Love lasts beyond the cradle and the grave
She could feel death creeping up on her; slowly, painlessly, peacefully. Her chest became heavier; her breathing laboured. She could feel a weight on her soul. Darkness was taking her without a word. In the night, wrapped in the daisy patterned duvet of her bed, she reached to her bedside table and flicked on the lamp.
A circle of light appeared on the ceiling; pure, white, phantom-like. Her supple fingers wrapped around the metal detailing of the drawer handle. Tugging it open with a strained breath she buried her aged hand into the darkness of the drawer. Out with it came an old black and white photograph.
She ran the soft pads of her fingers over the fraying edges of the photograph. Like its edges, her memory was hazy; fading. Faces blurred, names were forgotten and places merged to one. But like the picture in this photo, the memories of those in it were clear, as though they had been made yesterday.
She glanced over the youthful faces of pure happiness; pure fulfilment. It was the time of their lives. Fireworks exploded in the background. The merriment of July the fourth celebrations warmed them through. She remembered that day perfectly. It was taken at the exact moment where everything was perfect. Turning the photo over and reading the back, written in faded, curved black pen was the name and date.
Em and Connor, 1988
Through her laboured breaths and weighty soul Em's lips turned up in a smile; the same smile of her adolescent years; the same smile in that very photograph. She had aged sixty years. She had experienced so many things in the time between those two smiles. But, looking at it again in her time of departure, she felt like she was eighteen again and madly in love.
A single, hot tear trickled down her flushed cheek, folding in and out of the wrinkles on her face which mapped out a long, painful life lived. Some sort of peace was settling over her.
It was the first day of senior year. Em was sitting in English class, not really paying attention. Tapping the pencil absentmindedly on the desk, she was only shaken from her haze when a foreign voice addressed her.
"Hey, do you have a pencil I could borrow?"
Em looked up. Bright blue eyes stared back at her curiously. They were alien to her. Like fireworks they were explosive, beautiful, intoxicating and thrilling. She had never seen them before.
She shook herself from the momentary daze and looked over this new person. Blue eyes, dark hair, tanned skin, a scar on his eyebrow, slight stubble, the sun shining brightly on his face; angelic-like. He was beautiful.
"A pencil?" she checked.
He nodded, a small smile playing on his lips. One dimple appeared on his right cheek. Em felt a creeping blush.
"Yeah, a pencil," he agreed, nodding to the yellow contraption in her hand. "One of those."
Em shook her head clear. "Oh yeah, here, take this one."
"You're not using it?"
Em shook her head again, noticing an Aerosmith t-shirt peeking out from under his open flannel shirt. It made her smile. "Not today."
The dimple appeared again. "I'm Connor," he greeted, his blue eyes watching her with an intensity that made her shiver. It was a revealing stare; a soul-bearing stare. "Connor Winchester. I'm new here."
Em smiled, taking his hand on offer and shaking it weakly. "Emma Ford," she replied. "But you can call me Em."
The dimple came again. Connor smiled so brightly that Em felt she might melt.
"Nice to meet you, Em. Thanks for the pencil."
It was four three weeks into senior year. Em had been walking Scooter along the beach when he took off. Scooter was her family dog; an overprotective, overly energetic, overly cuddly Pitbull who loved to run.
Em started sprinting off down the beach, calling his name as she ran. The beach air was exhilarating; the smell of sand, sea, salt and sun. But when Em saw Scooter heading straight for a figure at the end of the beach, leaping up on it and knocking it to the ground, all pleasant thoughts left her mind. Em picked up the speed as she went to catch her overly friendly Pitbull.
"I'm so sorry!" Em exclaimed, reaching the confrontation and grabbing onto Scooter's collar. She hooked the lead onto the metal ring with overwhelming satisfaction. "He got away from me. I'm so, so sorry."
Brushing her windblown hair away from her face and panting from the run, Em spotted who Scooter had knocked down.
Connor was lying on the ground, covered in sand, and pushing himself up on his arms. Spotting him, Em's heart beat just that little bit faster. The butterflies in her stomach felt like they were epileptic. His firework eyes met hers in an explosion of surprise.
That dimple appeared again. Em ran a nervous hand through her hair, trying to restrain Scooter's pulls. Connor laughed, pulling himself up from the sand. His clothes were covered in wet sand, but he couldn't care less. Em looked adorable; her cheeks flushed pink, her dark brown hair untamed and her green eyes glowing. He couldn't care less about his shirt.
"That's fine," Connor laughed, standing up and brushing himself off. Nodding to the dog and scratching the back of his head, Connor met Em's eyes. Her heart skipped a beat. She saw the intricate colours in them; not only blues, but yellows, greens and browns. "He's a friendly dog. What's his name?"
