Episode Twenty Three - ...and Infidelity
The sky darkens and every lamppost along the boardwalk comes to life, spotlighting the walkway and the masses of people in a mellow orange vibe.
The two leave the bar following behind the thinning crowds.
Juniper leads the way to the edge of the boardwalk and after taking off her shoes and socks, jumps down to the sandy beach below.
Zylo hurries behind, slipping off his sneakers and socks and hopping down after her. His feet thump onto the soft, cold sand about ten feet below the boardwalk facing the ocean.
They stroll quietly beside the shore under the brightening moonlight. Every few seconds is a flowing wave, dragging behind a short-lived pool of water over their feet before pulling back into the sea. A cold sensation drowns their feet, refreshing for their sore, overused limbs, and even more so after walking on the dry, rough sand.
Zylo’s head tilts down at his feet, watching the wet sand slide in between his toes and leaving behind a visible memory of his past steps.
“You know, Zylo?” Juniper starts. “When I first heard you were joining my crew, I was like, really? Him? I thought it’d be totally awkward, since I tried to kill you and everything.”
Zylo tries to slide his feet through the wet sand, making a long dragging trail instead of single-step foot prints. “Understandable. But I thought it’d be more awkward for me.”
“How? We’re the ones who failed to kill you. If anything, it’s weird for us to have to see you again. It’s like…living with our failure.” Her feet playfully kick up wet sand into the air as she walks. Clumps and specks splatter around them but both continue unconcerned.
Perhaps from the calm mood, or another urge to feed his impulsivity, Zylo spontaneously asks, “Ever wonder what this is all for?”
Juniper glances at him for a second, surprised by the sudden question. She remains silent and proceeds to kick up more sand.
“Like, what’s the point of getting your life back if you’ve already lost so much,” Zylo ponders.
“I’ve thought about that for a long time…” Juniper says quietly.
“So, it’s not just me then?”
She doesn’t reply. Instead, their feet trail from the water and she pulls him by the hand. Still silent, she leads deeper under the boardwalk beneath the crowds of continuously passing feet.
But they ignore it. All they see is each other.
For the first time, they appreciate every clear detail of their faces as they gaze into each other’s eyes. They stand close to one another, feeling each other’s breath against their cheeks but remaining perfectly still and silent. Words unnecessary.
‘I know what I want. I want her.’
Placing his hands around her waist again, he inches her body close. Her heaving chest leans against his and his thumping heart drums in unison with hers.
Zylo stares deep into her eyes, mesmerized by her quickly expanding pupils within her stunning purple irises. The sweet lavender scent of her crimson hair envelops his senses, and his mind delves deeper into hypnosis.
Juniper places her hands on both sides of his head, leans close and touches lips.
The kiss is gentle, affectionate. They try to understand each other’s motives, and succeed.
The tender kiss becomes aggressive, tasting something sweet within each other’s mouths that satisfied their starving hearts.
And they yearned for more.
Without losing touch of each other’s taste, Juniper slowly pushes Zylo down to the sand with him lying on bottom and her mounting above. Their lips continue moving in unison and so does the simultaneous racing of their hearts beside one another.
She gently nibbles on his bottom lip while he calmly slides one hand under her shirt, lightly gliding his fingers up along the fine curve of her smooth back. His other hand runs along her skinny jeans until finally gripping the round bend of her butt.
The carnal desire slowly overtakes him. He is overwhelmed with the urge to taste every inch of Juniper’s body.
Now, his mouth wants much more than the kiss can provide.
From her lips, Zylo kisses along her cheek to her jaw and up to the side of her ear. He delicately nibbles on her earlobe, softly caressing the tender appendage with the tip of his tongue. His breath delicately exhales into her ear, and tickles her into a giggling moan.
He’s only encouraged to continue. His kisses and nibbles move lightly along the side of her neck, and she joyfully smiles and laughs.
Her joy is his joy, and her laugh makes him laugh.
Eventually, Juniper’s lips crave their way back to Zylo’s and he tastes her sweet tongue again. She runs her hands under his shirt, tightly gripping his firm sides and gently touching his abdominal muscles. The months of hunting provided the fitness he needed.
Zylo eagerly moves his hand from her back and slowly slides his way around to her chest, slipping under her bra and gently caressing her soft, elegant body.
Zylo thirsts for her, urging to take all her warmth for himself. With his other hand on her back, he pulls her slender body closer and tighter.
Juniper’s hips gradually grind against him, revealing her own intimate desires.
For a few more seconds, their bodies beg for more but their minds reconsider. This was all too fast, too spontaneous, and too reckless.
Though neither wishes to end, their lips eventually separate gasping for air. They exhale their held breaths through their noses and continue gazing intently at one another.
