The Storm Spirits

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Chapter Six

“Exactly.” He sat down next to me. “Do you like the beach?”

A huge grin stretched across my face. “Are you kidding? I’d live here if I could.” I sighed. “In a heartbeat. If Nana and Papa buy the apartment from their friend, I will live here until the day I die.”

“Right next to the storm?”

I nodded. “Right next to the storm.” I paused. “So. Can I ask about your family?”

“Sure. What do you want to know?”

“For starters, is OK if I ask if your parents are still together?”

He nodded. “They are.”

“Do you have many siblings?”

“I have five brothers.” His face darkened a little.

I let out a whistle. “Wow! Five! So you’re one of six! Are you the youngest?”

“There’s one younger than me.”

“Do you all still live at home?”

He shook his head. “Five of us do. The sixth … he … left.” Zack kicked at the sand.

“He didn’t leave on good terms?” Zack shook his head. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“He made his choice.” The young man turned to me, his eyes still dark and flashing lighter. “What about you? Are your parents still together? Do you have siblings? I know you said you still live at home.”

“No and no.” It was my turn to kick the sand. “I’ve lived with Nana and Papa since middle school. My parents suck.”

His expression changed. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, well, that’s the way things are. I can’t change the past, as much as I wish I could.” I jumped up. “Enough negativity; let’s get in.”

Zack pointed at the water. “In the storm?” I nodded again. “Let’s go!” The two of us ran over to where the lifeguards had set of the swimming safe zone between two green flags and we splashed into the surf. I took his hand and pulled him deeper. “How deep do you go?” he shouted over the noise of the waves.

“As far as I feel like!” I shouted back, laughing. My shirt clung to me as I pulled him out to where the water was at my chest.

“What do you do now?” he asked.

I smiled. “Float. Bob. Anything peaceful, as long as I don’t get bit by a shark.”

“That won’t happen,” he reassured me.

For awhile, we floated on our backs and let the waves go under us. We bobbed in the waves a little more, then I taught him how to body surf back to shore. The two of us returned to our spot with Nana after awhile, and she smiled at us. “Did you have fun?”

“Sure did.” I fished my towel out of the bag, carefully avoiding getting my book wet. Zack had picked up his towel from the sand, shaken it out, and wrapped himself in it. I turned to him as I bundled into my own towel. “Did you have fun?”

He smiled. “I don’t think I could ever not have fun with you.”

I rolled my eyes. “If that was meant as a pickup line, then it was a really bad one.”

His brow furrowed for a moment, then he chuckled. “Nope, I didn’t mean it like that. All I meant to say was, I always have fun with you, whether it’s a date or not.”

“Well … thanks. I always have fun with you, too … the two days I’ve seen you.”

Zack smiled as he got something out of his backpack, which was sitting behind my chair. I noticed he was wearing a little metal bracelet on his right wrist. He recovered a watch. “I have to go, Char; family stuff.” He picked up his backpack and looked down at me. “See you tomorrow?”

I nodded. “OK. Beach again?”

He nodded back. “All right. I’ll be at your apartment at one again.” He started off.

“Bye, Zack!” I called. He stopped, turned, grinned the way he did whenever I said his name, then faced forward again and continued walking. I watched him until he was out of sight, then sat down next to Nana, who was smiling at me. “What?”

She shook her head and went back to reading. “Nothing, dear.”

I groaned. “This thing probably won’t last, Nana. I mean, he doesn’t even live near us! I don’t see how it could be more than a one-week fling.”

“You’re rather attracted to him, though.”

I sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I am. So what?”

“Nothing.” Nana chuckled to herself. Groaning again, I picked up my book and started reading.

Two hours later, Nana and I headed back up to the apartment. While I showered, she popped the two stombolis into the oven to cook, then she jumped in the shower while I changed. Knowing we’d be going up to the boardwalk again that night, I put on jeans and a T-shirt again. Right when Nana was done showering, the timer for the stombolis went off, and I pulled them out of the oven. After letting them cool, I dished cut them in half and dished them up. We’d gotten both pepperoni and cheese and decided we’d split them. So that’s what I did. I set the table and poured iced tea into glasses for us. Nana came out of her room, all dressed, and we sat down to eat.

Up on the boardwalk a little bit later, I was on a mission. Every year, I bought myself a T-shirt, and after I’d worn it awhile, I put it in a pile to be made into a memory blanket. Since Nana had been bringing me since the beginning of middle school, I had one blanket made already and another growing stack.

“What color are you looking for?” Nana asked as we stopped at the first T-shirt store.

“I don’t know … probably a yellow or orange. Any color will do, though.” I searched the racks.

We stayed up on the boardwalk for two hours shopping. It didn’t bother Nana much, and, in the end, I found two shirts I liked, plus a sweatshirt. We headed back to the apartment, where I changed into my pajamas, poured myself a glass of lemonade, and took my book out to the porch to read for awhile, under the starless sky and with the waves crashing down on the beach.

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