The Amber Series‎ > ‎

5. Rekindled Flames

Setting my glass of coke back down on the folding table in front of me, I sigh contentedly. Looking over at Ben, I reach out and place my hand over his, squeezing his fingers lightly. He opens his eyes and smiles at me.
“I’m so excited!” I grin, unable to suppress my excitement any longer.
“Me too!” He smiles back, “Three whole days in the sun with you for company.”
“And us!” Chorus Lara and Chris from across the gangway.
“Hey, don’t forget us.” Adds Grace, referring to herself and her boyfriend Sam Benson as well as Nikki Samson and Matt Wallace, who have been going strong since the Valentines Dance a couple of months earlier.
“I’m sure we can find time for just us…” Ben whispers and my thoughts flicker to the room arrangements. With Chris and Lara sharing a room, another couple had to share, eventually, Ben had won me over and I’d agreed to share a double bedroom with him… though he’d promised not to try anything. Matt and Sam and Nikki and Grace had decided to share the two twin rooms.

A half hour or so later the plane lands and a relatively short taxi ride later, we’re standing in the air-conditioned reception of the Plaza Hotel on the coast of Nice.
“Ben, Lara!” The hotel owners voice echoes across the lobby.
“Uncle James!” Lara yells, throwing her arms around him as if she were still a little girl.
“Hey.” Ben says, shaking his hand firmly.
“You lot must be exhausted, let me show you and our friends to your rooms.” James Owen says taking Lara’s bags and showing us to the lift.
“Its great having a relative in the hotel industry,” Ben whispers as we approach our rooms, “Lots of discounts!”
I smile up at him as he unlocks the door to our room. We agree to meet up in reception in a half hour before we go into our separate rooms to unpack.

I dump my bags at the end of the bed and look around the room, my heart pounding faster as I take in the double bed I’m sharing with Ben.
“It’s not bad, is it?” Ben asks, closing the door and dropping his bag next to mine. “This is going to be a great holiday.”
Coming up behind me he wraps his arms around my waist and nuzzles my neck. Pushing thoughts of the night to the back of my mind I turn in his arms to face him and wrap my arms around his neck.
“This is definitely going to be a great holiday!” he grins, before his lips meet mine. Pulling away, he strokes the hair back from my face.
“I want to tell you something.” he says, a serious look on his face. “I love you Amber, and I want you to know that even though we’re sharing a bed, nothing will happen unless you want it to.”
“You really are amazing you know?” I say smiling, my doubts disappearing instantly.
“Now, where were we?” he asks, falling back onto the bed and pulling me down on top of him.
“Ben!” I shriek, laughing at the mischievous look on his face.
“What?” he asks innocently, before pulling me into another embrace.

Ben and I are the last to arrive, so we immediately leave for the beach, just across the road. We descend the steps until we reach the sand. Kicking off my sandals, I pick them up and follow the others over to a space on the crowded beach, enjoying the feel of the hot sand on my feet. Grace and Nikki immediately spread themselves out on their towels for a few hours sunbathing, Lara and Chris head off in search of ice creams whilst Matt and Sam set about helping their girlfriends with their suntan lotion.
“How would you feel about a walk along the beach?” Ben asks hopefully.
“Yeah OK.” I reply, taking his hand.
We start wandering down the beach, hand in hand, until we reach the water, then we continue walking through the surf until we’re past all the families and the little children making sandcastles. Leading me over to a flat rock, a little way away from the sea, Ben sits down and pulls me on to his lap. We sit for ages, silently watching the sea. Eventually, however, it’s time to head back. When we get back, we all go to a little restaurant just next to the hotel before going back to our rooms. Taking a detour via the hotel shop with Lara, I arrive back at my room to find it empty. Then I notice a note lying on the bed.

Dear Amber,
  Meet me at “our” rock on the beach. I’ll be waiting.
I love you,
Ben xxx

Smiling to myself, I grab my bag and rush out the door.

