Windenburg was absolutely beautiful. Having grown up in Newcrest, I had never seen any place like this before. It was like walking through a painting with the cobblestone streets, old buildings, and even a town square. The café’s in this city put commercialized places like Simmie’s back home to shame. Coffee was practically an art form in at least one of the little places Tommy had shown me.
Finally, I was able to meet Sarah, the one real friend Tommy had made here. I actually liked her quite a lot. She was funny and so curious about the world outside of Windenburg. Perhaps one day she could come and visit Newcrest. I think I’d enjoy showing her everything I loved about my own home town.
Much to my dismay, the days passed quickly. Before I knew it, I had only two days left to spend with Tommy. I almost didn’t even want to leave the house – just spend the next two days eating Mrs. Smithson’s sugar cookies and hanging out. But Tommy had other plans.
And, as I enjoyed the bonfire Tommy had lit and looked out over the Bluffs, I had to say – he was right.
“This is amazing,” I breathed.
He smiled. “Yeah, it is. That’s one thing about this town. It’s definitely got some beautiful places.”
“It really does.” I sat down with him on a rock that had been worn smooth on the top from many, many people using it for a bench over the years.
“It’s a nice place…to visit.”
I arched a brow at him. “You don’t want to stay here?” Please say no.
He laughed. “Watcher, no. I do like it here, but I’d like it better if I were just visiting. I’m not built for the cold, for one thing. Winters here are entirely too cold. What even is with this snow thing?”
I snorted softly and leaned into his side. “I so agree.” I couldn’t deny that I’d been a little worried that he would want to live here forever. This place was very charming.
“Actually, I was wanting to talk to you about something.” He smiled at me, but there was a nervous edge to it. “Remember I told you – Watcher, forever ago – that I want to move to Oasis Springs after graduation?”
I nodded. “How could I forget? When you first got to Newcrest, Oasis Springs was pretty much all you talked about.”
“Right. Well, I still want to. I’ve been saving every penny since I started working with Dad so that I afford a place of my own.”
A smile curled my lips. “That’s fantastic. Oasis Springs is so much closer than Windenburg.” I’d rather he move to Newcrest, but I could deal with the drive.
“Actually…” He cleared his throat, shifting nervously next to me. “Loralee, I want us to move in together. I’d like you to come to Oasis Springs with me.”
My eyes widened. “Live together? In Oasis Springs?” Leave Newcrest? I’d never even thought of moving out of town. Even if I went to college in Willow Creek, I’d still live at home. I’d just thought that, when I was older, I’d buy my own place in town. Not leave.
He took my hand, squeezing it. “It would be great, Loralee. I can’t afford much now, but I’m going to go to the police academy when I get out of school. I know I’ll make a good cop. And you want to work in a restaurant. They’ve got great restaurants in Oasis Springs.”
“Oh, Tommy, I don’t know. It’s so far from Newcrest…”
“I know it is, but we’d be together. We can start a life together.”
I traced my fingers over the back of Tommy’s hand. On the one hand, living together did sound appealing. But on the other… “I don’t suppose you’d like to live in Newcrest?”
“Lor…” He sighed softly. “I can’t. I love Oasis Springs. I love the heat and the sun. It’s my home. I know you’ll love it there, too, if you just give it a chance.”
“I’ll…think about it.” I could see the disappointment in his eyes, so I leaned over and kissed him. “I’ll give you an answer before I leave. I don’t want to torture you.”
“That’s fair, I guess. I don’t want you to feel pressured. If we do it, it has to be what you want, too.”
I wrapped my arms around him and leaned my head on his shoulder. “I love you.”
His arms squeezed me tighter against his side. “I love you, too.”
I paced around the Smithson’s guest room in the wee hours of the morning. It would be dawn in about an hour, and I’d only slept a couple of hours before I’d been driven to pacing. This afternoon, I was flying back home, and I had yet to make a decision.
Could I really do it? Could I go out on my own with Tommy in a strange city? I had some savings, but wouldn’t money be kind of scarce if it was just the two of us? I couldn’t imagine the starting salary for a rookie cop was much better than my pay would be, if I was even able to find a job.
Yet, I did love working and making my own money. I felt so proud every payday when I deposited most of my paycheck into the savings account I’d opened. I would enjoy being on my own, wouldn’t I?
All of my life, I’d lived with a safety net. I was spoiled – I knew that. I thought I wasn’t a brat, but I was certainly spoiled. I needed to break away from that life, didn’t I? If I moved in with Tommy, I wouldn’t be all alone; we’d have each other to lean on. And it wasn’t just that. It was Tommy. I loved him. These months apart had proven to me that my love for him wasn’t going to fade; this was real. I wanted to wake up with him every morning. I wanted to make him dinner at night. And I wanted all the hours in between.
I sat down on the edge of the bed. Had I made a decision? I thought, perhaps, that I had.
A rumbling in my stomach got my attention. Apparently, now that my thoughts weren’t quite so consumed with worries about my future, my stomach was able to get some attention. I got up and padded downstairs to find something to tide me over until breakfast.
I’d just washed my plate when I heard footsteps on the stairs. I turned around to see Tommy come into the kitchen.
“Hey,” he said softly, one corner of his mouth curling up. “Couldn’t sleep?”
I shook my head and went over to slide my arms around his waist. “I want to move in with you.”
He inhaled sharply. “What?”
I smiled softly. I leaned up and brushed my lips against his in a tender kiss. “I want to start our life together after graduation. Let’s do it. Let’s move to Oasis Springs together.”