane ride to Sunlit Tides clutching a barf bad so tightly my knuckles turned white.
I got out of the airplane shakily. When Aria held her hand out for me, I grabbed it and leaned on her shoulder, careful not to put my entire weight on her. She was so tiny compared to me; I was afraid I was going to break her. We got our bags in a hurry, eager to get some rest and relaxation. We unfortunately had to split up in two taxies since our group couldn’t fit into one.
I found my breath being taken away as I stared at the place we were staying. It was huge, not to mention beautiful as well. The blue sea sparkled through from being the house. The snow that had burdened Sunset Valley for months was finally giving away to grass and blooming flowers when we had left for the airport a few hours back. Here, the sun shone brightly, the flowers vibrant and blossoming with the new season. I breathed in deeply, the sweet perfume of the flowers tickling my nose and chasing away my nausea.
“Well, girls,” a voice said behind me. Someone came up and squeezed my hand. I only had to look in the corner of my eye to see my best friend standing besides me. I lightly squeezed her hand back, shooting a warm smile in her direction. She turned her head, flipping her dark hair over her shoulders, and smiled back.
“Welcome to Sunlit Tides,” Aria breathed. Her voice was soft and I could tell she didn’t mean for anybody but the two of us to hear her.
We went inside and stashed our bags in the living room as we all went to go explore the house. I traveled upstairs and opened the nearest door. It creaked as I closed it shut and I fell onto the soft, plush duvet of one of the beds. I curled the blanket around my fingers, forming a small pillow. I breathed in the unique combination of sea salt and what ever Ariel was cooking downstairs. My stomach rumbled as the aroma of the food reminded me that I hadn’t eaten since we boarded the plane. Although my stomach was eager for food, I didn’t trust it quite yet due to the fact that everything else I had eaten had come straight back up.
“Still feeling sick?” Aria appeared in the doorframe and slowly walked towards me. She sat on the empty twin bed across from the one I was laying on.
“Looks like we’re sharing a room, huh?” she said with a laugh.
I sat up, flattening my makeshift pillow with the palms of my hands.
“Guess so. There aren’t enough rooms in the house for all of us to have our own.” My voice came out unevenly and I could feel the bile forcing its way up with every word I said. I swallowed hard, shaking my head in the process.
“Good thing I don’t have to share a room with Ariel,” Aria muttered.
“Wha-“ I gasped and my stomach clenched.
“Are you ok?” Aria’s eyes widened and she quickly stood up and came towards me. She put one hand on my back, her touch cool.
“I think so,” I managed to blurt out, biting my bottom lip so hard I could taste metal as the blood seeped into my mouth.
I shook my head in denial and rushed to the restroom. Where was the restroom anyways?
It turned out to be across the hall and I barely got there in time. I fumbled for the light switch and when I failed to control my stomach I leaned my head against the porcelain of the toilet. With the noise of the flushing toilet ringing in my ears the lights finally came on.
“I heard fresh air helps.” Aria’s voice was soft and gentle, as if she was talking to one of her own sick kids.
“I just don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t get motion sickness and I’ve barely eaten anything,” I moaned, closing my eyes.
“You’ll get better,” Aria admitted after a few seconds of silence. “You could just be pregnant.”
No, that couldn’t be possible, right? The last person I was with was- my eyes flashed open and I took in a deep breath.
The last person I was with was Chase. No way I could be pregnant with his loathsome child.
Aria must have seen the concerned look on my face and quickly added: “I was just joking, doll. No need to get all worked up over nothing.” She smiled, her pink eyes full of life. For some odd reason, her presence comforted me.
I couldn’t be pregnant; it was impossible.
“The girls are downstairs, if you care to join them. Ariel if making the food though, so I highly doubt that it will be edible. Who knows what she will put in the meal when we aren’t looking.” Aria rolled her eyes and huffed, shutting the door and leaving me alone.
I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes as the nausea took over again.