Em was all muddled up. Clutching at the lead to stop Scooter from assaulting Connor again, she tried to answer.
"Scooter. And 'friendly' doesn't cover it," she laughed.
Connor laughed too. The sound warmed Em's heart. It was a hearty, genuine sound. Kneeling down to Scooter, Connor patted him confidently, letting Scooter lick and smell his hands.
"He's an awesome dog," Connor encouraged, looking up to Em nervously. He wanted – needed – to continue the conversation.
"Thanks," Em popped, running another nervous hand through her hair and kneeling down to join Connor.
"How old is he?"
"Five and a half," Em answered. Connor grinned, taking Scooter's face in his hands as Scooter played with him. Em couldn't help but smile at this. "He likes you."
"I like him," Connor replied, looking up to Em. The corner of his mouth turned up in a smile. The dimple came again. But I like you more, he thought to himself.
Em shook her head clear. "So... ah... what are you doing down here?"
Connor grinned. "I was taking a walk, but now I have something else to do."
The dimple appeared again. Connor watched Em's curiosity cross her features. It made him chuckle.
"To ask you out on a date for tomorrow night."
"A date?" Em squeaked.
"Dinner," Connor explained. "I figure if we are going to keep meeting like this, we might as well get to know each other."
Em let loose a playful smile. "If I go, will I get my pencil back?"
"If I give it back, will I get a kiss?" Connor retorted, smirking just that little bit. Em's widening eyes following this made him chuckle.
This time Em couldn't stop the blush from creeping over her cheeks. Her heart thumped in her chest. Picking up Scooter's lead and standing up, she answered.
"Pick me up at seven," she agreed before turning and walking away. Connor watched her leave, and when she was far enough away, fell back into the sand with an unrestrained grin.
"Seven," he repeated to himself. "Finally."
"The red dress," Lisa countered defiantly. "Definitely the red. Red is sexy. Connor won't know what hit him."
Em frowned at the mirror. "But I like the white better," she debated.
"But the white is so boring," Lisa moaned. "Red will get his heart racing."
Em turned around to face her best friend, raising an eyebrow. "This is a first date, Lisa. I don't want to get his heart racing."
Lisa rolled her eyes. "You are so reserved. I still can't believe you are dating him."
Em raised an eyebrow. "Him? What do you mean by that?"
"It's just that you guys are so different! Honestly, Em. You're reserved and he's... not. It's just... it's just so surprising. You know I think it's adorable, Em. It's just that no one at school expected you two to get together."
Em frowned, anger boiling. "I don't care what anyone at school thinks."
Lisa smiled. "I know, I know. I'm sorry. Personally, I think you two complement each other. Now wear the red. The white is so boring."
Em poked her tongue out at her best friend. Lisa giggled.
"As opposed to the red being what?" Em asked. "Hot? Trashy?"
Lisa sighed, smiling at Em's counters. "Well at least you're not wearing those jeans you like. I should be happy I even gotyou into a dress."
"Exactly," Em popped, refusing to change out of the white dress. Turning back to the mirror she gave another quick check before looking at the time. "Shit. It's seven. I better get down stairs."
Lisa shook her head. "No, you can't be there waiting for him. You'll look too desperate!"
Em rolled her eyes. "Chill, Lisa. It's not a big deal."
The door bell interrupted their banter. Lisa's eyes bulged. Em rolled her eyes at her friend's absurdity.
"That's him," Em said, grabbing her bag. "I better go."
"Have fun," Lisa sang as Em hurried out the door.
Em opened the door in a rush; too quickly, seeing as though it took her a good thirty seconds to compose herself once she saw Connor. Meeting his bright blue eyes again, she felt the fireworks. She lost her breath.
He was dressed in a nice black shirt – a contrast to his usual band t-shirt, his signature ripped jeans and black converse. Lisa was right when she said they were complete opposites, but Em didn't care. Connor was special.
Spotting Em, Connor couldn't help the smile that formed. She was perfect; fresh, flushed and stunning.
"You look beautiful," he complimented immediately.
Em couldn't help but giggle. "Thanks. You don't look so bad yourself," she teased. Stepping out and shutting the door behind her, she turned back to him. "So where are we going?"
Connor smiled mischievously. "It's a surprise."
Connor pulled the car to a stop in a darkened parking lot, two street lamps providing the only lighting. Parking in between them, a bright light shone in on him. Em looked around curiously. She could hear the roar of the ocean and see the dull outlines of fair rides and shops on the dark horizon.
"The pier?" she asked, surprised. "What are we doing here?"
"We're having a picnic."
