An evening bonfire helps Cameron open up a door she's kept closed for years.
|Cameron focused on the dying fire, watching the way it twisted and danced in the dark of the night, completely lulled by the beauty and soft malice it carried. The alcohol in her system fuzzed the edges of her vision and rocked her like a boat.|
Trent, drunk and obnoxious, stumbled past her, kicking sand into her lap. A sophomore coed in a tiny string of a bikini giggled out of his reach. Oblivious as he was wasted, he didn’t even notice he almost fell in the fire while tumbling by.
“Jerk,” she hissed, holding up her hard lemonade and dusting her lap off as best she could without getting to her feet. She didn’t want to stand up. Four of these lemonades in her system and she didn’t think she could even manage. Her head back and she closed her eyes. The drunken laughter of her classmates surrounded her but behind them, the soft lull of the ocean waves kissed the sand.
Maybe she would just sleep here.
When she opened her eyes, a stunning young woman with creamy brown skin and warm, brown eyes, sat across from the fire, holding her gaze. Jasmine. The heat of those brown eyes seared awkward discomfort in her. She glanced around as if her classmate might be looking at someone else.
White teeth flashed in the flickering firelight as Jasmine asked, “Do you mind if I sit next to you?” She didn’t wait for a response, but rose and flopped in the sand next to Cameron. The perfume of fruit alcohol wafted from the colorful drink in her hand.
“Um, hi,” Cameron forced a weak smile.
Jasmine did not hide her bisexuality and it made Cameron quite uncomfortable. Not because she disapproved, but because part of her longed to open up as Jasmine did. If she denied it, kept it in a dark corner of her mind, she could pretend that she was everything her parents expected of her. It was easier to do when Jasmine didn’t hold a mirror up with her existence.
Things were getting too deep and Jasmine hadn’t even said “hi” back. Cameron took a swig of her lemonade, time to get more drunk and quit questioning things about herself.
Jasmine watched her swallow the liqor and asked, “Can you even stand?”
“No.” Cameron laughed, “But isn’t that the point?”
“I guess if you want to pass out in the sand,” Jasmine shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of her own drink. They watched the fire for a few quiet moments.
Jasmine broke the silence first. “Why are you out here? I didn’t think you liked even half these people.”
“How do you know who I like or don’t like?” Cameron eyed the observant girl.
Jasmine’s embarrassed gaze dropped down to her hands. A sheepish grin twitched the corner of her lips. “I… I pay attention to things like that,” she said and added, “especially when the person interests me.”
“I interest you? Why?” Cameron stole a peek at Jasmine’s pretty face and her stomach flopped. Too much hard lemonade moved in her veins because a very large part of her wondered if Jasmine’s lips were as soft as they looked.
Jasmine met her gaze, her brown eyes sparkling with light from the bonfire. “You’re fascinating. You’re obviously smart and funny and you have such confidence. I’m shocked you don’t have more people sitting in the sand by you.”
Cameron gestured at her sandy lap. “That asshole, Trent, kicked sand on me. I don’t suppose that counts, does it?”
A laugh burst out of Jasmine and she shook her head. She leaned back on her hands, one falling over the fingers of Cameron’s right hand. Cameron glanced at their appendages touching, white and brown overlapping. Her eyes blinked too fast, making her dizzy.
When her gaze moved back up, Jasmine watched her intently. The contact was a test. The rest of her lemonade chased Cameron’s smile.
“You’re not even sitting straight.” Jasmine giggled..
“I’m not? I guess that explains why I feel like I’m weaving.” Cameron let her off-kilter weight drop her on her back. “I never drink. I’m too much of a lightweight.”
Jasmine flopped in the sand beside her and they stared up at the blinking stars. The moon hovered full and heavy, staring back with silver brightness.
“Not me, I’ve drunk some serious heavyweights under the table.”
Trying to picture the slender, athletic young woman drinking people under the table, Cameron turned her head and asked, “Really?”
“No. Not really, but it sounds cool. I don’t drink very much either,” she said and flashed another brilliant smile at Cameron.
Inspired by the alcohol or the closeness between them, Cameron closed the tiny distance and kissed Jasmine. It was an awkward peck and she pulled back, giggling.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what got into me.” Heat tingled in her cheeks so she hid behind her palms. “I’m really drunk.”
“I didn’t mind,” Jasmine whispered.