After rinsing my face with cool water, I made my way downstairs, following the smell of food. I grabbed a spot on the couch as Aria poured me some ginger ale. I drank it slowly, the bubbles scurrying up my nose. I concentrated on taking deep breaths: in through my nose, out through my mouth.
I could faintly hear the small talk of my friends: how life was, how far there were in the challenge (Aria seemed the one to be finishing first), how everybody’s love life was. I felt my chest tightened as they all talked about how they thought they had found the perfect man.
I thought I had found the perfect guy as well. I wished to tell them that everything can easily break, especially your heart, but I bit my tongue and shut my mouth. They probably wouldn’t even listen to me anyways. When you’re in love, everybody’s words of disapproval seem to bounce off and then come back to bite you when everything is said and done.
As much as I didn’t want to, I silently cursed them for having such happy lives when mine was in a downward spiral.
“So are we going to the beach, or not?” Ariel asked, her tone heavy in annoyance. I turned my head in her direction but didn’t respond. A chorus of yes’s followed, covering my silence.
I couldn’t bring myself to agree to go to the beach. I felt like staying here and relaxing, as my stomach was finally feeling a bit better.
“Shouldn’t we ask Danielle first? We are here because of her,” Aria snapped. Ariel closed her mouth in a tight line, awaiting my reply. I opened my mouth to reply after swallowing hard, procrastinating a bit because I didn’t know how to politely say ‘No’.
Ariel huffed in my general direction and rolled her eyes, apparently I hadn’t replied fast enough for her.
“Whatever then,” she mumbled, heading out of the room. I swear I could hear her saying something about how stupid this trip was. At least I could agree with her on one issue.
“I was going to say let’s go.” I got up and placed my drink in the kitchen sink. I turned around and leaned around the counter. “Shall we be heading off then?”
“No swimsuit?” Ariana asked, opening the door for me.
I shook my head. “Stomach is still acting up. The motion sickness just doesn’t seem to go away!” I forced out a laugh and walked down the stairs, holding onto the railing. Ariana raised her eyebrows and winked, putting on her sunglasses.
We walked to the beach, as it wasn’t too far away. Arriving, I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand. It was a lot hotter here than it was in Sunset Valley; I was already dripping in sweat just from the short walk from the house.
Flinging our stuff onto the sand, I found a beach chair and sat on it, slowly putting my weight on it. It looked very flimsy and I was afraid to break it.
Putting my arms behind my head, I closed my eyes but not before I saw Payton and Mila dive into the water, splashing water to those closest to the sea.
I woke up to the sound of someone moving my shoulders and saying: “Come on, wake up, Danielle.” I opened my eyes and saw that the sun had already set. Payton stood before me, still in her bathing suit.
“We thought we should let you sleep,” she admitted, helping me up. I looked up to see the stars shining brightly against the deep midnight blue of the sky. I had never seen them shining this brightly.
“I’ve never seen them this clearly before.” My neck started to cramp and I was forced to lower my head.
“Um, so where is everybody?”
“Oh.” Payton lowered her head and looked at me. “They’ve already all gone back to the house. But I have a question, is it really a house? Is it a hotel? What do we call it?” Payton started walking forward and I followed, my feet sinking into the sand.
“I think it’s a house. But on what to call it, I’m not exactly sure.”
We debated the issue all the way back to the house, hotel, what ever it was called.
I showered and had just finished drying my hair when Aria came into the room and fell onto her bed and instantly fell asleep. I laughed as I tried to put her under the sheets. Good thing she was so light, otherwise I don’t think I would have been able move her at all.
I turned off the light and climbed into my bed. I stared out the window. The stars were bright and although they filled me with wonder, I couldn’t bring myself to fall asleep.
It must of have been because I had slept so much at the beach, I thought. I was just beginning to close my eyes when I heard the door open and close.
“Danielle?” A dark figure came into view. It turned on the light. My eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness and I saw a black-haired man, covered in freckles.
“Oh, thank goodness it’s you. I was afraid for a second that I had gone into the wrong room.” He smiled, his green eyes brightening.
