1.43: Interrupted

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Now that Ayala didn’t feel so awkward around Dustin anymore, she found she actually liked his company. It was certainly better than hanging out with Rhea and Carrick all the time. This afternoon, he’d invited her to go fishing with him, and she’d happily accompanied him. After reeling in a fish, they’d spitted it and cooked it over an open fire on the beach, where they remained talking as the sun went down.

“I know it may sound silly since we didn’t really know each other well then, but it hurt my feelings when you said you wished I was leaving the island,” he told her.

“I’m sorry Dustin,” she said sincerely.  “It was childish of me. I really was acting like a little girl.” She smiled to show she wasn’t being snarky. “I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad we’re friends now,” she said.

A corner of his mouth lifted, giving her a lopsided smile in return. “I’m glad you’re glad. I guess we should head back to the village before it gets too dark,” he said, a tad regretfully.

“Yes. Mother’s probably wondering where I am. Thanks for today, this was fun.”

“Anytime.” He rose to throw sand over the fire, grabbed his fishing rod, and they set out for the village.

 

 

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A few days later, they were down on the beach, a short distance from camp; Ayala could hear the sounds of children playing, and work being done around the village. Here, an enclave of large stones had created a tidal pool, one of many along the coastline. Ayala reclined on the bank, drying in the sun, while Dustin swam lazy circles in the water.

When he aimed a splash of water at her, she squealed, to which he let out a hearty laugh. Wiping the water from her eyes, she saw his grin. “I was almost dry, thank you very much,” she said primly.

 

 

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He floated to the ledge of the tidal pool and propped himself on his elbows against the bank. “I guess you’ll just have to hang out with me a little longer now,” he said. Holding her gaze for a few moments, his face turned serious, then he turned his head to look across the lagoon behind them. She noticed he seemed to sigh.

As she studied him, beads of water clung to his chest and shoulders, and dripped from his hair down his neck. He’d become a good friend over the past several weeks. But she also realized she was–what? Attracted? It was a little disconcerting. Things like this seemed to come so easy for other girls.

 

 

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He hefted the lanky length of his body onto the bank beside her, leaning into her playfully. “What a great day to get out of the village and enjoy the sun and water, huh?”

“Mmhm,” she murmured. She glanced at him right as he glanced at her, and they both froze. He’d still been leaning against her, so their faces were very close. Dustin’s eyes darted back and forth to hers, pupils dilating. From some detached corner of her mind, she heard the thought that his eyes were such a beautiful shade of blue. They almost exactly matched the color of the waves skating across the lagoon.

 

 

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After what seemed like 10,000 seconds had passed, Dustin turned slightly, shifting to face her, and she mirrored the movement unconsciously. Leaning forward on his hands, his eyes flicked quickly to her mouth, then raised to meet her eyes again, intense, questioningly. Of course they’d made eye contact before, but this–this was a different level of contact. Even if she’d wanted to look away, she wouldn’t have been able to.

But she didn’t want to look away. A little electric jolt flew down her spine as her senses suddenly went into overdrive. She could see the question in his face, in his demeanor, she felt her breath catch in her throat. She registered the sun reflecting off his long eyelashes, glinting off his wet shoulders, the rippling sounds of the breeze over the water in the tidal pool, the waves lapping at the shore a few yards away. Another stray breeze, and she felt a lock of his hair on her cheek. And she was very hyper aware that he was about to kiss her. And she desperately wanted him to.

And somehow, despite her senses galloping at maximum capacity, she didn’t hear the footsteps behind them.

 

 

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“Ayala, Mom needs you to–oh heeyy Dustin.” Dustin and Ayala sprang apart, and Ayala scrambled up off the bank. Carrick looked from back and forth between their faces, raising an eyebrow. Well, well, looks like I interrupted a ‘moment’!

“Mom needs me to what?” Ayala asked finally. She really wished Carrick would wipe that smirk off his face. She could feel her cheeks flaming.

“Yeah. Mom needs you to watch the quads for her. She needs to go help Daniela with something, and I’ve got to take off to help set up for the dance at school,” Carrick said. “Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt or anything.”

“Sure, I’ll be right there.” Carrick obviously wasn’t going to leave, so she turned to Dustin, feeling very self-conscious and barely able to meet his eyes. “I’ll see you later Dustin.”

“Hope so,” Dustin said simply. His eyes were wide, the smile he flashed her was reassuring.

 

 

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Once home, Ayala tried to shake off the whirlwind of her thoughts to focus on her sisters. Unfortunately, that meant reading Frank I’m Not again. Their four little faces were wide-eyed with fascination at the story they’d heard dozens of times.

“They get prettier every time I see them. They’re almost as pretty as you are!”

Ayala looked up to see Jake rounding the corner and walking toward them, and gave him a wide smile. “Hey Jake,” she greeted him. “Carrick’s at the school setting up for the dance.”

“Yeah, I know.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot for a moment. “Are you going to go to the dance?”

“Oh, uhm, I hadn’t really planned on going.”

 

 

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Jake’s face fell a little. “Aw, really? But you’re such a good dancer, I figured you’d want to go. I um, I was actually going to ask if you wanted to go with me.”

Her eyebrows raised in surprise. “I’ll think about it,” she said slowly. He was more her brother’s friend than hers, but still, he was one of the few teens on the island she didn’t feel weird about hanging out with now that Cary and Rhea were sucking face all the time.

“You will? Sweet! I hope you’ll go, it’d be a lot of fun if you came.” He stayed a few more minutes, talking about his upcoming graduation, then went to find her brother. Her eyes on his back as he left, she remembered Carrick had said something about Jake liking her. Was that true? He was a friendly guy, and she did like to dance, but… Jake is nice, and cute too, but Dustin is… a dozen adjectives ran a marathon through her mind as she pictured the intense expression on his face, the question in his eyes earlier at the beach–a question she wanted to answer. I hope I see him tonight.