Em looked to Connor, wide-eyed. "But the gates don't open till summer. How are we supposed to get in?"
Connor just smiled. "Trust me. Come on, it will be fun."
Connor jumped out of the car, and with a shrug Em did too. After grabbing a basket out of the trunk Connor lead Em over to the gate. It was high – at least six and a half feet – and made of metal poles with a large padlock holding it closed. Em looked up it with widening eyes.
"Um... Connor... how are we supposed to get over that?" she asked apprehensively.
"I'll lift you," Connor answered. "Then you have to pull yourself up. I'll get up, and then we jump."
"Jump?" Em exclaimed in shock.
Connor nodded hesitantly. "Yeah. But if you're not comfortable with it we can go somewhere else. It's no problem."
Em considered this for a while. She had never been one for taking risks, and what they were doing was certainly a risk – and illegal. But there was something in Connor's smile – his eyes – that made her trust him. Plus, Em figured she needed to let go a bit. Lisa always told her to loosen up. Connor gave her that chance.
"Give me a boost," Em agreed, unable to hold back the smile. "But don't peek."
Connor held a hand to his heart, feigning insult. "I would never."
Em rolled her eyes. "Hurry up then, Winchester."
Connor laughed, and linking his hands next to Em's knee, he let Em stand on them. Lifting her up, Em reached for the top of the gate. Connor gave her a last quick push and Em clambered up to the top.
Pulling her legs over and sitting on the top, facing the pier, Em breathed a sigh of relief. But when she glanced around from where she was, Em gripped the steel gate like it was her saving grace. She had to repress a terrified scream.
"Wow!" she squealed. "This is high."
"Are you okay?" Connor demanded from beneath her. He hated the idea of her being frightened, uncomfortable or God forbid, hurt. He didn't think he could live with that.
Em nodded furiously, swallowing the lump in her throat. "Oh yeah..." she attempted to assure him. "It's just... high..."
"Can you grab the basket?" Connor asked reluctantly.
"The basket," Connor repeated. "Can you grab it?"
Em nodded reluctantly. "Oh yeah, sure."
"Are you sure?"
Em rolled her eyes. "Just pass it!"
Connor obliged quickly, and immediately afterwards he started pulling himself up onto the gate. Soon enough he was up and next to Em.
"Wow," he exclaimed in admiration. "This is high."
"Are we jumping now?" Em asked eagerly. The thrill of it all – breaking rules and taking risks – was getting to her. She could feel the adrenalin thumping.
"Drop the basket down," Connor instructed. Em did so. "Alright, now are you ready?" Em nodded. "Okay, try to lower yourself down as much as you can before you let go," he told her. "Don't hurt yourself."
Em smiled cheekily. The adrenalin in her veins made her throw self-preservation to the wind.
"Or..." she began teasingly, "...we just jump!"
With that, Em leaped off the gate, landing on her feet and taking the fall as a roll forwards as to even out the impact. Collapsing on the ground, Em couldn't help the belt of laughter that ensued. A second later, Connor had jumped in the same way and was next to her.
"That was so much fun!" she exclaimed, brushing her unruly hair from her face.
"Jesus, Em," Connor laughed. "I never knew you were an adrenalin junkie."
Em laughed, feeling the creeping blush. "I wasn't, but that was great."
Connor just laughed and stood up, pulling her up with him. She was unpredictable, and he loved that.
"Come on then," he said, grabbing the picnic basket and Em's hand. The touch made her heart thrum. "Let me show you where we are going."
Connor led Em to the end of the pier. He set out a plaid blanket, put the basket on it and they both sat down. The placing was perfect; underneath the dull light of a street lamp and right at the end of the pier. At one end Em could look and see the docile, peaceful machines haunted with the memories of delightful summers past. The eerie light was peaceful; calming. To the other end was the ocean. The calm waves were highlighted by the dull light of the full moon. Years later, Em could still remember the beauty of the deep blues and blacks of the ocean reflecting the pale moon's stunning face. Looking to Connor and seeing his firework eyes, Em remembered how her heart had thrummed and sung. The night was serene; quiet; perfect. She wouldn't have traded it for the world.
Connor and Em talked for hours about anything and everything. They ate great food. Connor had even managed to sneak a bottle of whiskey from his father's cabinet. Em loved the way the smooth liquid flowed down her throat; how it calmed her heart and warmed her through; how it took the edge off all of life's worries and relaxed her. Her time with Connor on the pier was perfect. And when he wrapped his hand in hers, rubbing hot circles inside her palm, Em felt something changing within her.
Their night's conversation brought forward the conversation of college. The thought had frightened Em. She didn't want to leave High School. She didn't want to have to think of her future. And after meeting Connor, she didn't want to think it could all change in a matter of months.
