Summers turn me into a sucker. That’s why I was glad this one was almost over. Every year since puberty, from mid-June to early September, I’d been sure I was going to meet the real world equivalent to Prince Charming. Call me old fashioned, call me hopelessly romantic, you could even call me a fool, but whatever I was, I knew the end result—I was a sucker. To date, I’d never found a guy who was worthy to stand in Prince C’s shadow; no real surprise there as I’d discovered more and more after each summer that guys were something of a pain in the ass. But here, working on my tan at Sapphire Lake’s public beach just a couple weeks before I was all set to start my senior year at a new school, I’d just found me a Prince Hot Damn.
He arrived with a whole mess of guys, tossing a football back and forth, and specimens like this confirmed there had been some kind of divine rule in the universe because no natural selection process was up to the task of creating something like him. This was some god’s, somewhere’s, handiwork. He was tall, his shoulders were wide, and he had those dark ringed eyes with black lashes that had the power to undo a woman’s best intentions. So, in non-sucker terms, he was just my type. Along with every other English speaking woman in the northern hemisphere’s.
My blue raspberry slurpee—that was becoming more mush than slush with each passing wanton stare—couldn’t even compete for my attention. I didn’t know his name, didn’t know if he had a girlfriend, didn’t know if he wanted one, but I knew I was in trouble.
However, it was when his dodging and tackling and sprinting ceased when he glanced my way that I knew I was in big trouble.
The glance was immeasurably longer than every other glance shared with a stranger, but what was conveyed in that shortest of connections cut through me, letting some piece of this stranger work his way inside. I’d experienced this before a few times in my life, nothing but an eye connection with a passing stranger that moved me on an instinctual level. For no reason at all, it was like I felt my soul surface in a typhoon, begging me to take notice and follow after that moment of serendipity.
To date, I never had, but the last time I’d let one of these moments pass was last fall when a boy working at a restaurant my family visited while on vacation delivered a pizza to our table. He’d dropped the pizza on the table, told us to enjoy, and then, right as he was leaving the table, he looked and me. My heart went boom-boom, my head got all foggy, and I felt this ache inside when he turned and walked away, like we were tied together by a fixed rope. I’d let exactly four of these soul typhoons pass unexplored, but I’d made a pact of the utmost sacredness with myself that I wouldn’t let a fifth go by in the same kind of way.
I was never sure if the person on the other end of that look felt the same kind of intensity I did, so when Prince Hot Damn turned away, tackling someone into the sand, I knew I ran the risk of him thinking I was one of those girls who made an art-form of preying upon beautiful boys minding their own business. I didn’t care, I wouldn’t let another one of these moments go. Life was short and I’d been a firm believer in seizing the moment for the majority of my life.
Then, he came to another standstill, like my stare was freezing him in place, before looking back. This time it wasn’t a glance. It was a good five second stare where his eyes did that dumbfounded thing mine were doing to me. His smile had just begun its upward journey into position when a football whizzed right into the side of his face. It was one of those moments you saw played out in movies: wide-eyed boy staring at girl, oblivious to the world around him until the laces of a football indented his forehead.
“Stop staring, Jude!” the young boy who had thrown the ball called out. “She’s too hot, even for you. And since she’s got a book, she probably knows how to read, so she’s smart enough to know to avoid guys like you.”
I slid my glasses back into place as serendipity boy chased after the pint-sized teaser and turned my attention back to the book sprawled out beneath me, no longer worried about having to chase him down to explore if there could be anything else between us than a loaded look.
I saw the reciprocation in his eyes, that and more. It was only a matter of how much time he wanted to play it cool until he came over. I had all day.
That was what I reassured myself with as he threw the caught boy over his shoulder and ran the both of them into the lake, dunking up and down until the boy was squealing with laughter. I reassured myself again when he and the boy trudged from the water and returned to the cluster of boys playing football and picked up right where he left off, not sparing a single look my way.
I tried to distract myself with the book below me, but when I found myself reading the same paragraph for the sixth time, I gave up. Still not another look my way, like I was invisible.
When a second hour passed in the same way, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. If he wasn’t going to come to me and I wasn’t quite ready to go to him, I’d just have to make him. I’d found boys were fairly simple creatures to figure out, at least on a primal level—on a mind, heart, and soul matter they were about as confounding to me as thermal dynamics—and since primal was just a nice term for raging hormones, I decided to use their overabundance of teenage boy ones to my advantage.
Grabbing a liter of water from my beach bag, I rose to a stand, making every movement slow and deliberate. At least without looking ridiculous. His eyes weren’t on me as I stood and adjusted my bikini just so, but a few male sets were. Good sign I was doing the right thing, but bad sign he wasn’t noticing since this whole stunt was set into motion for him.