Approaching the beach I notice a loan figure on a rock, staring out over the sea watching the setting sun. My heart skips a beat as I get closer and he turns to face me. I still can’t believe we’re together again. I sit down on the rock next to him and he pulls me into his arms. Lying against him, I stare at the sky.
“Beautiful…” he murmurs in my ear.
“I know, I’ve never seen such an amazing sunset.”
“I meant you,” he says, tilting my face to his.
“Oh Ben,” I whisper, “I love you so much.”
He responds with a passionate kiss. We stay locked in each other’s arms until it’s completely dark and we’re forced to return back to the hotel. We walk back slowly along the beach, hand in hand.

Back at the hotel, we join the others in the hotel bar. Ordering some drinks, we sit down and spend the remainder of the evening laughing and joking. Before long, however, its almost 1am and we’re all exhausted after a long day. In the corridor outside our rooms we say goodnight, agreeing to meet for brunch the next day at 11:30am. As Ben closes the door to our room behind us, all my doubts about the bed return. It’s not that I don’t trust him because I do I just... well, before he left for Manchester we came so close... but I’m really not ready for something like that. My thoughts are interrupted by Ben,
“You can use the bathroom first if you want.”
“Thanks.” I say distractedly, picking up my wash bag and pyjamas. Ten minutes later I’m sitting at the dressing table in my new satin pyjamas, brushing my hair, waiting for Ben to finish in the bathroom.
“You OK?” he asks when he emerges, wearing boxers and an old football shirt.
“Yeah, fine.” I say unable to control the tremor in my voice.
“Hey,” he says softly coming over to me and wrapping his arms around me.
Sighing softly I let myself melt in his arms. Laughing mischievously, Ben lifts me up off the chair and carries me over to the bed, dropping me in the centre. Catching the glint in his eye too late, I’m unprepared when he starts tickling me. Laughing I grab his hands and push him down on the bed. Pulling me on top of him, he kisses my lips softly. Wrapping his arms around me, he deepens the kiss. Finally we break apart. I shiver involuntarily and in response Ben pulls the covers over us. Lying in his arms I eventually fall asleep.

When I wake up, Ben is already awake, but still in bed so as not to wake me. Cuddling up to him we stay in bed for an extra half hour but eventually we have to get up and meet the others. We take it in turns to use the bathroom and then go down to the lobby to meet everyone else. When everyone is there we head off to the café down the road for something to eat. Then we head down to the beach for a solid day of sunbathing.
“Need any help with that?” Ben asks suggestively, taking the bottle of suntan lotion from my hand.
“Could you do my back?” I ask turning around so he can reach.
“No problem.” he grins.
When he’s done, I lie back on my towel and close my eyes against the bright rays of the sun. We spend the rest of the afternoon, relaxing on the beach, every so often going for a swim in the sea or going to buy an ice cream. Eventually we go back to the hotel, shower and change, getting ready for what promises to be a great night out.

After dinner at a restaurant overlooking the beach, we make our way to bar we’d seen earlier on the beach. The bar is on the beach itself, but there’s a wooden platform with tables and a dance floor. The whole thing is lit up by hundreds of fairy lights.
“A toast…” Ben says, when we’ve all got our tropical cocktails and we’re sitting around one of the tables set up on the wooden platform around the bar.
“To doing f**k all, all day!”
“I’ll drink to that!” Matt says holding up his glass.
We all drink and then relax back into our seats, sharing stories from past holidays. Everyone is very chatty and even more so than usual due to the drinks which are continually being refilled. I can’t help but notice that Sam is much quieter than usual. When we all go off to dance, him and Grace remain at the table, alternately arguing and ignoring each other.
“What’s up with Sam and Grace?” I ask Lara when we take a break from dancing for a minute.
“I’m not sure. They’ve been arguing all day though.”
Glancing over at the table I watch as Sam gets up and storms off across the beach. Grabbing Lara’s arm, I drag her back to the table. Grace is sitting there fuming silently.
“What happened?” Lara asks before we’ve even sat down.
“We broke up.” Grace says simply.
“Why? What happened?” I ask again.
“We had yet another argument and we broke it off,” she says vaguely.
“Are you OK?” Lara and I ask at the same time.
“I’m great, let’s dance!” she says standing up and grinning.
Following her to the dance floor, an image of Sam walking down the beach alone crosses my mind.
“Do you think Sam will be OK?” I ask Matt when I get the chance.
“He’ll be fine.” Matt says, spinning Nikki round.

