Chapter 1: Prologue
Summer, 1991, somewhere along El Segundo Beach, CA
“So, you’re just here to annoy me, then?” I angrily pushed the rag across the desktop, cleaning an already clean spot again. Why was I even cleaning the office??
“Something like that,” he agreed, but there was no trace of humor in his voice. I looked up, my breath catching as I met his eyes for the first time. I knew something was wrong. Sure, we were broken up, for like the twelfth time, but we were gonna work it out. Eventually, I thought.
“Holly. Please.” Keanu grabbed me by the elbow, forcing me to stop. I angrily jerked my arm away from him. “I need to know.”
“You need to know what, Keanu?” I turned around, my eyes flashing as my heart thrummed in my chest. “You already have your answer. What else is there?”
“I need to know that you don’t feel anything anymore.” His dark eyes bore into mine, his jaw tense under the beginning of a five-o'clock shadow.
“You know I don’t.” I refused to meet his eyes, instead stared off at the far wall.
“That’s a lie,” Keanu challenged me.
“No, you’re the one that lies, remember?” I looked up at him now, my eyes filling with angry tears. God how I hated him. I hated how he made me cry. I hated how he made me feel. I just hated him.
“I hate when you cry,” he sighed as he dropped down into the chair nearest the desk.
“No, you must not, because that’s all you’ve ever fucking done to me since I’ve met you.” I reached over and grabbed a tissue to clean my face. “Why are you even here? What do you want now?” Please say you still love me....
“I need you to let me go, Holly.”
I laughed, unsure of what he meant by that statement…But part of me was terrified of what he meant by letting him go. Was my heart supposed to be beating that loud? That fast? Was I having a heart-attack? He was joking, I was sure of it.
“I’ve never had you!” I screamed at him, no longer caring as the fear and anger and despair took over. I hated him. I was doing so good, so damn good with being okay, and all it took was him walking back into the store and ruining it for me. Keanu sighed again before running a hand over his face.
“I’m seeing someone.”
I felt the air leave my lungs in a rush, my stomach dropping as if I were riding on a rollercoaster that had just nosedived down the steepest hill possible. I was shaking as I sat down in my own chair, my legs no longer able to carry my weight.
“Seeing someone?” I whispered. “What?”
“I’ve met someone, and I think…You know I think she’s the one, Holly.”
I listened to his words, wondering if he felt as strangled as I did. He sounded resigned, his voice low and heavy. Did he sound sad? Or was that just my imagination, still holding onto some sort of hope that we’d one day make it back to each other, and that I would forgive him for being a cheating bastard, and that we’d live happily ever after? That it would just take time to get over these things, but one day I would, and we’d be happy. That’s what everyone said, right? Just give it time, you’ll get over it. You’ll be happy one day, Holly.
“You’ll get over it, Holly,” I whispered to myself as a fresh batch of tears rolled down my cheeks. “That’s what everyone said, Ke. They said I’d be happy. That I was young, that I’d find someone new. But I’m not, and I don’t think I ever will be. How is it fair that you get to be happy before me? I did nothing wrong!”
Keanu caught me as I doubled over, sobbing into my hands as I tried to muffle the sounds. He knelt before me, his long arms wrapped around my shaking shoulders as I cried.
“I’m so sorry,” Keanu whispered against my hair as he stroked my back. “I am so, so sorry for everything.”
“Get off me,” I shoved at him, pushing him back so that he rocked back on his heels. He still sat, kneeling in front of me. I hugged myself, sniffling as my crying stopped. “You know, I wish I had never met you. That’s what I wish. I wish you’d never come in this stupid store, and I wish I’d never talked to you!”
“You don’t mean that,” Keanu shook his head, and for the first time, I saw my own pain reflected in his eyes. It was unmistakable, and for some reason, it made me feel almost hysterical inside. I felt a delirious laughter bubble up from deep within, and I could feel my lips twisting into a smirk. Heartbreak and hysterical humor – who would’ve thought those two could go hand in hand?
“No, Ke,I do mean that. You’re probably the worst mistake I’ve ever made in my whole damn life.” I leaned forward, practically hissing as I whispered, “I fucking hate you, and I never loved you.” For good measure, I poked a finger at his chest. “And just so you know, I’ve been fucking Jimmy since before you. I wasn’t a virgin.” I smirked, doing my best to twist the knife as much and as deep as possible. Anything to hurt him the way he'd just hurt me. See if he liked his heart being ripped out and trampled on.
Shock, then disbelief, and finally anger flashed across his dark features at my words. Then, as if in slow motion, I watched as Keanu leaned forward, his large hands cupping my cheeks as he pulled me to him. Our lips harshly slammed together, our teeth clashing. I could taste the bitterness of blood and I knew that he’d split my lip with the force. At first, I struggled against him, but as he rose, bringing his chest up against mine, I felt myself melt against him as I always did. One of his hands released my cheek and worked its way down to my lower back, pulling me closer; I frantically clawed at his shoulders, wanting, needing to be as close to him as humanly possible.
“God,” Keanu groaned as he released my lips and took a deep, haggard breath. I reached for him again, hands now finding his cheeks and tugging him forward, but he pulled back. “No, Holly. We can’t. This is wrong. I’m sorry.”
He released me, and then stepped away. I watched, my brain still fuzzy, my mind spinning, as he turned around and pushed an angry hand through his hair. One hand was on his hip, his shoulders tense as he paced like an angry cat.