Their intimacy ends as abruptly as it began.
Suddenly, the dark beach has never looked more beautiful. The waves crash rhythmically and a gentle breeze whistles past them. With their senses calmed, they are suddenly aware of the beauty of their surroundings. The moonlight reflects across the surface of the water and twinkles magically in the couple’s joyful seeking eyes.
Juniper’s ruffled crimson hair hangs down on one side of her face. That, paired with her deadly stare nearly revives Zylo’s lust for more.
Alas, their bodies calm and their hearts relax. The rush of adrenaline subsides and suddenly, they are in control of themselves again.
Juniper rolls over beside Zylo, and exhaling another huff of air, the couple spontaneously breaks into laughter. Things moved so quickly and impulsively that neither really had time to think, each of them as surprised as the other.
Zylo pats off his clothes, realizing that sand had slipped into every crevice of his jacket, shirt, pants and shoes, but he doesn’t care. “I’m glad it was good for you, too.”
Juniper leans close and kisses his cheek, then makes her point, “Just so we’re clear, I went along with this because I wanted to.”
“Okay. That’s what I’ll tell everyone. Why’d you want to?”
She pauses for a second, and then says, “There’s some things I’m trying to get over. But! I’m not some rebound girl here to help you get over your girlfriend. Got it?”
“Yeah, I got it. I don’t want you to be a rebound either.”
‘I mean that. Really. I’m not sure, but ever since I died, things with Rachel have felt…different. They are different. Even when I saw her again for the first time in Old Treasure Hill, something had already changed. Somehow, I knew things would never be the same between us. Maybe that’s why I haven’t bothered to see her these past seven months. I’ve been slowly and unconsciously moving on.’
“Should we head back?” asks Juniper.
Zylo’s mind is too stuck in thought to fully respond, so instead, he silently nods.
Hundreds of people are lying out on their towels and chairs, now waiting in anticipation for the coming fireworks.
“Where’ve you two been?” Renzo asks as Zylo and Juniper return. He and Kitsune found a good spot along the sand surrounded by crowds of other people. Renzo sits with legs folded while Kitsune is lying on his back beside him.
“Okaeri.” Kitsune sits up and raises his thin sunglasses over his forehead. Glancing at Zylo and Juniper through his unfiltered green eyes, he says, “You’ve got sand on your pants.”
After a second, he pulls his glasses back down and returns to his comfortable position staring up at the night sky. “Clearly, they’ve already eaten. No worries though, more for us.”
Renzo shoves his hands into several paper bags around him and gobbles a variety of bite-sized foods at a time.
The light of the moon reflects over the water, and brightly reveals the ships by the coast. The thousands within the crowd grow anxious and Zylo can feel the fireworks show approaching. Minute after minute the beach grows noisier and busier.
“Hey, pass me the nachos!” Juniper exclaims.
Kitsune passes the box of nachos with cheese dip, and the show immediately starts.
The first firework launches into the air exploding into a large green and red blossom of fire and smoke. Thousands of people in the crowd cheer and whistle hysterically as each firework pops in the distant sky, the accumulated noise nearly deafening. Bursting into a variety of designs and colors, the audience complements each with an ‘Ooh’ or an ‘Aah’.
The air shortly smells of smoke.
“Wonder who decided watching a bunch of expensive, exploding colors of flame in the sky was the best way to celebrate things,” says Zylo. He pauses for a second, then, “Actually, that sounds pretty appealing.”
“This is cool and all but, forty minutes?” Juniper finds watching the entire display asinine.
“Yes, Juniper. Try to enjoy it. It’s the independence of Fortune City or something, I think…?” Kitsune has never been more uncertain about anything.
“Here, have a churro.” Renzo hands Juniper a long sugar-coated stick of fried dough to suppress her complaining, and she quickly snatches it.
After about thirty minutes, the fireworks speed up for the coming finale. In the final rapid and successive launching of the remaining pyrotechnics, the sky radiates with bright blossoming circles, ovals, and scattered points of light colored in green, red, violet and gold. The people’s faces of awe reflect each color from the sky as they gaze up in amazement.
Finally, the last firework launches over the other lights, reaching the highest depths of the sky before exploding in the biggest and brightest myriad of colors shaped in the enormous swirl of a galaxy.
The people spring up from their seats shouting, whistling, and cheering. Fortune City’s anthem blasts from the speakers along the beach and faces glow bright with smiles all around.
Kitsune raises his can of beer and joyously shouts, “Omedetou! To Fortune City!”
“To Fortune City!” echoes the crowd’s ecstatic cheer.The New Pirates raise their drinks in celebration and embrace the night. This is a day of unity for the City of Fortune, a day of independence—a day of new beginnings.