The next morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee. Nana was always up earlier than I was, and she almost always (I say almost because there was one time when I didn’t wake up to it) had a pot of coffee made. I came out of my room and immediately when to the counter and poured myself a cup of coffee. Nana was on her second up already, and she had the news on. “ … Satellites have picked up storms off the coast, despite no previous forecast for them today,” the weatherman was saying as I sat down on the couch next to her.
“Great,” I muttered under my breath. “I was looking forward to some good time in the water today.”
She smiled and patted my knee. “You’ll get time in the water, don’t worry. We’re here for a whole week, remember?”
“I know, but I wanted to maximize my time in the water.”
“I know, sweetie.”
We ended up going downtown to the main street, armed with umbrellas if the weather turned sour on us. Indeed, it did look like it would pour at any moment. The sky was a deep, dark gray, just waiting to open its floodgates and pour on us. Nana and I shopped as though it wouldn’t, though, and we had a lot of fun … until we ran into a group of dark, brooding people. They walked between and around us as if we didn’t exist, and one of them knocked into me, making me drop the two shopping bags in my hands. “Hey!” I exclaimed, afraid to kneel down in the middle of their group.
One of the people stopped, a young man with white hair layered over dark hair. His eyes were as black as a starless sky, his skin as pale as the moon. I was struck by his appearance as he looked me in the eye, then, after a moment, knelt down to collect my things for me. “So sorry,” he said smoothly, rising and handing me the two bags.
I took them from him, a little shock coming off of his hand; I gasped. “Uh … yeah. Thank you.”
“Zack!” one of the others called. “Let’s go!” He smiled at me, then hurried off to join his group.
“That was kind of him,” Nana remarked as we started walking again.
“He shocked me,” I answered.
“Well, they are calling for storms, Char. There’s probably a little bit of electricity in the air.”
I shrugged. “Yeah. Maybe.” We kept walking and shopping, stopping at the local coffee shop for some good iced coffee. Around lunchtime, we went back to the apartment.
Nana fixed us some chicken salad sandwiches while I cut up apples and put them and some carrots on plates. She poured some Pepsi into glasses (yeah, I know, not super healthy, but we were on vacation) and set them on the table. I carried the plates and set one at her place and the other at mine. “What’s your plan for the rest of the day?” she asked after we gave thanks for our food.
“I was hoping to go down to the beach, provided it doesn’t rain. Join me?”
She shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. My body is telling me to rest this afternoon so I can have fun with you on the boardwalk tonight.”
I nodded. “OK. I’ll get changed right after lunch and head down to the beach.”
We finished lunch and then I went outside to check the status of my swim suit from the previous day: still wet. I went back inside. “It’s a good thing I brought a second suit; yesterday’s is still kinda wet.”
“It did rain a little this morning, so that’s probably why.” Nana was washing dishes while watching the news.
I quickly got out my other shorts, surf shirt, and bikini top and changed. Saying goodbye to Nana, I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and stuffed it into the beach bag, along with a towel, my book, my phone, and a light snack. On the way out, I made sure to snag one of our chairs.
Up on the beach, I found a prime spot, away from kids, but not too far from the water. The overcast day seemed to have scared people away, mainly, I guessed, families with little kids. There were still a good number on the beach, though, but I was able to read in peace … until a shadow fell over me. I looked up.
Standing over me, still dressed in the dark jeans, black shoes, and black button-down shirt he’d been wearing earlier, was the guy who had picked my stuff up downtown. One of my eyebrows went up. “Uh … hi.”
“Hello.” His smooth voice calmed any nerves I might have had about his presence. He held out his hand. “I’m Zackary. Zack for short”
I closed my book, stood up, and reached for his hand. “Char. Nice to meet you.” The second my hand touched his, a shock shot through my hand and I yanked it back. I realized how weird that must have looked, and I blushed. “Uh … sorry … it’s just that you shocked me.”
“I apologize.” His voice was on the deeper side, but not too deep, and it sort of made my knees weak. “Char? That’s an interesting name.”
“Short for Charlotte. I hate being called by my full name, and no one ever uses it unless they’re mad at me.” I shifted my weight from foot to foot, hoping it wasn’t visible to him.
He nodded. “I was wondering if you’d like to go for a walk with me? Maybe just to the jetty and back.”
Nerves flared, and I shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t really know you.”