“Fuck!” He cursed out loud as he swiped his hand down his face, before pushing his hair back once more.
I sat back in my chair, reality finally sinking in. I licked at my lip, wincing when I felt the now stinging cut. My lip would be swollen, I could feel that now, but what was new? Keanu had always left his mark on me, in one way or the other…Why did I think today would be any different?
“I didn’t mean for that to happen.” He had walked over and taken his seat again opposite me, his eyes wary, guarded.
“It’s fine, Ke." I was numb, my voice low.
“Holly? Look. It’s not, okay? I’m a piece of shit, and I’m sorry.”
I huffed out another hysterical laugh at his stupid “apology”.
“You’re always sorry, Ke. Always sorry for something. Always.” My eyes met his. I was resigned now. And I was angry as hell. How dare he. “And I’m sorry, too.”
“Just go, okay?” I stood up, adjusting my shirt, and pushing my own hair back into a messy bun. My hands were shaking with a red-hot fury that seemed to be racing through my veins. I needed him to get away from me. I needed to scream, to punch something. Anything. “I need to get back to work. Dad’s gonna kill me.”
“Let me explain before you go, okay?” Keanu stood, coming closer. He reached out, grabbed my elbow again, and attempted to turn me to him. Without thinking, I slapped him. The crack was loud in the too-quiet office, seeming to echo off the walls. I was just as shocked as he was, my hand immediately coming to cover my gaping mouth. Keanu blinked a few times before stepping back, one hand rubbing at his cheek that was already turning red.
“Ke, I’m sorry, okay?” I reached out to him, only to have him step back further out of reach. I pulled my hand back to my side, feeling my eyes well up with tears again. I don’t know that I had ever been more ashamed in my life as I was in that moment....Or that I’d ever felt more childish than I did in this very moment.
“This is why, Holly.” Keanu’s voice was somber, and I felt myself blanch under his stare. He was serious, I knew it now. “This is why we don’t need to be together. All we do is hurt each other. All we ever do is hurt each other, over and over again.”
“No, Keanu,”– I made a point to use his full name as well – “we aren’t good together because you got famous and can’t keep your dick in your pants!” I held a finger up to halt him from speaking. “So you go, Keanu. You go, make your money, marry your perfect little actress girlfriend, and get the fuck outta my store.”
Just then, my dad walked in. He stopped, seeing my face –and I assume my blotchy skin- and then turned to Keanu, his bushy brows drawn together as he stared the younger man down. “Holly. Keanu. What’s going on here?” He looked over at me. “Everything alright, baby?”
If my dad saw the clearly visible red mark welting up on Keanu's pale skin, he didn't mention it.
“Yeah, dad. It’s fine. Keanu was just coming to say goodbye.” I glared at him, daring Keanu to say a word otherwise.
“Mr. Ausage, It’s been a pleasure, sir. Holly was right, I’m leaving. Heading back up to LA to get serious about my career.” Keanu held out his hand, and my dad took it. "I just wanted to come see you all before I left."
“Well, it seems like it’s already pretty serious, right?” My dad commented as he released Keanu’s hand. “I saw the commercial for your movie, son. That’s pretty cool. Probably a good thing for you to be moving on, I'd imagine."
“Yes sir, it seems to be taking off pretty well,” Keanu agreed, his eyes darting back to mine. I felt like he was asking me to not say anything. Too bad.
“Yeah, he’s doing great, dad. Just fucking wonderful. He’s even engaged and everything. Really great, right?” I glared at Keanu, willing my eyes to not fill with tears, but damn me if they didn’t yet again. Without another word, I ran out of the shop and down towards the shoreline.
Standing at the edge of my world, I hugged myself, the rain that was now falling and pelting me in the face carrying away whatever tears I had left….
Chapter 2: First love
Present day, 2014, somewhere along the Galveston coast...
“So…in case you’re wondering, he didn’t come after me,” I cut my eyes at my only child, grinning as I did so. “Betcha thought it was gonna be some kind of Sweet Home Alabama fairytale where he chased me out on the beach, huh? Lightning strikes, and all that jazz?”
“Mom. Oh my god. That is like the saddest thing I have ever heard.” Malia was shaking her head as she began scrolling through her phone. She held it up, a current pic of Keanu with a full beard on display. I felt my smile deepen as I blushed. I still felt a little something, a little warmth creep over me whenever I saw him, whether it be on television or in a movie, or whatever. “This is him, right? John-Fucking-Wick??”
“Hey, hey, hey! Watch your mouth, kid!” I admonished her with a frown. Were 16 year old kids supposed to talk like that? “How did my daughter grow up to be so foul-mouthed?”
“Really, mom? I learned it from you,” Malia rolled her eyes dramatically. She continued staring at her iPhone, scrolling through photo after photo of him.
“So, Keanu Reeves could have been my dad!”
“Uhh, no.” I did my best to untangle from that conversation before it began. Malia’s dad was one-night stand, a careless beach party fuck. And, after getting to know him the next day, having him out of the picture was the best thing for all involved. Even Malia agreed that he was better out of sight, and out of mind. Raising Malia on my own was the best thing I’d ever done, truth be told. Straightened me up real quick.
“Okay wow. He’s super hot as John Wick, but what the hell with this Point Break movie?? He was so young!” Malia opened the pic, enlarging it. “Is this when you guys were dating?”
