For their first date, Jason took Sarah to the edge of the world. It seemed like an obvious choice to take an inlander to the coast, though Sarah seemed shocked by the prospect of it.
“I just never thought I’d see the ocean,” she said from the passenger seat of Jason’s old Camaro as they caught a highway interchange and headed south toward the water.
She shrugged. “Do you ever think you’ll see Mount Everest?”
“Maybe,” Jason said. “Nothing’s really stopping me.”
She gave him a look, then, batted those beautiful brown eyes in his direction. Jason found himself having a hard time keeping his eyes on the road. In that moment, he could think of one thing that might stop him from seeing Everest.
She was sitting right next to him.
Neither Jason or Sarah would say the story of how they met was anything special, even though it was. They didn’t connect through a friend of a friend, or over some hobby or common interest. Not even a dating service.
They bumped into one another at a party that neither of them was supposed to be at and hit it off from there.
“Let’s just talk,” Jason had told her.
Sarah laughed. “We are just talking.”
“No, no. I mean, let’s just talk and see where it goes. No expectations, no labels, no rules. Just truth and good conversation.”
And that’s exactly what they did. It’s how Jason found out everything about her. How she’d never seen the ocean. How she’d always felt crushed under the unrealistic expectations of her mother and father. How she was in school to be a doctor, even though all she really wanted to do was paint.
“It’s hard, you know? I don’t want to break their hearts. They’ve been set on having a doctor in the family since before I was born.”
Jason shrugged. “I guess I don’t understand why that burden has to rest at your feet just because your sisters decided to do their own thing. Shouldn’t you have that same right?”
“I’m the only one left,” Sarah said. “If I don’t do it, who else will?”
“But why does anyone have to do it at all?”
Sarah didn’t have an answer for that, and Jason didn’t press. No expectations, he’d said, and he meant it. They moved onto other topics. Places he’d visited, music she enjoyed, dreams they both shared.
“That’s it,” Jason declared. “I’m taking you to see the ocean.”
“That’s nine hours from here.”
“Nine hours to knock something off your bucket list? That’s time well spent. How long are you in town for?”
“I’m supposed to head back the day after tomorrow,” Sarah said.
“Then we’ll go tomorrow.”
“Don’t you have to work?”
Jason smiled. “They can get by without me for one day.”
The parking lot at the beach was nearly empty when they pulled into it. Jason figured that would be the case. It was a Thursday, midday. Everyone had better things to do than sit and enjoy the waves.
Everyone except Jason and Sarah.
It was impossible to see the coast from the parking lot. That was one reason Jason had picked this spot. He’d cut through the heart of the small resort town and taken a side road toward the beach. The rocky dunes and outcroppings blocked their view of the water entirely and would do so until they were almost at the water.
Sarah stopped when she opened the door. She sniffed at the air and turned back toward Jason.
“Salty,” she said.
He grinned. While she looked around, Jason dug out a blanket from the back of his car, then hurried to meet her near the boardwalk that would take them past the rocks and out to the coast.
“Ready?” he asked.
She nodded. “I’m nervous.”
“Not the bad kind,” Sarah told him.
“Well then, let’s do it.”
“Okay.” She hooked a hand around his arm and the two of them started toward the beach. They were halfway there before the ocean came into view, and Sarah stopped to stare at the endless horizon stretching out before her.
“Well?” Jason asked. “What do you think?”
Sarah grinned. “It’s beautiful. Don’t you think so?”
“It is,” Jason said — but he wasn’t looking at the ocean anymore.