Limits. Part 5

Limits. -

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"Genevieve, I'm fine. I swear. See, even if I fell, I know how to bend my knees, arch my back, keep my feet together...I'm trained in physics. I'd probably only break my legs, worst case scenario." I turn to look down, and it's a far fall, even for me. And I'm used to heights.

She's taking steps back, her head shaking back and forth. "Please," she asks.

I jump down and walk to her, about to tease her for worrying, when she shoves me against the chest, hard.

"What were you thinking?" she demands, backing me up to a wall. "You could have fallen. You could have died. What the h.e.l.l, Adam? What the h.e.l.l!"

I take her shaking hand in mine. "Whoa. Calm down. I was totally safe."

"You say that, but you and I both know you weren't. What if something happened to you?"

The way she's shaking, I'm pretty sure she's going to smack me across the face. And I'll take it because, though I never meant to do it, I hate that I upset her. "Nothing was going to happen, but I'm sor-"

She flings herself into my arms and clutches at my s.h.i.+rt, her head buried in my shoulder, her heart thumping so hard, I can feel it against my chest.

I put my arms around her, holding her close, petting her hair, doing what I can to calm her down.

"a.s.shole. You're an a.s.shole," she says. "Don't scare me like that."

She's this upset because she was worried. About me.

I wonder how much trouble I'd get into if I just laid low and never went back to Israel. If I just let this play out. All I need is a few months, then I could ask her if we could do the long distance thing. Maybe she'd want to come to Israel to study for a while. Maybe we'd move in together.

Holding her, under the speckled, inky sky, on top of the world, I know I don't want to let go.

I also know there's no real way I can hold on.

We leave the observatory, but we're not ready to end the night, so we head down the highway, Genevieve flipping the radio stations, singing along until a song she likes ends, then flipping again to find a new one. I like her clear, strong voice. I like that she kicks her ridiculous heels off and tucks her bare feet under her legs.

She rolls down the window, and I lose the potent smell of her, but I get to see the way her face looks when she tips her head back, closes her eyes, and breathes the night air deep into her lungs. She lets one hand hang out the window, holds it flat in the rush of air, and watches her fingers jump and pulse in the current. When she s.h.i.+vers, I reach back and grab a hoodie, hand it to her, and watch as she pulls it over her head, the hood so huge, it hides her entire face.

"My s.h.i.+rt is so freaking uncomfortable," she says, wrestling with herself in the loose cloth. "Will it be weird if I take it off?"

"Not weird at all," I say, forcing the words to come out evenly.

She twists her arms inside of the hoodie and pulls the little green-ribboned s.h.i.+rt out the bottom, sighing heavily as she drops it on the floor. Her entire body looks different all of a sudden. She curves and stretches like she's just been untied from ropes.

"You can turn right here," she says, pointing to a place off the highway I've never even noticed. We follow a long, winding road to a tiny shop by the ocean. A surf shop.

"You know this place?" I ask as I pull in and park.

She nods, but doesn't bother to explain any further. As soon as we're stopped, she hops out, barefoot, arms wide, and runs through the sand and down to the waves. I walk after her, glancing back at the shop I'm sure is her maybe-boyfriend's place. I just don't get why she's wasting time with an a.s.shole like him.

Not that it's my business to wonder. I'm a failing PhD student who's about to get his visa revoked and lose his right to even be in this country. It's not exactly like I'm the best candidate to be with her either. But she could do better than that a.s.shole. That's for d.a.m.n sure.

"Adam!" she calls over the crash of the waves. "Come here!"

I run down the beach to her. "Why?" I ask.

"Because look at this!" she yells, jumping back away from the waves, then biting her lip and darting forward. "Isn't this amazing? Doesn't it just make you feel matter how bad things are, they just can't be that bad. Right? Because look at this!"

The sky is starlit, the waves are dark and harsh, but beautiful. The air feels like it's buzzing with an energy that's impossible to resist. I catch her happiness like a fever.

"It's amazing," I agree.

She stops jumping in the waves and pushes her hair back from her face with both hands. "You aren't seriously saying this is amazing while you still have your shoes on. Take them off. Now." She crooks her finger at me.

If there's a man on this earth who could resist that crooked finger, I'd love to meet him and shake his d.a.m.n hand. Because he's a stronger man than I am.

My shoes are off and I cuff my jeans, then wade out to her side.

"That's better." She grins, focused on me, as a huge swell gathers and breaks right at the back of her legs. I know she's not gauging for it, so I grab her around the waist and hold her still until the water sucks back out.

"Careful," I say, my voice quiet because she freaked me out. It scared me to think of her falling under the water, getting pulled out. What if I wasn't here to catch her?

Which is an idiotic thought. I haven't been around for most of Genevieve's life, and I'm positive tonight isn't the first time she's done something bordering on insane.

I also realize it must have been the exact way she felt when I was standing on the ledge of the observatory like an idiot. Only she couldn't catch me. It's shocking, sometimes, what a complete and total jacka.s.s I am.