I peered at the picture, doing my best to not smile any harder at that youthful face that I remembered so clearly. That was the Keanu I knew and loved. Now, it seemed he was always bearded, and while it was still incredibly attractive on him, I did miss his beautiful, clean-shaven face.
“Actually, I think you’re right - that was right around the time we were together. 1991 I think it was.”
“Okay, so I’m looking here, and he’s 50 now. So at that time, he would’ve been like 26 or 27.” Malia kept scrolling through her phone, and then I saw the calculator appear, and then I started dying a little inside as I realized where this was all heading. Fucking fuck.
She looked at me with wide eyes, grinning before her mouth dropped open in mock shock. “You were like 16 years old when you hooked up with him, weren’t you?”
I dropped my head on the bed, my cheeks heating as my daughter exposed my hypocrisy for the world to see. It was less than 24 hours ago that I’d been lecturing her about not having sex until she was married, and here I was, pretty much doing illegal shit with Keanu back in the day. Why had I ever thought some innocent self-disclosure could be a good thing??
“Do as I say, not as I did?” I tried, my voice muffled by the blankets as I struggled to maintain some sense of parental bearing.
“Oh wow! Did Grandpa know?” Malia kept up the interrogation, and I knew I coudldn’t escape. I lifeted my head, knowing honesty was the best thing. Besides, Malia and I were like best friends – we told each other everything. And I wanted to keep it that way, so I knew I had to be truthful.
“Mal, sweetie, Grandpa knew enough to know that Keanu leaving me was a good thing. Matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t” – I threw up some air quotes—“encourage it.”
Malia lay down back next to me, resting her chin against my shoulder. “Did you love him?”
I smiled before answering. Of course I had loved him. I think.
“As much as a 16 year old could love a 27 year old man, yes,” I admitted quietly. “But we were bad together, sweetie. Drugs, drinking, sex – it was just not a good combo for someone my age, you know? Hell, he thought I was 21 when we met, that’s how immature and crazy I was. I was a virgin. We could have both gotten in a whole lot of trouble with the age thing, and all because I wanted to do what I wanted to do.”
“Do you miss him now?” My daughter turned to me, brown eyes meeting brown eyes. “After all this time, do you ever think what could have been?”
I sighed as I dropped my head, resting my chin on my folded arms. “Yeah, occasionally. I think about the way he’d play guitar for me, or how we’d go surfing together. He would always bring me street tacos and beer.” I smiled, remembering the first time Keanu had gotten me drunk. Man, my dad had torn us both a new set of assholes after that. Jesus.
“I think you still have feelings for him,” Malia quietly remarked. “You have a different look on your face when you talk about him. I've never seen it before. It’s really sweet, Mom.”
“Well, that was a hundred years ago, and he’s super famous, and probably has lots of girlfriends,” I dismissed quietly. It would do me no good to start thinking of him like that. That ship had left the dock, sunk, all that good stuff. There was no going back to that summer in 1991. Wanting to end the conversation, I crawled off the bed and stood.
“You need to get to bed, okay? And don’t think that I’m changing my stance on anything based off this other thing we talked about tonight. You’re still grounded for a week, okay?”
“Godddd, yes, okay,” Malia grumbled, whining as she rolled over and crawled under her sheets.
"I love you,” I smiled over at her as I reached for the lights. "Phone off, okay?"
“Love you, too,” my daughter mumbled back as she placed her phone on her bedside table. I started pulling the door shut, only to stop when I heard her call me again.
“Have good dreams about John Wick, okay?” Malia giggled, quickly covering her head with the sheet.
“I’m gonna add a week, you brat! Now go to sleep!” With a sigh, I pulled the door shut and went up to my room.
I’d cleaned everything, I’d folded two loads of laundry. I’d done my bills, ran a second weekly expense report for the store – Anything to get him out of my head.
It was no use.
I couldn’t stop thinking about him, no matter how hard I’d tried.
Once I was up in my room - a bottle of wine in hand - I went into my closet and pulled down that box that he and I had filled during that summer. All the Polaroids of us together on the beach. The guitar pick/broken guitar-string bracelet he’d made me. The love letters. The stupid little photos he sent me from the set of Point Break. I half-sighed, half-laughed as I remembered the fights about that movie. I had hated him for leaving me, hated that movie, and hated all the people he worked with. Looking back, I could definitely see just how childish and immature I was.
However, I had to admit that even now, the sting was still there. Was it possible to still feel heartbreak, even after all these years?
My first love… My first heartbreak…My first everything – all with the same man.
Chapter 3: You only turn 40 once...
A month later…
“40 years old! Haha you’re getting old, Holly Jolly!”
I rolled my eyes at my best friend as I continued to shove boxes up and onto the shelf. “You’re an asshole, you know that?” I grunted. "And don't call me Holly Jolly."
“But I’m your asshole, so that’s all that matters,” Denise chuckled as she nonchalantly handed me another box. “You ready for tonight?”
“Big huge party, with lots of people you and JoJo invited, most of which I don’t know? Huge mess to clean up after? Of course, what’s not to be excited about?”
“Okay Negative Nancy, I already told you, we’d help you clean. And besides, you need to meet some new people. You only turn 40 once, you know.” Denise plopped down on the chair nearest us, pulling out her phone.
“Oh, so I guess you’re done helping me, right?” I huffed as I shoved the last box up top. Finally. At least all the coffee products were put up. I stepped off the small ladder, dusting off my jeans. My back was screaming in protest as I folded up the ladder and set it aside.