Eventually we decide to go back to the hotel and I walk back slowly along the beach with Ben.
“Sam really likes Grace, doesn’t he?” I ask eventually.
“Yeah, he does... I don’t think they were ever really suited to each other though.” Ben replies thoughtfully.
“I should’ve gone after him...”
“I’m sure he’s fine. He just needs some time to sort himself out.”
“I guess...” I say, unconvinced, as we arrive back at the hotel.
We go up to our rooms and say goodnight to everyone. I’m relieved to find that Sam is asleep in his room. Ben and I go into our room and get ready for bed. I use the bathroom first and whilst I’m waiting for Ben to finish, I go out onto the balcony. Lost in my own world, staring out over the sea, lit up by the full moon, I don’t hear Ben until I feel his arms around my waist. We stay on the balcony, silently watching the waves breaking on the shore, for a few minutes, until the cold night air forces us inside.
“What were you thinking about before, on the balcony?” Ben asks once we’re cuddled up in bed.
“I was just thinking about how there’s no place in the world that I would rather be, than here, with you.” I reply, gently stroking the side of his face.
“I love you,” he says simply.
“I love you too.” I reply, before I fall asleep, lying in his arms.

The following day, we all get up late and spend the morning having a lazy, room service breakfast in Chris and Lara’s room. Eventually we get around to going to the beach for a few hours sunbathing. All of us feel like doing different things, so we split up, agreeing to meet back at the hotel a few hours later. In a restless mood I decide to go for a walk along the beach. No one else wants to move so I go alone, happy to get some time to think. I walk along the road for a bit, looking in shop windows but after a while I decide to go down to the beach. I’m already quite a long way away from the hotel but I decide to carry on for a bit anyway. Walking along the sand, I enjoy the feel of the sun on my skin and the warm sand beneath my feet. I smile softly to myself; this has been one of the best holidays of my life. I can’t believe we only have one more full day. I stop at an ice cream stall and buy an ice-lolly before continuing up the beach, the distance between the hotel and myself increasing with every step. I look around at all the sunbathers and little children making sand castles by the sea. My attention is drawn to a girl, around my age, running across the sand laughing and shrieking as a boy chases her towards the sea. Smiling, I think of Ben and how we must look just like them. Just as the girl reaches the sea, the boy catches up to her and they fall into the surf laughing. As I get closer I see the girl pulling him on top of her and kissing him, wrapping her legs around his waist. I’m about to shift my gaze, embarrassed at witnessing such a passionate scene when I stop dead. For what seems like hours, but can only have been a matter of seconds, I stare at the couple wrapped up in each other’s arms in the sand, as if they’re the only two people in the world. Then I take off, flying across the sand, tears stinging my eyes and blurring my vision. Ben and Grace... I should have known.

“Hey!” I hear Sam’s surprised voice as I slam into him. “What’s wrong?” he asks more sympathetically, taking my arm and leading me up the stairs to a bench by the side of the road.
“Ben and Grace.” I say dully, angrily wiping the tears from my face.
“What about Ben and Grace?” he asks gently.
“I just saw them wrapped up in each others arms, kissing as if the world was about to end.” I whisper.
Out of the corner of my eye I notice Sam’s jaw tighten.
“Did Grace ever tell you what happened between us?” he asks eventually.
“She just said you didn’t like each other in that way anymore and just wanted to be friends.”
“That’s what I thought...”
“Sam?” I ask squeezing his hand comfortingly.
“The truth is she still wants Ben back. She always has done. That’s what really happened between us. She loves him... and I’m fed up with being second best. I really care about her but I couldn’t deal with the way she acted towards him... as if I wasn’t even there. Eventually I told her it was all or nothing... and she chose nothing.” he finishes, a solitary tear gliding down his face.
“Sam, I had no idea...”
“I know. She was very careful to hide it.”
“I just can’t believe Ben...” I trail off unable to say aloud what I’m really thinking. That Ben wanted her all along... not me.
“Come on.” he says through gritted teeth, “We don’t need them.”

