Great news Catching Waves with You is now available on Amazon!
Somehow, I knew the minute she stepped off the boardwalk and into the sand. Maybe it was because I knew what time the Surf & Sub shop closed and guessed approximately how long before she and Braden would be done cleaning. The day had been busy, and they probably had a lot to clean.
My surfboard beside me, I had my Bermuda shorts low on my hips, sitting near the water’s edge, enjoying the horizon and the recently departed ball of fire inking the sky in purples and reds. Time for campfires on the beach. I could almost smell the driftwood smoldering as steam lifted from the scarred edges where salt water would perpetually attempt its escape.
There were always plenty of campfires on the beach. I didn’t even need to start one. People just invited me as I walked by, offering me beer from their coolers. I declined but accepted a water bottle or soda. The girls at the bonfires all wanted me to stick around. The guys didn’t even seem jealous even though they knew all it would take is one carefully worded invitation and their girl would follow me down the beach into the darkness of the night.
I was just that guy.
I never did. I wasn’t ready for any of that yet. Not to say that I don’t like girls. I totally, totally like girls. I just hadn’t met her yet and I wasn’t wasting my first time on some random chick at a bonfire on the beach.
Not sure exactly what was the draw. My charisma, maybe. My long eyelashes and mysteriously colorful eyes. My purposefully messy curls that hung just low enough to touch the collar of my shirt, if I wore one. My six-pack abs and perpetually tanned shoulders. My crooked smile. My prowess on the surfboard. My natural talent with a charcoal. My cocky, overconfidence. Probably a combination.
I got hit on constantly. By guys and girls. But like I said, I prefer girls. I think. I mean, I’ve never taken the time to kiss another person. The thought of putting my lips on someone else’s lips. Gross. What caveman suggested placing one’s mouth against someone else’s and basically licking each other was a good thing? Seriously, whose idea was that? The only substance I was putting in my mouth was food, and even that I was rather particular about.
Always wondered what these pseudo friends would think if they found out I was homeless and lived in a van down by Buddy’s Surf Shop. Not to be mistaken with the Surf & Sub shop, although they were across the street from each other. Totally unrelated. Both cashing in on the location and its propensity to draw surfers and other tourists.
Tourists shopped up front at Buddy’s Surf Shop where the t-shirts and impulse items hung on racks.
Surfers knew to come to the back, where we repaired and waxed and shined and sold surfboards and other equipment. I helped out a lot in exchange for my room and board, ahem, place to legally park my conversion van. I taught surfing lessons sometimes, ordered supplies, received shipments, kept track of purchases.
We had a credit card machine there in the back of the shop where guys could take what they needed on their honor, swipe their own card and type in the amount they owed. They didn’t need us. Wax for your board? You know where it is. Grab it off the shelf and swipe your own dang card. We trust you.
Buddy gave me a key to the surf shop last summer when he realized I was there first thing in the morning anyway so why did he need to leave home so early to be here when the UPS guy showed up at eight a.m.
He did have two other real employees who came and went as he needed them, plus his wife. He didn’t pay me, and I didn’t ask him to pay me. Buddy was like the father I never had. He was almost old enough to be my dad. He and his wife, Lili even had me over for Thanksgiving.
The first time Lili met me she pulled me into her arms and just held me. Her voice was husky when she said, “I’ve heard so much about you and I’m glad you’re here.”
Okay… I patted her on the back and wondered how much Buddy had told her in the three days since we’d met, but whatever. I didn’t have a mom anymore, so I’d take it. Unless I made the four-hour drive to visit my grandparents, I didn’t get many hugs.
I think somewhere deep inside I craved hugs because when Maggie came up behind me, that was the first thing I did. I hopped up, brushed the sand off my backside, then pulled Maggie into a hug. She hugged me back like we were old friends. I didn’t even know her last name.
“Oh hey, I’ve got something for you.” She pulled her arms from around my waist and reached into her bag. “Braden said to give this to you.”
“Bonus!” I quickly unwrapped the sub and took a huge bite. A seventeen-year-old guy is never fully satisfied, and a seventeen-year-old homeless guy is never really properly fed. Thank goodness for people like Braden and Buddy. With my mouth still full I asked, “You ready for a walk on the beach?”
“Uh, okay.” She glanced over toward the pier where amusement park rides were still going strong, the young families with perpetually squealing children having been replaced by teenagers and twenty-somethings on dates.
I rode a few rides when I first moved here but really preferred riding the waves to riding a sticky plastic and metal deathtrap covered in gear grease and barely hosed off vomit.
As for me and my date, we’d head in the other direction. Down the beach where we could sink our toes in the wet sand and let the waves wash away the footprints behind us.
I swallowed and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. “Don’t worry, I won’t eat like a starving savage when you have me over for dinner to meet your parents.”
“I’ll keep that in mind if I ever invite you over to meet my parents,” Maggie said.