The firelit it up her smile but her eyes didn’t share the same humor. Somber hope filled them. Impure thoughts danced through Cameron’s thoughts. The desire to kiss Jasmine built again in her flip-flopping belly.
The other woman rolled on her side, braced on her elbow and leaned in towards Cameron. Their lips touched again, electricity sparking between them. The smooth skin of Jasmine’s hand brushed her cheek.
When they broke apart, Cameron once more noticed the beauty of Jasmine’s chocolate eyes. She whispered, her words slurring a bit, “You have the prettiest eyes.”
“You too.” Jasmine leaned back in and kissed her again, just a quick peck before she rolled on her back.
“I’m not a lesbian,” Cameron blurted.
Jasmine shook her head. “Neither am I.”
“But, I like kissing you.I like you.” Cameron wrinkled her nose, the alcohol fuzzing her brain. Did that mean she was a lesbian?
Jasmine pushed up into a sitting position and stared down at Cameron. “I’ve never believed in defining our sexualities. In the end, why do you need to label yourself because of who you care for? I like you because of who you are, not because of your gender.”
Following her lead, Cameron sat up too, but regretted it when her vision swam. As she tried to focus on Jasmine’s blurry face, she rubbed her fingertips against her temples. “I’ve just never thought of myself as anything other than straight.”
“So?” Jasmine asked, “Do you feel ‘straight’ when you kiss me?”
“No, I feel drunk,” she smirked.
Pain shadowed Jasmine’s pretty features and she turned her gaze to the fire. Guilt bore into Cameron’s chest. She didn’t mean to hurt her feelings.
She glanced down at Jasmine’s hand in the sand and wordlessly tangled their fingers together, “Sorry.”
Without a sound, Jasmine scanned their interlocking digits and flicked her gaze up to Cameron. Her eyes sparkled, but Cameron couldn’t tell if the fire danced on the dark brown or if those were unshed tears.
A decision was made. She leaned forward and tasted Jasmine’s lips again. A fist clenched around her heart as she allowed herself to enjoy the fruity sweetness of her mouth. Cameron pulled away only to lean her forehead against hers. Her eyelids squeezed shut as she focused on the way her heartbeat rushed in her ears.
“I don’t know what to think about all this. I’ve never allowed myself to admit out loud that I like you,” she whispered. “My parents are. . . strict about who I can and cannot like. I’ve always just shoved everything down.”
They detangled their hands and Cameron felt her arms wrap around her in a warm embrace. She returned the gesture.
“My parents disowned me, so I understand,” Jasmine explained.
Her words punched Cameron in the gut. She pulled away. “They disowned you?”
“Yep, they said I was unnatural and that someday, I’d outgrow this stage of life. I would pick boys or girls to love. Though if I picked girls, they said to never call them” A dark, cynical laugh escaped the beautiful woman.
The idea of Cameron’s parents disowning her made her skin crawl. Her parents loved her, they wouldn’t cut her out of their lives just because she wanted to date a girl. Would they? The thought terrified her. However, she didn’t want to go back to pretending now that she admitted her interest in Jasmine out loud.
“Are you still too drunk to walk?” Jasmine asked as she slowly unraveled her arms from around Cameron and pulled away.
Whether the fear of being disowned or the alcohol worked its way through her system, Cameron didn’t feel nearly as drunk. “I think I’m actually good.”
Jasmine stood up. She extended a hand down to her and Cameron took it firmly, allowing the young woman to pull her up. She weaved a bit on her feet, but Jasmine looped an arm around her waist, helping steady her.
They picked their way around other beach partiers, either passed out or drinking themselves to that point. Nothing like spring break to convince the college students to push the limits. Once they cleared everyone, Jasmine let her walk on her own.
They walked in silence, the sand soft against their bare feet. The waves eroded the beach to the right of them. The glow from the bonfire faded and their eyes adjusted to the moonlit beach. Even though words didn’t pass between them, everything felt right.
Cameron snuck a sideways glance at Jasmine and saw the profile of a strong, young woman. She’d been shunned by her family because she wasn’t afraid to pursue her happiness. She loved without prejudice, questioned the accepted norm, and made Cameron reevaluate her own stance on love.
In her mind, she couldn’t help but label everything before her. Up until this point, she’d always considered herself straight. . . No, she always wished herself straight. Life would be so much easier if she could just accept what she was supposed to be, but she’d never been happy like that.
