June 5th, 1990
An old man walked by wearing a Speedo swimsuit that left nothing to the imagination. You've got guts, dude, I thought, and then snickered in my head. Yup. You’ve got guts- and that's the problem! The man continued to strut up the beach, but my eyes didn't follow him. I was pretending to read a book, laying on my stomach facing the ocean, but really I was just people watching. I had read the same paragraph four times and hadn't turned the page yet. The tourists were just too interesting.
Granted, I was a tourist too, but that wasn't going to stop me from people watching. My roommate, Jenny, nudged my beach chair with her foot, tipping her head toward the man who had just walked by. I peeked over the top of my Ray Ban sunglasses just in time to see him scratch himself.
"Thanks, Jenny," I said, sticking my tongue out at her. She gave me a innocent smile and made sure the long brown hair in her side ponytail was still tight against her head.
"No problem, Rachel. I thought you would appreciate that," she said with a laugh as I rolled my eyes at her. "Even with a view like that, I am having a great vacation. This was a great idea, Kimberly."
Kimberly leaned forward on the opposite side of me and adjusted her big floppy hat with a satisfied grin. This trip had been all her doing. Her aunt owned a little vacation condo a few miles from the beach and was renting it to us three girls for practically nothing. Pooling our money together for gas, we had taken a road trip in Jenny's beat-up station wagon and were now enjoying a week of fun in the sun. It was the perfect way to celebrate our graduation.
"Hey, would one of you put some more lotion on my back?" I asked. "I think I can feel it starting to burn." I pulled myself into a sitting position and dug under the chair for the bottle of sunscreen. Kimberly opened her hands like a football player so I could toss the bottle in her direction. I pulled my long dark hair out of the way as she squirted the white goop onto her hands and began working it into my skin.
"Are you painting on her back?" Jenny asked, watching Kimberly draw designs into my skin with her fingertips. I didn't mind; it felt nice, and I knew she would rub it all in eventually. If she left it and gave me weird tan lines, she knew I would get her back.
"Just seeing a pattern in her freckles," Kimberly said as she traced a circle on my skin. I looked at Jenny and the two of us began to giggle. Kim was renowned in the art department for her abstract art pieces. She had a tendency to see things very differently. All three of us had just graduated from college with our Bachelors of Fine Arts degrees. I sported a new Fashion and Design specialty, Jenny was Marketing, and Kimberly had Drawing and Painting.
"You get me burned with one of your abstract designs, and I will put cockroaches under your pillow," I warned her. Kimberly laughed, but she hastily rubbed her design out and focused on making sure I didn't burn. Jenny snickered and settled back into her beach chair with her book. It looked like she was getting as much reading done as I was.
"There, all done." Kimberly patted my back gently, and I turned and gave her a smile. She was small and petite with light blonde hair and green eyes. She fixed the floppy hat on her head, then rubbed some extra sunscreen into her pale arms before handing the bottle back to me.
I settled back down with my book, glancing out at the waves. Blue water glistened along the shoreline. It was a quiet beach attached to a small town on the gulf side of Florida. The sand was white and fine, the waves soft and refreshing, and the town warm and friendly. It was probably going to be the last time the three of us would be together, now that we had all graduated.
"You get any responses on those internships?" Kimberly asked me. I shook my head.
It was kind of a sore spot for me. Kimberly had a job lined up in California. Jenny had an internship in Chicago. I had applied for several positions with designers in New York, Chicago, and even Paris, but so far I hadn't heard any responses.
"I talked to my aunt last night, and there haven't been any phone calls," I said. "She checked our mail, but all we have is an electric bill." I shrugged my shoulders. My senior design piece was created with a pregnant woman in mind, and while my professors loved it, it wasn't exactly what high-fashion designers were looking for. I had meant to make something that would appeal more to the industry, but the fabric had just sewn itself together. The dress had willed itself into being. At least I had gotten an A.
"You'll hear something soon. Your stuff is good. You know I wouldn't be able to get dressed without you half the time," Jenny said. I laughed. Jenny loved the flamboyant colors and patterns so prevalent in the current trends. She would wear so many colors it would make my eyes hurt to look at her if I didn't tell her to at least tone it down a little. Maybe not wear the flannel with the neon blue and pink patterned shirt.
"Well, at least I've still got my job at Charlie's." I tried to sound upbeat, but compared to my roommates' successes, it was hard to be happy about my art-supply store job. Neither of my friends said anything, but just gave me supportive smiles as we all settled back into quiet. The gentle murmur of the ocean shushed at our feet as we all pretended to read.
I turned a page, finally making it past that last sentence, when I saw him. He was tall. And handsome. And just a whole handful of whoa. I was very glad I had dark sunglasses, because I was most definitely staring.
Just down the beach, the most beautiful man I had ever seen was emerging from the water. His dark hair was cut short, and he ran a hand through it, sending a spray of crystal drops through the air. I could see every perfect muscle from my chair, his body lithe and lean. His muscles weren't bulky, but instead were toned and perfectly proportioned. A tattoo of an eagle with spears clutched in its talons screamed out from his delicious-looking shoulder.
He glanced over, and I felt my heart stop. His eyes peered right at me, and I could feel a blush starting to form as that Adonis of a man looked at me. I pretended to be very interested in my book, not wanting to be caught looking. When I glanced back up, he was greeting two more perfect specimens of the male species standing at the water's edge. All three of them had the same tattoo on their respective shoulders and all three were drool worthy.
The three men walked casually down the beach and away from us. I was sad to see them go. They were so much better to look at than Speedo Guy. My beach chair shook as Jenny kicked it hard.
"Did you see those hot military guys?" she asked, excited.
"The ones with the tattoos? Yeah. Why?" I could hear the wheels turning in her head as she began plotting.
"I think the one with the dark hair was looking at me." She gave me a sly half-smile. He was looking at me! I wanted to yell at her, but it wouldn't matter anyway. For all I knew, she was right. He could have even been looking at Kimberly. "I think we should find them tonight."
"You're boy crazy," I told her with a roll of my eyes. She licked her lips, and I knew that tonight, we were going to be in for a man hunt. Jenny had a thing for men in uniform, and there was no way she was going to be talked out of having a good time trying to find them tonight.
"Yeah, but you know that you're going to benefit from it," she answered with a grin. "Besides, it's a vacation. We deserve a little something nice."
Kimberly groaned softly. I just shook my head at Jenny, but I knew we were going to have a good time.