“Can you take a fifteen-minute break?” I asked Maggie but glanced at her manager, Braden for permission. “I want to introduce you to someone.”
Braden glanced at the clock on the wall. I’d planned my request well. The Surf & Sub shop was experiencing a much-deserved lull between the lunch rush and the dinner rush.
“We’ll just be across the street at the surf shop,” I reassured him.
“I’ll keep one eye on the restaurant and hurry back over here if we get swamped,” Maggie said, untying her apron.
“Alright. See you in a few.” Braden leaned against the counter, not much for him to do since Maggie kept the place spotless and well-stocked.
I took her hand as we hurried across the busy street and pulled her under the awning of Buddy’s Surf Shop where I made a bee line for the man restocking the shelves.
“Hey, kids, what’s up?” Buddy climbed down from the small stepladder.
“I wanted to formally introduce you to my girlfriend, Maggie.”
He had a gleam in his eye as he reached for Maggie’s hand. “Hello, Maggie.”
“We’ve already met.” Maggie was cautiously suspicious.
“Maggie, I’d like to introduce you to… my dad.”
“I knew it!” Maggie jumped up and down. “Didn’t I call it? I knew he had to be your dad. You look like twins.”
“Seventeen-year difference, actually.” Buddy wrapped his arm around my shoulders.
“Seventeen?” Maggie’s jaw dropped. “You were young.”
“Too young,” Buddy confirmed.
“So… your mom…” Maggie kind of pointed over her shoulder in the general direction of Fresno where, just yesterday we had visited my mom’s grave.
“—was my high school sweetheart,” Buddy said.
“And how did you figure this out?” Maggie asked. “We just talked about this the other night and you said he wasn’t your dad.”
“You talked about me?” Buddy turned to me with a grin.
“Yeah, the night she ruined my hair.” I reached up and ran my hand through my scruffy locks.
“It’s startin’ to grow back,” Buddy said. “Almost looks normal again.”
“Hey, I did you a favor,” she said. “There was a year of grime built up on your scalp. That’s not even healthy.”
“Just a l’il salt water and sand and natural oils,” I defended.
“It’s gross,” she said.
“Anyway, he told me last night when I got home from visiting mom.” I didn’t mention he was plastered drunk at the time. “Apparently, he has known since day one.”
“And you… never told Chad?” She raised her eyebrows, mildly chastising him.
“How do you bring up a topic like that?” He shrugged. “Hey, man, I’m pretty sure I knocked up your mom sixteen years ago and then moved out of town and never knew you existed. You wanna go surfing with me?”
“Guess that’s why you gave me free surfing lessons, huh?”
“Least I could do, man.” He held up a fist and we bumped knuckles.
“Anyway,” Maggie said. “You guys are weird, and I have to get back to work.”
“I’ll walk you back over,” I said, taking Maggie’s hand again.
“See ya, Maggie.” Buddy called out as he was heading back toward his ladder.
As we were walking back to the Surf & Sub shop, we walked slower than we had on the way over. “So, uh, seventeen. Wow.”
“Yeah, that’s our age.” I gulped. “Can’t imagine.”
“I’m glad we’re waiting,” Maggie said quietly.
“Me too.” I brought our adjoined hands up and kissed the back of her hand.
“Woulda been really easy to get caught up in the moment, huh?” she said.
“Too easy,” I agreed.
“Thank you for being strong for both of us,” Maggie said, then lowered her voice until it was almost inaudible. “I would have said yes.”
That’s all we said. I gave Maggie a quick kiss before she headed back into the sub shop to finish her shift and I went across the street to the surf shop to finish mine.
A stand alone novella in the All's Fair in Love and Sports Series by Julie L. Spencer.