by L.B. Dunbar
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The prodigal son. A second chance. The long kept secret.
I had returned. I hadn't been here for seven years. I was angry that last summer, and once I got away, I didn't want to come back. The irony was the career I sought to escape this small town was the very reason I was here. My first movie was a featured film at the Traverse City Film Festival. As an independent film director, my premiere brought me back home. Home. A place I didn't recognize.
Or maybe home didn't recognize me?
I had it all in California: a girlfriend who was the daughter of a movie financier, a job that led to connections in the film industry, and a condo overlooking the ocean in Malibu. What I didn't have was family. I had left them all behind. I was the prodigal son.
The last person I expected to see was her. Britton McKay. She had been my summer love as a teenager. Not just once, but over several summers; until the last one. That was seven years ago. Now, she looked more beautiful than I remembered. Seeing her again flooded me with memories long suppressed. She reminded me of everything I once had and left behind.
Now, she had returned too.
Can lost romance be rekindled?
Can unanswered questions be revealed?
Can I make this place my home again?
L.B. Dunbar reunites you with the Carter and Scott families as all are gathered home.
Your favorite families await with flashbacks, celebration, and heartbreak.
Welcome back to Elk Rapids
Touch Screen Character Interview
Britton McKay sits next to me. She’s writing an article for the bookstore where she works about the upcoming film festival. The Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan is a big deal to independent film directors, like myself, and Britton’s been collecting reviews on books that cover the film industry in the state.
She’s decided to interview me as a local celebrity who was previously featured at the festival. I was here last summer. That’s where we were reunited.
Britton: So tell me how you got into film?
Me: (laughing). You already know this answer.
Britton gives me a look, and then says my name in a way I can’t resist.
Me: Fine. My grandparents gave me their old camcorder when I was a kid and I liked to play around with it. See what stories I could tell through the camera lens.
Britton: What was it like growing up in the area?
Me: (Groaning). You know I wasn't happy here. I always felt trapped. Don’t get me wrong. I had a good childhood and crazy teen years, but I didn't want to inherit my father’s cherry farm. I wanted to do something...different...with my life.
Britton looks at me with sympathy. She knows my father and I did not see eye-to-eye on my going to California, or my pursuing film direction as a future. He didn't understand that his inheritance wasn't my dream.
Britton: So...your film was called Under the Moonlight. Was there anything particular from your life that inspired you or you used within the film?
I've been watching her as she types. She’s concentrating as she works, and I know that she knows the answer to this question, too. She pauses to push a piece of her long blonde hair behind an ear, and I can’t help myself. I need to touch her. I repeat the motion even though the hair is in place. She looks up and turns to smile at me. She’s waiting for my answer.
Me: The inspiration came from a book I read about a boy who wanted something and his father said he could get it, if he worked on the family’s farm to earn the money. You know there is a love interest in the story and it was reflective of my experience as a teenager with some girl I met. Whenever we had to separate, she told me if I was under the moonlight, she might be looking at it too. In that moment, we would be together although we were apart.
Britton stops typing and turns to look at me again.
Britton: Sounds like a smart girl.
Me: (distracted by her hair slipping through my fingers) Hmmm...she was. She still is, actually.
Britton: She’s not a girl any longer. (She smiles slowly).
Me: No, she’s not. Now she’s a beautiful woman.
Britton: Good answer.
Me: Was there a question in there?
Britton laughs. She is still looking at me when she asks: Whatever happened to this girl?
Me: I was an idiot, and I let her go. Lucky me, I found her again.
I kiss her shoulder and she shivers. I kiss the juncture between her shoulder and her neck. She’s tilted her head, so I have better access and she groans my name in that way that drives me crazy.
Me: I have a question (mumbling into her ear).
Britton: I bet you do. Only a few more.
She’s pushing me off. I sit back and run my hands through my wavy hair. Sighing deeply, I let her ask me another.
Britton: You said you couldn't wait to get away from here, yet you returned. Tell me a little more about this.
Me: (serious for a moment) I was honored to be invited to the festival. It was what I had been working toward my whole life. I wanted to make my own film on my own terms. I did it, and it seemed ironic that the place to prove it happened was right here where I was trying to get away from. (slowly smiling) Of course, little did I know what awaited me.
