Home > See Me(22)

See Me(22)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

“I’m not interested in him.”

“You’ve been making that clear all night,” Serena agreed, feigning innocence. “He’s definitely not the type you’d ever want to go dancing with. A guy that handsome? Please.”

Maria opened her mouth to respond but closed it again, knowing that saying anything more would only encourage her sister further. In the silence, Serena’s phone pinged and she peered down at it.

“Steve’s downstairs. You ready to go? Or would you rather wait here for a bit?”

“Why? Because you want me to hit on Colin?”

“He’s not here.”

Maria looked up; sure enough, Colin was gone.

“He was working the afternoon shift, so he’s probably off the clock,” Serena added, sliding off her stool. She hitched her purse over her shoulder. “Thanks for dinner, by the way. Do you want to walk down with me?”

Maria reached for her purse. “I thought you said you didn’t want me to meet Steve.”

“I was kidding. He wants to be a lawyer, by the way. Maybe you can talk him out of it.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Do you really need me to answer that question after all you’ve been through?”

Maria was silent. Serena, like their parents, knew how hard the last couple of years had been.

“Still,” Serena said, “it’s a shame.”

“What’s a shame?”

“I know Colin was busy tonight, but you never did thank him for changing your tire. You might not want to talk to him, but it was a nice thing for him to do that night, and you could have told him so.”

Again Maria said nothing, but as she followed Serena to the stairs, she found herself thinking that her sister was, as usual, right.

Steve was cute in a preppy kind of way, right down to the plaid shorts and light blue polo that matched his Topsiders. He came across as nice enough, though it was apparent within minutes that he was a lot more interested in Serena than she was in him, since she spent most of her time talking to Melissa. Though Maria chided herself for it as she started in the direction of her car, she found herself envying the ease with which her younger sister seemed to navigate every facet of her life.

Then again, how hard was life for a twenty-one-year-old student? College was a bubble that kept the rest of the world at bay. There was an abundance of free time, friends who lived either with you or right next door, and an overwhelming sense of optimism about the future, even if you had no idea as to the specifics of what that might mean. In college, everyone accepted the fact that their lives would turn out exactly as planned, buoying them from one good memory to the next in a cascade of carefree three-day weekends.

She hesitated, changing her mind. Well, for people like Serena, anyway. Maria’s own experience had been different because she’d taken her education more seriously than most – she could remember being way too stressed way too often. In retrospect, she realized that she’d probably spent too much time studying and worrying about exams. She recalled working on papers until the wee hours of the morning, editing them over and over until every word was just right. At the time, it seemed like the most important thing in the world, but in the last few years, she’d begun to wonder why she’d taken it all so seriously. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Mark Zuckerberg had dropped out of college, and they’d done okay, right? They intuitively understood that the world didn’t care about grades or even graduating, at least not in the long run, especially when compared to traits like creativity or persistence. Sure, her grades had likely helped her land her very first job with the district attorney’s office, but had anyone cared since then? When she’d been hired at the firm, they’d been interested only in her work experience and seemed to regard the first twenty-four years of her life as inconsequential. These days, Barney’s conversations were centered on her current work product, and Ken’s interests were of a different nature entirely.

Thinking back, she regretted not taking a year off after graduation and going backpacking through Europe, or volunteering for Teach for America or whatever. Frankly, it didn’t matter what she did as long as it was something interesting, but she’d been in such a headlong rush to grow up and become an adult that those thoughts had never even entered her mind. She didn’t always feel like she was really living, though, and she sometimes found herself regretting the choices she’d made. And on that subject, wasn’t she too young to have these kinds of regrets, anyway? Weren’t those supposed to start in middle age? Lord knows, her mom and dad didn’t seem to have any and they were middle-aged. Meanwhile, Serena acted as though she didn’t have a care in the world, either – so where had Maria gone wrong?

She blamed her melancholy thoughts on the piña coladas, whose effects she was still feeling a bit. Deciding to give herself a little more time before she got behind the wheel, she squinted at the pier and decided, Why not? Dusk was coming on, but she still had another hour or so before it was dark.

Turning around, she started that way, watching the chaotic activity as families began to depart the beach en masse. Sunburned kids, overtired and whining, trailed their equally sunburned and overtired parents, who were hauling boogie boards, coolers, umbrellas, and towels.

At the beach, she stopped to slip off her sandals, wondering if she’d recognize anyone from high school or whether they’d recognize her, but she spotted no one familiar. She trudged through the sand and when she reached the pier, she made her way up the steps just as the sun was beginning its slow descent. Through the slats beneath her feet, she watched as sand gave way to shallow water, then finally to waves cascading toward the shore. In either direction, surfers were still catching swells. Admiring their graceful movements, she passed people fishing; men and women, young and old, all of them lost in their own worlds. She remembered that when she had been a teenager, a boy she’d liked had once talked her into giving it a try. It was a blazing-hot day and casting was more difficult than she thought it would be. They eventually left the pier empty-handed, and she later realized that she liked the boy a lot more than she’d ever like fishing.

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