Breathe, p.4
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       Breathe, p.4

         Part #1 of Sea Breeze series by Abbi Glines
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Chapter Three


  Marcus waited on me in the kitchen, drinking sweet tea and talking to Ms. Mary. He stood when he saw me. "Well, how did it go?"

  "He thought I was a fan who slid through the cracks and wanted to know how I did it. I informed him I had replaced my mother because of her pregnancy, I wasn't a fan, and I didn't realize this house belonged to him when I took the job. " Marcus frowned. "How did he take your explanation?"

  "I don't think there will be any problem now he knows I am not a crazy fan about to slip him my number on a dinner napkin. I doubt he notices my existence from now on. " Marcus raised his eyebrows as if he didn't believe me.

  Ms. Mary walked forward and took the tray from my hands. "Good, I knew you were going to work out just fine. Now, go change out of your uniform and head on home. You won't be expected in until seven in the morning. "

  I hurried to the laundry room to change. Once I changed back into my own clothing, I headed for the door. Ms. Mary hummed while she cleaned, and Marcus stood leaning against the door waiting.

  "It's late, did you drive or walk?" he asked when I got to the door. "I rode my bike. " He opened the door, and we walked out into the night together. "Let me put it in the bed of my truck and take you home. " He genuinely seemed worried about me.

  "Okay, thank you. "

  * * * *

  Once we were both in the truck, I relaxed and leaned back on his worn leather seats. "So, how long have you worked at the Stone Mansion?" He looked over at me. "I just started last summer. I only work summers here. I'm a local, but I am currently attending the University of Alabama. This is a summer job for me. "

  "It's obviously just a summer job for me too. I will begin my senior year this fall. We just moved here from Tennessee. " We sat in silence for a few minutes, and I watched out the window as families walked down the sidewalks still in their beach clothing. I'd never seen the beach before we moved here. I couldn't help but be fascinated catching glimpses of the waves crashing on the sandy shore.

  "You seem so much older than a senior in high school. In fact, you're more mature than most girls I go to school with. " I smiled to myself, If he only knew. But tonight wasn't the night to unload my life on someone who just might turn out to be a real friend. "I know. I have always been an old woman in a kid's body. It drives my mother crazy. "

  "I wouldn't call you an old woman, just more mature than the average seventeen year old girl. " The normal teenage girls laughed and flirted on the side of the streets. Summer romance wasn't something I understood, but apparently it was a very big thing around here. The girls here referred to the tourists as the summer boys. I didn't real y get it or understand it, but then again I wasn't normal.

  Marcus turned to me. "Did I hurt your feelings? I didn't mean to if I did. It was a compliment, real y. I get tired of the silliness and shallowness of girls. You're like a breath of fresh air. " I turned my head back in his direction and smiled. He really was a nice guy. I wished my insides got al warm and tingly when he stared at me, but apparently my body only reserved that response for teen rock stars, and the thought I might be shallow made me feel sick inside.

  "Thank you, I have never been complimented on my strange personality before. " He frowned and shook his head. "I wouldn't call you strange. . . more refreshingly unique. " I laughed at his attempt to make it sound better.

  "Thanks. Refreshingly unique sounds much more appealing. Turn right at the next light, and it's two houses down on the left. " We remained silent the rest of the way to the apartment.

  "Pull over to the side. We are not allowed to use the owner's drive. They own the house. We rent the small apartment below. " Marcus pulled up at the door.

  "Thank you again for bringing me home. " He opened his door, jumped out, and got my bike from the bed of his truck. I watched as he got it down and leaned it against the side of the house by the door.

  "Anytime, if you leave the same time I do, I can always give you a lift. " I thanked him again. He shuffled his feet and glanced up at me.

  "Since you're new here, and we are working together this summer, why don't I take you out one night after work, or on Sunday during the day when we are both off? I can show you what fun around here and introduce you to some people. You know, just as friends. " It sounded like fun, but I was a little surprised about the Sunday comment. "Sunday?" I asked.

  He frowned. "You didn't know we are all off on Sundays, even Ms. Mary. " I shook my head. "No, I didn't know. But, yes, I would love to go enjoy this area with someone who knows where to go. " He grinned and ran his hand through his blond hair. "Great. I'll make plans this week and let you know what we are doing. "

  We said our goodbyes, and I watched him get back into his truck. I waved and turned to go face Jessica and her doubtless twenty questions as to what took me so long.

  The apartment was silent and dark. I peeked into Jessica's room and found her asleep on top of the covers with the window unit cranking nonstop. I grabbed a quilt and covered her up before going back to my room and getting ready for my shower.

  She'd gone to sleep early. No twenty questions and no having to cook dinner. I smiled and headed toward the bathroom. I needed to be clean and needed sleep. Today I managed to get past my biggest hurdle. Tomorrow should be easier. No more encounters with Jax. Having a friend would make things even more enjoyable.