Britton: (smiles too, but she looks weary) I was waiting a long time.
Her voice is low and it’s still a sensitive issue for us. We had a long way to go after I first returned home. Not only was I overwhelmed by seeing her again, but meeting her son, the illness of my mother, and the wedding of Jess and Emily was a lot to tackle all at once. I hadn't been home in seven years and I had missed so much. More than I even realized. She worries that I won’t forgive her. I worry that she won’t ever forgive me. Somehow we must be letting the past go, because we sit here, in her uncle’s old house. Now, it’s our home.
Me: (slipping my hand around her neck) You know I’m sorry.
Britton: I do.
I sigh. Those are the words I long to hear from her some day. Some day very soon.
Me: Enough questions, yet?
She claps the laptop closed and I pull it from her lap. Then I wrap an arm around her waist and drag her to straddle me.
Britton: Gavin, Gee and Ben will be back soon.
I’m nuzzling her neck at this point and she moans softly. We have an hour. We’re hardly alone and it means we have to be creative with each other sometimes. Gee is only seven, but Ben is almost sixteen. He’s onto us sometimes.
Me: I. Won’t. Need. Long. (between kisses)
Britton whispers my name in that certain way. It’s either to stop a fight or encourage my intention. In less than a second, I have her up in the air. Her legs wrap around my waist and I’m walking us to our room. She’s kissing me eagerly, always worried that if we don’t hurry, we won’t finish. We've had a few moments like that as well. It’s a frustration I've never known before. A frustration I don’t mind, truthfully, when I know it’s Gee interrupting us. We have time ahead of us, and we always make up for it later.
We hit the bed and clothes are frantically be tugged off each other. It’s a race to see who can get naked first sometimes.
Britton: Wait, I have one more question.
Me: (groaning). It can wait.
Britton: What made you decide to return to Michigan?
She knows the answer to this question. I think she just likes to hear my answer.
Me: Because I knew I couldn't live without you any longer. I had wasted too much time. There was something always missing from me, and little did I know it had returned here to wait for me.
Britton stares at me. Her blue eyes pierce me to the core just like they did when we were younger. I loved her at sixteen. I love her more at twenty-seven. We’re silent for a moment as our bodies come together. We were always good at this. I craved her touch from the first time I saw her.
In answer to her question, I wish to clarify that it was more than returning to Michigan. It was coming home that I needed. No, it was her that I needed. She filled a void I didn't know I had until I saw her again. I didn't have to tell her all this now, though. I let my body prove to her that she was my home. And I was here to stay.
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About L.B. Dunbar
I’d like to say I was always a writer. I’d also like to say that I wrote every day of my life since a child. That I took the teaching advice I give my former students because writing every day improves your writing. I’d like to say I have my ten-thousand hours that makes me a proficient writer. But I can’t say any of those things. I did dream of writing the “Great American Novel” until one day a friend said: Why does it have to be great? Why can’t it just be good and tell a story?
As a teenager, I wrote your typical love-angst poetry that did occasionally win me an award and honor me with addressing my senior high school class at our Baccalaureate Mass. I didn't keep a journal because I was too afraid my mom would find it in the mattress where I kept my copy of Judy Blume’s Forever that I wasn't allowed to read as a twelve year old.
I can say that books have been my life. I’m a reader. I loved to read the day I discovered “The Three Bears” as a first grader, and ever since then, the written word has been my friend. Books were an escape for me. An adventure to the unknown. A love affair I’d never know. I could be lost for hours in a book.
So why writing now? I had a story to tell. It haunted me from the moment I decided if I just wrote it down it would go away. But it didn't. Three years after writing the first draft, a sign (yes, I believe in them) told me to fix up that draft and work the process to have it published. That’s what I did. But one story let to another, and another, and another. Then a new idea came into my head and a new story line was created.
I was accused (that’s the correct word) of having an overactive imagination as a child, as if that was a bad thing. I've also been accused of having the personality of a Jack Russell terrier, full of energy, unable to relax, and always one step ahead. What can I say other than I have stories to tell and I think you’ll like them. If you don’t, that’s okay. We all have our book boyfriends. We all have our favorites. Whatever you do, though, take time for yourself and read a book.