One Last Kiss

By: Susan Ward

An Affair Without End ~Book 1 ~





CHAPTER ONE

1980

I storm out of the house and push my way through the swarm of drunken students. Somehow, I missed the rowdy cheer that followed the announcement that the cops have sealed off the roads, and the only way left out of this college town nightmare is the beach.

It’s nearly impossible to navigate a path through the mob. A stream of beer hits my cheek and I hold up my hand to ward it off. The guy at the keg shoots the hose at me again and his buddies erupt into laughter. I reach the wooden steps over the cliffs and quickly descend to the beach.

Damn Rob. I should never have come to Santa Barbara with him. Spending Halloween hitting the college party scene was a definite mistake. It might be a good way to promote Rob’s band, doing a gig at the biggest college town bash of the year, but it never stood a chance at being a good thing for me.

Why does Rob have to be such a jerk? We’d only been at the party an hour before he decided the band should take a set break so he could sneak off with another girl. And the jerk doesn’t even care that I caught him.

I sink into the sand and stare at the water. What do I do now? I could go back to the party and snag myself the first cute guy who looks at me and then rub it in Rob’s face.

No, it’s probably a better idea to take the car and ditch him here. Let him drive back to LA in that overcrowded, stinky van with the band. I should dump his clothes on the side of the road and get the hell out of Santa Barbara and back to the real world.

“Linda, what’s wrong? Why did you run out of the party like you were being chased by demons?”

I look up to find Jeanette standing above me. So, she noticed my humiliating flight from the frat house.

I shrug. “Rob being Rob.”

She shakes her head with an aggravated exhale that sounds like a growl.

She sinks down on the sand beside me. “God, Linda, what do you expect? You know how guys like Rob are? You need to get over this thing you have for musicians. It’s not healthy. They all treat you like crap.”

My eyes round and I fix on her a back-off kind of stare. “Thanks for the pep talk. We should do this again sometime real soon.”

Jeanette shakes her head again. “I’m just saying you’re better than the guys you date.”

I spring to my feet and start to brush the sand from my legs. “I’m going for a walk. Don’t follow.”

I plod through the sand until I’m at the surf line.

“Linda, don’t be this way. You can’t take off at night alone on the beach. It’s not safe. Let’s just get the car and get out of here. Forget Rob. I’m not driving him back to LA after being such a jerk to you. You can do better.”

I pretend not to hear her and continue to walk.

“Linda! Don’t be this way.”

I hurry down the coastline and Jeanette doesn’t follow. She’s knows better than to follow me when I am in one of my moods and I really don’t want another chapter of her relationship advice. What does Jeanette know about being me?

She is beautiful; I am not. I’m sort of pretty, but I wouldn’t say drop-dead-gorgeous like Jeanette. She is rich and I am not. She comes from a great family, and while Doris, my mom, is a pretty OK mom—no grievances there—I wouldn’t call her “a great family.”

My mom works as a waitress in Encino and still suffers from the delusion that my dad might return someday. He’s been gone since before my birth.

I push my frizzy black hair from my face. Damn ocean air, the unavoidable frizz machine that can ruin even the best hair day. I’ll look like Annie if I walk much longer, but I definitely don’t want to go back to Jeanette and hear another of her lectures.

She thinks that my wayward trek through the LA musician population is just me trying to fill the hole left from being raised without a father. According to my roomie, I date loser musicians because my dad’s music career was more important to him than me.

Nope, don’t want to hear Jeanette’s theories about my alleged abandonment issues.

I look over my shoulder and see that Jeanette must have gone back to the party. Wrong again, roomie. I date only musicians because I’m trying to find my dad.

The sounds from the party become fainter with each step and I begin to slow my pace. The moon is high, brilliant and full, and the tide is low. It’s one of those rare fogless nights and I’m grateful for it because I’m really not dressed for a dose of chilly ocean mist.

I wonder how long low tide lasts. If the tide starts to come in, I will never make it around the points along the coastline to get back to Isla Vista and Jeanette. I realize that I’ve walked so far that I’ve left the public beach and am now in an area of beachfront estates.

I look up at the massive homes on the cliffs, fully illuminated in the darkness. What must it be like to have enough money to let an entire house full of lights stay on through the night? Doris would get angry if I left lights on in the kitchen for five minutes.

I stop myself there, not wanting to dredge up the less pleasant parts of my childhood. I live in the dorms at USC thanks to my scholarship. I won’t ever have to go back to that tiny condo in Reseda where I was raised.

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