“What the hell are you saying now?” Gunner interrupts my drifting thoughts.
I’ve forgotten where I’m at. She’s done that to me before.
“What does magel mean? C’mon, dude. I need to know.”
“You’re butchering my language. It’s M’aingeal. You pronounce it ‘Mayn-gel’.” I snicker, “Maw’s Irish Catholic and Pop is Cajun. Let’s just say growing up in my house was a never boring.”
“You’re full of surprises.”
“Hoo-ha you have no idea, mec. My little bro is a natural born hellion. Tell him the sky is blue and he’ll argue that’s it’s not just blue but white, grey and black. Any other color he can think of. Pop says he’s got too much of maw’s Irish side in him. I won’t disagree out loud or she would box my ears good.”
“Damn, I’d forgotten all about those times my grams boxed mine. Geez. Feels like another life ago. She was strict. Never let me sit down at the table without my hands washed and shirt tucked in. She even made me say ‘Grace’ before eating. I miss that woman.”
“Funny the little things that bring you ‘round.”
“Ain’t that the truth. Is that why your ears look so funny? You’re mom’s wrath? They stick out like dumbo,” he jokes and takes a swig of his beer.
We are both laughing releasing some of the tension that’s circled us, since we left Perry. Maybe he is salvageable. Maybe he can help us find the missing pieces after all. We abruptly stop laughing when Gunner slaps my shoulder and nudges his chin upwards. That’s when I see her. I look into her eyes and wonder why she doesn’t know me. Have I changed so much that she can’t see me. C’est la vie.
“Can we join you, si?” the beauty standing before Gunner asks him.
I can’t take my eyes off Jocelyn. She’s making me want something I was sure I had lost overseas.
“Well…I…,” Gunner stutters and shoves me again.
He’s such a douche bag.
I glance at him and sigh. “Pull up a chair, ladies. We’re just enjoying the wonderful Florida weather that’s brought us all here. Can we get you something? I’m sure the selection isn’t what you’re normally use to, but I’m sure there’s something we can find that you might want on the menu,” I wink.
They share a smile and a faint tinge of pink appears across Jocelyn’s cheeks as she makes her way to one of the vacant chairs. She sits down in the one closest to me. Placing her elbows on the tabletop and her chin between her hands, she leans inward. Fuckery! The up close view I have of her sends shockwaves through my system. My memory didn’t do her justice, and this near, the sprinkle of angel’s dust along the top of her nose and cheeks has me fighting the urge to touch her. I’m snapped out of my lust filled moment when Kendall approaches our table.
“Hey girls. I see you found…”
“Crash, name’s Crash and this is Gunner,” I say nodding in his direction.
Kendall frowns at me and I plead with my eyes for her not to say anything else. A disapproving look follows but she doesn’t correct me.
“Buenos notches, amigos. I’m Katrina and this is my friend, Jocelyn.”
“Hi,” Jocelyn quietly says.
“So, does anybody need a refill?” Kendall inquires.
“I think I’ll have another rum and coke.”
“I’ll have another beer,” I say and Gunner seconds my order.
“I’ll go grab these and be back in a jiffy.”
Kendall wanders off stopping a few times to talk at tables on her way to where Grady is manning the bar. He leans over when she motions him downward and covers his ear. He looks at me and then back down at her, intently listening to what she’s saying. He shrugs his shoulders and says something back. Apparently she’s not happy with him, because she turns and walks into the kitchen area without a backwards glance. I wait for him to head over but instead he looks at me smiling. What the hell did she say to him?
She’s probably pissed thinking I’m going to hurt her new friend. If she only knew the history behind my decision to remain anonymous. She would be chasing her away from me. The baggage I carry is for only me and I don’t want to share it with anyone, especially Jocelyn. She’s too good, too innocent, to be able to understand what drives me now. I’m not the same guy she knew in high school, carefree and happy. I haven’t been that way since reality set in.
Back before I left on my last tour of duty, I wouldn’t have given my actions a second thought. I can only imagine scooping her up in my arms, feeling her body against mine, and holding her close. Not letting her place a foot on the ground. I would hold her until I had my fill and only then would I let her out of my sight. I’m so messed up.
Gunner’s goofy grin has me focusing on the convo. He’s got his chin propped on his hand staring at the ladies. I follow his stare making sure he’s not ogling Jocelyn. I will knock his ass to the Georgia/Florida line, if he tries flirting with her in front of me. The thought of her with someone else sends waves of anger flooding my brain.
I relax my posture when it registers that he’s watching her friend like a love sick puppy dog. Wimp.
“Si. I’m serious. We were drenched from the pouring rain. Jo’s hair kinked even curlier than normal when the cool air conditioning hit it, as if that’s even possible, with the corkscrews she’s got.”
“Geez Rina. Thanks for the visual.”
“Well you looked like you had stuck your finger in a light socket,” she stutters and busts out laughing over her own joke.
“I wasn’t the only one. You were sporting kinky ringlets from the eighteenth century, too.”
“My hair isn’t as thick. Yours is so thick. So juicy, niña,” she giggles eyeing the man beside her.
“Here you go, folks. Drinks for everyone,” Kendall says and hands a tallboy to me.
“Any news on the roads clearing?”
“Sheriff radioed and they are working on securing Route 441 near twin lakes. He’s talking to Grady about using sandbags in some places. We’re close to the dam and possible flooding is always a worry.”
“Sand bags? Shit. Why me?”
“Honey child, you think sandbags are a bad thing, you ain’t got a clue,” Kendall answers and spins away.
“I guess the weather’s going to get worse, huh?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. You never know with hurricanes. Some are as fickle as women. One minute she’s moving directly for you, you blink, and she’s gone. You never know what direction, she’ll go.”
“Hmph. You use ‘she’ like she’s a real living breathing person.” Jocelyn says while sipping her drink.
“Well it is Mother Nature we’re talking about here.”
“Pleeeeeeease. Men can be fickle, too.”
“We can, can we?”
She leans in close to me, licks her lips, and whispers in a low sultry tone, “They always seem to want more than what they can handle. I’m sure you know my meaning, Crash. How boys will be boys and boys like their toys and stuff. Well that goes for older boys, too, sugar plum. Seems like a never ending battle for y’all to always want to play with fire.”