“When,” I said, nodding.
“When you invite me over to meet your parents.” I took another bite, the sub now half gone.
“You said ‘if’ you ever invite me over to meet your parents,” I explained, gulping down my bite so I wasn’t talking with my mouth full again. “What you meant to say was ‘when’ you invite me over to meet your parents.”
“When are you going to invite me to meet your family?” She bumped my shoulder with hers.
“It’s a four-hour drive, so whenever you’re ready, let me know. We might need to stay the night though because it’s a four hour drive each way.”
“Where do they live?”
“Fresno,” I said, not willing to elaborate. If she truly was the one, like I thought she was, she’d find out soon enough. If not, no reason to get that personal. “You ready for our walk?”
I shoved the last bite of sub into my mouth and wadded up the wrapper then leaned down to grab my board and turned toward the surf shop, assuming she’d follow. She did. I took a detour over to the wastebasket near the edge of the boardwalk and threw away the wrapper from my sub, then offered Maggie my hand to help her up the step to the boardwalk.
“Gotta put my board in my van before we take our walk. Come on.” I boldly kept her hand in mine all the way down to where my van was parked beside the surf shop.
Being homeless isn’t that bad when home is a tricked-out conversion van from the eighties parked next to a surf shop near the Santa Monica Pier in California.
That’s not to say I didn’t have a home. I just refused to live there.
My mom no longer lived at my home so there was no reason to live there. Maybe someday my grandparents would tell me who my dad was and then I could meet him, but I didn’t really care. I didn’t need him or anyone else. Well, I needed mom, but she wasn’t around anymore.
The only things I did need were the surf and the sand and an easel and some paper and charcoal pencils.
I had other needs, of course. Food, water, clothes, a place to wash my clothes, a place to sleep, and crap, and eat, not necessarily at the same time, but, you know, depending on how much of hurry I was in. The waves weren’t going to surf themselves. They needed me for that. So, the sooner I could wake up and get out there for dawn patrol, the better.
I needed to surf before the tourists showed up. Not that I didn’t like to surf alongside the tourists. Some guys are seriously good at surfing and fun to watch. I learn a lot watching other guys ride tubes beside me.
No, I needed to get to the pier. Tourists paid me a boat load of money to draw them on the pier. Some of them wanted a caricature. Some wanted a memento. Some of them wanted me to catch their first kiss or proposal.
Many people didn’t even know I was drawing them until they walked past, and I stopped them to show them the stunning portrait I’d created on the fly. They always paid me for that drawing, some more than others. Some gave me their business card and asked me to come draw for a party or event. Support myself with my art? Heck yeah!
One guy invited me to apply for art school at UCLA. I think he was the chair of the art department or something. I told him I had a year of high school left but he told me that was the perfect time to apply. I told him I’d need a full ride with room and board, because, you know, I’m homeless, but he didn’t need to know that. He said, “No problem,” so I gave him the name of my high school and told him to get all the details to my guidance counselor so she could set me up. He said he would. We’ll see. High school was still a month away. Until then, I was going to keep drawing, and keep surfing. Nothing else mattered.
Until I met her.
Good thing I’m a pescatarian because Maggie’s a vegan and she probably wouldn’t have given me a second glance if I’d ordered a hunk of cow on a bun.
I knew the day she started working at the Surf & Sub shop because I frequented that particular restaurant nearly every afternoon. They had the best tuna sandwiches this side of the continent, probably on the planet but I didn’t know because I’d never been out of California.
There were only four items on the menu I ordered, and I tried to rotate them so as not to eat the same thing every day. But when she smiled at me from across the cash register and asked me what I wanted, the word that came out of my mouth was, “You.”
She giggled and tucked a lock of curly brown hair behind her ear. “I’m not on the menu.” She bit her lower lip, and I couldn’t tell if she was shy or coy. I was going with coy.
“Good, I won’t have any competition from other guys.”
“How do you know I don’t have a boyfriend?” she asked.
“I’m quite confident that you do have a boyfriend,” I said. “Me.”
“I don’t even know your name.” She giggled again. I decided that was the most beautiful sound in the world and I vowed to make her giggle as many times a day as I could.
I held out my hand in greeting. “I’m Chad. And you are Maggie.”
“How do you know my name?” She asked me in a way that she thought I’d asked around ahead of time to find out her name, but this was the first time I’d laid eyes on her, so she was wrong.
“Unless your nametag is lying to me, your name is Maggie.” I said.
She rolled her eyes and sighed as if she’d completely forgotten she was wearing a nametag.
“You gonna leave me hanging here, Maggie?” I still had my hand out waiting to take hers. When she placed her hand in mine, it was even softer and warmer than I could have imagined. “I think I’m gonna marry you someday.” I still hadn’t let go of her hand until her manager cleared his throat from beside her.
“I think I need to take your order, Chad.” She pulled her hand back and lifted her chin, all business.
