The following is unfinished work. I got stuck and couldn't figure out where to go next or how to finish it out. Let me know if you have any thoughts. Maybe I will craft Part II on your imagination instead of mine. After all, I'm just trying to get in my 1000/day word count.
Despite the ebullient sunshine in an innocent blue sky, four foot waves hurtled themselves against the shoreline like a storm was rolling in. Even the air had taken on a cleaner, colder freshness than the usual hot tang of lakeside decay. Within the next hour dark clouds would roll up and the beachcombers would start running for their cars. Storm days were the best and I looked forward to the violent flashes of lightning and accompanying thumping and booming of thunder.
It was the perfect time for a jog and I knew if I picked it up a little from my normal pace, I could make it to my favorite beach vendor and home again before the rains pelted me. I know better than to eat hotdogs, but they really are the best on the beach and Levi is the sweetest guy I know.
I scrambled to throw on my tennis shoes and shoved a couple dollars into my zippered armband with my phone. The earbuds were getting worn and sometimes the left one shorted out while I jogged, but when I pressed them into my ears, John Mellencamp was coming through in stereo.
“Outside the club a cherry bomb. Our friends were in it for fun, say yeah yeah,” I sang softly as I locked the door behind me.
“Hey, neighbor!” I jumped. My new neighbor was standing at his porch leaning toward me and must have thought my radio was up louder than it was because he hollered it like our houses were a mile away from each other somewhere in the country.
I pulled an earbud from one ear and gave a wave. “All moved in?”
“Not quite. Beautiful day, huh?”
I was trying to figure out if he needed something or was maybe flirting with me. I got that a lot. The flirting. I was pretty but not too pretty. I had that classic California girl look with long wavy blond hair and blue eyes but my face was too round. Nothing special really, and generally overlooked living here at the beach, but every once in a while, I got more attention than I wanted.
“Gorgeous. Storm’s rolling in though.” I pointed out to the horizon where the blue sky met the darker blue water filled with white caps.
He looked at the lake. “Really? How can you tell?”
“The air’s colder. Smells cleaner.” I watched him digest that and inhale deeply.
“Must be a local thing.”
“I can’t tell the difference.” He tilted his head and I realized he was mimicking me. I just didn’t know if it was unintentional or just something he did. “Cooler air I guess but it smells the same.”
“I guess so.” I put my earbud back in my ear and started down my porch. He said something more and I pulled it back out.
“Going for a run?”
I looked out at the sky again. No clouds yet. I nodded at him and noticed as he came down his steps to join me that he had on running shoes. Nice ones. High end, brand name ones. But not new. The toes were scuffed.
“Mind if I join you?” He sensed my hesitation and held up his hands like he was surrendering. “It’s okay. I’ll go this way. You go that way. No worries.”
“No, it’s fine. I just wanted to make it down a couple miles and back before the storm.”
He laughed. “So you’re worried I’ll slow you down.”
He started down the sidewalk without me and as I caught up beside him he said, “Tell you what. If I fall behind, you just keep on going without me. I’ll catch you on the way back through or see you back at the porch.”
We ran in silence. It was nice to have a running partner again, one who set his pace to match mine, someone who wasn’t intent on having a conversation and just enjoyed being in the moment. And he didn’t have any problem keeping up with me the four miles it took to reach the hotdog vendor.
I slowed to a walk about twenty yards from the cart and debated whether it would be too gauche to order a hotdog after running. I was chewing the inside of my lip and worrying way too much about what my new neighbor would think when he turned to finally introduce himself.
“Jay.” He was holding his hand out.
“Tina.” I shook it and remembered to not hold it too long. I wasn’t yet past the stage of wanting to cling to every touch like it was a life preserver tossed to me where I was drowning in the middle of the ocean. Sometimes I still held on too long.
“Nice to meet you.” He tipped his head at the cart and it took me a moment to process his next question because I thought he was addressing the vendor. “Hotdog?”
I actually stumbled. And he actually laughed. “I suppose I could eat one. I don’t usually–”
Jay laughed again. “Oh, don’t you? We’ll take two, Levi.”
“Sure you will!” said Levi in his charming way. He winked at me over the glass wall where he prepared the food. “And how are you, my tantalizing Tina?”
I blushed. Bright pink. So pink I knew my tan wouldn’t even hide it because I could feel the heat of it in my ears.
Jay tilted his head at me and raised an eyebrow. He mouthed the words. “Tantalizing Tina?”
I ignored him. “I’m great, Levi. You’re killing me here.”
“Ohhh…new beau?” He was nodding conspiratorially at me and winked again.
“What?! No! New neighbor.” The blush would stain my cheeks for weeks. I was sure of it. Levi handed me a dog with a palsied hand and I gratefully took it so I could turn away to the condiments and get my color under control.
“She’s cute when she blushes, isn’t she, Levi?” I really was dying. This was never going to end.
“She sure is, Jay.”
“You two know each other?”
“Just met him last week,” said Levi. “He stopped by to ask about you.”
Jay turned pink. “Well, I–”
“You asked about me?” I was confused. He had just moved in a week ago. He asked about me?
“I…How far do you usually run?”
“I followed you one day.”
“Okay, wait. Stop.” He held up a hand. “I was going to ask to run with you last week and I couldn’t keep up. I bailed by Levi. He gave me a water and we talked awhile. Well, actually we were still talking when you ran back by. And he told me your name. Tina. Not the tantalizing part.”
I took a bite of my hotdog and looked at Levi. Mustard oozed between my teeth.
Blah blah blah… romance blah blah stuff. You know they’re going to get rained on, right? Let’s just let you imagine that scene while I skip to the murder scene. Because that’s where this story is going and clearly I write romance really really poorly.
“It’s hard,” Jay said. (Now, stop. I don’t do porn any better than I do romance. Worse, in fact. Jay is explaining to me about what it’s like to be a celebrity. Let’s try not to go off on some wild tangent.)
“What’s hard about it? The money? All the women that you get to pick from?” I was having a difficult time feeling sorry for him. And his house on the beach. And his Mercedes convertible. And before you start condemning me for the house on the beach that I’m living in, I’m just house sitting. It’s not mine.
“No, the money is nice. The women aren’t what you would think. They’re like a pestilence. You get rid of one and ten more are right there at your door, banging it down, invading your space.”
“Ouch. Did you just call me a pestilence?”
Read part 2