“I don’t mean to be rude,” I began, pushing the covers off of me, “but what are you doing here?” I got up on my feet and I messily pulled the cover back upon the empty bed.
“How are our daughters?” He asked, avoiding my question with a question of his own.
“They’re doing well.” I ran a hand through my hair, trying to make it as presentable as possible.
“That’s good.” He sighed and straightened up, pulling down his shirt. “I know it’s really weird for me to be here, especially when I’m probably the last person you would want to see.”
“No,” I corrected. “Chase is the last person I would like to see, actually.”
“I heard about that. I’m really sorry.” Aaron put a hand on my shoulder and as much as I felt I should shrug it away, I didn’t. He pulled me in for a hug and I just stood there, my hands on my side. “I’m so sorry,” he muttered into my hair.
“It’s okay,” I finally said, pulling away from him. My eyes were starting to water and I blinked, trying to hold the tears back.
Aaron finally let me go and he titled my head up with his thumb. “You don’t look okay.”
“I’m fi-,” He crushed his lips onto mine and grabbed my shoulder, pulling me closer to him. At first I was startled that he was kissing me- the last time we had kissed is when I was still with Chase. It was just for the challenge then. But now there was an urgency and passion that was not there before. His lips were soft, familiar and while a tiny voice in the back of my head said what I was doing was wrong, I didn’t pull away.
I kissed him back, absentmindedly wrapping my arms around his shoulders. His hands were at my waist. I suddenly felt oddly naked in just my pajamas.
He broke away and kissed me on the tip of my nose. I looked at where Aria was sleeping and I hoped that she wouldn’t wake up. It would probably be rather awkward explaining this while situation to her.
“Danielle.” Aaron kissed me again, but the urgency that was there before had faded into a smooth gentleness.
“Danielle,” he whispered again. “I’ve been meaning to say this for a while. I lo-“
“Danielle, I just thought I would let you know that you are the hardest person to wake up.”
My eyelids fluttered and I blinked a few times, my eyes slowly adjusting to the daylight.
“Wha-?” I sputtered. I flung the covers off and swung my feet over the edge of the bed.
Was it really just all a dream? It’s couldn’t have been, right?
“You okay?” Ariel stood by the doorway. “Aria said she couldn’t wake you up. You are, in fact, really hard to wake up.”
“Sorry,” I grumbled, rubbing my eyes. “So what are we doing today?” I yawned, stretching my arms. I forced myself to stop thinking about the dream and start thinking about the day ahead.
“Well, Logan is here with his girlfriend. I think she’s his girlfriend, at least.”
“Logan has a girlfriend?” I knew he had moved out here a while back but I didn’t know he had a girlfriend.
“I don’t really know if they are together or not, I haven’t really asked. But the seem to be together.” Ariel sighed, clearly uninterested in the conversation. “We’re leaving in five minutes to the spa, then dinner afterwards.”
Ariel went out of the room and I quickly changed into some more suitable clothes.
Logan’s ‘girlfriend’ had bright purple hair and amazing eyes. I couldn’t help but stare at her odd eye and hair color. She introduced herself as Becks Best, another challenge mother, and immediately followed up with she didn’t like puns on her last name.
She said she knew an amazing spa place and that it wasn’t too far from where we were.
Becks was right, it wasn’t that far and it seemed like the massages were going to be well worth it. However, I tried the spa list. I laid down in one of the tubs and relaxed, the warm water relaxing my muscles.
I opened my eyes and saw Aria and Arianna getting massages. They looked relaxed and at ease. It felt nice to just forget about everything for a while and concentrate on yourself. All the stress of raising kids and having a chaotic love life had finally caught up to me, but here I could let it all go and start anew.
I loved it.
As the water got hotter and hotter, I couldn’t help but think of my dream with Aaron. It was so vivid; so real. While I was ashamed that I had that dream, a little part of me liked it and wanted more. What was he going to say before I woke up, anyways?