"My father probably wants me to have some job in one of those Fortune 500 companies," Connor admitted bitterly, taking another swig of whiskey. "Like hell I'm going to do that."
"I know what you mean," Em admitted. "Screw that, right?" She took a drink of her own. "What do you want to do?"
Connor smiled then. "Travel the world. Surf every big wave on the planet and write about it all. Make music. Retire in Hawaii on the beach. Raise a family." Em watched as those firework eyes lit up; inspired and whimsical. "I want to do so much, yet nothing at all. At least nothing that would please my father." He laughed. "They are silly thoughts, really."
Em shook her head, completely solemn. "They're not silly," she assured him. "They're inspirational."
Connor laughed bitterly then. Em cursed his father's influence. "Tell my father that," he scowled.
Instinctively Em's hand went to his. She didn't know how, but she didn't care. It felt right.
Connor's firework eyes shot to hers. She saw his pain; his torn self. Em didn't want him to feel like that. "It's your life, not your father's," she told him. "Forget your father. Screw your father. Do what you want. Surf the waves and make music, not because it makes your father happy but because it makes you happy."
Connor couldn't help but smile at her. It wasn't in amusement. It was in admiration. At first he had picked Em as the quiet, reserved type. She showed that her bark also had some bite. He admired that.
"And what do you want to do with your life, Emma?"
Em's expression faltered from the intensity she felt for Connor's aspirations to the confusion she felt for her own. The question stumped her, because in all honesty, she didn't really know. Along with her fear of college came her lack of a path for the future. She didn't know what she wanted.
"Um... I don't really know..." she admitted. "I like art... I... uh... I paint."
Connor's eyes sparkled in surprise and more admiration. "You should be an artist then, if that's what you love."
Em couldn't help the complete smile that overtook her. Her entire heart thrummed with happiness.
It was New Year's Eve, 1987 – soon to be 1988. Connor and Em were at Hamish's party when they snuck off to go to the pier. The party was fun, but it was not Connor or Em's style. The pier was their place, and they saw it as only fitting to be the place where they welcomed 1988. That was their year. It was the year of graduation, prom and college. It was the year they had together; a fresh start.
Connor had brought that same plaid blanket from their first date. They had to scale the gate again, and settling onto the spot under the street lamp, Em folded into Connor's arms with a sigh of relief. The feeling of Connor's strong arms wrapped around her and the rumbling of his chest against her back as he talked was heaven-sent. His hands wandered, rubbing her arms and her legs as she pulled her knees to her chest. She felt safe and warm; home.
"How long left?" Em asked quietly as she stared at the crescent moon. Waves were crashing against the shore, churning up white foam. She breathed in a deep breath of sea air.
"One minute," he whispered.
Em leant her head back and looked up into his eyes. In the dull street lamp light she could still see the striking blue they always held; warm and liquid and explosive. Breaking into a small smile, he kissed her cheek lovingly. She smiled back to him.
"Do you have a resolution?" she asked him.
"I do," he answered. "Do you?"
Em nodded solemnly. "Yes."
"Well get ready," Connor said. "Ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... one."
"Happy New Year," Em whispered sleepily. Fireworks exploded over the shadows of the fair rides. The yells and screams of other locals could be heard over the bursts of colourful lights. Celebrations heightened. Connor smiled down to Em, his features lit up by the fireworks.
"Happy New Year to you too, Emmy," he repeated lovingly.
Em smirked just that little bit. "Do I get a New Year's kiss?"
Connor's heart skipped a beat. "A kiss?"
Em smiled, sitting up and taking Connor's hands. They were so close to each other. She could feel the heat radiating from his body. Clouds of mist escaped their lips with every breath. She could smell his scent of the sea and citrus. She could almost hear his heart beating.
"It's not the first," Em reminded him.
"It is for this year," Connor replied, those blue eyes watching her with that same intensity he always possessed.
"What does this mean?" Em asked him, knowing his words meant more than one would think.
Connor was silent. There was something he wanted to say to her; something he had been aching to say for weeks then. The words played on his lips every hour of every day, but he didn't know if they were returned. Taking a deep breath, he reminded himself of the time. It was a new year. It was a new start. He would start that year with the truth.
"I love you."
Em's heart swelled and warmed. The butterflies in her stomach flapped their wings. Her hands ached to touch his, and entwining her fingers in his, she told the truth too. She watched as his firework eyes swam.
"I love you, too."
Connor's lips met Em's that night. Sparks jumped between them like never before. And as their hands roamed over each other's bodies, meeting in a place neither had been before, they finally became one; two puzzle pieces finally fitted together.
