Who does that?!?
Being the only Berry family in town doesn't really help matters. I don't just mean me and my parents. We are actually related to every other Berry in this town!
That's it. The entire population of Berrys in Sunset Valley. Our family reunions are the most colourful thing that happens in town.
Ok, Ok so I'm not technically related to Uncle Plum and Aunt Blaze and their kids.
There is some weird thing between them and Auntie Nuala that I don't really get and no one talks about. But I mean I grew up calling all of them cousins and they are Peach and Pear's brothers and sisters so I can't not think of them as family.
My parents tried to be normal when I was growing up, they really did. Mum and dad went out and bought me a room that any boy would love full of racing cars and sports paraphernalia. Of course they got it in berry colours so it just wasn't quite right.
The second I was old enough to be out of the house on my own I escaped to the beach. The sun, sand and waves washed it all away. On the water I wasn't from an odd family, I wasn't a Berry sticking out in this vanilla town, I just was. It was my escape, the one place I could truly be me. And, if I'm being completely honest, it was a great way to meet girls.
Well I say meet, but it was more like trip over my own tongue and make a complete fool of myself anytime I tried to talk to them. See I was the kind of boy that stayed up all night doing a 'team' project for school only to go over to my team-mates house and find her making out on the sofa with the most popular guy in school.
It wasn't that I couldn't talk to girls. I actually even had a couple of friends who happened to be girls. It was just that every time I really liked a girl I turned into some sort of bumbling fool who was always doing and saying the wrong things. My grandpa pulled me a side once after a particularly embarrassing attempt to ask a girl in my class out.
Checks burning with embarrassment I made my way over
"Sit down son," he said when I got to his side. We sat there for what seemed like an eternity looking out at the ocean. The sun touched the water and the colour began to drain out of the sky my as cheeks began return to their normal colour.
As if knowing I was sitting there kicking myself for being so stupid Grandpa started talking. "I say you today," my checks flushed again and I opened my mouth to say something but he wasn't done. "Out there on those waves. You've got a talent kid there's no denying that."
That made me pause and I sat there, mouth half open, not sure of what to say.
"That one wave, the one you just slid into when everyone else fell away. Pretty impressive. How'd you do that?"
I shrugged and he just looked at me one eye brow raised as if to say "You can answer better than that."
"I don't know," I said. Seeing his eyebrow still raised I carried on. "Really I don't. I didn't think about it I just did it. It just felt...right." I shrugged again not knowing what else I could say. We sat in silence for a while longer before he spoke again.
"Girls are like that you know." It was my turn to look at him with an eyebrow raised. "When it's the right girl you can't explain what happened, it just feels right. When you are trying to hard for it..." he pointed out the the water to a lone surfer trying desperately to catch one last wave under the setting sun. As we watched the wave rose up behind him and without any concern for his attempts knocked him off his board. I winced as he fell. "Yeah it can hurt, love can. Some times it's all glory and rapture, others..."
"You end up looking like a fool." I finished for him.
"That can happen." He said chuckling. "Even with the right girl that can happen. But the thing to remember is you can't try too hard for it. Wait for when it feels right. Wait for that moment that and you won't even realise you went up to talk to her until you are halfway through the conversation. Wait for it and you will have your moment."
"But what if I screw it up and miss my one moment?"
He was chucking again. "There's more than one moment. Trust me."
As I sat there watching him laughing and staring out at the setting sun I began to think maybe the rumours were true. Maybe he had been something of a ladies man.
As much as I hated to admit it Grandpa was right. It didn't help me get a girlfriend but at least I stopped looking like such a fool. And because I wasn't trying so hard it was actually easier to make friends with girls.
It wasn't until I had left my awkward teenage years behind me that I managed to get my first girlfriend. At least I will always think of her that way, what she thinks about what happened I'll never know....
It was the first summer after I graduated high school and I couldn't think of a more perfect way to spend it than at the beach. Considering this my last real summer of freedom I wasn't going to waste a second of it. I couldn't have known it would be the summer that would change my life.
I had met Lingonberry over the twittersphere and felt comfortable around her, I mean she was a surfer and we could just hang out and talk about the waves and water for hours. But what I didn't expect was, well, her.
She was stunning. A smile that was brighter than the sun on the water, a body like a wave I could ride for hours and a laugh that sparkled like a rainbow over the ocean. Lin was the one absolutely perfect girl that I could actually be myself around and I was instantly smitten. But following Grandpa's advice I didn't try to make it happen I just worshipped from a far and counted every minute I was with her a blessing hoping for that moment.
It happened one night after the crowds had gone home. I never wanted to leave the beach at the end of the day preferring instead to let the sound of the waves crashing against the shore sooth me before I ventured home. That night, for the first time, I wasn't alone.
"Mind if I join you?" Although quiet and smooth her voice startled me out of my reverie. She laughed softly as I tired to stop my heart hammering in my chest. "Sorry I didn't mean to scare you." Oh Berry her laugh was magical.