  The next week fell into a routine. I arrived at work and went straight to the kitchen with Ms. Mary. She talked much more than Fran and her stories were entertaining. She told me all about her two daughters and seven grandchildren. One daughter lived in Michigan with five daughters of her own. The other daughter lived in Georgia, and she had a girl age nine and one little boy who was loved immensely by a family full of girls. Her life raising her daughters made me realize just how dysfunctional my life with Jessica would sound. I imagined my life being as full and normal as Ms. Mary's. I knew I could one day make a life just as full of family and love as she seemed to have. I often daydreamed of a life like the one she told me about.

  My first afternoons with Mr. Greg began a little tense since he wasn't real fond of having a teenage girl helping him, but after a day of not having to get on his arthritic knees he seemed to appreciate my being there. After my fourth day, Mr. Greg and I sat and played chess out in the gazebo when our workdays ended. He beat me each time, but I picked up on it and promised him my skills would improve, and one day I would beat him. I saw Marcus in the evenings when we all sat around the table and enjoyed a bowl of soup and salad. Ms. Mary always sent a plate of food home for Jessica, and I suspected she sent it for my sake. Somehow without my telling her, she seemed to understand how my life at home functioned. After Marcus got off work, he always drove me and my bike home. Ms. Mary hired another server Marcus suggested. He was working out well and things seemed to run smooth with the staff and family. Sunday morning arrived before I knew it.

  I lay in bed, covering my face from the bright sunlight streaming in the windows. It was good to not have to jump up and get ready. I enjoyed my job, but I also enjoyed sleeping late. I yawned and stretched.

  Today, I would be going out with a friend. I was more excited than the normal person would be, but I couldn't help it. I sat up and rubbed my face, trying to wake up enough to go eat breakfast. It was still really quiet in the house, but Jessica normal y slept til' eleven every day. I went to the kitchen and fixed myself a bowl of Peanut Butter Crunch, and then went to sit on the piece of slab outside our back door. The sun glistened off the water, and it warmed me as I enjoyed my bowl of cereal. Today felt like my first real day of summer. Today, I would be able to go do something a seventeen year old would do.

  "What are you eating?" Jessica asked as she walked out the door, or more like waddled out the door. "Peanut Butter Crunch cereal," I replied and took another bite.

  She sank down in the lawn chair beside me and sighed. "Do you love me?" I rolled my eyes, knowing what words wou
ld be next. "Yes," I replied and took another bite.

  "Then will you have pity on me and my enormous stomach, and go fix me a bowl when you're done?" This was an old game. She thought it cute to ask if I loved her before she asked me to go get her something. I ate the rest of my cereal and drank al my milk before I stood up.

  "Going to get your cereal," I said as I walked back in the door. "Thanks honey," she replied not opening her eyes.

  I fixed her a large bowl, so I wouldn't have to fix her a second one, and took it to her. I needed to tell her about Marcus before he got here. I gave her the bowl, and she sat back up from her reclined position in a chair that did not recline and took the bowl from me.

  "Thanks a bunch," she said, smiling. I sat back down. "I have made a friend at work, and he is coming to get me today to show me around and hang out. " Jessica put the spoon full of cereal back down.

  "A boy! You?"

  "He isn't a boy I am dating. He is just a friend. He is from around here and wants to hang out today. "

  She smiled and took a bite of cereal. She'd barely swallowed when she said, "I can't believe you talked to someone enough to make a friend. Or is he a recluse too?" I stood up, not in the mood for my mom's teasing. She loved to remind me how I lacked social skills.

  I started back inside, and she laughed. "I'm just teasing, Sadie. Don't get so upset. I'm glad you've got a friend. Just don't forget about me and stay gone al day. It gets lonely around here. " I hated it when she laid on a guilt trip. "You have a car. Go somewhere and do something. " She gave a melodramatic sigh. "I do need to go get a pedicure, since I can't see my toes anymore.

  I shook my head. "No, something where no money is required. Like go for a walk down the beach. " She rolled her eyes this time, and I went inside. I made a beeline for the stashed money I'd saved for bills and hid it somewhere else. I didn't need to come home and find she'd spent all our money. After the cash was secured, I went to get ready for my day with Marcus. I needed to wash my hair and coat myself with sun block. The sun here could be brutal.

  But first, I needed to find a swimsuit and something to wear. I checked the time. I had thirty minutes until he would arrive to pick me up. I needed to be ready so Jessica didn't answer the door and find some way to embarrass me.

  "Good morning," Marcus said when I opened the door. "Good morning to you too! Hold on just a sec and I'll grab my purse. " I turned, went back into the living room, and picked up the purse I'd left on the coffee table.