 

 

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Joel sighed as he wiped down the counter of the bar. It had been a busy–but profitable–day, thanks to a group of thirsty sailors from the merchant ship that had docked earlier. He finished swabbing the bar, idly listening to the lone female passenger aboard the ship speaking with Dustin. From Sunset Valley, she was traveling to some island off the coast of Champs Les Sims to teach impoverished schoolchildren. From their conversation, he gleaned that Dustin was planning to begin teaching the island’s own schoolchildren one day.

And, guessing by her numerous flirtatious advances toward Dustin, he gathered she was also looking for entertainment that apparently a ship full of sailors had somehow not been able to provide. Dustin deflected her deftly, instead returning their conversation back to teaching methods.

 

 

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After Dustin left the bar, the woman then turned her attention to Joel. He too politely evaded her coy looks and winks, until at last she paid her tab and headed back to the ship.

In truth, Joel hadn’t found any of the women stopping at the island to be of much interest. Perhaps the combination of naivete and bold exploration in Layla had soured him on the predictable, meaningless delights of worldly women looking for a good time. He’d had plenty of that in his teens, traveling from port to port as a rascally orphan. Now he just wanted a steady income and, hopefully someday, a steady woman by his fire. He wondered if Layla was happy; he hoped so. If I had asked her to stay… he shook his head.

 

 

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“Got a drink for a thirsty lady?”

Speaking of flirtatious women. “Hello Bronwyn.” Bronwyn had been flirting with him since she was barely a teen, which had made him distinctly uncomfortable at the time; she was certainly more woman than child, now though. Daughter of the island’s most powerful witch, she was a fledgeling witch herself, and had once jokingly threatened to cast a love spell on him. At least, he’d hoped it was a joke. Fortunately she’d then become enamored of some boy or other on the island. And then another. Then another.

 

 

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Ingrid Michelson – Keep Breathing

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That night when Mother returned, Ayala decided to tag along with Carrick when he went to meet Rhea up at the fire pit, hoping that Dustin would also be there. Jake and his sister Nadia were just kindling up the fire as she settled herself on a seat. She was disappointed to find Dustin wasn’t in attendance, but then, being older than the rest, he wasn’t always a regular part of the circle. Maybe he’d still show up.

“Hey Ayala, I’m glad you came tonight!” Jake greeted her exuberantly. She returned the greeting, chatting with him and Nadia while Carrick started picking a tune from his guitar. Jake kept looking at her hopefully, and she hoped he wouldn’t bring up the dance again.

“…Oh did you see the ship that came in today?” Rhea was saying to Carrick. Ayala tuned her out, but her ears perked up again when she heard Dustin’s name. “Yeah there was some lady that got off the boat, flirting with Dustin and he was talking to her all enthusiastic like, then he took her up to the bar. I bet he’s getting some Strange tonight.” Rhea giggled.

 

 

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Ayala’s posture stiffened. “Strange?” she asked.

“Yeah, ‘strange’. Sex with a stranger. No strings attached. You know.” Ayala didn’t know, but nodded anyway, suddenly frozen inside. Rhea went on, animatedly describing the woman’s dress and shoes. Ayala slid off the log and sat on the ground, staring at the fire.

Carrick cut a look at his sister. Guess I really did interrupt a moment earlier. She’s been friendly with Dustin lately, but I didn’t think anything was going on. Until today, at least.

Inwardly, Ayala was in turmoil. No wonder he wasn’t here tonight. Had she really just almost kissed him earlier today, and now he was getting himself some strange? Gods, I’m an idiot.

 

 

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Nursing her hurt feelings, Ayala wandered alone to community center the next day. She sat in the swing, thinking to herself. It was a heavily overcast day, which suited her mood perfectly. Bronwyn’s brassy laughter drifted down from the bar. Good gods, is she after the bartender now too?

She could’ve cursed when Dustin and Jake walked up. “Hey Ayala!”

 

 

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“Ayala, there you are.” Dustin’s eyes lit up, giving her that smile of his as if he were actually happy to see her. As if! she seethed. Ignoring Dustin, she turned to Jake. “Hey Jake! How’s it going?” Jake’s face instantly brightened.

“Better now!” He gave her a wide smile, which she half heartedly returned.

At least Jake wasn’t chasing around strange. “Jake, I’ve decided to go to the dance. Still want me to go with you?”

“Sweet! Yes!”

She wouldn’t look at Dustin, but his surprise was palpable. She nodded and smiled as Jake talked excitedly. “I’ll stop by your camp to pick you up before the dance Thursday,” he was saying.  She nodded again. “Awesome. Well, we’ve got to get over to the consignment store before it closes, so I’ll see you later. I’m really looking forward to the dance now!”

As they walked away, Dustin looked over his shoulder, a puzzled, hurt expression on his face. She stared coldly back at him.  I can’t believe he has the balls to look hurt, she thought.

With a heavy sigh, she got up from the swing and started walking slowly back to camp. It was almost dinnertime, and Mother would be wanting her help with the quads.

 

 

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While Jake talked to the consignment lady, Dustin turned, watching Ayala leave the community center. What was that about? he wondered. I thought–he cut himself off. Well I guess I thought wrong. Dustin was more sensitive than he let most people see, and this hurt. He’d started to think there was something between he and Ayala. He’d almost kissed her before Carrick had interrupted them on the beach. He could see her shoulders slump as she walked away.

 

 

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Your thoughts?

There’s a couple outtakes up on on the outtakes page =)