“I’m texting our daughter, so hush your mouth, woman,” Denise’s brows drew together as she texted Malia.
“Is she on her way? I need help in the kitchen,” I complained as I rubbed my lower back. Why had I ever agreed to this damn party on such short notice, I had no idea. The store was hardly ready for normal business hours, much less a birthday party. Not for the first time did I think about taking off down the beach, running and leaving all the stress of the new store and this party behind. But between Denise and Malia, I didn’t have much say it seemed—the party was planned and people were coming, and there was no turning back now.
“I need a drink,” I continued complaining.
“No, you need to go get ready, that’s what you need to do.” Denise had looked up at me, her nose wrinkling in distaste as she took in my appearance. “God, Holly. You need to go shower. You look like shit!”
“Well thanks a lot, asshole,” I frowned at her. “This is what working people look like, you know. Not everyone can sit on their ass all day like you.”
“Hey, I can’t help if my folks are rich,” Denise shrugged, and continued typing. “I laid a dress on your bed, go get ready.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not wearing a dress, thank you very much.” Shaking my head, I picked up my book of invoices. Seeing how full it was, I quickly shut it. I’d need time and booze to go through that damn thing.
“Can you at least look like a woman for once, Holly?” It was Denise’s turn to sound whiny and complaining.
“I have a vagina and boobs, and longish hair – what more do you want from me?” I laughed at her annoyed look. “I’ll put on nice jeans and a nice shirt, and maybe some makeup. Will that be okay for you, Queen Elizabeth?”
“Well, I think the dress would be more appropriate for your party, but you do what you want. You always do.” Denise stood. “I’m going to take care of some stuff, and I’ll grab Malia on my way back. Need anything while I’m out?”
“A canceled party, a case of Coronas, and some Netflix would be great…” I trailed off hopefully. I couldn’t control another laugh at my friend’s exasperated look. “Okay, okay. I’m going,” I grinned as I headed towards the back of the store, and the door. It connected to the second space, the one we’d converted into a small apartment for Malia and me.
“Lock up before you leave, okay? I’ll unlock when I’m done showering.”
“Okay,” Denise replied as she fished out her keys from her purse. “You’re gonna thank me for this party when it’s over. Go get dressed. I’ll be back.” Denise grabbed her sunglasses and cell phone, and without another word, headed out the front door, locking it behind her.
Once inside the small apartment, I grabbed a bottle of wine as I made my way over to my record player to turn on some music. Might as well get myself in the mood, as much as possible, I thought. I was gonna pull out The Ramones, but saw that The Who was already setting on the platter, so I went with that. Pretty soon, Baba O’Reilly began, and I felt myself relaxing just a bit as the first glass of wine was emptied. I refilled it as I stepped into the tub, with Pete and Roger doing their best to pump me up.
Chapter 4: Happy Birthday
I stared out over the railing, another beer in hand as I watched the waves roll in and out towards the shore. The wind was strong tonight, the taste of the sea hung on the air, the salt heavy in my hair. It was about an hour after everyone had finally left, and with Malia having gone with Denise to some other party down the beach, I found myself at the store, all alone. It was fine by me, though, as I needed to decompress after all the events of the night.
My friends had definitely shown up, more of them than I’d ever thought possible, and honestly, I couldn’t even be surprised at Denise’s tenacity. Denise was well-known in Galveston, what with her father owning some of the more popular hotels on the island and being very active in the local tourism industry. He seemed to know everyone that came to the island, and by default, so did Denise. To be honest, a lot of the people that showed, I had absolutely no idea who they were. My face hurt from smiling so much, but overall, everyone left happy, and even I – introvert extraordinaire – couldn’t deny that I’d had a good time. But lord Jesus was I glad it was over.
I took a sip of my beer as I watched a boat offshore, it’s lights twinkling in the distance.
To say the evening had been interesting was an understatement. More than once, I'd felt like I was on an episode of Speed Dating, and no one had told me about it. I’d had more than a few men come up to me during the night, all of them connected with Denise’s father in one way or the other. One had wasted no time in trying to tell me how to run my business, and insisted that I absolutely must take his business card if I ever “wanted to make it”. I grimaced, Douchebag. Who offers a business card to the birthday girl on her birthday, right there on the damn dance floor? I’d thrown that card in the bathroom trash.
The next guy, well he’d spent his time trying to get in my pants. I’d probably heard every imaginable cheesy pick-up line that had ever been invented. He’d tried to buy me a drink, only to realize soon after that this birthday girl owned the bar next door, so therefore drinks were free. Idiot. The guy was relentless it seemed, but finally, after being shot down no less than three times, he’d finally made his way over to someone else, and was now their problem.
One of the last men seemed promising, though. An older guy, probably mid-50s, said he was an orthopedic surgeon down at UTMB. He knew Denise, was a friend of the family he’d said. He’d brought me a bottle of wine – major brownie points for that! – and had even invited me to a charity fishing event coming up in a few weeks. I’d danced with him a bit, had kinda sorta agreed to his invitation. I liked that he didn’t need to paw at me like the other guys, and I also liked that he seemed normal. Maybe a little boring, but he seemed nice enough. We’d agree that he’d stop by the store in the next week or so to see if I was still interested in going.