Zack nodded again. “Understandable.” He smiled. “May I sit with you, then?”
“Uh … sure … I guess.” I sat back down and picked up my book to mark my place and put it in my bag.
“What’re you reading?” I turned the book to show him. “Fantasy, huh?”
“Yep.” I slipped it into my bag. “I love dragons and mermaids and all that stuff. Takes me to a place where my problems don’t exist.”
He cocked his head. “Problems?” I shot him a Look, which he read correctly. “Right. Stranger.”
“Yeah. Sorry.” I softened my gaze. “Are you here with family or friends or alone or what?”
“With … family. What about you?”
“It’s a Nana and Char week. Papa hates the beach, but she and I love it, so we plan a week and come.” I smiled. “It’s always the best week of my year.” I looked out at the ocean again, closed my eyes, and sighed happily.
“What is it?”
“All this. The ocean … the sand under my feet … the aroma …” I sighed again, then looked at Zack. “Let’s take that walk.”
Zack got to his feet quickly. “To the jetty and back?” He held out his hand to me.
I took his hand, not even remembering what had happened when I’d touched him before. The shock jolted my arm, and I let go quickly. A thought hit me, and I hesitated. “My stuff is here, though.”
“It’ll be fine.”
“It’ll be fine.” Zack’s voice was firm, but gentle, and I believed him for some unknown reason.
I shrugged. “All right. To the jetty and back.” I smiled at him as we began our walk. “Hey, how did you know I’d be here?”
“A lucky guess.” He glanced down at me; he was several inches taller than me at least, and I wasn’t a short person by any stretch of the imagination. “Do you watch a lot of fantasy shows, too?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Anything fantasy, really, even bordering on science fiction. I love the thought of other planets, aliens, the whole bit! I mean, if there are aliens out there, it’ll be so cool when we make contact! Imagine what we could share with them, and they with us.”
He smiled. “You really think aliens would be cool?”
“I sure do! What about you?”
“Yeah … yeah, it would be pretty cool.” Zack cleared his throat. “One reason I wanted to speak with you was to apologize.”
“What for? Stalking me?” I snickered a little.
He shook his head. “I’m not stalking you!”
“No.” He looked down at me. “I wanted to apologize for running into you this morning.”
I waved him off. “It’s not a big deal. Besides, you already apologized.”
“No, it is,” he insisted. “We could have easily damaged your things.”
“You didn’t, though.”
“We could have. So I am apologizing for our carelessness.”
I smiled. “It’s fine, really. I’m fine, the stuff I bought is fine, my Nana is fine, it’s all fine. Thank you for the apology, though.”
“Of course.” He smiled back.
“What kinds of things do you like reading?” I asked him after a minute or two of silence.
Zack shrugged. “I don’t have a lot of time to read.”
“Ah.” I nodded. “School or work?”
“You could say work.”
“What do you do?”
“I … it’s a little bit hard to explain what I do. It … it … it involves a lot of travel.”
“You’re not some kind of traveling salesman, are you?”
“Oh, no, not at all.” He chuckled. “No. Not a salesman.”
“Good. I was worried you were stalking me to try to sell me something.”
“I’m not stalking you!”
I stopped and looked up into his face, again struck by the contrast of his features, only this time I noticed that his dark eyes flashed light constantly. “What do you call finding me here, then? I didn’t tell anyone but Nana I was coming down here, and the island isn’t that small.”
He shrugged again and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I wasn’t stalking you. Seeking you out is something entirely different.”
I smirked. “If you say so, Zack.”
A smile stretched across his face. “That sounded nice.”
“Me saying your name? Zack?”
The smile grew. “Yes.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, now you’re hitting on me!”
Before he could answer, a shout drew our attention away from each other. One of the other people from downtown earlier came running toward us. “Zack! Where’ve you been?” He barely took notice of me. “We need you!”
Zack turned to me. “I’m sorry, but I need to leave. Are you OK walking back yourself?”
I nodded. “Yeah, no problem. It’s not far.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He hurried off with his friend.
“Wait, what?” I cried after him. “What do you mean?” No response. “What the heck did he mean?” I turned around and wandered back to my spot, somewhat expecting to see all of my stuff gone. To my surprise, it was all still there! I crouched down to sit in my chair again, and a shock came off of it. “What the heck?” I touched my chair once more and received another shock. “Must be the weather.” I sat down without getting shocked, picked up my book, and started reading where I’d left off.