“Hey, Buddy, can I borrow a board for Maggie to use? I want to teach her how to surf.” I stood in front of the line-up of surfboards in the back room of Buddy’s Surf Shop, scrutinizing the selection.
“Sure, dude, whatever you want.” Buddy didn’t look up from his task of sweeping the sand off the concrete in the spacious back room where surfers came and went without regard to how much sand they brought in with them. Sweeping sand was a near constant battle.
“Wait, wait, wait—” Lili hurried from the front of the store. “Who is Maggie and when can I meet her?” Her voice was like a mother excited to meet her son’s new girlfriend.
I reminded myself that Buddy and his wife didn’t have children and I didn’t have a mother, so I let her be excited for me.
“Rick has a crush on the new girl from the Surf and Sub across the street,” Buddy teased.
I loved the way Buddy always called me Rick when everyone else called me Chad. The day I bought my first surfboard, he ran my credit card and laughed at my first name. Chadrick. He looked at me and his jaw dropped. I knew mine was a rare name, but his reaction was almost emotional.
Buddy asked me why I shortened my name to Chad, and I told him that was what my mom always used to call me. He nodded definitively and told me he was going to call me Rick. I’m like, whatever, dude, can you just sell me a surfboard? He took the rest of the afternoon off and gave me surfing lessons too. We were instant friends after that.
“She’s meeting me here in a little while after she works the lunch shift,” I said, still scrutinizing boards to pick out just the right one.
“You should let her use one of my boards.” Lili pushed past me and grabbed one of her newest boards. “They’ll be just her size.”
“Uh, not necessarily, babe,” Buddy said, gently taking the short board from his wife. “You’re an advanced surfer and Maggie is not. She needs a wide, thick board, and a few feet taller than her. Do you know how tall she is?” Buddy asked, turning to me.
“About yay big, maybe?” I held up my hand to the height of my shoulder, then moved it up a little, then down a little. “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
“We’ll just measure her when she gets here,” Buddy said, moving a few boards around. He and Lili chose a few that might work and lined them up shortest to tallest.
“This one’s cute.” Lili held up a pink board. “Girls like pink.”
“No, she needs one with more floatation than that.” Buddy took the cute, pink board from Lili. His annoyance showed that he didn’t realize Lili was teasing. She winked at me behind his back. “What are the waves like out there?” Buddy moved to the open back door and gazed toward the surf.
I stepped closer to him so I could evaluate for myself. “Too small,” I said.
“Perfect for a beginner,” Buddy mumbled. “Keep her on the small rollers and let’s get her a longboard with some stability.”
“Okay, thanks, man.” I patted him on the shoulder, glad he was taking this seriously. I wanted to impress my new girlfriend, not get her injured. I turned back to where Lili was holding one of her longer boards and eyeballing how tall or short Maggie would need to be to use that one.
“This one is perfect.” Lili held the board out to me.
“How do you know?” I asked. “You haven’t even met Maggie yet.”
“I’m just good at predicting,” she said with a shrug.
“Hello?” Maggie’s voice called from the front of the store. “Anybody here?”
I hurried to the front and smiled when I saw her standing there by the counter. She still wore her uniform from working at the Surf and Sub shop but had removed her name tag. I had yet to see her in anything other than her uniform and looked forward to getting her on the beach.
“Oh! You’re so adorable!” Lili pushed past me and grabbed Maggie in a hug.
“Sorry,” I mouthed in a stage whisper. “Lili’s a hugger.”
“I’m so excited to meet you,” Lili said, pulling back and holding Maggie at arms’ length. “Heck, we’re just excited Rick finally has a girlfriend.”
“Rick?” Maggie raised her eyebrows.
“My name’s Chadrick,” I explained. “They’re the only ones who call me Rick. Every other living person on this earth calls me Chad.”
Buddy coughed from behind me and then coughed again, and then again, and finally left the room. What the heck?
“You’ll have to excuse my husband.” Lili looked over my shoulder in the direction Buddy had disappeared. “He must be having an asthma attack or something. You can meet him another time. I’ll… go check on him.”
Lili hurried after Buddy, leaving Maggie and I alone again.
“I hope he’s okay,” Maggie said, her brow creased.
“I’m sure he’s fine.” I waved it off and took her hand in mine. “Let’s get you measured for a board.” I led her into the back of the surf shop.
“Wow, this is so cool. I had no idea this was back here.” Maggie looked around with wide eyes at all the surfboards and equipment and supplies.
“Thought maybe we could borrow a rashguard from Lili so you can learn to surf without tearing up your skin,” I said. “Although, I’d love to see you in a swimsuit.” I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively.
“A rashguard’s a good idea,” Buddy said, coming up behind me. He briefly patted me on the shoulder and then reached out a hand to Maggie. “Hi, I’m Buddy. Nice to meet you. Sorry about my coughing fit. Musta got something down the wrong pipe.”
“Nice to meet you too.” Maggie tucked that ever-straying lock of hair behind her ear and smiled shyly.
“Did y’all pick out a board yet?” Buddy stepped over to the lineup and selected the one Lili had predicted would be perfect. “Let’s try this one on for size.” He held the board up next to Maggie and it was almost exactly two feet taller than her. Perfect.
“Did I call it?” Lili said with a satisfied smirk. “Here’s a rashguard that will probably fit you and is relatively clean, give or take a little sand and sea water.”
“Maggie is not a fan of sea water,” I said, rubbing my hand through my hair.
Buddy and Lili both gaped at us. “How are you planning to go surfing?” Buddy asked.
“I’m not a fan of your hair,” Maggie said, wrinkling her nose. “There’s a difference.”
“Son, you’ll want to break up with this young lady now, before this goes any further,” Buddy said with barely contained laughter. “This relationship will not end well.”
“Not a chance.” I shook my head adamantly. “This is only our second date. She’ll learn to love my hair.”
“Wait until he finds out I’m working on my cosmetology license,” Maggie stage whispered to Lili. “He’ll break up with me real fast when he realizes how good I am with a pair of scissors.”
“I like this girl already, Rick,” Lili said. “Maybe when she’s done with you, she can take her scissors to my husband’s hair.”
“That’s crossing a line, babe,” Buddy teased Lili. “Why don’t you show this nice young lady to the changing rooms, and you and I will have a little talk later on.”
“Are we in trouble?” Maggie turned and gave me a flirty wink as she and Lili walked away.
“We are in deep trouble,” Lili answered, heading into the ladies changing rooms.
“Nah… I think it’s you who’s in trouble, Rick.” Buddy patted me on the back and chuckled as he walked away.
“Yep. I think you’re right,” I mumbled with a sigh. “Deep trouble.”