The early morning sun had not yet tugged at Sandyís eyelids when someone shook her gently. She slowly opened one eye, caught a glimpse of her motherís smiling face, and groaned.
"Just five more minutes Mom," she said, shoving her face into her pillow.
"Bryce is waiting Sandy. Heís down on the beach, he says he has something to show you." Sandy snapped to attention, now feeling wide- awake. Now she remembered! Bryce had told her the night before that he had a surprise for her. Something special.
She leapt out of bed and dressed quickly. After running a brush through her hair, she dashed out the back door of her condo and leaned over the balcony. About four stories down, she saw the tanned face of her best friend staring up at her, grinning. He looks so cute today, she thought. Actually, Bryce looked like a beach bum. The shade of orange in his Hawaiian print T-shirt matched his swimming trunks and he was barefooted in the sand. Sandy smiled back.
"Címon sleepy head! Timeís wasting!" he called. She promised to be down in a minute and ran out the front door to the elevator.
On the way down, Sandyís mind was racing. What does he have to show me? Why does he have to be so cute? Why am I acting this way? Heís been my best friend since the day we started school! I canít like him like that! Thereís no way he likes me too! Her mind played games with her all the way down until she got to the lobby and saw him waiting for her. See Sandy, she scolded herself, itís just the same old Bryce. But somehow it wasnít the same old Bryce. He had changed.
"Elevator slow this morning or what," Bryce joked. Oh man Bryce, how could you say something so dumb! She must think youíre such a loser! What are you talking about, sheís your best friend! Thatís the problem I donít want to be her friend, I love her! Bryce shook the thoughts from his head.
"So where are we going?" Sandy asked as Bryce led her down the beach.
"The cove," he answered. She stopped.
"Bryce, weíve been to that cove everyday since the first day we found it! We were the first ones to discover it, remember? I thought you had a surprise for me."
"I do. But itís at the cove." She shrugged and decided to just go along with it. They walked for what seemed like miles until they reached the rocky entrance to their special hideout. They crawled through the sandy tunnel and came out the other side, dusting the sand off of their knees. Half-ridged coastline and half-sandy beach, the cove was the perfect place to spend a warm sunny day. Sandy smiled, thinking about the endless summers the two of them had spent exploring every nook and cranny of their special place. They discovered it when they were 7 and now at age 15 they knew everything about it. But there was one thing that Bryce had never pointed out.
"Címon, up here." He climbed up the rocks to the top and then took her hand and pulled her up with him.
"Bryce, weíve lived on this beach in Gulf Shores all our lives. Weíve been up here a thousand times. If this is what you got me up so early for"
"No, no. I had to get you up early."
"Just wait." Bryce glanced at his watch. "It should be here in just a few minutes." The two of them waited in silence.
"Here it comes, right on time," he said nudging her shoulder and pointing over the water towards the east. Sandy looked up. The horizon was turning brilliant shades of orange and yellow and the sun slowly began to rise up over the Gulf as though it was coming up from beneath the deep blue waves. They sat together on the rocks and watched until it was completely visible.
"See, I told you it was special," Bryce grinned at her.
"Youíre right. It was beautiful. Thanks for showing me Bryce." He his face turned deep crimson. Maybe she does like me. no way, stop kidding yourself. She was just being nice. Sheís just your friend.
"Letís go get some breakfast and then we can come back and spend the rest of the day snorkeling," he suggested trying to cover up the awkward silence that had fallen between them. She agreed with smile and Bryce felt his knees go weak. The walk back to his condo was quiet. Both were thinking about what to say to one another.
Come on Sandy, say something. Heís going to think that something is wrong with you. How can you love him so much and not tell him! Heís your best friend, you can tell him anything! No, not this. He doesnít love me back and it would just ruin everything if I told him how I feel. No, I have to keep this to myself. Walking next to her, Bryce didnít notice that Sandy was quiet. His mind was also reeling.
Tell her Bryce! Tell her that your world revolves around her. Tell her that you love her and that you need to be more than friends! No way! She doesnít feel that way about us and thereís no way I can ruin what we have right now. I just canít tell her this.
Their day at the cove, like all the ones before, was perfect. The crystal clear Gulf was ideal for snorkeling and the cove provided the needed seclusion from the incoming tide so the water was flat, and the sandy bottom, undisturbed.
As the sun began to descend back into the waves and the stars began to appear, they packed up their things. In the light of the full moon they walked home, splashing their toes through warm shallow tide pools and not saying a word to each other. Bryce walked Sandy to her condo and when they reached her front door, they both paused.
Kiss her Bryce, you know you want to. Then she will know how you feel and you wont have to say a word. No, donít do it. Sheíll just push you away and never speak to you again. Just say good night and leave it at that. Sandy shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably.
Just a quick kiss Sandy. Youíll feel so much better. No! I canít just kiss him! What if he doesnít want to? Heíll never talk to me again!
"Good night," they said in unison and Sandy rushed inside and quickly slammed the door. Tears streamed down her cheeks. He will never love me.
The weeks of summer passed and nothing changed. Every morning Bryce told himself that he would tell Sandy how he felt and every night he put it off one more time.
Sandyís 16th birthday rolled around and Bryce wanted to get her something really special. At her party, he held his gift back while she opened all of the others. He wanted to give it to her when they were alone.
Later on that night, Bryce saw her standing on the balcony looking up at the stars. He silently joined her and after a few minutes of intense internal struggle, he spoke up.
"Sandy, I wanted to give this to you myself. Happy birthday." He handed her a small box wrapped in gold paper. She ripped it open and inside the box was a silver ring with a blue stone in its center. She slipped it on.
"Itís a promise ring. Whenever you are in trouble and you need help, just send me this ring and Iíll be there. I promise Iíll never let you down." Sandy hugged him and her arms were the only thing keeping him from flying off into the night sky. I love you, she thought.
The following day, Bryce awoke to the sound of a loud pounding on the door. When he answered it, he found a police officer standing on his doorstep looking grim. He had bad news. Sandy was dead.
Apparently, she had gotten up early that morning and she had gone to the cove to watch the sun rise. She tried to climb the rocks to the top and she slipped and hit her head on a rock and drowned.
Bryce couldnít believe it. His first and only love; his beautiful sweet Sandy was gone at just 16 years old.
Filled with a burst of anger, Bryce bolted out the front door and down the beach. Tears clouded his vision as he ran all the way to the cove. By the time he got there, he was sobbing. He dropped to his knees in the sand. When he finally opened his eyes and looked around, he caught a glimpse of silver at the edge of the water. He reached for it and instantly, he knew what it was. It was the promise ring he had given her.
Bryce had broken his promise. He wasnít there for her when she needed him. But that wasnít what bothered him the most. What ate away at is soul as he climbed to the top of the cove was that he had never told Sandy that he loved her. And now it was too late. She would never know. And neither would he.
By Amanda Torrens