As she told Jasmine, she wasn’t a lesbian. Admittedly, looking at her life from an objective point of view, she recognized girls attracted her more, but she still liked boys, too. Personalities intrigued her more than physical attributes. Now that she recognized that fact about herself, all sorts of little things in her life made sense.
Her train of thought suddenly broke when Jasmine tapped her with her hip. She stumbled wildly to the side and glared at her.
“Oh, is that how it’s gonna be?” After regaining her balance, she hipped Jasmine back.
Jasmine stumbled into the icy cold spray of the ocean and gave a sharp squeal before leaping out of reach of the water. Bouncing around on her tiptoes, she danced back over. Her white teeth glowed in the dark with laughter.
They pushed each other back and forth, laughing and occasionally even managing to dodge the advances. Eventually though, Jasmine and Cameron fell to the sand together, the dark girl on top. They grinned breathlessly at each other, suddenly aware of how empty and quiet the beach was.
It was just the two of them.
“This is so cliché.” Cameron gasped out, flustered at the situation.
The other woman’s head nodded in agreement and then she leaned down and kissed Cameron. Her mouth compelled her to move in response. She raised a hand to Jasmine’s curly hair and tangled her fingers in it, pinning Jasmine’s head to hers. Fire burned in her skin, the nerves tingling from head to toe. She loved kissing but this was the first time she’d ever felt so alive during a make-out session.
Taking a breath, Jasmine pulled away and asked, “So, does this mean you’d be my girlfriend?”
Cameron leaned forward so she spoke into her lips, “I thought you didn’t like labels.”
Jasmine smiled against her before kissing her deeply. When she moved away again, Cameron sighed.
“You didn’t answer me.” Her defined eyebrows raised at her.
Cameron detangled her hand out of Jasmine’s hair and caressed her cheek. “You and your labels. You don’t want them, but now you’re insisting I define what this moment is.”
The shadow crossed Jasmine’s face again. This time, when she withdrew, she moved to her knees. “Cameron, I understand not wanting to decide if I’m relationship material right now. But, is it something you would ever seriously consider or am I barking up the wrong tree?”
Cameron burst out laughing but stopped abruptly at the pained expression on Jasmine’s face. She bore her soul and Cameron laughed at her. She didn’t mean any offense, but given a few hours ago, she would have said she was barking up the wrong tree.
Her eyes closed while she listened to the rush of the ocean and Jasmine’s breathing, to her own heartbeat. No one had ever made her body ache with a kiss before. But there was more than the physical attraction.
Jasmine was kind albeit a bit outspoken in class. Genuine and open minded, she was willing to show Cameron how to embrace a side of herself she’d kept buried deep away, forever hidden from the light of the world.
Even if her parents disapproved, she didn’t want to pretend anymore. Her eyes flew open and she stared into Jasmine’s expectant ones before she said, “I would like to try the whole girlfriend thing, just forgive me if I don’t know what to do. I mean, this is kind of new for me.”
“Well.” Jasmine leaned forward again so her lips hovered above Cameron’s. “Kissing is always a good thing to do.”
Cameron loved the fruity taste of Jasmine. The way she understood exactly how she liked to be kissed and how her body felt pressed against hers. This was the way, the only way, be true to herself.
When they returned to the embers of the bonfire later, they held hands and carried their chins proud in the air. Cameron cringed, prepared to be teased for her obvious relationship with Jasmine, but no one gave them any notice. At this time of the night, a few stragglers remained on the beach and most of them were too drunk to notice anything.
They sat back down in the original place, staring at the dying remains of the fire. The coals glowed in lovely shades of dark orange and red, winking at them when a gust of wind would stir them briefly back into life. Cameron leaned her head against Jasmine’s shoulder and sighed. What an unexpected way to usher in spring break.
Jasmine laid her head on hers and whispered, “It’s not as scary as you think it is. We’re just two people starting a relationship, nothing more.”
Her words terrified Cameron, for though she recognized they were true, she also understood not everyone thought that way. It didn’t matter to many that their relationship should only be the business of hers and Jasmine. They wanted input on who they could care for.
The heat from Jasmine’s body against hers, the way she made Cameron feel comfortable with herself, she would risk it. One day at a time, until perhaps, it developed into something strong enough to withstand even the harshest critic and weather the cruelest storm. A smile lit her lips as she gazed into the glowing embers of the bonfire.
Cameron would not hide who she was ever again.