On the pavement, alone in a crowd of thousands, Anna stood waiting, for what…or who, she didn’t know. Music pulsed all around her and the air was infused with the impending scent of summer. As a voice chimed from behind her, Anna’s consciousness returned.
“Hey, are you okay?”
Turning her head in the direction of the voice, Anna focused on the pretty girl addressing her. Short platinum blonde hair spiked off in all directions, numerous tattoos adorned her arms and heavy black lashes framed her pale blue eyes.
“Oh…err—yeah, I think so, thanks.”
Leaning in, the girl whispered into her ear, “I see you met Joel.” Her smile was clearly audible.
“Joel? …You know him?” Anna pushed her light brown tangles away from her face, feeling unkempt after her impromptu bike ride.
“You could say that.”
“Who is he?”
“He’s Joel—like I said.”
“I meant, well is he…is he okay? I mean…”
“You mean, is he dangerous?” Her tongue peeked cheekily through her teeth.
“Hmm, something like that.” Anna could feel herself flushing, but fought the sensation.
“No, I don’t think so. I think if he wanted to hurt you, you wouldn’t be standing here with me right now.”
Anna didn’t quite know what to make of that response. Shaking it off she replied, “And why exactly am I standing here with you?” Aware her voice was beginning to convey her annoyance at this girl’s apparent upper hand, she tried to keep it in check.
The girl hesitated. “I’m not sure. I guess Joel wanted us to meet.”
“I don’t know…unless…” She stopped, but the sparkle in her eye continued her story for her.
“So, who are you?” Anna asked.
“Kelly! I work here. And you are?”
“Well, hey Anna. Wanna come inside for a drink. I think that was probably Joel’s intention.”
Feeling a little more at ease in Kelly’s company, Anna replied, “Sure?”
Inside, the bar was heaving. Rock music banged in time to strobe lighting and the dance floor rippled and swelled with dancers. Kelly gestured to a colleague who, in response, thrust two bottles of Budweiser towards her.
“Here,” she said, handing one to Anna and quickly chugged back her own.
Obligingly, Anna took a swig. The cool larger fizzed in her throat easing its way down. Relief was instant, and she quickly followed it with the remainder of the bottle.
Heaving herself onto a barstool, Kelly questioned, “So, are you a worker or a tourist?”
“Tourist.” For some reason, Anna felt ashamed by her reply.
“And when do you go home?”
“I’ve still got a couple of days left. God I wish I didn’t have to go.”
“I don’t know—I guess it’s because things like…‘this’, don’t happen very often back home. My friends—the ones I came here with, are all I have, and to be honest, they treat me like shit, you know.”
Kelly nodded. “Huh, yep I get it. Look. Once I’m done here, I’m heading off to the beach with some friends. Wanna come?”
“Joel might be there.” Kelly coaxed with a beam.
An uninvited smile formed on Anna’s face. “Well, in that case…”
“Really…?” Was Anna’s reaction as Kelly brought her pink Viper moped around to the front of Oileus.
“If I’d never seen another moped in my life it would’ve been too soon.”
“Oh, really, why?”
“Long story—never mind.” Grinning Anna hopped up behind Kelly and braced herself for the ride.
It wasn’t long before they drew up on the sands of the local beach and as the engine shut off, crisp sounds of the ocean filled the night air.
“Come on…” Kelly chirped before making off across the dunes. Anna’s head buzzed with curiosity as she ran to catch up.
Across the long stretch of beach, the blaze of a bonfire beckoned and several dark figures sat around it. High flames turned the beach orange and caused long fluttery shadows to spill across the sand.
“Woo—hoo,” screamed Kelly, and all the figures turned to face her.
As they got closer, Anna recognised Joel and she couldn’t prevent her full grin breaking through. He’s here. Oh, my God, oh my God…
As Joel stood waiting for her, his coy grin matched her own. Biting her lip, she tried to look confident, but knew she was losing the battle.
Slowing to a more respectful pace, Anna approached him. “Joel…?” she questioned.
A slight nod confirmed his name and his smile was effervescent. Dropping his gaze he simply laughed.
“Well…hey, Joel, I’m Anna. It’s good to meet you…again.”
Without a word he reached for her, wrapped both arms around her and homed in on her lips with his.
Following a deep, intense kiss, Anna asked, “Is that how people greet each other around here?”
“Sometimes,” Kelly whispered from behind. Laughing she skipped away and stood beside the fire. The flames seemed to lick at her skin turning her platinum hair, golden. As Kelly relaxed with her friends, Anna glanced at each of them in turn.
Three younger men stood, talking, and drinking, and Kelly looked at ease in their company. Sitting close to them was a woman; her dark hair and olive skin told Anna she was probably Spanish. Ensnared in her arms was a man—even sitting down, he looked tall and well built. His dark hair was long, almost touching the sand. And as Anna glanced at the pair, the woman’s eyes flitted up to meet her own. The look she conveyed was an obvious warning and Anna was quick to drop her gaze. Seconds later Joel grasped her hand and then proceeded to lead her away.
Around the opposite side of the bonfire, Joel planted himself on the sand and beckoned Anna to sit beside him. Needing no more encouragement, she obliged. The fire’s warmth was intense, but soothing. Waves of heat distorted the view along the beach and the ocean seemed like a mere memory.
Sidling up to him, as discretely as possible, Anna absorbed his scent—his aura, and felt hypnotised and completely relaxed. Through her lashes she glanced up at him. “You don’t say much, do you?” she stated.
Joel raised an eyebrow.
Reaching up, Anna pressed her hand to his cheek and for a few moments just held it there. His rough skin felt cool and soothing.
“It’s odd really. You don’t seem like a stranger to me. It’s like…like you’ve always been there. Does that sound too cliché?”
The dark ocean was only just audible above the hissing and spitting of the fire, and steel grey ribbons of smoke were swallowed up by the eternal night sky.
Letting out a huge sigh, Anna said, “Why couldn’t I have met you two weeks ago?”
To be continued…