Pulling my clip from my mass of hair, it fell down my back, and I shook it into position for good measure. I practically cursed under my breath when I chanced another look his way to find him in utter oblivion. What’s a girl got to do to get a boy’s attention these days?
I walked back towards the picnic table where the newest addition to our family, the furry kind, was still smiling through his panting. “There’s a good boy,” I said, kneeling beside him where he was using the shade of the table to his advantage. “Since you’re of the same gender, although I find your species to be more appealing on so many fronts, do you have any suggestions for how to make that boy mine?” I asked, pouring some more water into his bowl as I watched Jude pry a football from the air. The boy played the best game of beach football I’d ever had the pleasure of watching.
My furry friend offered a few licks over my arm before his wet nose nudged at my leg. I could have been reading into the nudge of encouragement a bit, but when his doggy eyes tracked over to Jude and his doggy smile stretched farther, I laughed. “Yeah, yeah. I know it’s a woman’s world and all, but there’s still some things I like old-fashioned,” I said, scratching behind his matted ears. “Like the guy approaching the girl. Don’t call the feminist movement and rat me out or else no steak for you tonight.”
I patted his head as he yapped his vow of silence before heading back to my blanket baking in the sun. I kept my head forward, but my eyeballs were as far in the corners as they’d go, watching as he sailed the football to another little boy. If standing, stretching, and swimsuit adjustment weren’t working, with dinner not even an hour away, I’d have to resort to drastic, or desperate, measures. I was as stubborn as I was a sucker, and since I’d waited this long for him to come over, I wasn’t going to give up now. Giving up was not in my blood.
I stretched on my blanket, stomach down, twisting my arms behind me to pull the string free of its tension. In my experience as a seventeen year old girl, seven of those years having boobs that required a bra, undoing that one little knot at the center of your back had about a ninety-five percent accuracy rate of attracting any male within a five beach towel radius. Jude might have been right on the five/six cusp, but it was all I had left. The last trick in my bag.
I made a pillow of my sundress and pretended to be nothing more than concerned with minimizing my tan lines, but as I took a quick survey of the area, every male eye within five beach towels was staring. Except for him.
A few whistles even sounded from his fellow football player’s lips, of which I played ignorant, but still, not the slightest of looks in my direction. One of my friends at my old school had once told me that if ever a day came where our intended male targets didn’t flock our way after this last ditch effort, it would be time to send word to the pope that a miracle needed to be inspected.
Get Rome on the phone because a miracle was playing out in front of me as the only boy I wanted to notice was the only one who didn’t. Darn you, serendipity and soul typhoons.
I’d give him five more minutes before I’d force myself to swallow my pride and make a move. I knew if I had to approach him, I’d likely get denied, but I wasn’t going to let another one of these pass me by. Carpe diem, baby.
I noticed something whizzing above me from the corner of my eye, but it didn’t seem of much importance until a certain body I’d been lusting over snagged it out of the air right before falling back to the earth from his impressive suspension in the air. Or at least falling right over the top of me.
He didn’t crash into me all that hard, leading me to believe it was intentional, but I still managed to shriek like a little girl. I knotted my top back into place while he struggled to reposition himself.
“The name’s Jude Ryder, since I know you’re all but salivating like a rabid dog to know, and I don’t do girlfriends, relationships, flowers, or regular phone calls. If that works for you, I think we could work out something special.”
So that serendipitous moment I’d been angsting over the better part of a glorious summer afternoon? What a waste. There had been nothing on the other side of that loaded look than an opportunistic summer . . eh-hm fling. Lord help me, I was going to become a nun if my male radar didn’t realign towards guys that were not walking penises.
“And I’d give you my name if I actually wanted to pursue anything more with you than telling you to get the hell off of me,” I said, twisting onto my back once I was confident everything up front was covered. However, whether it was my twisting motion or his twisted sense of self, his leg caught my hip as it rotated and followed it all the way around. Super, the boy was all put straddling me now and, despite being angry beyond appeasing, I felt my heart pounding through my chest like it never had.
He smiled down at me. Actually, it was more of a grin. A grin full of attitude and ego. It was a tad sexy too, and it could have been hella sexy if I hadn’t already decided to not fall into this boy’s traps. “I was wondering how long it would take to get you horizontal,” he said, eyes sweeping down to my belly button. “Although I’m not really your missionary style kind of guy.”
Whatever was left of my romantic notions of male chivalry and love at first sight was just obliterated. I’d never verbally admit I was a romantic, that was one of the many secrets I kept to myself, but it was a special ideal and one guy took the last bit I’d clung to.