I love using this blog, because I love to write. There’s a certain inhibition to writing novels. Before working on a long piece, everything needs to be planned. (Unless you fancy being 30,000 words into the project only to be cornered by plot bunnies.)
That’s not the case here. This blog gives me back my spontaneity. Nothing I post must be about any one thing. It doesn’t have to be a journal entry or a controversial viewpoint or even a rant. If I want to write, I simply begin with…
Legs. Tan, long, and waxed. They glimmered in the hot midday sun, standing out in sharp contrast against the simmering white sand. It should be a sin to feel so good.
It probably was. Idle hands or whatnot. The sisters at her old private school would assign her a list of verses if they saw her now.
Almost in defiance of that thought, she fixated on the nearest cabana boy. That tight, muscular body couldn’t be any older than twenty-one.
Ten hail Marys, she thought to herself. An obstinate smirk was tugging at the corner of her mouth when the cabana boy noticed her. Internally, she started a bit, but all the cabana boy saw was a coy wink before she slid her sunglasses back over her muddy brown eyes.
She sipped her margarita, licking at the salt around the rim. A loud, unnatural sound disrupted the surf’s symphonic performance, ruined a sea gull’s solo.
With a sigh, she answered her cell. “Agent Grace.” Yeah, try growing up with that name in a Catholic school.
“I told my girl, we had to break up! Thought that she, would call my bluff…” An oldies song played over the receiver, something from the fifties.
“Hello? Agent Grace…”
“When she said, to my surprise!”
She checked the caller I.D., but it came up Unknown. “Is this Warren? Sappy love songs isn’t gonna cut–”
“Please make him stop.” The song cut out, lost in static, to give way to a woman’s chilling plea.
“Stop what? Hello?” The line returned to static, but Agent Grace could only think of work now. “Mrs. Preston, is that you? Christ…Preston! Answer me!”
“You asked for it.” Click.
A man’s voice. Not threatening, more matter-of-fact. He sounded like he was answering a question placed to him.
As Grace stared at her darkened phone, a shadow fell over her. She spun, sloshing her drink, and the cabana boy retreated a step.
“Whoa, sorry. Didn’t mean to scare ya.” He grinned, teeth as bright as the sand. His golden skin made his lips look pink.
He handed her an ugly umbrella she saw at the gift shop, complete with a tacky two-inch metallic point at the top. Grace blinked at it, then at him.
The cabana boy frowned. “You asked for it.”
“What?” First, those words couldn’t be a coincidence. Second, “I didn’t ask for an umbrella.”
“Well, someone bought it and said to bring it over. I’d talk to management.”
“Forget it. It’s fine.” Grace needed to get back to the office. Specifically, she needed to check on Preston.
“Actually, ma’am,” the boy said as she began gathering her beach blanket and sunscreen. He looked uneasy, so Grace paused to listen. “You see, the umbrella…you should talk to a manager, coz…well, they kinda bought it with your credit card.”
Grace frowned at him, started to pose a question, then thought better of it. Instead, she stretched across the blanket and retrieved her pocketbook. She snapped it open, checked the card slot.
“It’s still here. Must be online thieves…”
“Or someone who knows you,” the cabana boy offered. Grace looked up at him and finally noticed the kid’s excited expression.
For all Grace’s flirtatious leering, she really wasn’t interested in young pups.
She stood, reaching out her hand for the umbrella. “Since I bought it, I’ll take it with me.”
The boy’s eyes fell a bit, but he handed her the item. Grace gathered up her beach supplies as the cabana boy wordlessly slid away.
As she crossed the hot sand, Grace dialed a number. “All of our representatives are currently assisting other customers…”
“…your call will be answered in the order it was received,” Grace recited irritably.
On the edge of the beach sat a bar and grill, teeming with cabana boys and burly men in aprons. She passed through the outdoor patio and into the air conditioned, dungeon of a bar beyond the glass doors.
She signaled the bartender. “I’d like to close my tab.”
“Leaving so soon?”
Her pulse kicked up a gear. She turned to face the man who spoke.
“Warren,” she acknowledged evenly, her expression hardening. The tan, clean cut suburbanite scowled at her. Grace crossed her arms. “Stalking me is in direct violation of the restraining order.”
“That’s just a piece of paper, Grace,” he said quietly.
“…name is Larona. May I get your account number, please?” Grace rambled off the numbers, asked for her balance. Warren glared at her, so she placed her hand between her mouth and the phone. “I could arrest you, if that’d–”
“Just like our marriage,” he cut in, spreading his arms for effect. “Just a piece of meaningless paper. Doesn’t stop you from rubbing yourself all over the servers here, though, does it?”
