One aisle seat and two taxis later, Sasha sat among old friends with zero resolve. She gauged the remaining sips in the flask; enough to help her blend with the blur, to make her brave. Throwing her head back, she emptied the flask with a satisfied swig as they cruised down the sunlit coast.
Between banter, eight eyes scanned for the lane leading to The Longboarder. It was Sasha who pointed out the ratty sign, a ghost of its former glory. Rust hugged its hinges. Still, they turned the rented pickup down the rutted road, watching with bated breath as it bounced past critters and vines. Then, as they were promised, the overgrown trail gave way to a glorious view. Almond trees sprawled across the black sand; whitecaps buffeted the near-empty shore. Above, silver-edged clouds drifted further apart.
By then, the drinks had slid, slowing Sasha down. She told her friends she’d catch up as rum swished in her stomach and forgotten thoughts flooded her mind.
Sasha stepped to the shoreline slowly, relishing the cool white water at her ankles. Soon, she was following a trail of lava stones—sunset yellows and deep purples made smooth by waves and weather. The wind flirted with her hair as she walked, oblivious to the few surfers, the seagulls, and in the distance, a smile.
When he said “Hello,” she swiveled around, almost dropping the stones she’d picked up. The owner of the voice walked over, blowing curls of smoke that swirled towards her as if dragging her to him. “I’m Theo,” he said, tucking the joint behind his ear and extending his hand. She glanced at the art etched into his limbs, an eldritch eagle on his forearm. “Sasha”, she said, when her eyes found his.
There was a burst of laughter from across the black sand. Sasha gazed in its direction a few seconds too long. “Those your friends?” Theo asked, rubbernecking. “Yep, that’s them,” she said to her toes.
“Would they mind if you joined me for a walk?” he asked. Sasha gave a sheepish grin, sure that she’d be fine. They strolled away from the peals of laughter, past scratchy devil’s grass and worn adirondack chairs, talking about everything and nothing.
Theo told her he was a regular at The Longboarder, though that wasn’t a word she’d have used to describe him. As they approached the shore, he asked if she’d be back to beach before she left the island; before she could answer, he’d turned his gaze to the many boulders nearby. A man sat between two peaks in lotus pose, his back turned to them. Theo looked back at her, put a finger to his lips. The Maori raven tattooed on the man’s back seemed to wink at Sasha. Then he drew in a long breath, his exhale sounding like a sigh.
Before she knew it, Theo was charging past her and leaping into the air, an attack that only sent his body skidding across the sand. The man was already on his feet, a smirk on his pale, plain face by the time Theo’s cheek hit the sand.
“I almost got you this time,” Theo spat. Sasha scanned his tan for cuts that weren’t there.
“Sure you did,” came the response, his eyes boring into Sasha’s. “Who’s your friend?” he asked.
“This is Sasha if you must know,” Theo said, slapping sand off his shorts. “Sasha, Cornelius.”
“That’s a nice name,” Cornelius said. “Your lame tricks aren’t impressing her either, right Sasha?” he spat, throwing Theo a disparaging look.
Sasha chuckled, glaring at him. His skin was luminous in the blooming daylight, his temples, fully grey.
“Let’s go Theo,” Cornelius said suddenly.
“You’re leaving?” Sasha asked, an eyebrow raised incredulously.
Just then, Sasha’s phone rang.
Cornelius nudged Theo’s shoulder.
“Yeah,” she said, answering the call.
“Hey, we’re ready to eat.” The voice on the line sounded annoyed. Then, “Where are you anyway?”
Sasha wanted to say she still didn’t have an appetite but knew she couldn’t keep the edge out of her voice.
“I’m near the boulders,” Sasha replied.
“Wait, near the water?” came the response.
“Hang on guys,” she said to Theo and Cornelius without waiting for an answer.
Cupping the phone with her shoulder, Sasha walked towards the sand waving her arms. “Over here,” she said.
“How’d you end up down there”?
“I was walking with Theo …”
“Yeah. We met just now,” she said. She’d already planned to ask if he could show them around the old capital later.
When Sasha turned around, Theo and Cornelius were gone.
“You still there?” the voice on the phone asked.
“They were right here a minute ago,” Sasha managed in a gauzy voice.
“They?!” Sasha sensed the eye roll. “Look, tell us when you get here, ok. Hurry up.”
As the seconds stretched, Sasha’s heart climbed in her chest as she scanned the shore and the horizon, watching the water flow.
Nikki Williams is a multimedia journalist and writer. Her work appears in The Citron Review, Ellipsiszine, Sublunary Review, LEON Literary Review, Literary Yard, PreeLit and is forthcoming in Sky Island Journal. She munches trail mix and takes stunning photos when not busy writing. She tweets: @ohsashalee / See more: linktr.ee/writenowrong