I snorted to myself, reminded now of how much of the store still needed to be finished so that we could open. I inhaled through my nose, and out through my mouth, willing myself to stop thinking all the things I needed to get done – at least for tonight. When I’d decided to buy the store property and move Dad’s idea here from Cali, that was one thing. When I got a wild hair up my ass a few weeks ago and decided to also buy the next door property – a grill and bar, no less!! – well, that’s when I realized I might’ve gotten in over my head just a little. The bar had been Denise’s baby actually, and she assured me that it was gonna take off without a hitch. We just had about nine hundred and eighty nine things that needed to be done first. With a grimace, I gulped down the last of my beer and headed back inside to grab another.
I had just closed the cooler, and had popped the lid off when I heard the outer door fly open.I had assumed it was the wind, but then nearly dropped my freshly opened beer, jumping when I heard a banging on the door that sounded like knocks. I rolled my eyes, wondering if it was the creepy guy had come back to see if I’d changed my mind.
Beer in hand, I made my way over to the front of the bar and peered out through the glass.
This time I really did almost drop my beer, because standing outside was someone I never thought I'd see again.
The man on the other side grinned back at me from underneath the hood of his jacket. He waved at me, then pointed down at the lock, which I quickly undid. I pushed the door open.
“Ke?” I breathed out in disbelief as I took in the man standing before me.
“Hello, Holly,” Keanu grinned at me.
“What are you doing here?” I continued staring at him, my heart thumping painfully against my chest wall.
“Can I come in?” Keanu grinned as he held up a small box. “I come bearing gifts!”
“Oh god, yes!” I opened the door wider, allowing him to step into the store. “Can I get you something? Beer? Water?”
“I’m fine, thanks, but I'll probably take a beer. Long as it's Corona,” Keanu smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but blush under his gaze.
How had he gotten so tall, and big, and handsome? And the beard. Good lord. I thought I didn’t like it, but I was so completely wrong about the damn beard. Jesus he was beautiful, more so than I ever remembered him being. He had on the typical Keanu clothes - the old jacket, the denim jeans, the boots...And still somehow managed to look devastatingly handsome. God. I subconsciously pulled my hoodie around my body, acutely aware that I only had on a thin tank top and crazy, saggy sleep pants.
“Guess I missed the party?” Keanu surmised as he looked around at the empty room. He handed me the small box he carried in. “Happy birthday, Holly Bear.”
“Wait, you knew about tonight??” I took the box from him, holding it against my chest. I tried to ignore the way he’d slipped in the old pet name he had for me. It did weird things to my brain to hear that after so long. He’d always called me Holly Bear, and I’d called him Charlie Brown, but only when we were together.
“Yes. Your friend’s father is friend of my manager, and I heard it through them.” Keanu explained as he turned back to me. He unzipped his jacket, revealing a dark, short-sleeved tee-shirt as he peeled the outer layer off and laid it on my couch as he sat down.
“You look great,” Keanu smiled at me, and I felt myself blushing.
“No, you look great. I look old,” I laughed nervously as I looked anywhere but at him.
“Trust me, you look really great, Holly.”
“Anyway, so what are you doing down here?” I ignored his statement for safer ground. God. Being this close to him after so long was doing weird things to me. And with my excessive alcohol consumption, I couldn’t seem to think straight. And why was it so damn hot in here?
“I told you, I was invited to a party, and here I am.” Keanu chuckled again.
“Uhm, do you still want that beer?” I asked, not knowing what else to say as the silence stretched. "You can get one and we can go out back, if you want?" I was burning up, and needed to get put some space between us.
“I’d love one,” he replied, following me into the small kitchen area. I showed him where the beers were, and allowed him to fish his own out of the icy depths of the cooler. When it was opened, I led him back to the small patio off the bar, and each of us took a respective seat. I pulled my knees up against my chest, wrapping my oversized cardigan against them to ward off first the heat, and now the chill that had shown up with Keanu.
“So, you moved your Dad’s store here, huh?” Keanu began. “How long have you been here? And you have a kid, I heard?” He said the last part as he took a gulp of beer, his dark eyes trained on me over the bottle.
“About 5 years, now. The store was first, the bar”—I jerked my head back— “that’s new. And a pain in my ass. And yes, I have a 16 year old daughter, Malia."
"Wow. 16 huh? That's a great age, I bet." Keanu grinned. “And your dad? What’s he think of all this?”
I bowed my head, resting my chin on my knees. “He passed about 9 years ago, actually. Cancer. I couldn’t stay in Cali any longer, too many memories.”
“Aww, shit, Holly. I’m so sorry,” Keanu offered quietly. I could hear the sincerity in his voice, and we both sat quietly for a while, each wrapped up in our own thoughts.
After a few moments, Keanu sniggered quietly.
“What?” I glanced at him, seeing the smile on his face.
“You remember when we went up to Mavericks for your birthday, and tried to go surfing that night?”
“Yeah, and I remember I almost drowned!” I giggled as I recalled. That was another one of those dumb ideas Keanu and I had concocted late at night when were both forbidden to hang out any longer…but had done it anyway.
“Your dad was so pissed at me, I thought he was gonna kill me. No lie.”
“You? He almost did kill me!” I laughed again as I took another sip of my beer. “Dad always loved you, even if he didn’t love us together.”
“You think so?” Keanu mused.
“Yeah. I think he kinda thought of you like a son.” I stretched one leg out, pressing my heel against the wrought-iron railing before pulling it back to my chest. “He always talked about you, especially towards the end. He loved Constantine.” I cut my eyes at him, smiling as I took a sip of my beer.
“What? Really?” Keanu huffed out a laugh. “Constantine?”
