Clouds

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Book: Clouds by Robin Jones Gunn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robin Jones Gunn
know that. They’re all for it. That’s why they offered us a loan.”
    Shelly pushed back in her chair so their knees no longer touched. She slowly extracted her hand from his. Her head was bent, her eyes staring at the dainty ring still offered in his palm.
    “Shel?”
    It took her a long time to find the words. “No,” she finally managed in a hoarse whisper. “I can’t. I just can’t.”
    She watched as Jonathan’s strong fingers slowly closed on the ring like an oyster protecting its pearl. She couldn’t look at his face.
    Neither of them spoke for a painful stretch of time. Shelly felt like apologizing. She wanted to cry but had no tears that would show themselves in this semipublic setting.
    Jonathan paid the bill, unlocked their bikes, and led theway down the steep hill, past the placid cottages and through the somber forest of evergreens that watched them with boughs bent in the twilight.
    Once the bikes were secure in the bed of the truck, they drove to the harbor, still shrouded in silence. Right before they were signaled to drive up the plank into the ferry, Shelly let loose. Everything inside her gushed out.
    “Why didn’t you discuss this with me before talking to our parents and buying a ring and everything? Doesn’t my opinion matter? And what about my dreams? You know how long I’ve wanted to go to flight attendant school. How can you treat that as if it were nothing, and put your dreams and aspirations ahead of mine? Haven’t we always been friends who shared everything with each other? Why did all that change? Suddenly you have to make all the decisions, and you have to have it all figured out, and you don’t even think about consulting me! How can you say you love me? You don’t even respect my opinion enough to ask for it!”
    When Shelly stopped to catch her breath, the tears were streaming from her eyes. The boat was in motion, crossing the water, but instead of getting out of the truck and going up on top, the two of them remained fixed in the cab with the windows rolled up tight.
    Jonathan jumped in the moment she paused and let loose with his own bottled-up hurt. “Where did you think our relationship was leading? You can’t tell me you never thought about getting married right away. I know you must have. That’s all I’ve thought about for weeks. Months, maybe. I planned everything. Everything! All you had to do was say yes! Why do you have to be so stubborn and insist on having everything your way?”
    It was the worst fight the two of them had ever had. If there had been something for Shelly to throw at Jonathan in the cabof that truck, she would have thrown it. All she had were her words, and she heaved them at him until it seemed there was no breath left inside of her.
    The ferry docked. They drove home with the silence hanging like a noose around their necks. One false move and they would be choked. Jonathan parked in front of his house. He turned off the engine and faced Shelly. She let his stormy gaze rain its misery all over her. It didn’t matter. Everything was ruined. She was so mad at Jonathan Charles Renfield she could have slugged him.
    His voice came to her across the openness on the bench seat that separated them. It was not a tame voice. “You know I’ll always love you,” he said.
    Shelly didn’t answer with words. Instead, she did something she had never expected to do. In one movement she went from her side of the cab to Jonathan’s, and for the first time ever, she initiated a kiss. Not an innocent, gentle kiss like the ones they had strewn like wildflowers through their young love. This was a forceful, angry kiss, as if she were greedy to get back from him the perfect, simple love he had destroyed with his proposal. She kissed him hard.
    He put his arms around her and tried to hold her, but Shelly pulled away with all her might. She caught only a glimpse of his face as she kicked open the passenger door and fled, but his look haunted her for months. It

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