"You're making a habit of this whole knight in s.h.i.+ning armor thing, aren't you?" she asks, tilting her head back and laughing.

Which leaves her neck exposed. I'm about to kiss the line of her neck and up her jaw. I think about kissing her the way I bet her boyfriend never has. Like she's the only G.o.dd.a.m.n girl in the world. Like I never want to kiss anyone else.

But I don't. No matter how amazing this whole date feels, I'm still just her tutor. And it's probably for the best that I have no choice but to keep it that way, since I'm not sure how long I'll be able to hang around before I officially get booted back. I hold out on the tiny sliver of hope that my extension requests work some desperate, last minute magic and they extend beyond what they've already offered me, but I seriously doubt it.

"Hey, come here!" Genevieve cries, dragging me by the hand. I follow her.

Of course I follow her.

She leads me up a craggy bunch of rocks just out of reach of the surf, slick with seaweed and damp with the sea spray. She pulls my sweats.h.i.+rt down so she can sit on it and pulls her knees up to her chest, yanking the bottom of the sweats.h.i.+rt over them and down to her ankles. I sit next to her, watching the waves smash close to where we sit, protected for this minute. Until the tide pulls in.

"It makes me feel better." I gesture out to the roaring ocean. "It's easier to accept that I'm just a blip in the universe here."

Genevieve looks at me, her face small and surrounded by the large hood. "Yeah. I get that. I come here when I can for that exact reason."

"I remember being nervous as h.e.l.l when I was getting my BA," I say. "You're smart and hard working. I don't think you have anything to worry about. Maybe you can start visiting the ocean, you know, just to sunbathe and stuff."

Her smile is tight. "I know-the way I dress, how I present myself sometimes-it may seem like I'm shallow. But I'm way more into contemplating my place in the universe than I am into making sure I don't have tan lines."

"I didn't mean-I just wanted you to know that I have faith in you. That I think you're gonna be just fine." I want to touch her face again, press her hair back like I did before, but I don't. And I probably never should have in the first place. She's not mine to touch.

"Whoa, Teach. Back up," she says, a nervous giggle erupting out of her throat. "It sounds suspiciously like you're trying to break up with me."

I brush my finger over her wrist and down her hand. She sucks her breath in and looks at me for a long second.

"I would never choose to not be able to help you, Genevieve. I know I sometimes complain during our sessions, but I really do enjoy working with you. It might not be my decision. Whether I stay or not." I hold my breath and watch her face register what I said.

Her brow furrows and her eyes narrow. "I'm sorry. Maybe it's too much sea air, but I thought you just said you're maybe not going to tutor me anymore?"

"Cody is great. I'll make sure he's your tutor when I leave-"

"What?" I'm shocked at how loud her voice is. "Cody is not going to work! I need you, Adam! You and only you! Do you hear me? I will fail without your help! I will flunk out, and that's not possible, Adam!" She's standing on the slippery rocks now, a few feet away from the foaming, frothing explosion of ocean below.

"Genevieve, sit down," I say, keeping my voice calm and trying to make eye contact, but she's flying off the handle. I stand next to her, try to lead her away from the edge. Man, karma is biting me in the a.s.s hard. "Listen to me. It's out of my control."

"Why?" she demands, her hands clutching at the front of my s.h.i.+rt. "Is it another program? Are you transferring colleges? Because I'll just travel to see you. You have no idea how my life will fall apart if I lose you, Adam!"

She means if she loses me as a tutor. I have to tell myself that, because, when I look down into her wild eyes, she makes my heart thud with a want I've never felt for anyone before.

"It's more complicated than that," I tell her, but I can see from the way she pulls her mouth to the side that she thinks I'm lying. She thinks I'm giving up on her. "Genevieve, it's legal stuff. It's nothing I have any control over. There isn't anything else I can do. Trust me, I've tried."

"There's always something else." She pulls closer to me, and I can feel the heat of her skin through her clothes. "Tell me. I'm amazing at solving problems. You tell me what's wrong, I'll help you figure it out. Okay?"

I shake my head, and I get up the guts to put my hands on her face again. It may be one of the last times. Her skin is softer than I expected. I rub my thumbs over her cheekbones and watch her lips part. "I f.u.c.ked up. I have no time left on my visa. I'm out of time, and I'm going to be sent back to Israel."

"Why? Your yeast trays, they aren't done yet, right? You're still checking them all the time. You have to finish those-"

"I've used up all my extensions, Genevieve. They're going to send me back." I wonder if now is a good time to kiss her. I want to. G.o.d, she looks gorgeous, her lips bright pink, her eyes flas.h.i.+ng the way they do when she's right on the cusp of solving a really complicated problem. The wind picks up, and I use it as an excuse to brush her hair away from her face. "I want you to know, I'm going to miss you."