“Yep. I have his copy with all his stuff, pretty sure.”
“Wow.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “I feel like a piece of shit for not coming back to check on him. That hurts my heart, really.”
“Oh, Ke, don’t, okay?” I looked over at him, my face softening as I took in his countenance. “You had your life, we had ours. You didn’t know, and we didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms, you know?”
“Yeah…” He sounded like he wasn't buying it all.
"So whatever happened with the love of your life?” I tried to keep my tone light, to not show that it still kinda affected me. We were grown adults, we could have this conversation. Right?
“Well. She wasn’t the love of my life. I figured that out quick.”
“Huh," I murmured, trying to sound disinterested.
“Yeah. Pretty sure I’ve only really been in love once,” – he turned to me, his dark brows drawn together – “and I fucked that up, didn’t I?”
I felt the breath leave my body at his words.
“I don’t think we should be having this discussion, Keanu.” I stood up, dusting off my pants I as I tried to avoid this conversational path. It’s not that I didn’t still care about him, and it’s not that I wasn’t nearly giddy with the thought of him still having feelings for me, but it was more that I had no idea what to say or how to react to that. I was so not prepared for this. He stood as well.
“Why not? I’m older, you’re older. We realize things when we get older, things that weren’t really clear back then, don’t you think?” He moved closer to me, close enough that I could smell his cologne. “Over 20 years now, Holly. That’s a long damn time.”
“It is a long time, and so much has changed.” I scooted back from him. “You’re famous. I’m a parent. And like seriously, I don’t even know what’s gone on with you.”
“A lot of shit has gone on with me,” Keanu followed me as I made my way back into the shop. He pulled the door shut behind him and followed me through to the small kitchen area. “Holly. You can’t tell me that you don’t remember what we were like together.”
At that, I stopped, my jaw set as I turned around, anger evident on my face. “Yeah. I remember I was 16, Keanu. And you were an adult. And I loved you, and you broke my heart. Do you remember that?”
Keanu’s mouth twisted down into a frown. “I didn’t know you were 16, Holly. Not at first.”
“Yeah, and then when you did find out, and my dad told us to stay away from each other, did we?” I set my beer down and crossed my arms over my chest. “No, if I remember correctly, that made our little relationship even more exciting, didn’t it? Sneaking out, getting drunk.” I looked away, my lips taut with my own frustration. “The pregnancy scare. Do you remember all of that?”
If Keanu could get any darker, he did in that moment when I reminded him of that night. It was one of those random make-out sessions that morphed into something else, and I’d forced him to find me a morning-after pill, just in case. Keanu was against it, but I didn’t care, and I’d made the decision to take the pills. I knew my dad would kill me if I was pregnant at almost 17 years of age! When my dad had found out about the pills and the scare, it was another time he threatened to kill Keanu. Our relationship became very strained, and was pretty much downhill after that. Keanu had gotten busier with his work, and we’d grown apart, and then he’d broken up with me the first time. It was during this time that I found out he'd slept with some other girl down in Los Angeles. And I still resented him for all of it.
“You know my feelings on that,” Keanu gritted out.
“Yeah, I know your feelings. And I know mine. It was the right thing to do. For me!” I jammed a finger at my chest. “You were leaving, becoming famous, and you had already been screwing around, remember? Do you really think I wanted to have a kid with someone like you? God!”
“You and I both know that’s not how it went down, so stop feeding yourself a line of bullshit, Holly.”
I huffed in disagreement.
“Yes, okay. Yes, I cheated with her, but that’s not what was happening."
My heart clenched in my chest at those words. Why did it still hurt so bad?
"And no, just because you might have been pregnant and made that decision without me, that’s not why I left either.” Keanu steepled his hands before his chest, imploring me. “Look. I never told you this before, but your dad came to me. Your dad talked to me, Holly. He knew how serious it was between us, and he threatened me with…You know, he was gonna call the cops. It was gonna be bad for me, Holly.”
I narrowed my eyes at him in disbelief.
“Put yourself in my shoes, please?” Keanu continued. “I was in those movies, and they got big. Really fast, and really quick. I was so out of my element. All the fame and bullshit and people involved. And then if your dad had made that call, and if I’d gotten caught up? Hell, Holly. Statutory rape? That would have ruined my career.”
“Yeah, well you ruined me, Ke,” I dropped my chin to my chest, reeling from what he’d just told me. I always had an inkling that dad might have been involved, but not to the level of him threatening Keanu. I never in a million years thought my father would go that far and interfere that much in my life.
“Holly, he did the right thing for us. For both of us. You know my dad situation, and you know that I didn’t have a good role model. I was fucking my life up, and yours in the process.”
I dropped down into a nearby chair; Keanu did the same. His face was wary as he regarded me.
“And you know I never wanted to hurt you. You have to know that."
“Why did you come here, Ke?” I looked up at him. “Why now?”
He shrugged. “Like I said, I got a message from your friend by way of my agent. Apparently they know each other, or her dad knows him. I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I just knew I wanted to see you. I've wanted to see you, and I haven’t been able to track you down. And now I was able. So here I am. Simple as that.”
“Well, now you’ve come.” I stood up. “And now you can leave.” I walked over to the door, and held it open for him. “Please, Ke. Just go.”
He grabbed his jacket before walking over and standing before me, his hands shoved in his pockets. “Are you married? Seeing someone? Is that what it is?”
