The Storm Spirits

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Chapter Nine

I put my elbows on the table and leaned forward a little. “Can I ask you a question?”

He leaned forward, too. “Ask away.”

“Do you really like me? Or are you just taking me out because I’m here and all the other girls are potatoes?”

He laughed. “Potatoes? No! I’ve seen a lot of pretty girls here, but you’re the most beautiful of them all.”

I rolled my eyes. “Wow, another pickup line! You still didn’t answer my question.”

“Yes, I do really like you, Charlotte.”

I smiled. “So I’m pretty and you call me by my full name.”

“Was that OK?”

“For you …” I pretended to stop and think. “Yeah. Totally OK.” I grinned. “I kind of liked it, actually.”

He smiled back. “Do you like me, Charlotte?”

I pretended to think again. “Hmm …” He seemed to get a little anxious, but my grin stayed. “I do really like you, Zackary.”

His whole face lit up. “I like it when you say my full name, too.”

I leaned closer. “Want to hear a joke?”

He nodded. “All right.”

“What did the sand say to the ocean when he asked her out?”

“I don’t know; what?”

“Shore!” Even though the joke was horribly corny, he cracked up. That was how the rest of supper went: me telling every joke and riddle I knew, even the stupid ones from middle school, and him laughing. We ate our tacos, he paid the bill, and we left.

“What next?” he asked me as we stepped out onto the boardwalk.

I breathed the fresh air in. “Mini-golf? I need to work supper off.”

“Mini-golf it is.” We headed for the place Nana and I always went to. I showed him how to play the game, and he actually won in the end. After that, we went to the taffy store, and I picked out some fudge and taffy and paid for them.

As we exited the store, I walked across the boards to the railing at the edge of the beach and gazed out at the dark water that was crashing onto the shore. “It’s so beautiful,” I breathed as he joined me.

Zack’s arm brushed mine, and the shock from the touch made me jump a little. “You think storms are beautiful?”

I nodded. “Metaphoric and actual storms. Ask Nana! Any time there’s a thunderstorm, I’ll go outside and dance in the rain and lightning and thunder.”

“What’s your favorite part of a storm?” His voice sounded a little distant, but I ignored that.

“Lightning. Always lightning.” Thunder suddenly rumbled in the distance, and my ears perked up. “I didn’t know it was going to storm tonight!” A thrill ran through me, and I grabbed his hand, despite the shock I got. “Come on!” I pulled him in the direction of 2nd Street.

“Where?” he asked, following me.

“Back home, before it starts to pour!” I pulled him faster, breaking into a run. I giggled and skipped a little. Zack followed me, and I could hear him laughing lightly.

We reached the porch of the apartment right as it started to rain. I let go of his hand and sat down on one of the chairs. “Aren’t you going inside?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No way. It’s storming! I told you how much I love storms.” I smiled, closed my eyes, and breathed in the damp air. “It’s beautiful.”

He sat down beside me. “Yeah. It is.”

We sat there in silence while it stormed around us, raining and flashing and booming. The noise, combined with the sounds of the ocean, were deafening, but I loved every second of it! Any muscles that had been tense relaxed, and I was nearly asleep when the storm ended rather abruptly. “That was amazing,” I breathed, grinning.

Zack chuckled and stood up. “You’re probably the strangest girl I’ve ever met, Char.”

I laughed and rose. “Yeah, well, I enjoy my strangeness.”

“I don’t really mind it.”

“Good, because I don’t change for anyone!”

“Nor would I want you to.” Zack smiled. “I should probably let you get to bed; it’s late.”

I nodded. “Yeah, probably. Thanks for everything tonight, Zack.”

His smile widened. “You’re welcome. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

I nodded again. “Let’s do something different.”

“Like what?”

“Like go to the Coffee Company downtown.”

He nodded. “Sounds perfect to me. One o’clock again?”

“Cool! I’ll see you then.” I smiled at him. “Night, Zack.”

“Night, Char.” He walked down the stairs, and I watched until he was gone from sight.

I went inside, quietly made myself a snack, and got ready for bed as quietly as I could, because Nana was already in bed. Once I had tucked myself in, I picked up my current book and read for awhile, much longer than I should have. Around three am, I turned out the light, slid down under my covers, and fell asleep listening to the ocean.

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