Connor and Em made love that night. The next morning – the dawn of a new year – they woke in a new place.
"Leave me alone, Connor! I never want to talk to you again!"
Em slammed the door in his face and ran. She ran down the street in the pouring rain with no clear destination at all. Her breathing was heavy and strenuous. Tears blurred her vision. Cold crept into her bones. Her heart ached and shattered. Rain soaked her clothes.
She could feel it all slipping away.
She tore through the streets, her converse clad feet falling on the rain soaked pavements. Her chest burned; her lungs enflamed. A lump clogged her throat. Her heart pounded loudly in her ears.
She couldn't do it anymore.
"Emmy! Emma, wait!"
Connor's voice hit her, desperate and pleading. She could hear him catching up to her. She could feel him getting closer and closer.
And although her head told her to keep running, her heart wanted her to stop.
Her speed lagged. She felt Connor's hand grasp hers. He pulled her to his chest, hugging her sobbing body close. Em wanted nothing but to pull away, but then needed to stay in those arms forever.
"I can't. I can't, Connor. I can't."
Her words were bitter to the taste and painful to say. They were the last things she wanted, but they were necessary. He made her.
"Em! Emmy, please don't say that. It's not true, Em. We can. Please, don't let all this slip away."
Em looked up into those blue eyes again. They were pained; heartbroken. The fireworks were dimmed. Seeing them tore at her aching heart.
"He said I can't, Connor. I can't. I'm not allowed to. Not anymore."
Connor wouldn't let her go. He wouldn't throw it all away. "Don't listen to him, Emmy. He can't tear us apart. Do you want this to end?"
Em lost her breath. More tears tumbled. She couldn't even bear that thought. The thought chilled her to the bone more than the pouring rain or freezing wind.
"Never. Of course not!"
"Then why are you letting him destroy us?" Connor demanded. Em looked away. The thought made her despise herself.
"He's my father. He said I can't see you anymore. He... he said..."
She couldn't finish the sentence. She couldn't repeat those words. She couldn't stand the thought.
"You can't let that end us. Please, Emmy, don't end it like this. Don't let him tell you what to do!"
Connor couldn't stand the thought. He couldn't lose Em. She was the one thing in his life that he needed. She was the love of his life; his inspiration. He couldn't let her accept her father's order. She didn't want to break up. He didn't want to break up. Why should they?
"I... I can't... I..."
Em hated herself for it. She hated her weakness. But she didn't think she had the strength to withstand her father's orders. Why did he want them to break up? Because he thought Connor was worth nothing; a bad influence.
"Do you remember what you told me on our first date?" Connor demanded. Em looked at him, desperate. "Do you?" Em shook her head, although she really remembered perfectly. "You told me to forget what my father told me and do what I wanted with my future. Now I'm going to tell you the same thing. Do you want to break up? Screw your father. What do you want? Fight for what you want, Em! What do you want!?"
Em looked at Connor, wide eyed and scared. She had never been one to fight for what she wanted. She hardly ever knew what she wanted. But Connor gave her the chance to be true to herself. He wanted her to do what she wanted. He gave her the chance to be her own person. She would take it.
Em locked eyes with him. She felt like she was back in English class, looking into the striking blue, like fireworks. She knew then what she wanted.
"I want you," she swore. "Forever."
The way his eyes lit up in the pouring rain and the way he hugged her to his chest, never letting her go, assured her she made the right choice.
"I won't let anything tear us apart," he swore to her as the street lamp's light shot through the darkness to light up his form. "Nothing at all. I promise."
Em skipped over to the bed, sitting down on the mangled blankets and folding her legs underneath her. She flicked through the leaves of the photo album with great interest, peaking up to Connor in admiration.
"This is amazing, Connor. These are all the places you want to go?"
Connor nodded nervously, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He pointed to the photo on the current page; bright blue water, a monstrous wave and one man taking it on. The water was a stunning blue; sky blue. The white sand was flawless. It was wild.
"That's Waimea Bay in Hawaii. It's basically the birthplace of big wave surfing. That's where I want to go first, and where I want to retire."
"It's stunning," Em agreed, looking over the wondrous colours of the scenery. It was picturesque.