She's not making eye contact with me. Her eyes dart back and forth and she bites her lips. She's breathing heavy, and when she finally looks up at me, her eyebrows are furrowed low. "They can't send you back if you're married to a legal resident."

"Uh, okay," I laugh. "But that would mean I'd have to get married, Genevieve. You realize that's kind of a big deal. I don't even have a girlfriend."

"Marry me, Adam." Genevieve looks at me, her hands come up to either side of my face and grip it hard. "Marry me and be my tutor."


Adam sits by me silently for a few minutes after my wild proposal. Then he pulls me close, kisses my temple as the ocean roars and crashes around us, and leads me to the car. The only question he asks is how to get to my house, and I answer in as few words as possible. What kind of idiot am I for asking Adam to marry me?

I'm clearly going insane. I s.h.i.+ver in the cool late night air as he idles in the driveway.

"You're with someone." He stares at the gauges on his dash like he's attempting to memorize them. "Are you guys broken up? Is this some kind of crazy rebound thing?"

"With someone? What are you talking about?" My stomach knots and broils with nerves.

"The guy." He looks up from the odometer, his mouth twisted in a scowl. "The beach b.u.m surfer guy you were with at your brother's party."

"Deo." As soon as I say his name, Adam gives a grunt of frustration.

"Yeah. Deo," he says, mimicking the way I said his name.

The way-too-intimate way I said his name.

"Deo is not my boyfriend." I let my hands slide back into the warm sleeves of Adam's hoodie. "Deo is married."

"Is there something going on?" Adam asks, not doing a very good job of hiding his judgment.

"Seriously?" I feel my temper sputter just under my tongue. "I'd never get involved with a married man."

"You guys just seemed pretty cozy that night. That's all."

That's not all. He's having a hard time getting the words out. He's avoiding looking my way. And then it hits me, plain the scowl on his face. Adam Abramowitz is jealous.

I feel flattered. And so unexpectedly happy, it's like all the stewing rage has evaporated into frothy laughter I can't hold in.

So I let it out, and Adam glares.

"Deo was my childhood crush," I admit.

It's strange to have to talk about this. Everyone close to me has always known how much I obsessed over Deo. Even if they didn't say a word about him to me, I got so many pitying looks when his engagement announcement went into the local paper. There was practically a family grief counseling session when his wedding invitation arrived. Marigold pressed a specialty set of broken-heart healing tea bags into my hand with this painfully pitying look when I stopped by the store to pick up oils for my mother during Deo and Whit's honeymoon.

"But nothing ever happened?" Adam's shocked voice brings me out of my reminiscence.

"No." I shake my head and repeat it for emphasis. "Nope. Nothing. Never."

Adam twists his mouth to the side and lowers his eyebrows. "Does Deo suffer from some kind of serious visual impairment?"

I giggle and shake my head. "20/20 vision, as far as I know."

"Ah. So he's just a raging idiot?" Adam pretends to wipe his brow with relief.

I poke his shoulder and he turns to look at me while I explain my theory. "Deo probably got sick of having his best friend's little sister idolize him. He loves the chase, you know? He loves the adventure. That's what Whit was for him, and still is. I was always right there, always safe and comfortable. Not his thing."

"I should hate him. But I don't." Adam leans toward me, and I feel my heart skip and tumble in my chest.

"You don't?" I say it more to say words, to fill this s.p.a.ce between us. I don't care about Deo or what Adam thinks of him.

"I don't." His lips slip into a smile. "He could have taken advantage of the fact that you liked him so much. But he never did. I admire that he didn't do anything half-hearted. And that's why I'm telling you 'no.'"

"No?" The word plops out of my mouth like a rock into a gla.s.s smooth lake.

"I can't admire Deo for having the guts to let you go when he knew he wasn't good enough."

I hate the way he's looking at me, like I'm some precious little girl who can't figure any of this big mess out.

"You're giving Deo way too much credit." I'm shocked at my own words. I've never felt anything but total respect for Deo, but it took hearing Adam tell me how smart Deo was for letting me go to finally figure something out. "You were right the first time. Deo was a raging idiot."


"Don't," I interrupt, sitting up straight and pus.h.i.+ng the hood of his sweats.h.i.+rt back. "Deo has zero ambition. He was perfectly happy to spend years of his life surfing and smoking weed. The reason he didn't end up with me is because I never stood up and told him that he was wasting his life. I was so desperate for him to like me, I just wors.h.i.+pped him. n.o.body wants to be wors.h.i.+pped."

"I agree, but-"

"But nothing." I'm on a roll now. I feel like there's fire burning red hot through my veins, and I want to stoke the flames. "People need to challenge each other, Adam. They need to stand up and say, 'You're being an a.s.s, and I care too much to let you keep doing it.'"

"You're being an a.s.s," Adam says, his words a frosty bucket of water on my blaze. "And I care too much to let you keep doing it." He frowns, and I frown back twice as hard.

"Marry me," I challenge.

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About Limits. Part 5 novel

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