A half hour later I’m sitting across from Sam in a cafe away from the main tourist area, just down the road from the hotel. Taking a sip from my fruit cocktail my mind runs over the events that I witnessed on the beach. Sam remains silent, sensing that I need some time alone with my thoughts. They’re interrupted, however, by the sound of familiar voices approaching.
“What is it?” Sam asks, noticing the stricken look that crosses my face.
Before I can respond, however, Ben and Grace approach the table.
“You two aren’t getting up to anything naughty, are you?” Grace asks innocently.
“What do you care if we are?” Sam mutters under his breath, so that only I can hear. Pushing the hurt away, I allow the space to be filled with anger. Ben and Grace pull up chairs by our table but one look at Sam and I know he feels the same.
“Actually, we were just leaving, weren’t we Sam?” I say pushing back my chair and standing up.
“Yeah... see you guys later.” Sam adds awkwardly, standing as well. Before I can change my mind, I start walking back towards the hotel, Sam falling into step beside me.

When we get back to the hotel, we take the lift up to his room that he shares with Matt. As soon as the door clicks shut behind us, I collapse onto the nearest bed, Sam’s, and burst into tears.
“Hey...” Sam says sitting beside me and giving me a one armed hug. “Maybe its not what you think.”
“Sam, I know what I saw.” I reply as I’m overwhelmed by a fresh wave of tears. A few moments later, there’s a knock on the door.
“I’m not here.” I whisper, slipping onto the balcony and hiding behind the half closed curtain. I listen closely as Sam opens the door.
“Is Amber here?” I hear Ben ask as soon as the door is opened.
“No she’s not.” Is Sam’s guarded reply. His tone of voice is lost on Ben.
“Damn! Do you know where she is?”
“No, I haven’t seen her since we got back to the hotel.”
“Do you at least know why she’s so upset?” Ben asks desperately.
“I think you already know.”
“What are you talking about?”
“She saw you with Grace.”
“Don’t try and deny it.” Sam shouts.
“I don’t have time for this.” Ben says turning and running off down the corridor.
Slamming the door hard, Sam turns and comes over to the balcony.
“He’s gone...”
“I figured.”
“Lets get out of here,” Sam says, clasping my hand. “How does that bar on the beach sound?”
“Great.” I say, liking the sound of drowning my sorrows in drink more and more.

