My Summer Love
by S. Lee
They say you never forget your first love. I know theyre right. I could never forget mine. It was the most amazing summer of my life and she was the most amazing woman. I was eighteen years old and had just graduated from high school. I was scheduled to spend my summer in Corpus Christi, Texas working at the Texas State Aquarium, just like I had the last few summers. Ive wanted to be a marine biologist my entire life. I love the water and everything in it. I guess its the Pisces in me. My parents gave me the use of their condo for the summer, before I headed to California for college.
I arrived two days after graduation. I couldnt wait to start my summer. Spending the summer scuba diving and working with the animals sounded like heaven. I didnt know at the time, quite how profoundly that summer would impact my life. I went to the grocery store to stock up, and there she was, my high school swimming coach. My breath caught, and it felt like my heart jumped into my throat. I had been in love with her for four years. She was thirty, tall, long dark hair, and gorgeous blue eyes. We spent countless hours together over the years and had developed a friendship. During my Senior year, we started working out together. It was everything I could do to control myself as I stood over her when I was spotting for her on the bench as she pushed the barbell up and down. Hiding around another aisle, I watched her for a few minutes. Finally, I swallowed hard and walked over to her.
"Hey Coach, what are you doing here?" She looked in my direction, her face lighting up.
"Now Quinn, I told you. Youve graduated. You can call me Carol. I always spend my summers here. What are you doing here?"
"Im working at the aquarium. I have for the past couple of years." I tried to control my joy in seeing her again.
"Well, Im surprised I havent seen you in town before. Are your parents with you? Id love to say hi."
"No. They usually come, but theyre both swamped this summer. Im staying by myself in their condo." The coach smiled.
"Well it looks like were both here on our own. Im glad I ran into you. Its so nice to see you Quinn. How bout we get together for dinner tonight? My treat. We can celebrate your graduation." A huge grin spread across my face.
"Id like that. Let me give you my address and number." I tried to write as legibly as I could with shaking hands. She wrote down her contact information and handed it to me.
"Here, Quinn. Ill pick you up at seven. If something comes up or if you get a better offer, give me a call and we can reschedule." Her chuckle and smile made my knees weak.
"That would be impossible, Co...umm I mean Carol. Ill see you tonight." We locked eyes for a minute, I was unable to speak.
"See you tonight. Dress casual." She walked off and I was left standing in the middle of the frozen foods, staring.
That night, I must have changed outfits a hundred times before she arrived. I wanted to make a good impression. I didnt want her to think of me as a kid. She picked me up right on time. I thought I was going to fall over. She looked beautiful in a soft summer dress and sandals. I just prayed I wouldnt do anything stupid. We sat at dinner, laughing, and talking. Her blue eyes had me spellbound. Her laugher was like music to my ears. Her smile was like sunshine. We talked for hours about everything and anything. I decided to be bold and daring and to take a risk.
"I have a confession to make Carol." She looked at me quizzically.
"Ok, go ahead. You can tell me anything. You know that." I took a drink of my water. I couldnt look directly into her eyes.
"Ive had a crush on you for the last four years." I reluctantly looked at her. She had a gentle smile.
"Quinn, I know." I was shocked.
"But, how?" She put her hand on mine.
"Ive been teaching a long time. Youre not the first." Feeling a bit deflated, I sat back in my chair.
"Oh." She continued, carefully choosing her words.
"Im quite a bit older than you, and your teacher. Its natural to have feelings of hero worship." I protested. This could be my only chance and Ill be damned if I wasnt going to grab it.
"Its more than that Carol. You know all of those races I won, all the medals? I did it for you. I wanted you to be proud of me. Ive felt this way for the last four years. Im an adult and Im not your student anymore." She had not moved her hand. She paused and took a deep breath.
"Quinn, while you are not the first to have a crush on me. You are the first one I have had feelings for as well. It was so hard at times, trying to keep things from getting too personal. There were so many times, like when you won the freestyle at State, that I just wanted to take you in my arms and kiss you. I tried to put distance between us more than once. You are not like any other student Ive ever taught. I find myself being irresistibly drawn to you. " Now I was blown away. I had to take it in.
" Why didnt you tell me?"
"I was your teacher. It would have been inappropriate. Honestly, if I hadn't run into you here, I would not have told you." I nodded my head in understanding.
"Carol, Ive only got ten weeks before I have to leave. I dont want to waste time playing games. Would you go out with me....on a date?" She stroked the back of my hand with her thumb.
"I would love to go out with you Quinn." I couldnt keep the grin from consuming my face. Her smile took my breath away.