“Warren. Leave,” she said, voice low.
“Your account balance is three thousand eighty seven and nineteen cents,” Larona told her.
“Can you check the transactions for today, please?”
Larona rambled off her drink prices, her appetizer, and her spa treatment. “And five dollars about fifteen minutes ago.”
“I see. Larona, can you freeze my account for now?” Grace glared at Warren, who narrowed his eyes at her. “I believe someone is abusing a recently withdrawn access to my account.”
“Did you have a joint account?”
“No, it was separate accounts.”
“Is your card missing or stolen?”
“No, I have it.”
“Ma’am, it was a debit transaction with a pin. Nobody but you could have used…”
But Grace stopped listening, distracted by a song. An oldies from the fifties played over the jukebox.
Grace stared openly at the pink lipped cabana boy carefully choosing his next song. Warren tracked her gaze before affixing her with an incredulous look. Before she knew it, he was charging for the kid.
“Warren, don’t! Shit…” she followed him, grabbed his arm. “Warren!”
He shook her off, clearing the distance between him and Pink Lips in another stride. Pink just began to look over when Warren shoved his head into the juke box.
“Warren, what the hell are you–?” Graced bent down to the cabana boy. A shallow cut bled behind his blonde hair. He’d probably get a goose egg. Pink blinked at her, dazed.
“What, your new toy can’t fight for himself?”
Grace launched to her feet, spinning on the six-foot buzz cut in a fury. “He’s not my damned toy, Warren. You were always the one interested in toys.”
“Well, excuse the fuck out of me, ma’am,” Warren boomed. “As I recall, you weren’t interested in much of anything.”
“Warren, get out of here before I call the cops.” Bad move. It drew attention to the fact that bikini-clad Grace abandoned her holster. No gun.
“Call ’em,” he chuckled. “Tell ’em to send an ambulance while you’re at it.”
Warren grabbed Pink, who just recovered enough to stand up, and threw him into a nearby table. Customers moved alongside the walls of the establishment, out of the arena.
“Warren! Knock it off!” She grabbed a chair, gaining momentum over her head to bring it down on Warren. He dodged it, grabbed the kid again.
The kid. Grace noticed that Pink crouched on all fours, gasping and red-faced. He slipped a hand in his pocket, but Warren kicked him in the ribs.
“Warren, wait!” Grace grabbed Warren’s arm again just as sirens began to wail in the distance. “Warren! That’s enough!”
Warren shook her off again and Pink reached for something on the floor.
“Please make him stop,” a woman begged. She turned to find the owner of the words, but everything freeze framed.
Literally. Time froze.
The juke box played again, “I told my girl, we had to break up! Thought that she, would call my bluff. When she said, to my surprise!” And yet everything and everyone else remained still.
This is what a nervous breakdown feels like, Grace told herself.
The music stopped.
Pink moved, looked up from his position on the floor to say, “You asked for it,” and then returned to being Statue Boy.
“I asked for it?” Grace said aloud, feeling as breathless as Pink by now. “I made the transaction. I wanted the umbrella…?”
A wave of nostalgia washed over her, leaving her with memories as faded as dreams.
This happened before. Pink died, Warren was arrested, and Grace…Grace sat in her dark room, staring at the LED light on her CD changer. She watched the minutes on the track tick away as that poor kid’s song played on repeat.
She thought of so many ways to stop it from happening. If she only had a weapon…even that tacky umbrella with the sharp metal thing sticking out of the top.
She went to sleep, woke up the next morning in a bright room. She remembered having a nightmare, but couldn’t recall it. Went to the spa, the beach, made eyes with a cabana boy…
Time rushed back in full force. Warren lifted his foot over the boy, preparing for a critical stomp to Pink’s chest.
Grace lifted her umbrella, charged at Warren with her makeshift lance. “Warren! Stop!”
He turned, momentarily abandoning his attack, and the metallic point punctured his right lung.
“What…Grace…what’re you…” he coughed as blood began to fill his lung. “What’re you…doing?”
Grace grimaced, but wiped it off her face. He collapsed on the floor just as the sound of an inhaler reached her ears.
Grace moved to sit by Pink as he recovered from his athsma attack. EMT rushed inside moments later, followed by cops. As they loaded a stabilized Warren into the ambulance, police questioned Grace.
“Ma’am, what exactly happened here?”
Grace thought about it for a moment, wondering where to even start. Finally, she just said,
“I made him stop, Officer.” She turned to Pink, relief bringing a smile to her lips. “I just…made him stop.”