  "I'm gone. Get out and go do something," I said to my mom before I walked back to the door.

  "What, you're not bringing him in?" She was stil dressed in her black nightgown, which stretched over her stomach. "No, Mom, not with you dressed in your nightgown. " She laughed, and I rushed back to the door.

  "You ready to see this place from a local's eyes?" he asked grinning. I nodded, excited. "Yes, I am. " He opened the truck door for me, and I climbed in. He ran around, jumped in, and slid on a pair of dark sunglasses. "Do you eat raw oysters?"

  "No way!"

  He grinned. "I should have guessed: you're a Tennessee girl. But it alright, they are also grilling burgers, corn on the cob, and ribs. " "I love burgers, corn, and ribs. "

  "Ah, good. Well, we're going to a friend's house. They're grilling out today, with raw oysters on the half shell as the appetizers. "

  I grimaced at the thought of raw squishy slimy blobs on a shell people were actual y going to put in their mouth.

  He laughed at my face. "I guess when you grow up around here, it doesn't seem so bad. " I didn't respond because I wasn't sure how anyone could get use to eating slime.

  "Rock has been my best friend since elementary school. You'll like the bunch over at his house. We're going to grill out, and then go water skiing. They have a boat and we're going to go launch it at the marina. Ever been water skiing?"

  "I'm afraid not, but I would love to try. " It seemed to be the thing to say because a huge grin broke out on his face

  "I can teach you. You'll be skiing before the day's over. "

  We pulled up to a single story house on stilts, like most of the houses around here. It wasn't fancy, and it appeared to have survived a few hurricanes. The siding had been patched up quite a few times. Marcus met me as I got out of the truck and slid a pair of sunglasses on my face. "You're gonna need these. Without them, the sun will give you a headache. "

  "Do you carry around women's sunglasses on a regular basis?" I asked teasingly. He laughed. "No, I have a sister. " I didn't know anything about his family. I liked knowing something about him other than the obvious.

  "Please tell me you put on sun block. Even the best tanners get burnt in this sun. " "Yes, I'm slathered up. "

  "Come this way," he said, pulling me behind him through some really tall grass, which grew in the sand. A simple rectangular in-ground pool stood in the center of the yard, surrounded by guys in swim trunks and girls in bikinis. They were slinging back slime from a shell, and I reminded myself not to grimace when they talked to me and ate those things. Marcus squeezed my hand and pulled me into the party.

  "Marcus, it's about time you got here. Al the shells are almost empty," called a guy with long, brown dreadlocks.

  Marcus smiled down at me and whispered, "I won't eat any in front of you, I promise. " I shook my head. "No, really, it's fine. " He laughed and pulled me over to the group of guys standing with the dreadlock guy. Several people called out to Marcus, and he waved and nodded. My stomach churned with nervousness when I realized the majority of the people here were staring at me.

  "Hey, guys, this is Sadie, Sadie this is Rock," a rather large muscular guy with a shaved head, "Preston," what I considered a beach bum, with long blond hair and dark tanned skin, "and Dwayne," the dreadlock guy, who also happened to have several tattoos and piercings. "We've been friends since second grade. "

  Dwayne flicked the dreadlocks out of his eyes and grinned. "Ever since Rock beat the shit out of Preston and ol' Marcus here jumped in to take up for him, who then started getting pummeled by Rock, until I jumped in, and about that time we all got suspended from school. " The four of them laughed at the memory, and I tried to picture them all as little boys fighting.

  "Our parents were al so proud. They had elementary school delinquents. " Dwayne grinned and flipped back an oyster. "Dwayne will reminisce al day if you let him.

  Don't act like you enjoy his stories. He won't stop," Marcus said, smiling. The friendship between these four made me feel warm inside. It wasn't something I could relate to.

  "So, Sadie, how did ugly butt Marcus here find a beautiful blind girl," Rock asked as he flipped a burger. I glanced at Marcus to see him smiling at me.

  "We work together. He came to my rescue on my second day there, and my eye sight is 20/20. " One of them let out a low whistle, and another laughed wickedly.

  "Marcus is a regular ol' knight in shining armor, I tell ya," Dwayne said with a flick of his dreadlocks.

  Marcus shoved him playfully, and Dwayne burst into laughter. "I'm going to take her to meet other people, if you three can't behave. " "What did I do?" Marcus sent him a mock glare before turning to me.

  "Are you thirsty?"

  Dwayne reached into a cooler behind him and held out a soda. I took it, thanked him, and listened to the four of them talk about a beach volleyball game going on next weekend between them and a rival team. They would ask me questions or bring me into the conversation occasionally, but mostly they just planned and strategized. I had no idea beach volleyball was such a serious sport.

  A blond in a hot pink bikini, which barely covered the important stuff, walked up behind Rock, wrapped her arms around his waist, and kissed his neck.

