The weekend was over too soon and we headed back to Manny's. I took a couple of days to explore at a more leisurely pace. I walked around to see what there was close by, used my bike to go farther away, and went to another beach or two.
As beautiful as the California scenery was, I missed Ithaca. It was all just so different. Different trees, different terrain, even different smells.
With Ithaca on my mind, I called Penny and wished I hadn't. From the second she answered, she was on the offensive. I remembered why I hadn't called her more often and why time apart had seemed like such a good idea.
I couldn't do or say anything right and she threw my vacation back at me at every opportunity as though I was a slacker. That pissed me off. It wasn't like I'd just quit and left. I'd been fired and had taken the time to make some plans and talk about it with her. Nor was I mooching off Manny. Despite his protests, I gave him some money for rent and utilities. Penny ignored me when I pointed all of that out.
"I saw Lee the other day," she said by way of changing the subject.
"Yeah? How is he?" Lee and I had worked for the same company but he'd survived the last round of layoffs.
"He's good. He asked me out, actually."
"What'd you say?" I was curious; after all, seeing other people had been her idea.
"No, of course. God, Diz." She huffed out an indignant breath. "I also saw Pat Troklas a few days ago and he asked me if you and I were still together. I said yes, and he said that was too bad, because he'd always wanted to ask me out."
I could hear the threat under the words, that if I didn’t want her there were other guys that did. I wasn’t going to play that game. "Penny, if you want to go out with somebody, go ahead. It's pretty clear that you and I aren't working and you said we should see other people anyway."
"You heard me, Pen."
"Diz, are you breaking up with me? Over the fucking phone?" She was incredulous.
"I'm sorry it's over the phone, but yes, and we should have done it a long time ago." As I said the words, I knew I was doing the right thing.
"Jesus, I can't believe you!"
What could I say to that? She ranted at me for a few minutes and then disconnected. I tossed the phone on the couch next to me. I guessed I should have been upset, but instead I was relieved, and I was ready to give Callie my full attention.
The weekend came and not a moment too soon. The weather looked iffy, but I was determined to go to King's Bay. I was tempted to drive out Friday night, and mentioned it to Manny, but he shook his head.
"Don't bother, man. Traffic will be hellish, and it'll be dark and cold by the time you get there. Seriously, if you want more time, just leave early Saturday morning."
"Okay." I nodded. I wanted to get back there as soon as I could, but Manny was right. I needed to calm down. King's Bay would be there in the morning.
"Why are you so anxious to get out there, anyway?" Manny asked. He'd come home late from work and Helena was at her mom's or her sister's or whatever, so it was just us. We bonded over beers and nachos.
"I need to clear my head, and the best surfing is there." So was Callie, but I didn't say that.
"You want to see Callie." Manny saw through me.
"Yeah, I do."
"What about Penny?"
"We're done." I told him about our last conversation. He'd been working a night shift all week so I hadn't had a chance to tell him Penny and I had broken up.
"You didn't dump her to go after Callie, did you?"
"Oh, hell no. No, it was going to happen anyway. Penny wanted me to be the bad guy and so I finally did it. I should have done it a while ago, I guess. I was sick of the passive-aggressive crap."
"I'm with you, man. That sucks." Manny nodded in agreement and drank some more beer.
"Yeah, well, it's for the best. Even if I go back, it wouldn't fix anything."
Manny looked at me in surprise. "You're not going back?"
I started to answer, then stopped and frowned. I was going back to Ithaca, wasn't I? I'd never considered staying in California. Until now, apparently.
"I don't know. Doesn't matter." I waved a hand to dismiss the idea. "I don't need to make a decision yet. Besides, I'm enjoying the beach too much." I grinned. "Ithaca's fantastic, but you can't surf there."
And, I thought later as I lay in bed, Callie wasn't in Ithaca.
I didn't sleep well and woke up early Saturday morning. At six I told Manny I was leaving, and he stared at me as though I was insane. "Jesus, Diz, even the fish aren't awake yet." He shook his head, yawned, and went back to sleep.
I threw my stuff into the car and took off. The morning was dazzling despite the forecast. Pastel pinks and oranges colored the sky as I headed to King's Bay. I rolled the windows down to enjoy the California breeze. It rushed through me, sparking feelings that you just don't get from Freon-cooled air.
I tried to relax and enjoy the ride, but my thoughts were a jumble of Ithaca, California and Callie. In an effort to distract myself, I turned on the radio. Commercial. I made a mental note to bring my iPod next time and tapped the station buttons. On the fourth I at last found a song, something by the Beach Boys. Couldn't get away from them during the summer in California, I supposed.