"I have a graduation present for you. I thought I was going to have so send it to you." A giddy feeling erupted through my entire body. I had to hold back a squeal.
"Really? You didnt have to do that. Being here with you, having you hold my hand, that in itself is more than I ever dreamed of." She leaned down and pulled a small box out of her purse and set it on the table. I opened it carefully. It was a gold necklace with a golden shark pendant.
"Oh wow Carol. Its beautiful, thank you so much. I love it."
"Do you really? I know how much you like sharks." She was grinning with amusement.
"Yes I do. This is so amazing." We left the restaurant and held hands in the car. I couldnt take my eyes off of her. I hated to see the night end when we drove up to my place.
"Thank you for everything tonight. It was beyond what I could have imagined." She smiled and lifted my hand to her lips.
"Theres one more thing." With that she leaned in and held my chin and brushed her lips against mine. The tentative kiss grew until our tongues were moving in a dance of passion. I became lost in the sensations. She pulled away, leaving me in a daze.
"Call me, Id like to see you soon." All I could do was nod. Her kiss stole my voice. I got out of her car with a silly grin on my face. I called her the next day and we began dating. We spent most of our time together. We went cycling, sailing, running, and I even taught her to scuba dive. She would come visit me and watch me work with the dolphins. I would wave to her from inside the observation tank during the fish feeding exhibition. It was the most amazing time of my life and we were falling more and more in love.
About a month after we began seeing one another, I came over to her place and was greeted with a romantic setting. She had candles lit, flowers, and a beautiful dinner. Soft music was playing in the background. I smiled at her.
"Carol, what is all this?" She wrapped her arms around my neck.
"I wanted to have a special night with you." I kissed her deeply.
"Everything looks beautiful, including you." Her softness and warmth were overwhelming. She looked at me with such love and desire, I had to look away before I began to cry.
"I want this night to be one that we always remember." I swallowed hard. Part of me was jumping up and down with joy. The other part of me wanted to run out the door. It was obvious she wanted to make love. But, I had never done that before. I worried that I wouldnt be good enough. She was so beautiful and loving during dinner and I could barely say a word. Inside, I was panicking. After dinner, we sat on the porch swing outside. We cuddled and watched the waves crash on the sand.
"Quinn, is there something wrong?" I looked at her.
"No of course not. Why do you ask?" She knew me well enough to see through my silence.
"You barely said anything through dinner, you seem so far away. Please talk to me. Have I done something wrong? Have I come on too strong? I think we can both see where this night was supposed to lead. I want to make love with you. I thought you wanted to make love with me as well." I could see the questions and the hurt in her eyes, and it was killing me.
"Everything is so perfect. You are perfect. Its just that.....well....Ive never...ummmm....been with anyone before. And Im kind of scared. I dont want to disappoint you. Im not sure what to do." She looked at me tenderly, with compassion. She kissed me softly.
"Quinn honey, sometimes I forget youre only eighteen. Do you love me?"
"Of course I do," I said.
"Well then, you wont disappoint me. Believe me, you will quickly figure out what to do. Plus Ill be there to help you every step of the way. I love you Quinn, and you love me. That is all that matters. Everything else will fall into place. Id like to spend the night with you, we dont necessarily have to make love. I dont want to pressure you." I pressed my lips against her forehead and placed my hands on the side of her face.
"Baby, there is nothing I want more than to make love with you. You have not come on too strong. I love you and Im dying to show you how much. Like I said, I am scared I wont be able to please you. Do you think you can be a patient teacher?" She smiled and took my hand.
"Havent I always?"
She led me to the bedroom. It was the most romantic thing I had ever seen. The bed was covered in rose petals, Joni Mitchell was playing in the background, and candles softly lit up the room. She sat me down on the edge of the bed. She stood in front of me and slowly removed her clothes. Her skin glowing in the candlelight took my breath away. I had never seen anything so amazing in my short life. She walked toward me and I wrapped my arms around her, laying my cheek against her skin, breathing her in. She laid me back on the bed and showed me love like I had never known before or since. It was passionate, loving, strong, wild, slow, and easy. It was the most magnificent experience of my life.
We were completely attached after this night. We spent few nights apart. I even took her down to Florida with me on an expedition to tag some sharks. She stayed in the boat though. She wasnt too thrilled when I went in the water. In fact, she was quite upset.
"Do you have to go in the water?" I chuckled slightly and kissed her on the nose as I got into my wet suit.
"Yes, its my job."
"But you could get bit." She had her arms crossed against her chest.