"Yeah," Connor nodded. Smiling, he relayed a memory. "You know, my grandfather was one of the first surfers to surf Waimea back in 1957. The surf only breaks big several times a year and they were the first to buck up the courage to paddle out. It was almost the beginning of big wave surfing." Connor grinned at this thought. Pulling at a black string around his neck, Connor revealed a shark tooth hanging on it, having been hidden by his shirt. "He gave me this before he died when I was thirteen. He wore it on every big wave he surfed. He was a legend." Connor's firework eyes glowed with amazing admiration. Em noted the way they swam and shone like the waves themselves. If eyes were the window to the soul, his soul craved for the ocean. "I've always wanted to be like him. Listening to his stories when I was young was like entering a fantasy world. The way he described the waves – their curves and crashes – were all beautiful. He spoke about them with such vigour. I wanted nothing but to be just like him. He was a pioneer – a legend." Connor's eyes shifted to his hands. Em noticed the glistening tears. Instinctively her hands went to his in comfort.
Immediately his eyes shot to her.
"What is it?" she asked quietly, searching for some sign in his eyes.
"He taught me everything I know," Connor answered. "Everything. My own father hates the water; the waves. He cannot stand them."
"Sometimes it's like he's not my real father. He doesn't understand at all."
Em shuffled closer to Connor, wrapping her arms around him in an attempt at comfort.
"Connor," she whispered, at a loss of what to say.
"Sometimes I wish it was him who died," Connor admitted coldly. "Sometimes I wish it was my father who died, not my grandfather. And I hate myself for it."
"Don't hate yourself Connor. Please don't."
Connor looked straight at her. She saw his tears before they spilt. "I watched him die," Connor admitted. Em lost her breath. "I was at the Pipeline, watching from the shore, when he lost his balance and was pounded into the reef. Pipeline is notorious for its shallow breaking and high reefs. I was there. He gave me this necklace before he left, telling me it was my turn to have its luck. He went down not long after. I saw him go down and never come back up. I saw the blood. I watched him die and did nothing at all. I can't help but think it's because he didn't have this necklace."
A single tear tumbled down Connor's cheek. Em felt her heart tear in two.
Shuffling closer to him, Em caught the tear before it fell off his chin. Taking his head in her hands and making him look at her, Em almost shed her own tear. He saw his grandfather die in the surf, yet he wanted nothing but to surf on his own. She didn't know what to think about that, but something in her felt overwhelming respect. Taking a deep breath, she was determined to take away his pain.
"It wasn't your fault," Em promised him. "It wasn't your fault and you couldn't have done anything to save him. Please know that, Connor. It wasn't your fault."
"You believe that?" he asked, staring into her eyes with some sort of desperation.
"I know that," Em promised. "He died doing what he loved, Connor. What better way is there to go?"
Connor cracked a smile then. "He did love the surf."
Em smiled, seeing that twinkling in his eyes again. "And so do you," she reminded him.
The expression that took Connor's features made her heart warm. Looking into her eyes and taking her hand in his, Connor spoke what he felt once again.
"I love you, Emmy. You know that, right?"
Em couldn't help the smile that came. Hooking her finger in his shirt collar, she pulled him closer to her.
"I love you too."
Slowly, Em drew Connor's body closer to her own and took him into a passionate kiss.
Em lead Connor towards the end of the Pier, their hands linked as July the fourth celebrations went on behind them. This time, they didn't need to scale the gate. It was open. The fair rides were going. The season had started with the celebrations that day.
"What's wrong?" Connor asked urgently. Em hadn't said much when she dragged him away from their friends; only that she needed to talk to him.
Em met the barrier at the end of the Pier and stopped. Turning to Connor, she pulled him closer, frightened, and looked around to make sure no one was looking.
Connor watched Em's actions anxiously. Her eyes darted around them, checking for anybody who could overhear their conversation. She looked like she was going to cry. Connor needed to calm her down.
Bringing his hand to her cheek and brushing away a stray ringlet of hair, Connor made her look at him.
"Emmy, what is it?" he demanded softly. "Please tell me."
She met his eyes. The blue was sparking like fireworks. She wanted so bad to tell him. She could feel the words teasing her tongue. She couldn't hold it in, and her heart bet furiously because of it.
"I'm pregnant," she blurted out awkwardly.
Connor's eyes widened. Instinctively, they looked to Em's abdomen. He watched her hands hugging it; hugging the abdomen filled with life; a child's life; their child's life.
"You're pregnant?" he repeated. He couldn't figure out what else to say. What was he meant to say? He wasn't exactly prepared for that bomb.
Em nodded nervously, chewing her bottom lip. "Yes."
"It's mine?" Connor checked, still shocked. It was a stupid question. He already knew the answer.
Connor nodded again. His heart was beating thickly; quickly. He didn't know what to think.
"How long?" he asked.
"About two months," Em answered. "I went to the doctor and they confirmed it. I didn't want to tell you till I was sure."
Connor nodded once more. He swallowed the lump in his throat, still looking at Em's abdomen. Pulling his eyes up to meet Em, he looked frightened.