When I saw the turnoff for King's Bay, I drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. I was relieved to be there, so much so I was surprised. I hadn't realized how much the place had gotten under my skin and how much I'd missed it. I thought I might even like it better than Cayuga Lake.
The scenery soothed me. It was as incredible as it had been the first time, maybe more so in the early morning light. Since the sun was behind me, I could look out over the water without worrying about a glare.
I checked my watch, saw it was going on seven and found a place to park. I stepped out of the car to stretch. Some gulls screeched and flew over the water, and I thought I saw a dolphin farther out.
Mesmerized by the waves, I thought of Callie and had visions of her rising up out of the water, her long wet hair clinging to her body and water streaming off her skin. My eyes snapped open as I realized I had no idea where Callie lived, or even if she'd be around this weekend.
I took a deep breath to calm down. I smelled the salt water, closed my eyes against the breeze and swore I felt the spray of the waves on my face. I was too far from the water for that, but there was something about this place that made me feel I could anyway. I let out a long breath; all of that was great, but I was still sitting by an empty beach, alone.
"What the fuck am I doing?" I smacked my hand on the top of the car.
What was wrong with me? I had left the house at some god-forsaken hour of the morning—on a Saturday
—to go to the beach and hopefully see some woman that I barely knew. I didn't know where she lived, how to contact her, or even her goddamned last name.
I leaned against the car for a few more minutes and was quiet, letting the sounds and smells wash over me. After a while, I calmed down and decided not to worry about it. I hoped I'd see Callie but even if I didn't, I'd take advantage of a day to myself at the beach where I could think without anyone distracting me.
I opened the car and reached in for my stuff. Despite my eagerness, I'd packed plenty of food and drink for the day. I took my cooler, my surf board, and a bag containing a towel and a change of clothes. I walked down to the beach and staked out a spot beyond the high-tide line on the sand.
I'd worn a sweatshirt which I stripped off and dropped onto the towel. At this hour the temperature was on the cool side, but it would warm up fast and the chilly air felt good. I wadded up the sweatshirt and used it for a pillow. With the adrenaline rush gone, my poor sleep and early morning caught up with me and I zonked out.
Something smooth glided along my skin and I heard a voice. "You're going to burn lying here in the sun. You should be more careful."
I smiled before I opened my eyes. "Hello, gorgeous."
Her laugh was low and throaty. "How would you know if I'm gorgeous or not? Your eyes are closed."
I looked up to find Callie sitting next to me, dragging her fingers in circles along my upper arms. "I could tell by your voice. Like a siren, beautiful and dangerous."
She laughed again and pushed at my shoulder. "You are so full of it."
"I can't help it. I've been thinking about you a lot."
Her hand stopped moving. "Really?" She sounded surprised.
I propped myself up on my elbows. "Really. It's hard not to think about someone as beautiful as you."
For a minute she didn't say anything, then gave me a soft smile. "That's sweet."
I guessed I'd honestly surprised her. She had none of the cocky, flirty attitude that she'd had even a minute ago. It made no sense. Callie was beautiful, and she didn't strike me as the type who wasn't aware of it. Surely other guys had told her she was pretty. So why would my flirting make her go all mushy? Before I could ask, she pushed her hair away from her face and recovered herself.
"So what brought you out here so early?" She stretched out beside me.
"I had a lot of stuff on my mind and needed a place to think. Plus I was hoping I'd find you." I was conscious of her next to me, and glad I'd opted for sweatpants to start the day, since my body couldn't help but react to hers. I rolled over to face her. "And lucky me, I did."
"Lucky you, I was up early myself." She drew circles on my arm again. I shivered as goose bumps ran up my skin in the wake of her touch. "And no one else is here yet," she said.
"So I have you and the beach all to myself?"
"For as long as you like."
My mind raced with the implications of that, but I tried to sound nonchalant. "I bet you say that to all the guys."
She went silent; her body went still. Her fingers stopped moving and I felt the tension radiate in waves.
"Look at me, Diz."
I rose up on my elbow and met her eyes. They were dark and I couldn't have looked away for anything. I wanted to apologize but it was like I was paralyzed. I couldn't wiggle my big toe, let alone talk.
"Diz, I'm only going to say this once. I don't say that to all the guys. I said it to you." Her voice was hypnotic and powerful. I was lost in that and in her eyes. "I only say it when I want to, when it's right."
My mouth was dry as I tried to swallow. "So is it right?"
The tension fell away and her eyes lit up. "We could find out."
I grinned, although I felt some residual uneasiness from whatever had transpired between us. I ignored it. "What do we do first?"
She laughed and stood, then held a hand out a hand to me. "We swim."
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<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/kings-bay-ch-03.aspx">King's Bay Ch. 03</a>