She was a mystery woman out on the beach, the storm sweeping in and sweeping Lightning off his feet before he even had the chance to say ‘hello.’ The club thought he was crazy, that she was a figment of his imagination or some kind of near-death experience – but he knew. He knew he’d seen her, and he just knew their paths would cross again. It was kind of hard for them not to in a town as small as Ft. Royal.
Honor had never seen anything like it, and thought sure the man on the beach had died. He’d been struck by lightning, after all. Still, she had to put it from her mind. She was overwhelmed already what with her missing mother, grandparents she’d never known had existed, and a sudden move across the country to take possession of their more than modest estate.
She’d been swept up into such a maelstrom of confusing events and emotions she could hardly focus on anything else but the next tiny step in front of her. It was a lot, so much, and then he stepped out of the ether and a lot of things suddenly made sense.
When the winds of fate blow you in a direction, you go…
The sky grumbled and I got down a little lower, knowing that it didn’t make much difference. If the electricity decided to source through me, my fuckin’ goose was cooked, but I had shit out that was a much tastier target than I was for the crackling ozone layer around me.
I lived for that smell. Swear to God, it got me a little high, like a good spliff on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Only rather than mellow me out, the smell had me all kinds of jazzed and ready to go.
I don’t know what it was that made me turn and look down the beach. I had to blink through the downpouring rain and the steamy atmosphere to be sure that I was genuinely seeing what I was seeing.
I got up from my crouch, shading my eyes from the rough stinging patter of the rain to, again, see if what I was seeing was really real. It didn’t seem to matter how much I blinked – she was still there.
A woman was walking along the beach, at the waterline. Her body was lithe, like a dancer’s, and the way she stepped along the sand at the water’s edge just as graceful. She hugged a long brown loose-knit sweater beach coverup thing around her shoulders and wore a long, sheath-like wrap skirt in hippie-dippie earth tone colors that enveloped her from her hips to the tops of her feet, the material clinging wetly to her legs.
Her long dark hair was plastered to her skull, a piece artfully stuck to the side of her face, following the curve of her jaw as she gazed out over the churning sea.
I half expected her to walk into it, for her to bob along the surface for a second and then dip, and a fantastical fin would pop above the surface and she would disappear. She was that otherworldly and beautiful. I had to know if I was hallucinating or if she was real, so I started to jog in her direction.
I wasn’t but four, maybe five paces from my miniature forest of rebar thrust into the sand when it hit. The last thing I remember was flying forward, my back arching painfully as I tried to fold my damn self in half backward with the force of the blast. Then it was cool wet sand in my face and lights out.
I slipped back out onto the front porch with a soft sigh and locked up behind me. Lightning stood, his expression rendered unreadable by the orange mirrored wraparound sunglasses he’d put back over his eyes.
“You want to take my truck, your car, or walk?” he asked and I appreciated that. It took any unease off me and left me in control – made me feel a mite safer, which was nice.
“Um, how far is it?” I asked. “I mean, where are we even going?”
“The Plank,” he said. “Other end of the boulevard.” He gestured in a vague direction.
I said, “I’ll drive if it’s alright with you.”
He grinned and his whole face transformed and lit up. That Golden Retriever boy energy that I found totally endearing was back.
“Bet,” he said cheerfully and gestured grandly that I should precede him off the porch. I stepped down and he trailed right behind me, stepping up to my side and walking with an excited bounce in his step with me across the grass that was just starting to look overgrown.
He surprised me, jogging around the back of the car ahead of me as I hit the button on the key fob to unlock it. He hauled open my door for me and waiting patiently as my step faltered for a moment in my shock.
I don’t think I had ever had anyone my age open a door for me – just older gentlemen and truckers at the truck stop, and certainly never my car door for me.
“Thank you,” I said and slid into my seat. He double-checked to make sure that he was good to close it and that my extremities were out of his way before doing so.
He jogged around the hood of the car and got in beside me, reaching for his seatbelt and pulling it across himself.
“Head for the boulevard and where you can take a left, do it.”
“Okay,” I said, pushing the button to start the car.
It was strange to have a car that not only did I push a button to start it, but it started right away without the squealing belts. When I did turn it off, there was no knocking in the engine.
I didn’t honestly ever picture myself in anything but old junkers and in some ways this whole thing was like a fairytale which messed with me in its own way. You know?
I followed Lightning’s directions and he chatted amicably about the town, pointing out places that were good to eat at and that would be even better to work for. He also pointed out a few places that he said were good to hang if you were a customer but let me know that the management and some of the owners were creeps. It would be good if I steered clear of them for employment.
“Shit,” I said. “I think I applied to that one.”
“Yeah, if you get called up for an interview I wouldn’t even bother to show up. Marty who runs that place is an absolute creep to the female staff. Like such a creep, I’m pretty sure I’d have to come bust him in the mouth before you even finished out your first shift.”
I laughed. “What makes you say that?” I asked. “I mean, like, why would you do that?”
He lowered his sunglasses and winked at me over the top of them and said, “Because we’re friends now and I don’t let anybody fuck with my friends – especially the way I’ve heard Marty fucks with some of the girls who’ve gone to work for him.”
Text Copyright © 2023 A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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