A little while later I’m sitting next to Sam at the bar having the time of my life. After who knows how many shots of whatever sounds good, I’m very tipsy.
“Come on, one more!” I slur for the third time, leaning heavily on Sam.
“Yeah, why not.” he says again, trying to control his giggles.
“Maybe we should get going?” Sam asks eventually.
“Yeah OK.” I agree, still sober enough to realise that drinking anymore would be a very bad idea.
Leaning on each other for support, we make our way down the empty beach back towards the hotel.
“I like the flowers...” I start to sing softly.
“I like the daffodils!” Sam joins in.
“I like the sunshine,
I like the rolling hills,
I like the fireside when the lights are low...” We sing together, loudly and out of tune, not caring who hears us.
Tripping on some driftwood, Sam catches me before I fall onto the sand.
“Sam, you saved me!” I say in mock gratitude, “You’re my hero!”
“My dearest princess, I would never let any harm come to your highness.” he says, pretending to be a medieval prince.
Laughing, we carry on down the beach until we reach the stairs leading up to the road by the hotel. Glancing up at the road I notice a loan figure sitting on the wall… Ben.
“Kiss me.” I say, turning to Sam.
“What?” he asks shocked.
“Kiss me.” I say again, my eyes still fixed on Ben.
Turning his head slightly to see what I’m looking at, light dawns in his eyes. Then, pulling me towards him he kisses me hard on the lips. Opening my eyes slightly I see Ben storming across the sand towards us, his eyes, usually so gentle, filled with dark fury. Pulling away from Sam I suddenly realise fully what I’m doing. All I had thought about was making him feel the way I did, but now I’m just as bad as him.
“Get away from her!” Ben’s shout pierces the night.
“You gonna make me?” Sam asks, his eyes flashing.
“You bet I am.” Ben says darkly swinging his fist at Sam’s stomach.
“Ben, no!” I shout as Sam doubles over in pain. “Stop it!” I cry, covering my eyes as Ben punches Sam again.
“Ben, cool it.”  I hear Chris’s voice as he and Matt pull Ben away from Sam.
Looking from Ben to Sam and back again, I feel my world crashing down around me. Then I turn and run.
“Amber!” I hear Ben screaming my name behind me, but I don’t stop. I can’t.
“Let her go.” I hear Chris’s voice, getting quieter as the distance between us increases.

Collapsing onto the sand, I bury my head in my hands and cry. I don’t understand how everything could have gone so wrong so fast. Staring out at the sea, the events of the day going round and round in my head, I loose track of time and eventually my thoughts.
“Amber!” I’m jerked out of my almost trance like state by Lara’s concerned voice. Looking up I see Lara and Nikki running across the beach towards me.
“Are you all right?” Nikki asks, sitting down next to me as Lara throws her arms around me.
“I don’t know.” I say truthfully.
“Amber, what’s going on? Everyone has different versions of the story but none of them make much sense.” Lara asks wearily.
I tell them everything, from seeing Ben and Grace, to kissing Sam. When I’m finished the help me up and walk me back to the hotel. It’s already close to four in the morning and when we get back to the hotel, Lara lets me crash on the sofa in her room.

I sleep for a few of hours but when I wake up, a bit before nine, I can’t get back to sleep so instead I get up, and carefully, so as not to disturb Lara and Chris, I slip out of the room and head out of the hotel. I buy some breakfast from the café by the hotel before wandering off down the almost deserted beach. I’m not sure how I end up there, or why, but somehow I find myself at the rock on the beach I had sat on with Ben when we watched the sunset, “our” rock. Sliding onto it, I sit down and stare out over the sea, watching a sailing boat on the horizon.
“I thought I might find you here.” I hear Ben’s voice behind me.
Refusing to acknowledge his presence, I continue to stare at the sea, my expression betraying none of the conflicting emotions inside me.
“We need to talk,” he says coming around to stand in front of me.
“I have nothing to say to you.” I say coldly.
“Well I have plenty I want to say to you.”
“Go ahead.”
“Come back to the hotel with me. Please? It’ll be easier to talk there.”
“Fine.” I say standing and starting to walk.
Falling into step beside me, I can feel his eyes on me but I keep my gaze on the path ahead, refusing, even for a second, to let myself look at him.
When we reach the hotel, I follow him into the bar and take a seat opposite him. As the bar doesn’t open until early evening, we’re the only people there.
“Amber, I’m sorry. I had no idea Grace still liked me. I thought she was over it a long time ago… and then there was Sam… We were just messing about yesterday at the beach, sunbathing and relaxing, as friends. She emptied a bucket of water over me and I chased her. The next thing I knew she was kissing me… I never meant for it to happen.”
“How can I believe you?” I ask, my eyes betraying how much I want to believe him.
“Because I love you and I would never knowingly do anything to hurt you,” he says, clasping my hand across the coffee table.
“I’m sorry too. I should never have kissed Sam.”
Seeing him flinch I add, “I was drunk and upset. I didn’t mean it.”
“I know.” he whispers, his eyes glistening.
“I thought you and Grace…” I leave my sentence unfinished.
“Amber, nothing is going on between me and Grace, I promise you. That kiss meant nothing. She kissed me, not the other way round.”
“You know that’s not what happened…” Grace’s sugary voice cuts in.
“Grace what are you talking about?” Ben asks, trying to control his emotions. “Amber, she doesn’t mean it.”
Looking from Ben’s pleading face to Grace’s butter wouldn’t melt expression; I stand up and walk away. I’ve had enough of Grace, of Ben and of his heartless lies. They deserve each other. Ignoring Ben, desperately calling my name, I walk over to the lifts and go up to our room. Once inside, I lock the door and slide the chain across. Then I lie back on the bed, our bed, and let the tears fall.