“No, Ke! I’m not married, and I’m not seeing anyone, not that it’s any of your business.” I glared at him. “I just can’t do this again. I have a good life, and I don’t want it fucked up by your mid-life crisis.”
Keanu's lips flattened in disapproval.
"Go," I opened the door wider.
"Okay. I'll go." He stepped out the door, but then immediately turned around. Without asking, he came back to me, leant down, and kissed me on my cheek. "Happy birthday, Holly."
I stiffened under his touch, turning my head away to avoid anything else. He stared down at me for just a moment longer, and then he was gone.
After Keanu had left, I was so upset. I was angry. I wanted to cry. I wanted to call him back. I wanted to never see him again. I grabbed another couple of beers, and went right back out on the patio again. I knew I'd never be able to sleep. My mind was whirring, reeling with not only him showing up after so long, but after all the he'd revealed. Jesus. I looked over, saw the small package he'd brought still sitting on the table, and my curiosity got the better of me.
I opened the small box, carefully un-taping the paper so that I didn’t rip it. Despite my sour mood, I smiled when I saw what was inside.
It was a small, black polaroid camera, much like the one we’d lost at Mavericks so long ago. My smile grew as I pulled it out, and turned it over in my hands, marveling at holding one after so long. It was obviously a vintage one, and probably expensive. As I turned it over again, a small card fell down by my feet. I reached down, and picked it up, my eyes blurring as I read the words written in his neat handwriting.
I’m still sorry about losing your camera. I always wanted to give you another one.
Happy Birthday Holly Bear.
I sat back in my chair, staring out over the ocean, watching as the waves crashed against the shore.
Happy birthday, indeed.
Chapter 5: Matchmakers
“Alright.” I glared at my friend and daughter on the other side of the breakfast bar. “Which one of you did it?”
Malia, my daughter - my own damn flesh and blood!! - looked up at me over her phone, her eyes darting back to the screen. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
My lips screwed up in displeasure. I didn’t buy her feigned innocence, not one bit. It was the day after the party, well, the morning after, and Malia and Denise were both here, sitting at the small bar, and I was making breakfast. Not that I wanted to, mind you, but I was. I so seriously pissed at these two, and I didn't know which one I was more pissed at to be honest.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Mal! You are the only one that I told about him.” I turned accusing eyes to Denise. “And you, he practically named you by name! What the fuck?”
“Okay, first of all, calm down, cause I’m a little hung over, and you’re so damn loud right now…” Denise pulled off her sunglasses, the dark circles heavy under her eyes.
“Well, too bad!” I clanged the spatula into the pan, making as much noise as possible. I turned back to the eggs I was cooking, the anger hot and heavy in my veins. “Why would y’all do that? Seriously? Like two idiotic matchmakers, trying to make a match between two people who should never be matched!!”
“Why not?” Denise casually asked. “He’s hot, he’s apparently very single, and most important, he actually showed up. What kind of guy does that after all these years?” She waggled her eyebrows for emphasis. I felt my frown deepen.
“Well, since you don’t know what happened all those years ago—” I glared at Denise first, and then to Malia – “neither of you have any business interfering in my life, or contacting him for that matter! Do you know how embarrassing it was?”
“But he showed up….” Malia continued staring at her phone.
“Malia! Go to your room. Or go outside. Or go somewhere.” I turned around, hands on my hips as I stared at her.
“Fine!” Malia huffed with annoyance of a child sent to her room. “I’m going to Casey’s. I’ll be back when I get back!” I jumped when the door slammed behind her, and yes, I felt super guilty for talking to my daughter like that. But damn. They could not interfere in my life like that. They just couldn’t.
I turned off the stove, set the food on the table, and grabbed my coffee cup as I sat down.
“That was kinda asshole-ish of you, don’t ya think?” Denise fiddled with her coffee cup as she looked at me. “We both just wanted you to have a good birthday, and honestly, neither of us thought he’d show. Hell, I’m actually shocked, and you know it takes a lot for me to be shocked.”
“And also, I can’t believe you never told me about him.” Now she was sat, her eyebrow arched accusingly, and I felt myself shrink down in my chair across from her.
It was true, though. To be a best friend, there was sure a whole hell of a lot she didn’t know about me. I stared down at my hands as they wrapped around my own cup, my mind whirring with thoughts of last night and what might come.
“We were no good together, Denise.”
“Malia said you were young.”
“Too young,” I whispered sadly. “I was 16, about to turn 17. He was the first person I ever slept with.”
“Damn. And he was much older, right?”
“He didn’t know, Denise,” I defended him. “He’s not that kinda guy. And when he found out, he wanted to break it off, but I wouldn’t let him. Plus, it was the early 90’s. Nobody cared about that in Cali. At least not where we were at.”
“So what happened? Like the whole story?”
I broke it down, explaining it all over again, the good, the bad, and the really bad. By the time I was done, Denise seemed to be in-between tears and anger herself.
“And you never heard of him since then?”
“Nope. Not until you guys had to drag him up again,” I glared at her for good measure. “I even avoided his movies, all of it.”
“How could you avoid John Wick? I mean, have you even seen him with the beard and the guns and—” Denise trailed off when she caught my deepening glare. “Sorry. He’s hot, I can’t help it. Johnny Utah grew up.” She shrugged unapologetically.