"No it's fine." I said trying not to let it show how embarrassed I was by the fact that she actually did scare me. "Have a seat."
She sat and we both stared out at the beach from behind the fire. It was the perfect night. The stars reflected off the water and shone with a brilliance that was only dimmed by the light in Lin's eyes. We sat in silence, not an uncomfortable awkward silence but the silence of two people growing closer to the night and to each other. After a time, she shivered. It was a small thing, barely noticeable, but I was so aware of her every move that it felt as if the entire beach had shuttered.
"You're cold" I said, so quietly it was practically a whisper.
"Maybe a bit."
I don't know what came over me but before I could stop myself my arm had reached out and pulled her close. Without a word she softly sighed and dropped her head on to my shoulder.
And so began the most magical summer of my life. I would practically leap out of bed in the mornings board in hand as I hurled myself to the beach and to Lin.
And she'd be there, waiting for me with a smile playing across those perfect lips. We spent nearly all the time we were on the beach together.
My heart swelled with love with every minute we spent together and I counted myself the luckiest Berry alive. As the season turned and summer began to wan the crowds at the beach dwindled with people returning to the real world. But we hung on to the summer and each other.
One night we found ourselves once again alone at what had become our spot on the beach. The nights had become noticeably colder now and I no longer needed an excuse to hold her in my arms.
Swept up in the moment I sighed. "I could just stay here forever." She stiffened in my arms and I looked around thinking she saw something that upset her. Seeing nothing I turned to her confused. "Is everything ok?"
"Um yeah but when you say forever, why would you say that?"
I chuckled. "Why wouldn't I want to lie on a beach with my girlfriend in my arms forever?"
"Girlfriend?!?" Shock and confusion covered her face and echoed in her voice as she pulled away. "You think I'm your girlfriend?"
"Well of course I do. What else would you be?"
"But Bondi," I could see her struggling with something the words fighting to get out. "Bondi I can't be your girlfriend. I'm involved with someone we're, well it's serious."
Her words hit me like a cannonball. I could barely breath but pushed the word out anyway. "But this," I said gesturing to the fire and the beach. "All of this. What was this if not..."
She was uncomfortable now, playing with her hair and trying not to look me in the eye. "It's the beach. The sun, the sand, the waves. I didn't mean for anything to happen. I didn't really think anything had happened, not really. I well..."
"Did it mean nothing to you? Do you even care about me?" Every thing was blurring in front of my eyes and my chest ached as if it had been pierced with the sharpest of knives.
"I do care about you! I...." she reached out to touch me but pulled her hand away at the last second. "I just can't...." Her voice trailed off thick with tears.
That was the one thing I couldn't refute. She couldn't be with me, wouldn't be with me. There was nothing else I could do, I turned and started to walk away.
I heard her voice before I had taken two steps "Wait!"
The pain in her voice ripped through me once more. I steeled myself and kept walking every step I took leaving a piece of my heart with it.
I died that night. My body still moved, it talked, it ate but I wasn't there. I couldn't go to the beach any more, she was there. Not in body but in spirit. I would have killed to see her again but the thought of seeing her hurt more than not seeing her. How could I have been so foolish. Goddesses like Lin never fall for mere mortals like me. I have nothing to offer to such creatures. Empty and alone I wandered through town trying to find a calling, something I could throw myself into and hopefully drown. But the town was filled with traces of her.
I tried to escape but there was no where I could go that didn't have a lingering memory of her. I was getting desperate, I had to leave but I had nowhere to go. My whole life was in Sunset Valley. In the end it was a conversation I overheard that gave me the answer.
"That was Peach," My mum said smile evident in her voice. "The girls are having such an amazing time in Bridgeport. I have to admit I was worried about them when they moved out there but they are really thriving."
"I'm glad to hear it." My dad replied. "Those two always did have too much spirit for this little town. They say you can loose yourself in that city but ever since we went there for that summer vacation I knew they would shine there."
A city you can loose yourself in and an excuse to go there. It was perfect. In that moment I decided to move to Bridgeport.
I went to the beach one last time before I left town. My heart still ached and I was half hopeful and half terrified I'd find Lin there. But the beach was empty and I made my way to the fire pit where so much of what we shared had happened. Staring out at the water I knew I would never feel the same way about the sand and the waves. I knew I'd made the right choice to leave Sunset Valley I just hoped I could find something worthwhile in Bridgeport.
I gathered my things and said a tearful goodbye to my parents.
I didn't have much in the way of belongings, choosing to leave behind anything that could remind me of the beach.
The first thing that hit me when I got to the city was the noise. It seemed to echo off every surface amplifying the smallest thing and colliding into a giant cacophony. The next thing I noticed where the people. They were everywhere. It seemed there wasn't a space on the street that didn't have someone there trying to get somewhere else in hurry. I stared lost and overwhelmed in an attempt to get my bearings when something caught my eye.
And suddenly the beauty of the city took my breath away.