"Honey, Im going to be fine. Ive done this before. I am just going to attach the radio transmitter to the dorsal fin using this pole as the shark is going by. Its no big deal. Its what I love, you know that."
"I know. I guess I never really thought about it before. Just please be careful. I dont know what Id do if something happened to you." I smiled at the loving sentiment.
" Ill be careful, I promise. But I love you for worrying."
I strapped the tank onto my back and got into the water. Soon, there were over a dozen black tip sharks feasting on the bait we planted. I even fed a couple of them by hand. Ill also never forget that night. Carol and I made love from dusk till dawn. I thought to myself. I should risk my life more often.
As our time was growing shorter, we began to treasure every minute and spent every night together. I was sure that Carol was the great love of my life. I was ready to throw California away for her. She wouldnt let me though. We were lying in bed after making love one night. She was holding me close.
"It is going to kill me to leave you Carol." She kissed the top of my head.
"Its going to be rough on me too, love." I got up on my arm to look at her.
"Ive made a decision. I dont want to be so far away from you. I love you. I will always love you. I am going to stay here in Texas and go to A &M. After my first two years, I can transfer to their marine biology school in Galveston. Well only be a few hours apart. We can still see each other all the time." She sat up.
"Quinn, have you lost your mind? How can you even talk like that? You would throw away an opportunity of a lifetime. How hard did you work to get this spot in California?" I was confused as hell.
"Wait a second here. Dont you love me? Dont you want us to be together?" I began to cry. She held me tightly.
"Darling, of course I love you. You are so young and you have so much to experience. You havent lived enough to commit to a lifelong relationship. I am your first love. You will have so many more. You need to have more. You need to make your dreams come true." I was bawling at this point.
"It doesnt mean anything without you. I cant live without you Carol. I want you to marry me. Ill never love anyone else. I dont want to." She lifted my chin to look in her eyes.
"Quinn, I know you love me. It is because I love you that I have to let you go. I cant marry you now. You are not ready. It would be so easy for me to say yes and have you stay here with me. This last couple of months has been like a dream. You make me feel so wonderful and alive. This is tearing me apart, but I have to let you go because I love you so much. I know this hurts, but its the right thing to do." We were both crying at this point.
"Can I at least see you when I am home on break? Can I call you? Can I write you?" She kissed me softly.
"Of course you can honey. I hope you do. But we need to promise each other that there will be no obligations or commitments. I want you to have the freedom to experience your life. You have so much ahead of you. You are young, beautiful, and absolutely brilliant. We have had an amazing summer together. But I dont hold you to any expectations. I hope you always treasure the time weve had. I know I will. Perhaps in a few years, when the time is right, we can have a future together. For these last couple of weeks, lets just concentrate on the here and now and make every moment count. Dont ever forget how very much I love you Quinn, truly." She rocked me in her arms as I cried.
"Ill never stop loving you Carol." She said one word.
The day I left was one of the hardest of my life. We made love most of the night before, crying, holding one another tightly. She walked me out to my car the next morning. I didnt want to let her go.
"I hate leaving you. My heart is breaking." She stroked my back.
"I know, mine is too. But this is the only way my darling. You are going to do many great things. I am so proud of you. I am so proud to be someone you love."
"I do love you. Ill never forget you. Youll always be with me." She smiled sadly.
"I know. And youll be with me. I love you too. Please keep in touch and visit during semester break." I tried to return the smile.
"I will. You can always come to see me too." We shared one last kiss and I got into my car and drove away. Tears poured down my face.
She was right of course. I went off to school and got my Bachelors, Masters, and my Ph.D. I saw her for the first couple of years when I came home and it was as sweet as always. But I began to come home less and less and spent more and more time out in the field. It seems like some new expedition would come up every time I planned to go home. There were other women over the years, but she was and is still there in every touch , every sound, every breath.
So, here I am ten years later, on my summer vacation, sitting in the lobby of the Hilton, trying to work up the nerve to walk into my high school reunion. I havent seen her in eight years and we havent spoken in two. I wonder if shes in there. I am terrified, either way. I keep asking myself; is she there? Does she think of me? Is she with someone? Does she still love me? Does she miss me? I finally work up the courage to go in. I check in at the door and hug some of my old friends. I scan around the room and I spot her and she spots me. Our eyes meet and it seems like everyone else disappears. We both smile and walk towards one another.
"Carol, its good to see you." I pull her towards me in a hug. She feels like home. A flood of memories come back to me. She holds me tightly. She pulls back slightly to look at me. She smiles and brushes the hair behind my ears. "God, Ive missed you Quinn."
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