I met Alexander Frommage over by the cod chopping station at Meheecan Josephat’s Groceries.
The line was breathtakingly long and I was stuck right in the middle of it. Who knew that codfish was that popular in this town? I sure didn’t.
I held my codfish by its stinky, rubbery ribbed tail. Was it really worth the wait? I raised it to eye level and contemplated its dead, glassy stare. I could be cheap and easy and get a can of tuna. Yeah, canned tuna. I’d need to buy mayo and rye bread and—
Someone bumped into me and my fish flew out of my hand. It hit the floor and skidded straight under the cod chopping kiosk, like a baseball player sliding into home.
I walked over to the cod chopping station. My fellow waiters set up a wail and a whine about me cutting the line. I guess they didn’t notice my lack of fish. I knelt and peeked under the kiosk. There it was! My poor fish, lying on its side. Just one easy reach away. Only question: Was it worth the rescuing?
The cod chopper lady stepped on my fish with her dirty sneakers. Splat! Squash! Nuh-uh. No thanks.
I stood and sighed. Oh, well. At least, I did like tuna.
A man behind me said, “I am sorry.”
I turned to face him.
He was so handsome! I just stood there, vacantly staring at him. And then he smiled. Oh my gosh! He smiled a beautiful movie star smile.
“Why are you buying fish?” It was the stupidest question I’d ever asked a guy.
He held up his empty hands. “I’m not.”
“Oh. So, why are you in the seafood department over by the cod chopping station?”
“I was trying to avoid an old associate of mine. But I’ve gone and made you lose your dinner.”
“Oh, it doesn’t really—”
“Let me make it up to you.” I swear his teeth sparkled. “Let me take you out to eat.”
“Huh? What? Now?”
“Yes. Unless you have other plans.”
“Nope! No plans at all.” I said it way too fast.
But he didn’t seem to mind.
We went out to eat at Garbanzo’s Garbage Shack and ordered Mashed Avocado Goo with a side order of jellied squid ink. I’d never had it before, but it intrigued me. He offered to try it first just in case it was poisoned. I think he was joking, but he looked so serious about it.
“Hmn.” he said. “This is surprisingly good.”
I had some and agreed with him.
I discovered many things about him on that date. Amazing things. Such as, he grew up in the house right behind my family’s house. How did I not know that someone of his high hunk caliber lived right behind me all this time? Did I have juvenile blindness where I just didn’t notice cute guys? Or did he spend all of his time avoiding me?
Oh, speaking of avoiding behavior…He refused to touch me. No hand holding. No “accidental” foot bumping. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. He was just being first date polite. Bravo to him for being a gentleman.
Next date: No physical contact.
Next date: Nada.
Next date: See all of the above.
Maybe he wasn’t attracted to me. But why would he date me if he wasn’t attracted to me? Guys can’t be that illogical. There had to be some reason for it.
There had to be.
I had to find out.
I wanted him to touch me, darn it!
“Look at that sky!” I said. “It’s a beautiful night.”
He smiled. “It certainly is.”
“Hmm. I’d hate to go home so soon.”
His smile crashed and a panicked look set in.
What the heck was his problem? “I want to spend a little more time with you. You know, some one and one time. Just you and me. No restaurants. No crowds. Just us.”
His eyes widened with one hundred percent fear. “It isn’t a good idea.”
“My apartment is…”
My face burned. OH MY GOSH! Is that what he was thinking? “No! I didn’t mean…No! Gah! I just want to walk on the beach with you.”
He relaxed. “That does sound lovely.” He glanced up at the moonlit sky. “Let’s do it some other night.”
“We can’t. They’re predicting thunderstorms for the rest of the month.”
“I didn’t realize they could predict the weather that far ahead.”
“I watch the Weather Channel. They do extended forecasts.”
“Yes, really.” I smiled. “So, how about it?
He frowned. “I still say it’s a bad idea, but you seem to have your heart set on it.”
“Oh, I do. It will be so romantic.”
“Romantic, huh?” He looked far from thrilled.
Alexander was in a dark cloud mood as he drove me to the beach.
Didn’t matter. I refused to let his rotten attitude dampen my spirits. I was finally going to have him all to myself. No crowds. No food. No noise. Just him, me, sand, the waves, and moonlight. He’d be so moved by the scenery he’d gladly take my hand. Who knows? He might even kiss me.
He parked the car. “Can’t we just stay in here?”
“Are you joking? There’s a whole beach out there, waiting for us.” I unbuckled my seat belt.
“I’d be much happier if we stayed in here.”
“And miss out on all of that glorious sea and sand?”
I got out of the car and opened his door. “Come on out or I’ll drag you out.”
He got out of the car with over-the-top reluctance.
I wanted to slap him. What the heck was his problem? It’s not like I was telling him to jump into a live volcano. I reached for his hand.
He jerked it away. “Please don’t.”
I gaped at him as he walked past me. What the…Does he think I have cooties?
I followed him down to the water’s edge. I tried to nonchalantly bump hands with him, but he managed to avoid even that.
Alexander sat down on the sand with his arms folded on top of his knees.
I sat beside him and slipped off my sandals.
“I am sorry.” he said. “It’s a beautiful night for romance and I’m ruining it for you.”
At least he was aware of it. I dug my toes into the sand.
“But it can’t be helped.” He chin-propped on his folded arms and stared out at the water. “I’ve told you many things about myself. I have not told you the most important one: Who I used to be.”
The water raced back and forth, wetting my feet and softening the sand. “Let me guess. Ex-CIA/FBI.”
“No. I used to be a top elite hunter.”
I tried to imagine him dressed up like a hunter and failed.
“On a night like tonight, everything changed. I became the hunted. My former associates know that I’ve changed. They’ve been hunting me. It’s all a matter of time before they catch me.” He pressed his forehead against his arms. “You shouldn’t be here with me. It isn’t safe.”
“Why? Are you afraid I’ll get hit by stray bullets if your old friends show up?”
He shook his head. “It’s complicated.”
“So? Uncomplicate it.”
He shuddered. “You should leave.”
“That isn’t what I meant.”
“Please. I don’t want you to…” Another shudder. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Two shudders in a row. Huh. Does he have a fever or something? I leaned forward and touched his head.
He grabbed my wrist and held it tight.
“Let go! You’re hurting—”
He looked up at me with colorless, glowing eyes.
In that moment, I heard only the pound of my heart and shush of the waves.
“Don’t go.” He smiled, baring sharp white fangs. “It’s a beautiful night and we’re all alone.”