"Are you okay?" she asked him, scared about the distraught expression he was wearing.
Connor nodded solemnly, heading to the barrier and leaning against it, trying to regain some sort of composure. Em watched him nervously. She thought her worst fears were coming true. She thought he was about to leave them.
Little did she know, he was not going to do that.
"I can't believe it," Connor admitted, not able to stop the little smile playing at the corner of his lips. "We used protection."
Em nodded. "Clearly one of them failed."
Connor smiled at that. Looking back to Em, she saw the happiness in his eyes. It surprised her.
"What do you want to do?" he asked hesitantly. "I'm... I'm fully behind you with everything you choose. Please know that, Emmy."
Em averted her eyes. "I don't know," she admitted. "We're so young... I don't know whether we can cope with a baby. But then... I can't imagine killing this." Her arms went to her abdomen. "I can't imagine aborting our baby. The thought makes me sick."
Connor looked back to her abdomen. Stepping towards her, he laid one hand on those on her stomach and placed another on her cheek, making her look at him. He saw the tears in her eyes; frightened tears. He smiled in assurance.
"I love you," Connor promised. "And I love this baby. I love our baby. Know that, Emmy. I would never abandon you."
She let tears fall. "But can we do this?" she asked him. "Can we raise a baby?"
"We're done with High School," Connor reminded her. "I can get a job. You can go to college. We can figure it out."
"But what about your waves?"
"There's plenty of time for that," he promised. "What matters now is this baby."
"But I don't want to hold you back."
"And I don't want to give you or this baby up," Connor replied. "I love you."
Em couldn't help but smile, watching the certainty in his firework eyes. "Are you sure?" she asked hesitantly.
"Will you marry me?" Connor replied quickly.
Em's heart stopped. "Connor..."
"I'm serious," he swore. "I want to marry you. I want you to be my wife. Please, Emma Ford," Connor took Em's hands in his, kneeling before her and pulling out a simple diamond ring from his pocket, "will you marry me?"
Em couldn't breathe as she looked from that ring, to his eyes, and to her abdomen. She couldn't believe it.
Connor smiled just a little. "I was planning on asking you later tonight," he admitted. "What do you say?"
Em couldn't help the overtaking grin that took her. Looking into those firework eyes she knew so well as fourth of July fireworks exploded overhead and waves crashed against the shore, she nodded.
"Yes," she whispered, tears plummeting down her cheeks.
After Connor slipped that simple diamond ring onto Em's finger and the two locked each other in a hug, they were taken from their celebration to have their photo snapped by Lisa.
With the ocean in the background, one of Connor's arms over her shoulder holding her tight and another on her stomach, Em had a picture taken that she would keep her entire life. It was of the most perfect time in their lives. It was of their family.
Connor was walking home from Hamish's house when he was hit by the out-of-control car. He was thrown in the air, smashed into the windscreen and bashed in the head before being tossed onto the road as the car swerved into a nearby tree.
He felt the overwhelming pain. He felt his blood pumping and gushing from his wounds. He felt the weakness in his body; the broken bones and destruction. And, as he lay dying in the street, he disgorged a mouthful of bright red, steaming blood.
He felt death running up to him; an ambush; an onslaught; unprepared, cruel and sneaky.
There was only one word on his lips as he let out his last breath.
Em was lying on her bed when her father came in. Being over five months pregnant, Em was still suffering from morning sickness. The day before, Connor and her had found out the best news. They were having a boy; Danny Winchester. The thought warmed her heart.
Em had a damp facecloth on her forehead and was waiting for Connor to arrive to take her to the pier. She knew he had been at Hamish's house the previous night, and supposed he had slept in.
But when her father came in and sat on the edge of her bed, placing a loving hand on her shoulder, Em knew something was wrong.
Em heard the words float into her ears, but she couldn't react. She saw her father's lips moving, but she couldn't believe it.
He's dead. He's dead. He's dead.
Walking. Car. Dead.
She couldn't believe it. Her lungs collapsed in on themselves. Her heart went into a fit. Everything around her blurred into nothingness. The ring on her finger felt like it weighed a million pounds. It burnt her skin like fire.
She couldn't take it. She just couldn't. She was panicking. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't have died. It wasn't possible. Not now. Never. He couldn't.
Her heart pounded in her ears. It ripped, shattered and split into a million fragments.
And as she felt this overwhelming pain in her heart, she also felt a ripping, searing, tearing ache in her abdomen. It was foreign; alarming. Em crumpled over, clutching at her unborn son.
"Dad, I think there's something wrong with the baby!"