“Amber!” A loud banging on the door, a minute or two later, pulls me out of my reverie. “Let me in, please. Don’t listen to what Grace said.” Ben shouts through the crack in the door.
“Go away Ben, leave me alone.”
“Amber please, I…”
“Just go.” I shout, pulling a pillow over my head.
“Amber, please…”
“GO!” I scream, throwing my pillow at the door.
Finally he gives up, closing the door behind him. I listen as his heavy footsteps echo down the corridor and then he’s gone. I look at my watch and realise its still only early afternoon. My stomach growls and I remember that I’ve had nothing to eat since half nine this morning. Dragging myself off the bed, I open the mini bar and pull out a coke and a couple of bars of chocolate. Pulling the curtains shut against the sunlight streaming into my room I turn on the television and spend the rest of the afternoon watching cartoon network in French and eating junk food.

“Amber open up, its Lara and Nikki.” Lara calls through the door, a little after eight thirty in the evening.
Dragging myself over to the door I look through the peephole, before letting them into the room.
“Come on, we’re going out, just the three of us.” Nikki says, going over to my cupboard and pulling out a pair of trousers and a top and laying them out on the bed.
Before I can object Lara cuts in, “And we’re not taking no for an answer! We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Your choice!” she says grinning cheekily.
I can’t help but laugh at their eagerness, and pushing Ben out of my mind I get into the spirit of things, getting dressed up and helping Lara with her make up.
“So, where we going then?” I ask when we’re all ready.
“Wherever we end up!” Lara yells grabbing my wrist and dragging me out the door before I can back out.
“Where are Matt and Chris?” I ask in the lift.
“Cheering up Sam.” Nikki says softly, “He really misses Grace, you know.”
“So Ben and Grace…”
“Are sorting things out between them. Ben wasn’t lying about the kiss, Amber, but Grace really cares about Ben…” Nikki cuts in.
“You know what they say, love is blind. Which must be true otherwise I have no idea why there are two girls fighting over my brother!” Lara adds, sending us all into fits of laughter.
“Oh come on! You know he’s not that bad!” I laugh.
“I’m not convinced!” Lara replies as we walk out of the hotel.
As I follow the others out the door, I smile to myself. Now I know Ben’s not with Grace, everything seems sorted, even though I know it isn’t. Tomorrow we can sort things out but for now... I can just relax, have fun, and stop thinking about Ben and Grace for five minutes.
“Right, I’m going to spin around and we go to the place I’m pointing at, all right?” Lara says, spinning around a couple of times, stopping with her finger pointing straight out to sea.
“Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea…” Nikki says giggling.
“Oh I think it’s a brilliant idea!” I laugh, exchanging a knowing look with Lara.
Crossing the road, we run down the stairs to the beach. When we reach the sand we kick off our sandals and roll our trousers up as high as they’ll go. Then, holding hands, Lara and I run straight into the sea, splashing as much as physically possible.
“You two are nuts!” Nikki yells from the beach. “You’re soaking and you haven’t even had anything to drink yet!”
“Come on in, the water’s lovely!” I laugh spinning around and almost falling over.
“Hell, why not!” Nikki agrees, taking off her shoes and joining us in the water.
“I think we should go get some drinks.” I say after a while. “Who’s with me?”
“Me!” Lara and Nikki chorus in unison.
Collecting our stuff from the sand, we climb back up to the pavement.
“OK, my turn.” I say, spinning around.
“Now that is a good choice.” Nikki says approvingly, looking at the bar I’m pointing at.
Sitting down at the bar we order a vodka shot each.
“A toast, to us!” Lara says, lifting her glass.
“To us!” Nikki and I chorus, before drinking the first of many.