  "Sadie, this is Trisha, Rock's fiancee, and Trisha, this is Sadie, a friend of mine. " Trisha smiled at me and ran her hand over Rock's head. "If you get bored with this bunch's conversation, you are welcome to come lay out with me and th
e girls. "

  "Okay. Thanks. "

  "Are you bored? Want to go in for a swim and cool off?"

  I wasn't real y sure I wanted to take off my sundress in front of al these people. My hand me down red bikini wasn't nearly as skimpy as the ones the other girls were wearing, and I didn't fil one out like they did either. I thought of my long skinny legs in comparison to the curvy large-chested girls lying out and wanted to keep my clothes on. However, I also wanted to make friends and not let Marcus down, so I needed to lay out or swim. Since swimming kept me covered most of the time, I decided it would be the best option. "Swimming sounds good. " He grinned and pulled his tee shirt off to reveal a very tanned and muscular chest. I swallowed hard and wished I didn't have to do this but I knew I would have to sooner or later. So I slipped the sundress off and laid it beside Marcus shirt. I didn't want to make eye contact with anyone and wished I could just go jump in the water without having to actual y walk calmly over to it and get in.

  A low whistle from behind startled me and I heard an "ouch. " I turned to see Marcus glaring at Dwayne and Preston.

  "Sorry, Sadie, these two have no manners. " He took my hand again. He always held my hand casual y. It'd never bothered me before, but being half naked made it uncomfortable.

  "Come on. Let's go swim. " He grinned at me and didn't even pay attention to my body. It relieved and embarrassed me at the same time. I didn't want Marcus to like me as anything more than a friend, but I also didn't want to be so boyish in my bathing suit he didn't notice me at all. I decided to stop thinking about everything so hard, and I followed him into the water via the stairs. We joined in on a game of basketball with a floating goal in the middle of the pool. I stunk at it, but no one other than Marcus and a guy name Rick seemed to be any good, so I didn't worry too much.

  After racing Marcus the length of the pool and winning one out of three times, we got out to get something to eat. I walked over to my sundress about the time Marcus came up behind me and wrapped a towel around me. "Thank you. " He smiled. Our friendship was working out nicely, and it made me smile a little brighter. Maybe my personality wasn't as bad as Jessica said.

  Marcus leaned down and whispered into my ear, "Burger, ribs, or both?"

  I thought of the mess ribs make and all the people in the small backyard. "Burger," I whispered back. He nodded and made his way to the grill. He got me a burger and a slab of ribs for himself.

  We walked over to a table set up with stuff to put on the burger, and I added a little ketchup and cheese. Marcus grabbed us both a drink, and we headed over to an unoccupied shaded area. We sat down and ate in silence for a few minutes. I watched him go through at least fifteen napkins and laughed when he reached for more and all the clean ones were gone. "You think my mess is funny, huh?" I shrugged and let out another laugh I couldn't hold back. I reached under my plate and handed him my napkin.

  "Thanks. " He took the napkin and cleaned himself up. "Are you having fun?" he asked after he cleaned the barbecue off his face.

  "Yes, I am. I feel like the youngest one here, but I am having fun. " Marcus nodded. "You are the youngest one here. I forget my old crowd has all aged just like me. " "No, I have real y enjoyed myself. " Preston, whose attention seemed to be focused our way, shook his head.

  "I'm afraid my friend over there likes you. You're going to have to just ignore him. " I frowned.

  "He likes me! With all these older, more attractive women around?" Marcus cut his eyes back at me and studied my face a minute, and he smiled. "You real y believe that, don't you?"

  "Believe what?"

  "You believe the other girls here are better than you. " I laughed and shrugged. "I'm not blind, Marcus. " Marcus raised his eyebrows. "Either you are blind, or you don't have a mirror at home. Keep doing stuff as sweet as blushing, and you're going to have Preston singing love ballads outside your window. "

  I laughed and shook my head. "I seriously hope not. "

  Marcus looked at Preston. "He really likes legs, and you happen to be attached to the best pair I've seen in a real y long time. But I think you hooked him when you batted your baby blue eyes at him and smiled. " I frowned. "I don't recall batting my eyes at anyone, and my legs are just long and skinny. " Marcus smiled.

  "I hope you always stay this way. Sweet and innocent. But I want to be the one to enlighten you. Your legs are sexy as hell, and your eyelashes are so thick and long that when you blink it looks like you're batting them, and it is very attractive. " I wasn't sure I believed him but I smiled anyway.

  "You're a nice guy. Thanks for trying to make me feel better. " "Is that what I'm doing?" he asked with a teasing grin. I smiled. "I think so. " He laughed and shook his head. "Sure, whatever you say, Sadie. "

  The End

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