“What’s your favorite thing on the menu?” I asked.
“The vegan sub, of course,” she said. “That’s the only reason I came to work here; to feed my addiction.”
“I’ll try the vegan sub,” I said, but added a caveat. “Can you throw some provolone and tuna salad on that vegan sub.”
“Then it’s not vegan anymore.”
“That’s okay. I’m not a vegan,” I said. “Don’t let that stop you from being my girlfriend. I’m still your guy no matter what food I eat.”
“Shaking things up today, huh Chad?” the manager, Braden asked.
“Had to try my new girlfriend’s favorite sub, Bray.” I didn’t take my eyes off Maggie’s.
“I’ll go get that started for you while you pay the lady.”
“Come here often?” Maggie raised her eyebrows.
“Couple times a week,” I said.
“Every day,” Braden faked a cough.
“I will be now…” I quirked one eyebrow at Maggie.
“I knew this little gal was gonna drum up business,” Braden said. He was halfway through making my sandwich, exactly the way I liked it.
“You keep an eye on my new girlfriend, for me, will ya, Bray?”
“Absolutely.” He finished wrapping my sandwich and handed it to me over the counter. The freshly baked bread was still warm from the oven as if I’d ordered Braden to place my sub under the broiler, which I hadn’t.
I slipped a formerly waterlogged ten-dollar bill into Maggie’s outstretched hand and said, “Keep the change. Your first tip of the day.”
“Second tip,” she corrected me. “A couple of cute guys were in here earlier and they each gave me a tip. So, I guess that would make yours my third tip.”
“Them are fightin’ words, woman.” I backed away from the counter clutching my vegan sub that smelled suspiciously like tuna salad. “Thanks for the sandwich. See ya on the beach later. You’ll know where to find me.”
“What if I don’t want to go to the beach later?” she called out as I was heading out the door.
“You will.” I turned and winked at her as the bell above the door to the sub shop chimed to announce my departure. I chuckled as I walked away from the Surf & Sub shop.
This summer just got a thousand times better.
I sighed as I unwrapped my sandwich.
Great news! Billionaire Professors (The Geek Twins) is now available on Amazon!
This weekend my husband and I drove up to norther Lower Michigan for what he calls a "color tour" to see all the changing leaves. For the past several years we've been travelling around the State to hunt for the perfect retirement location.
We still have quite a few years to go but we'd eventually like to purchase land and have my son-in-law design my dream house (he's an architect). He says he will design the house to fit the property. I'd really like some beautiful rolling hills and perhaps some water.
Anyway, this weekend we visited Alpena, Michigan, which is where Emanuel Cohen (Manny) lives. I took a bunch of pictures and will share them here along with the corresponding chapters.
Manny's story is the last story in the last book of the Sayid Family Saga, Billionaire's Sons, which is on preorder now and will go live on April 6th, 2021. Yes, you are the lucky ones who get to read this story in advance!
I would love your opinions. Be gentle. These are unedited chapters! As always, any feedback or typo corrections or anything is greatly appreciated. -Julie
Manny's story begins with him (surprise) hunting! Before writing his story I did a ton of research and found an actual location where Aloise might have gotten lost. Here is what that location looks like in real life and the corresponding chapters:
Get the Complete Genealogy Charts of the Sayid Family Saga! (Psst: you're the first people to see this!)
Next Aloise follows Manny back to Alpena where her family's sailing yacht is docked. I couldn't find a boat there as nice as what the Ashish family owned, but you'll get a feel for the location.
The following morning, Manny takes Aloise to brunch at his favorite diner, which happens to be across the street from the Alpena County Courthouse. So, on a whim they decide to go in and apply for a marriage license. In one of these pictures you get the added bonus of seeing my adorable little blue Subaru Outback. I love my Outback!
What else would you want to do after just getting married? Go to Walmart, of course! How else are you going to buy those... umm... family planning supplies discussed back in Chapter Nine. Who cares whether you announce your marriage to the whole small town (where everyone knows everyone) by making out in the aisle next to racks of prophylactic's, running into your former high school principal (in that same aisle), and have the clerk at the grocery store be your (gulp) ex-girlfriend!
Manny and Aloise head back over to her parents' yacht to tell them the good news and to make a phone call to the U.S. Coast Guard!
For some reason the Coast Guard responds more favorably when you call in the big guns... the billionaire mayor, Jacob Cohen! If Manny can keep himself from getting arrested long enough to convince his father to help rescue his wife, Aloise Ashish-Cohen, the woman he told Manny to stay away from!
We hope you have enjoyed this little tour of the harbor town of , Alpena, Michigan and I hope you have loved Manny's story.
Billionaire's Sons can be preordered now, along with the rest of the series! You keep reading. I'll keep writing!
Great news! Billionaire Professors (The Geek Twins) is now available on Amazon!