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Discovering Delilah (Harborside Nights, Book 2)

By´╝ÜMelissa Foster

Chapter One


“COMING OUT OF grief is like coming out of a long, dark tunnel.” Meredith Garland folds her hands in her lap. Her feet are crossed at the ankles and tucked primly beneath her chair, one pointed toe touching the carpet. Her warm brown eyes slide around the room, slowing on each of the other four attendees of the grief-counseling session.

I’ve been coming to a grief-counseling support group for the past month at the YMCA. My friend Brooke Baker brought me to my first session, having attended herself a few years back to get over her own grief. Only she didn’t lose her parents to the drunk driver of a tractor trailer like I did. She was merely getting over a bad breakup. Merely, because really. Can anything match the grief of losing your parents at twenty-two, on the evening of your college graduation, when you should be celebrating and making plans for your life?

Meredith is talking about the stages of grief, all of which I know by heart: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When we first moved here after our parents were killed, my twin brother, Wyatt, was also dealing with his new feelings for our best friend, Cassidy. I, on the other hand, was not dealing with anything. I was thoroughly entrenched in denial. One night a guy forced himself on Cassidy, and Wyatt beat the crap out of him—and scared the daylights out of me. Wyatt went straight to anger, skipping over denial altogether. I couldn’t watch Wyatt falling apart, so I moved in with Brooke, who has been a family friend for years. It’s been a little more than two months now, and I’ve finally made it past denial. Now that I’m living at our beach house again, I’m trying really hard to find a way to deal with my grief as well as the personal desires that I’ve spent a lifetime repressing—and hiding from everyone I know other than Wyatt and Cassidy.

“You must learn to envision a future for yourself without those you have lost.” Having lost her husband a few years back, Meredith says this with the confidence of someone who’s achieved such a future. “Find ways to turn your memories into something you can live with and celebrate, rather than something that pulls you under.”

Meredith smiles at me, but I’m unable to muster one in return because my toes are dipping in the anger pool. I’m not thinking about envisioning a future without grief. Although that would be nice, I’m pretty sure grief will be my partner for a very long time. Sometimes it hides in the shadows, waiting to swallow me whole, while other times it’s front and center, taking a bow for the way it’s laid me out flat.

No, it’s not grief I’m thinking about coming out of, and I can’t return Meredith’s smile because my parents left me a legacy of fear and shame. The dark tunnel I’m thinking about coming out of feels even scarier than grief. I steal a glance at the other people in the group and envy the way they know who they are, even if they’re a little lost at the moment. I envy the way Michael eyes me and the other girls in the room and how Mark and Cathy hold hands during the entire hour. I try not to look at Janessa, because I can’t help but stare, and I know how rude that is. She’s a little older than me, and I don’t have to look to know that her head is held higher than mine and her cocoa-brown eyes glisten with a surety that I can’t even imagine how to possess. She wears shorts and loose shirts that show her cleavage, and if I look at her, I know my eyes will be drawn to the swell of her breasts and the curve of her bare shoulder as her blouse slips down, which it always does.

My attraction to Janessa is not because I want her. It’s not the same heart-pounding, palm-sweating, I-can’t-breathe attraction that I have to my friend Ashley Carver. It’s more of an appreciation of her beauty and her confidence, and for the first time in my life I have no one standing in my way of acting on my feelings toward girls. I am free to look at whomever I please and feel whatever my body wants to feel. I’m free to come out, but thanks to my parents’ disapproval, my desires are still tightly encased in shame, so I don’t lift my eyes to admire Janessa.

Come out.

Gosh, if that isn’t the stupidest phrase in the world, then I don’t know what is. Do straight people have to come out and announce they’re straight? For that matter, do they even think about their sexuality in terms of caring how others perceive them? I think the whole idea of coming out makes it ten times worse for someone like me, whose parents were ultraconservative and made no bones about their opinions against same-sex relationships. I was both elated and mortified when states began to debate same-sex marriages. Elated because, let’s face it, it’s a personal decision that others shouldn’t have a say in, and mortified because it meant that every time the issue was mentioned in the news, I’d have to sit through my parents’ lectures about why same-sex relationships are wrong. And weak little me never wanted to rock the boat, so I hid my attractions. All of them. My whole life. I even went so far as to hook up with a few guys to try to fit in and figure out if I was sure I liked girls. Well, I know I don’t get all fluttery inside like I have over the years when I’ve been attracted to girls, and I definitely don’t get wet between my legs over guys, like I do over Ashley. But then again, I’ve never been intimate with a woman, so my only validation is what I’ve felt toward women, and more specifically, what I feel when I’m with her.