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Chris pulled his tattered baseball cap a little further down on his head. It was an instinct, an impulse at that first, sharp hint of new tears.
The air was unnaturally cool for a Florida summer night. A chilling wind whipped over the gently waving waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the strange weather certainly didn't help Chris Foster's condition. His deep hazel eyes welled with moisture. He breathed.
He took a long sip of his iced coffee and looked out at the sea from his position on the boardwalk. People passed in front of him, behind him, all around him. They all had their problems, yes, but Chris was convinced that his were much, much worse. Silently, he prayed she wouldn't be in the crowd--she haunted his thoughts, and he didn't need or want to see her in person.
Yanking down the sleeves of his loose, blue checked shirt, Chris let out a small groan and an expletive. He couldn't stay in this city anymore. Everything reminded him of her. The one thing he loved more than her, the beach, wasn't even sacred anymore. He threw his plastic cup into a nearby trashcan.
With a sigh in his step, Chris made his way down the boardwalk, passing tourists and shops selling Panama City Beach merchandise. Near the end of the boardwalk was a Christian retreat center, and beyond that was Chris' destination--an abandoned, storm-beaten dock.
He let his tears pour more freely now, knowing no one was around. Intuitively,--no, out of habit--he stepped around the termite-eaten holes in the wood and went to the edge of the dock. Chris crouched down, then sat. Overwhelmed by emotion, he fell back and stared up at the sky.
The sun was setting over the water, and stars glinted in the navy-colored space above him. Months ago, he'd laid the same way here with her, numbered the stars with her, told stories about the constellations with her.
Chris forced himself to sit up, but found yet another remnant of their relationship. It came from a night that was still fresh in his mind--she'd stretched out over his thighs and intertwined her fingers with his, but he'd pulled his pocketknife from his jeans and carved their initials into the dock's post. CF RB
He breathed in the salty spritz of the ocean and let its briny scent tear at the corners of his eyes. Nothing could ever be the same, quite honestly, and he wasn't ready to face that.
"Oh, wow..." murmured a feminine voice. It was warm as summer sand, yet somehow broken.
Chris dared himself to turn and confront the person--but felt like taking her into his arms and pressing his lips against hers. He felt like twisting his fingers through her autumn-brown hair and whispering quivering apologies into her ear eternally.
His breath caught as he spoke her name. "Rayne..." she was just as beautiful as always, effortlessly charming without makeup or fancy clothes. Faded black streaks ran down her cheeks. She, too, had been crying.
She let out a pained little laugh and glanced at Chris' shaking hands. "We always did think alike."
He looked her up and down. Her muscled legs poked out beneath a pair of frayed jeans cut off at the knee. A black flannel shirt he recognized as his own was pulled across her skin, and she wore no shoes.
"So have you. How long have you been out here?"
"Long enough to realize I can't live without you." he reached to put a hand to her shoulder, but she resisted.
"Remember all the nights we spent out here? When I used to bring my guitar and we'd sing back and forth?" A hopeful smile crawled across his face.
Rayne shook her head. "We shouldn't be doing this. I--I should go back home. Brayden will be wondering where I am, and I--"
"Shh." Chris pleaded, taking a step closer to her. Heat radiated from her body, from her very fingertips as they grazed his. "Remember when we used to--"
"Used to, Chris." she breathed. "We used to." Her green eyes darkened. "As much as I'd like to relive those days, we can't. It hurts too much."
He put his hands on her forearms, then slowly slid them down to rest in her palms. "I love you, Rayne, you know that."
She turned her head away, not even able to keep eye contact with him anymore. "Please don't do this..."
"This is my fault. What I did killed us. I don't think we were meant to end, Rayne." his voice cracked as he squeezed her hands tighter.
"What you did killed me! You were so wrapped up in her. You didn't even think about me."
Chris opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off. "Chris, you...you ruined my perception of love. I can't trust you anymore." She let out a sob and pulled her hands from his.
"What Becks and I had was nothing compared to this."
"But you still took it! You lied to me!" Rayne cried.
"I... don't know what else to say except that I'm sorry. All I could think about today was you, Rayne."
"You're thinking of me a bit too late, aren't you?"
"Well, yes, but...God, Rayne, I was drunk out my a** when I was with Becks! I never had any feelings for her, never!"
"You obviously thought highly enough of her to sleep with her!" she shouted, violently jerking her body away from his.
She stepped to the edge of the dock and looked out at the water, shoving her hands down into her pockets. "We could have been perfect, Chris."
He looked over at her silhoutette outlined in reminders of a dying orange sunset. Her body seemed to quake. He moved toward her.
"I made a mistake. I made a big, big mistake." he sighed, his stance echoing hers. "But it's just that. It was a mistake."
Rayne glanced over at him and examined his face. An expression of sadness played at his thin lips, sweat and tears caught in the gentle curls of his black hair, and his hazel eyes gleamed glassy as he fought back sobs.
"I understand that, Chris, but it's been half a year, and you're just now apologizing. We're twenty-three, we're young...don't you think it could have...well, maybe it wasn't meant to be?"
"Would we both be here crying if it wasn't?" He forced a smile.
She barely laughed. "God, Chris, what's wrong with us? We're pathetic, we shouldn't even be here."
"It's our three year anniversary, why shouldn't we be?"
Rayne faced him and gently slid her arms underneath his, wrapping them around him. Chris' eyes widened, then he fell into her slow breathing rhythm. He ran his fingers through her hair and took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry." he murmured as a warm breeze swept through the air.
She closed her eyes, pressed her face into the crook of his neck, and smiled.