“Oh, honey, I’m glad you’re back. Could you set the table please?” my mom asked.
“Is it time to eat now?” I asked as I grabbed the plates from the cupboard.
“Yes, and we ordered your favorite.” She smiled.
As I set the table, my mom picked up my sketchpad and looked at it. “This is beautiful, Julia.”
“Thanks. I drew it while I was down at the beach.”
My dad and Collin walked in, and my mom showed my dad the sketch of London.
“That’s a beautiful picture, Princess,” he said as he kissed me on the head.
“Thanks, Dad,” I said as I grabbed the bowl of pasta and set it on the table.
We sat down and ate dinner as a family, reminiscing of the days when we were younger. Little did I know that tomorrow would be the day that changed my life forever.
I awoke to a whole lot of noise going on downstairs. As I yawned, I grabbed my phone and texted Collin to come to my room. He opened the door and stepped inside.
“What?” he asked.
“What the hell is going on downstairs?”
“Did you forget that today is your graduation party and the caterers and planners are here?”
“Already? My God, it’s only eight o’clock in the morning.”
Collin shrugged his shoulders and walked out of the room. I stepped out of bed and walked down the hallway to my parents’ room. I knocked on the door and my dad told me to come in. He was sitting up on the bed, checking his phone.
“Good morning, Princess.” He smiled.
“Morning, Dad,” I said as I cuddled up next to him. He put his arm around me and kissed my head.
“Is something wrong?”
I sighed. “No, I just don’t want to go downstairs yet with all that racket going on.”
“Ah, me neither. That’s why I’m sitting in here.”
“Mom’s okay with that?”
“I told her I was running up here to change clothes. She’ll realize it soon enough and come look for me.”
“I miss London, Dad.”
“I know you do, sweetheart. We all miss London, and I know it’s hard for you without her being here. But, today’s your graduation party and there’s going to be about 300 people here, so you need to try and at least act happy. I know you’ve been doing that a lot lately, but once today is over with, you’ll have the whole summer to relax.”
Suddenly, the door opened and my mom stood in the doorway, staring at us. “Good morning, sweetheart. Connor, why are you sitting up here?”
“I’m comforting our daughter, Ellery.”
She glared at him with knitted eyebrows as she walked over to the bed. “Are you okay, sweetheart?”
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“Connor, downstairs! Julia, why don’t you go take a shower and get ready for your party?” She smiled.
I sat up and looked at my dad as he winked at me. As soon as I walked out of the room and shut the door, I heard giggling. I rolled my eyes because I knew what that meant.
The party was a success, and I could tell how happy my mom was. People were everywhere. Tables filled the patio and backyard under the beautiful white canopy tents. The spread of food was amazing and could probably feed a small country. The DJ was awesome and played everything my friends requested. My mom had a play area set up for the smaller children and then games were set up down on the beach for the older kids and adults. I made my rounds and tried to talk to as many people as I could. It was nearing dusk and I needed to step away from the party for a while to gather my thoughts. With as many people that were here to celebrate my graduation, it still felt lonely without London. I didn’t want my parents to worry if they couldn’t find me, and I didn’t see my mom, so I told my dad I was going for a walk.
“Dad,” I said as I pulled him aside. “I’m going to go for a walk down the beach in case you’re looking for me.”
“All right, sweetheart, just be careful,” he said as he kissed my head.
I took off my shoes and headed down the beach. Once I made my way down, far enough away from the house, I sat down in the warm, soft sand. As I was thinking about my life and college, a dog came up and sat down next to me with a stick in its mouth.
“Hi there.” I smiled as I reached my hand over to pet the dog. “You’re so cute. Look at that face. Where did you come from?”
Suddenly, I heard a voice from a few feet away. “Mozart, there you are. What are you doing, boy?”
I gulped as I looked at the fine male that was standing in front of me, in just a pair of cargo shorts and no shirt. I couldn’t help but stare at his ripped abs and muscular arms. It felt like I couldn’t get enough air as I looked at him. My eyes finally traveled up to his face and, once again, my airway felt constricted. He was the hottest guy I’d ever seen in my life.
“Sorry about that. Mozart loves girls and, when he sees one, he wants to be friends.” He smiled.
That smile. I felt something when he smiled. It was the kind of smile that no matter how bad your day was, it made you feel better. It was the kind of smile that fixed you. I needed to speak, but the words weren’t coming out. I was stunned by this boy, this guy, this man. He had me speechless and that was not easy to do.
“That’s okay. I love dogs.” I managed to spit out.
He looked at me and cocked his head. “I know this is your typical crappy line, but I’m serious. I feel like we’ve met before.”