A week later Em watched as Connor's dark coffin was lowered into the ground. She felt cold; hard. She was filled to the brim with blankness and emptiness. Hot tears plummeted down her cheeks, but she couldn't recognise them. People around her sobbed and pleaded. She didn't listen to them. He was gone. There was nothing they could do. He was gone. Gone, gone, gone. Forever.
They were both gone. Connor and their son. Danny.
She would never hold either of them again.
Em felt empty. She felt dark and cold and alone. She felt helpless and desperate. Her empty womb felt like a black hole; lifeless, ravaged, gone.
Turning away from the burial as dirt was thrown over Connor's coffin, Em buckled over in a sobbing heap, clutching at her empty stomach.
Em could feel the creeping death. In some odd way, it was a peaceful relief. The crashing, churning waves outside were a soft melody. Clutching at that photograph of the perfect moment, Em wrapped the daisy duvet around her body, slid out of bed, heard the soles of her feet plod against the wooden floorboards, and headed outside.
She walked through her paint splattered art studio, dully recognising the unfinished painting she had been working on. It was of the calm sea; a deep, midnight blue. Above it were the gunmetal grey clouds, haunting and terrifying. And through these clouds arrowed shots of celestial light; pure white and glowing. Walking past this painting, Em knew she wouldn't have the time to finish it. Oddly, this didn't concern her.
The hot tear lingering on her cheek soon drifted away as Em plodded over the cool wooden porch of her little shack. She could see the rising sun on the edge of the horizon, revealing stunning oranges, pinks and reds. The lights highlighted the curves in the ocean. She thought back to Connor's eyes again.
Walking to the edge of her porch, leaving behind that little shack, Em's bare and wrinkled feet met the cooling sand; a contrast to the humid night. Her breathing was more difficult as she walked, but the peace she felt only increased.
She had moved to Hawaii not long after Connor's death. She had never married; never fallen in love again. She had made a modest living from selling paintings and working in a small diner in town. Her little home was right by the sea; right by Waimea; the place Connor loved so well. After the invention of tow-in surfing, Waimea had been very much abandoned by those new generations of big wave surfers. But to her, Waimea was still the best place on earth. It thrived on the timeless spirit of Connor. It represented the old world; the perfect world. She refused to catch up with time. Living there, she felt closer to him, like she was bridging the line between here and the afterlife.
Em walked slowly to the edge of the water, watching the slow sun rise over the horizon. The lull of the waves and songs of the birds almost put her to sleep. Wrapping herself tighter in the daisy duvet, Em sat down in the sand.
A slight breeze blew through her grey hair. Closing her eyes and drawing in a deep breath, listening to the soothing surf, Em could feel the end coming. She knew that that breath was her last, and so opening her eyes to the beautiful sunrise, she saw a slither of the sun appearing.
A peace settled over her. Em's aged body lost its strength. She could feel her soul leaving. The pain she held back her entire life was drifting away. Em died to the sound of the lulling surf; the song of Connor's heart; Connor's soul.
When Em opened her eyes, she wondered for a second what was happening. She was dead. She knew she was dead. So then how was she back at Waimea Bay, under the warming summer sun? She felt fresh and invigorated. Glancing around, she was completely confused.
That was until she noticed the dark brown hair bobbing with her movements. Grasping it, Em then noticed her hands; perfect, smooth, youthful. It didn't make sense.
She looked around the beach again. It was peaceful; heaven. The sand was pure white and driven. The water glistened. Birds sung. Looking to the end of the bay, Em noticed a dark figure.
She watched as it walked closer to her. Her heart ached to walk towards it too. She didn't understand it, but she did what her heart told her.
She met him in the middle of the bay. She thought for a moment she was dreaming. His face was youthful; perfect; just like the day she met him. His bright blue firework eyes shone as she looked at him, eighteen and madly in love once again.
"Connor," she breathed in disbelief.
Connor's lips turned up in a small smile. He glanced down to the bundle in his arms. Em did to. Looking into it, she noticed a set of Connor's eyes teamed with a tuft of her hair on the body of a tiny baby; healthy, plump and alive.
Em lost her breath. Beautiful.
His name was a whisper on her lips. It felt foreign, yet completely safe.
"We've been waiting for you for a long time, Emmy," Connor smiled. His voice was so real. It had been so long since someone had called her that. "We missed you."
His arms encased her. She could smell him; sea and citrus. Little Danny cooed in his arms. Em finally felt at peace; filled again.
"I missed you too," she swore, eighteen again and madly in love. Her heart swelled like it hadn't in a long time.
Author's Note: Thank you to anyone who read all this. I will be amazed if anyone was bothered enough to get through it all :] Anyway, thank you for reading and please do review. I would love to hear your thoughts.