We’ve all had the experience. Sometimes it’s accidental serendipity. Sometimes we meet and we know subconsciously but it has to brew awhile before we’re aware of it. However it happens, you know the tell-tale signs. Maybe your heart does that stutter-step thing, then races. Maybe it’s that twist of excitement in the pit of your stomach, or that smile that keeps teasing the corners of your lips no matter what you do.
Nyra’s been waiting for this moment since before her body started to ripen into the woman she would become. She’s one of those, you know? The precocious one sitting quietly in the back of the classroom. You’d never guess to look at her at the simmering sexuality roiling just beneath the surface.
But she knows. Doesn’t she ever! Her driven sensuality has ensured that Tai won’t be “her first.” But he might be her last. Perhaps this is Nyra’s moment. It’s a perfect day for it. Late Spring with a hint of Summer’s coming warmth that Nyra can just feel through the watery veil of the coastal mists.
After checking the time on her phone, Nyra walks the wet sand area toward the now-decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Late spring surf laves her feet, surprising her with its warmth. A watery sun backlights the thin marine layer, tinting the gentle, glassy waves an elusive quicksilver. I can handle this.
Her thoughts replay last night with Cori and Ross and the nearly electric eyes of the pretty woman in the teal blue sheath dress. What would it be like to kiss—stop it! But there’s no ignoring what’s missing in her life. I’m okay. Nyra sighs. But why do I miss it so much now?
“Because it’s not hypothetical anymore,” she whispers to herself. Did Toni…or Kev awaken something that won’t sleep now? Probably.
As she walks, a gray and white Least Tern with a sharp black mask darts in front of her, picks at the sand, then darts back toward the brush near the cliffs with something in its bright-yellow bill. Nesting? There are no restricting “off-limits” tapes, but she turns back anyway, just in case.
Back at the grass shack, a weathered, dark green metallic Toyota pickup with a white camper shell is parked next to Nyra’s orange Hyundai Veloster. The camper shell door is open. A sun-bronzed man is bent over a surfboard next to the grass shack, with three other boards nearby, face-up in the sand. As she draws closer, Nyra can see he’s passing a SureForm over the edge of one of the boards. He looks up, and she stops dead.
Oh God! Wavy ebony hair frames prominent cheekbones and soulful eyes. He rises with sinuous grace, reminding Nyra of a large predatory cat.
“Hey! I’m Tai. You here for the surf clinic?” Asian or Polynesian, she guesses. Or both…and delicious. He transfers the fine-tooth SureForm from his right hand to his left, wipes his hand on his board shorts and extends it.
“Nyra,” she replies, accepting the hand. “Nyra Westensee.”
“Right.” He smiles and Nyra’s eyes stick to his, kindling a conscious awareness of warmth. “I remember your name from the list. Only three of you, today, assuming everybody shows. A lot don’t this early in the year.”
Quit staring. “What are you doing to that board?” Nyra asks.
The muscles in his arms dance as he raises the SureForm. “Patched a rail ding on this one last night.” He nods at the board he’s been working on. “Got here early, so I thought I’d blend the patch into the rail outline before class starts.” He picks the board up by the rail and leans it against a leg rippling with muscle to show her the ding patch on the rail.
Nyra reaches out to run a hand over it. “It’s still rough.”
Tai nods. “Not finished with it yet.” He drops to his knees, reaching into a small tool bag next to the board. “That’s what this is for.” He holds up a sanding block of hard rubber and wraps fine-grit carbon paper around it. “I use this to sand it close to flush, then finish up with a #400 sanding sponge to blend the patch flush with the rail.”
Tai brushes a lock of hair out of his eyes. “After I’ve rubbed it out, you’ll never notice it, unless you’re looking for dings.”
Nyra watches him work, dividing her attention between the play of his muscles beneath deeply bronzed skin and the work he’s doing with the sanding block.
“May I?” she asks, after a few minutes. She reaches out for the sanding block.
Tai looks up and shrugs. “If you want. Don’t bear down too hard, or you’ll sand through the glass on either side of the patch.”
“Smells like modeling glue,” Nyra observes after sanding for a couple of minutes.
Tai laughs. “Oh, you sniff, do you?”
Nyra awards him a pained look. “Yeah. Right.”
“Sorry. Couldn’t resist.” His conciliatory smile looks genuine. “For curiosity’s sake, you know how modeling glue smells—why?”
“My brother Kip used to build model sailing ships. Every time a new one came out, he had to build it. I used to help.”
“Models aren’t usually a chick thing,” Tai observes. “So, is that something you like?”
Nyra holds up two hands and flexes her fingers. “I’ve got steady hands,” she explains. “Got roped into doing the rigging for him,” she explains.
“Literally and figuratively, I guess,” Tai quips, earning a laugh.
“Right,” she agrees. “The HMS Victory was kind of our masterpiece.”
Tai nods. “Gotcha. And in answer to your question, the sanding resin we use for surfboards is polyurethane, so it would smell a lot like modeling glue. You really should be wearing a dust mask if you’re going to continue sanding,” he adds.
“Guilty.” Tai shrugs with a self-conscious smile. “Don’t always follow my own advice, yah?” He looks like he’s about to say more when another car pulls alongside Tai’s pickup and a man and woman get out.
The rude interruption of Nyra’s living dream will be temporary. The effects on her will not be. Whether Nyra and Tai become a thing or not, she’s been touched by feelings she recognizes but doesn’t yet fully understand. Will Nyra and Tai become a thing, or will Tai be merely a catalyst to who she will become? Sorry, folks. No spoilers, here. You’ll have to read The Year of Maybe to find out.
Dirk is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer turned full-time author. “The Year of Maybe, Act II of Nyra’s Journey” is his sixth book.