This is a short I wrote for a bloghop last Valentine’s Day. The prompt was “love at first sight.” This is just a photo, a moment.
It was a hot day for February. A Saturday, too. A million people or more littered the beaches of Southern California, which was usually enough reason for me to stay away—I liked my beaches better quiet, something akin to private. It was the first day in months that my friends Wes, Ky and I all had off work the same weekend, too, so we did the same as everyone else, and took advantage of the heatwave. We were seventeen and after graduation we’d all split ways, it seemed natural to hang out as much as we could.
The funny thing is, at first I didn’t even see her. There was a whole gaggle of girls playing volleyball, a couple of whom I’d seen before from school. I noticed because Katie Huxley was there. I’d always had a thing for Katie. We sort of grew up together, and she was nice. She reached “out of my league” status around freshman year though, and I’d always been content to admire from afar.
The three of us were walking down to the water, but we slowed to watch the game a bit. We weren’t the only ones—it’s not everyday you see the volley nets used at all, much less by a group of teenage girls. Katie was serving the ball, and it went high over the net. Some girl on the other side lobbed it back, and it went out of bounds—knocking the girl on my left right into me.
“Oh hey, are you okay?”
Petite and blonde, she threw the volleyball back into the game before answering me. “Yeah, I’m fine.” She rubbed the spot on her arm that the ball had hit, and looked up at me.
That’s the closest I can come to a description of how I felt. Her eyes were big and brown and seemed to hit me in the stomach like a physical force.
I can’t explain it. I’m not a flowery kinda guy. But man… I felt something. Right away. Not a flutter or whatever, but like I said, a bang.
“Um, hi,” she said, looking at me like she wasn’t sure what was going on in my head—I wasn’t either. I was probably staring at her. Probably creeping her out.
“Hi,” I said, shaking myself out of whatever trance I was suddenly in. “I’m Cole.”
She gave a polite smile and reached to shake the hand I hadn’t even realized I’d extented—who shakes hands? “I’m Leela.”
She only came up to a few inches above my elbow. She looked like she weighed maybe 90 pounds, soaking wet.
“Hey Cole, c’mon, we wanna get into the waves,” Ky said from behind me.
I gave a quarter turn towards him, but turned back to Leela first. “Look, I don’t ever do this… but do you want to come hang out for a bit? Maybe go get a boba later?”
She glanced over at the guy next to her, someone else I didn’t see until this very moment. Her boyfriend, maybe? But he shrugged his shoulders at her, and a second glance said maybe it was her brother. “You have your cell on you?” he asked. She nodded with a check of her back pocket, and he shrugged again. “It’s your life.”
I held up my hands. “No pressure or anything.” But I wanted her to say yes. I don’t know that I’d ever wanted anything else more in my life. I didn’t even know why.
Leela gave a shy nod and took my hand, sending another physical slam down my body. I think one more and I’d be in shock. Without a word, we followed Wes and Ky down to the water, two people in a bristling crowd.