I pushed the question away, trying to think about other things. I failed miserably and my mind kept wandering towards Aaron.
What was wrong with me? I didn’t want another person to love, because it was probably going to unrequited. My heart sunk at the thought.
I downed a glass of water after my small spa session and slipped into the hot tub. Not along after, Aria, Mila, Ariana and Ariel decided to join me. The hopped in, splashing hot water on my face.
“Sorry,” I heard Ariana say as she scooted into the seat next to me.
“It’s alright,” I replied, watching the warm bubbles float around. I cupped my hands and caught some of them. I blew into my hands and laughed as they landed on Ariana’s face and hair.
“Sorry not sorry,” I giggled.
“Not cool, Danielle.” Ariana splashed the water all over my face. Not thinking, I splashed her back and before long the entire hot tub was full of people laughing and splashing each other.
“Having fun, I see.” Becks stood in front of the hot tub, close enough so we could all see her clearly but far enough so she didn’t get wet. The sun gave her already colorful hair a more vibrant hue. “Are you guys ready to go eat?”
Logan came into view and smiled at us. “Hi guys! Long time to see!” We all smiled and waved back. We all got out of the hot tub and quickly toweled off. I shrugged back on my clothes and disposed of my towel in one of the many hampers located on the lot.
We had finally all sat down at the table, and the food had just arrived when my phone rang. My mouth watered as I looked down at the caller ID.
“I’ll just be one second,” I said to my friends as I excused myself outside. The sun had just started setting and the sunset gave off brilliant shades of oranges and reds, tinting everything around me. The stars were just starting to peek through the clouds; the moon was a smiling silver crescent in darkening night sky.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Mom.” I heard Silas’ voice from the other end. He sounded worried and confused.
“Is everything ok?” My motherly instincts kicked in, immediately wanting to know what was wrong and how I could fix it.
“No it’s just, well, both Casanya and Analee are sick. They won’t stop throwing up it’s getting all over the place. We do-“
“Silas, listen,” I said, my voice becoming urgent. I hate watching my kids get sick, even when I was with them. The thought of my poor girls getting sick when I wasn’t there made my stomach. I hoped they didn’t think I was a bad mother.
“There’s some medicine in my bathroom cupboard. Take one and cut it in half and then give Casanya and Analee both a half. It should make them feel better. Make sure to keep them hydrated and maybe see if you can feed them crackers. I know what it’s like to be sick like that.”
“Thanks, Mom. I really don’t know what we would do without you.”
“You wouldn’t even be here without me,” I jokingly reminded him.
“Yeah, yeah. Wait one second, before you hang up, Analee wants to talk to you.”
I sighed and smiled; at least she was feeling well enough to want to talk. That was always a good sign.
“Momma?” Analee’s voice sounded heavy, sick and tired.
“Can you come home, please? I want you to be home. I don’t feel good, Mommy.”
My heart tore in two; it was heart wrenching to have your kid want you when you wouldn’t be with them. “Mommy is going to be gone one more day, then she’ll be back. I promise.”
“But Mommy! I don’t feel good,” she protested. I could hear her voice straining, the same way mine did when I was trying to hold back tears.
“Silas has medicine to make you feel better. Mommy is going to be home soon.”
“I want Mommy home now.”
“I’ll be home in a day. A day really isn’t that long.”
“I love you, Mommy.” Silas’ voice replaced Analee’s. “She really isn’t feeling good. Casanya isn’t much better either. See you soon, Mom. Thanks again.”
Silas hung up and I was left listening to the sound of my own breathing.
“I love you too, my little Analee,” I whispered.
I shoved my phone back into my pocket, hoping that I made the right choice to leave my kids behind for a vacation. True, it only was for a couple of days but I felt that I always needed to take care of my kids, especially when they weren’t feeling well. I walked towards the restaurant and looked up to the sky.
The once smiling moon seemed to now be frowning down upon me.
House thanks to Curtis Paradis
House thanks to Curtis Paradis