I laughed because at least he was being honest about it being a typical crappy line. “I don’t think so.”
“Come on, Mozart, let’s go,” he said.
Mozart looked at me, laid down, and put his head on my lap.
“Mozart, what are you doing? Come on. Come, boy.”
“He obviously doesn’t want to go,” I said.
“He never acts like this. He always listens when I tell him we have to go.”
I felt my heart beating rapidly as the nervousness in my stomach began. “You could always stay for a while until he’s ready to go.”
He looked at me with a smile. “You don’t mind? You sort of look like you want to be alone.”
“No, I don’t mind. I was just escaping the craziness of my graduation party.”
He sat down next to me and all I could think about was running my hand down his torso, feeling every crevice and well-defined muscle he had. “Ah, I remember my graduation party last year. My parents went all out. By the way, I’m Jake Jensen.” He smiled as he held out his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Jake Jensen. I’m Julia Black.” I smiled back as I shook his hand.
The feeling of my skin heating up when I touched him was unreal. It was a feeling that I’d never felt in my eighteen years of living.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Julia Black. So, why are you trying to escape your graduation party?”
I felt instantly comfortable with Jake, and I didn’t seem to have any reservations about telling him my problems. “My best friend died a month ago from a drug overdose while she was in rehab.”
“Wow. How do you overdose in rehab?”
“I don’t know. Neither the doctors nor the facility could give us an explanation. She used to come here and stay with us every summer, and not to have her here, especially at my graduation party, is really hard.”
“I’m really sorry, Julia,” he said as he looked down.
“Thank you, but it’s okay. It’s all just a bit overwhelming. Enough about me. Tell me about you, Jake Jensen.”
He laughed as he looked up at me. “My parents just bought the house down the beach. I have two sisters, and I just finished my first year at Columbia.”
“Columbia? I’m going to Columbia in the fall.” I smiled.
“Really? You’ll love it, and now you know someone who can show you around.”
“That’s great; then, I won’t feel so scared,” I said as I looked down.
“No, you won’t,” he whispered.
I looked over at him and, for a moment, we stared into each other’s eyes.
“Julia,” I heard Collin yell from a distance. “Dad said you need to come back now.”
“That’s my brother. I guess I have to go,” I said as I stood up.
“It was great to meet you, Julia Black. I hope to see you around.” He smiled.
I smiled back at him as I put my hand up and gave him a small wave. I started to walk towards Collin, stopped, and turned around. “Hey, Jake,” I yelled. “Would you like to come back with me so you can see the craziness of my graduation party?
He smiled as shouted back. “Sure, just let me take Mozart home and grab a shirt. I’ll be back in a minute.”
“I’ll wait for you.” I smiled. “Collin, tell Dad that I’ll be there in a minute.”
Collin walked over to where I was standing. “Who’s that?”
“Someone who just swept me off my feet,” I said as I put my head on Collin’s shoulder.
As I waited for Jake to return, Collin went back to the house. I stared out into the ocean as I whispered, “London, did you see him? Jake Jensen? I know I’ve only known him for about thirty minutes, but I think he’s something special.”
“Hey,” Jake said as he walked up to me. “Thanks for waiting.”
“Hi. No problem,” I said as we walked through the sand back to my house.
We could hear the music and the laughter as we walked towards the house. “My God, how many people did your parents invite?”
“About 300 people.” I smiled.
“Yeah, me and my dad were trying to hide out this morning, but my mom caught us.”
We walked up to the patio and made our way through the crowd. I saw my mom standing in the kitchen, talking to my dad. Both of them turned and looked at me as we stepped through the door.
“Where have you been?” my mom asked.
“I told Dad that I was taking a walk down the beach.”
“Yes, you did, Julia, but that was a long time ago,” my dad said as he looked at Jake. “Who’s your friend, Princess?”
“Dad, Mom, this is Jake Jensen. We met on the beach.”
Jake held out his hand to both my mom and dad. “Jensen,” my dad said as he looked at Jake.
“Daddy!” I exclaimed.
“You wouldn’t happen to be William Jensen’s son, would you?”
“Yes, sir. He’s my dad.” Jake smiled.
“Ah, I knew it. Jake’s father owns the largest dealership in the city, where I buy my Range Rovers. I’ve been buying from your father for years.”
“Mr. Black, that’s right. I’ve heard your name before. You own Black Enterprises. My dad talks about you.”
“All good, I hope.”
“Of course.” Jake smiled.
Okay, this was perfect. My dad knew Jake’s dad and he seemed to really like him. I couldn’t have asked for this meeting to be more perfect.
“You and Julia have already met,” my dad said.