Quite a few drinks later we decide to go back down to the beach. Dumping all our stuff on the sand, we splash into the sea, not caring that our trousers are getting soaked.
“What are you lot up to?”
We all turn at the sound of Chris’s voice coming from the shore.
“Come on in, the water’s great.” Lara giggles.
“You’re on!” Chris yells, kicking off his shoes before running over to Lara and splashing her playfully.
He’s soon followed by Matt and Sam.
“Hey...” I say nervously when Sam reaches us.
“Heya.” He says, catching my eye and smiling, immediately erasing any awkwardness that could have occurred between us.
Grinning back, I splash some water in his face, “Prepare to die!”
“Not if I get you first!” He retorts, splashing me back.
A fully-fledged water fight follows and by the end, we’re all soaking from head to foot. We’re about to start heading back when Ben and grace appear at the top of the stairs. I stop dead, still up to my knees in water. I watch as they share a look before coming down the stairs to meet us.

“Amber...” When she gets close enough to be heard over the sound of the waves.
Without a word, I follow her a little way down the beach. I can feel Ben’s eyes on us the whole time.
“Amber, I’m really sorry. I never meant to steal Ben from you. He really loves you, I know that now...” She breaks off.
“I don’t no what to say...” I reply slowly.
Now that I know the truth... well I guess I’m not mad, after all, Grace is one of my good friends, even if she hasn’t been acting it recently...
Interrupting my thoughts she adds, “I’ll understand if you can’t forgive me but I just wanted you to know that none of this is his fault. I can hardly blame him for the fact that I’m in love with him.”
“Lets just forget all this ever happened OK?”
“Thank you.” She says, smiling for the first time.
We turn to walk back down the beach and she hugs me impulsively, “You know, you’re a really great friend.”

We rejoin the others who are in the process of dragging Ben into the water. Sharing a look with him that’s lost on everyone else, all the problems of the past few days evaporate into the warm night air.
“Go on...” I yell, encouraging him, “The water’s lovely!”
Wading through the shallow water towards him, I help pull him deeper. Eventually, he gives up the fight and allows himself to be led into the waves. A further water fight occurs until, cold and wet, we decide to go back to the hotel to catch a few hours sleep before our flight in the morning. Holding Ben’s hand, we walk, knee deep, through the water until we’re parallel to the stairs up to the hotel. I’m about to follow the others up the beach when Ben holds me back. Surprised, I loose my balance as a wave tugs at my feet and I fall into the water, pulling Ben with me.
“This could be a scene from a soppy romance movie!” Ben laughs.
“No, this would be a scene from a movie...” I say softly, pulling him close and kissing him as a wave washes over us.
“Get a room you two!” We’re interrupted by Lara’s voice.
Pulling apart guiltily, we stand up and run up the beach to catch up with everyone else.

We get back to our rooms, trying not to make too much of a mess, and turn in for the night, agreeing to meet the following morning at the unearthly hour of six thirty, to get a taxi to the airport. Ben and I take it in turns to shower and change, before curling up together in bed.
“I missed you last night...” Ben says after a while, softly stroking my hair. “This bed was really lonely with just me in it.”
“I missed you too... you were all I could think about.”
“I know the feeling. All I thought about all night was how badly I wanted to hold you and kiss you.”
“You can kiss me now...” I say suggestively.
Laughing softly, he kisses me gently.
“I love you.” He says just before we fall asleep in each other’s arms, where we belong.

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