With that, I stood up, annoyed at being reminded of that damn movie. That was the one that started it all - at least in my opinion. That and the damn band that he was in. I walked over to the sink and began washing dishes, doing anything I could to take my mind off things. I was not going down that rabbit hole again. I was too old, and too much time had passed for me to be worried about what could have been with that man.
“So that’s it, then? You see him, he gives you a pretty sentimental gift, and now it’s back to square one?”
“Yes, exactly,” I huffed as I jammed my hand down into a cup to clean out the bottom. I grunted as I tried to pull it back out before it got stuck.
“That’s really stupid,” Denise stated.
“You’re stupid,” I childishly shot back.
“And you’re a child,” Denise laughed. “Look, for what’s it’s worth, I think you need to give the man a chance. He’s John Constantine. He’s JohnfuckingWick.”
“Were you just not listening when I said I don’t watch his movies? Or you just ignored it like you do everything else?”
“I chose to ignore it.” Denise continued giggling, which only served to increase my bad mood. She stood up, grabbing her purse and keys. “Look, I need to go home and sleep this off. I’ll call you later?”
“Sure,” I mumbled as I sipped at my coffee.
“Oh, one more thing…” Denise turned to me. I looked at her, my eyes narrowed with unease.
“What fucking now?”
“Well,”—she fiddled nervously with her keys as my unease grew—"I got a text earlier, and, well…And-he-just-might-be-stopping-back-by-so-let-me-know-when-that-happens-okay-Okay-bye!” Denise rushed out the last part, not even looking at me as she stepped out of the door, closing it before I could respond.
I sat there, my hands beginning to shake again, my heart pounding at the thought of Keanu showing up again.
What the fuck.
Chapter 6: Sunsets
“Can I sit?”
I startled a bit at his voice, but I wasn’t truly surprised that he’d just randomly shown up again. It was so like him. To be honest, I was surprised it took him so long.
“Where’d you stay last night?” I asked as I scooted over on the blanket, making room for him. It was late afternoon, the sun just beginning to sink below the horizon. My most favorite time of day. And I didn’t know what I was thinking about Keanu being here. Truth was, I’d stayed up all night thinking about him, and everything was just as unclear today as it had been last night. The argument with Malia and Denise had only made things more unclear.
He sniggered as he sat down next to me. “Surf Motel.”
I laughed as I looked over at him. “Really? Of all the nice hotels, you go and pick that one? I can see you’re still a cheap ass!”
He huffed out a laugh as he shrugged good-naturedly. “The guy at the desk was drunk, so I figured he wouldn’t recognize me. Saves me the trouble, you know. And a bed is a bed is a bed, right?”
“True,” I agreed, knowing how the island would go nuts once they found out he was here. It was one of the things I just knew he hated the most - the loss of privacy that comes with being so famous. He hated it then, I’m sure he hated it now.
“Did you get to use the camera?”
“No, not yet.” I fiddled with the edge of the blanket, trying to think of something to say.
“Well, I have an idea. How about if we just hang out again? For old time’s sake?” Keanu offered. I looked over at him, seeing his half-smile. He seemed wary, nervous even. I frowned at him. He frowned back.
“I know you’re uncomfortable, and I don’t want it to be like that.”
“Uncomfortable is a good way to put it,” I muttered to myself. “Why would we dig all this back up again, Ke?”
"We’re not digging anything up, Holly. We’re sitting on a blanket on a beach, just hanging out.”
“It’s never that easy with you, Ke. It never was.” I disagreed.
“What if I told you I’ve grown up? That things are changed. That I’ve changed.” Kenau crossed his feet at his ankles, his long legs stretched out before him. “That things that didn’t make sense before, might make sense now.”
“I'd say I still think you’re going through a mid-life crisis.”
Keanu chuckled. “Maybe so.”
“I can’t do that thing with you again. That thing when you come in, turn my world upside down, and leave.” I picked at the sand, twisting the tiny grains between my fingertips. “I know I was young, and very dramatic, but you hurt me, Ke. You did. And, now, I’m older. I have a life, I have a daughter. I know me. What I want and don’t want.” I turned to look at him, my gaze steady as we locked eyes. “And I know that I can’t be that girl again that hung on your every word. I’m not that stupid little girl anymore.” I felt my throat constrict as I pushed the words out. I swore I wasn’t gonna cry over him ever again, damnit!
Keanu sighed. “And I’m not that asshole anymore, Holly.” He leaned forward as he drew his knees up to his chest, one hand tucked under his chin as he fiddled with his beard. “I’m not.”
“I loved you so much,” I whispered sadly. “Too much.” Where the hell was all of this coming from??
“Yeah, and I took it for granted.” Keanu reached over, his large hand gently tugging at mine. I relented, my eyes blurry as I felt his warm hand envelope mine. “I will always be sorry, Holly. Always.”
“So what are you asking me for?” I sniffled as I wiped the tip of my nose with my other hand.
I could hear the grin in his voice, and sure enough, when I looked up, he was smiling at me. His eyes crinkled at the corners more than they did before, and he had gray in his beard and at his temples, but in that moment, he was the grinning Keanu that I remembered. It was hard to stay mad at him now, just as it had been before.
“What are we gonna do?” I asked despite myself.
“We’re going to that pier thing with the rides.” He squeezed my hand. “And we’re riding every damn thing. Just like old times.”
“Oh hell no,” I shook my head as I untangled my fingers from him and stood up. I brushed off my shorts as I gave him a sideways look. “Those days are over, Ke. I’ll totally throw up”
No way in hell was I riding those big-ass rides.