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Ocean Eyes

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Despite his eccentricities, Aaron Hendrix lived a pretty normal life. At least, he liked to think so. His Saturday had gone as it usually did; he’d gotten out of practice, and grabbed an ice cream cone to eat on the beach. The smell of the salty tide perfectly complimented his vanilla ice cream, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. His favorite spot was on the stone wall that bordered about a mile of the coastline, and there was rarely a shortage of people to watch. Aaron was known for his friendly and outgoing demeanor, but he enjoyed watching people more than talking when he was relaxed like this. The beach was relatively quiet at this time of the day, even on a Saturday. There was a lull every day from around noon to three o’clock, then it got busy. Today wasn’t great for people watching, but it was peaceful nonetheless. Rush hour would be upon him soon, and though it was October, people still braved the cool weather to enjoy their last beach days before winter. It was still pretty warm outside, and the water was bearable for a short amount of time. There’d been a few people who’d come and gone while he’d been sitting, though none of them were very interesting. Besides them, of course, was the surfer boy. Aaron could hardly count him as entertainment; he already knew everything about him that he could get by watching, and that wasn’t much. He surfed for hours on end, so zoned into it that he doubted the boy would notice that he was staring. He never had in the past. Aaron had no doubt that he’d been at it for hours before he came, and would continue long after he left. It seemed that he saw the black-haired boy every time he passed by the beach. He couldn’t imagine doing anything for that long, but the boy seemed content all the same.

He was nearing the end of his ice cream cone, but he figured that he’d stay on the beach a little longer. The sound of the waves was one of the few things that could keep him still, and he appreciated just doing nothing when he could. It wasn’t the most eventful day, but he enjoyed his routine, and it was always a nice way to forget about his daily life.

As he took the last bite of his cone, he heard something. There were doors screeching open next to him, and as he looked to his right, there was a huge bus down the street. He sat up a little and looked closer. People poured out of the bus, forming a crowd on the sidewalk. Aaron stretched upwards to see how many more they were, and suddenly there were fifty people storming the beach. They were all carrying fishing poles and lure boxes. It must be a fishing tour, Aaron thought. They were popular with the tourists, though to the locals, they were obnoxious. He supposed he’d have some entertainment now, though he didn’t enjoy how loud they were. As they took the nearest staircase onto the sandy beach, he could see their boat nearing the dock in the distance. The tours began with a walk along the shore, then a guided tour with fishing lessons. The Maine coast was always popular with fishermen and tourists, so it was nothing new, but Aaron always groaned at the thought of the crowds. In the group, he could see a man with bright orange flip flops, a neon green shirt, and a rainbow undercut. Jeez, he thought. He was going to scare all the fish. He kicked his feet against the stone wall. He thought of leaving, but something compelled him to stay. The rest of the crowd was only as interesting as overexcited tourists. Maybe he’d get a burger from the café, he thought. It was lunchtime, and he wanted to watch this play out. Yeah, he’d do that. He jumped back up onto the side of the wall, and walked back across the street to the café. Lily was at the counter. Great, he thought to himself.

“Hey Aaron,” she said flatly.

“Hi Lily,” Aaron said, trying to hide his annoyance.

“What do you want?” Her mouth curled into a smile, but like always, her eyes remained flat and lifeless.

“A cheeseburger,” he said. “Just ketchup. Nothing else.”

“To go?” she asked. He nodded, and handed her a few dollars. Lily said nothing, and punched in his order. Aaron stood to the side to wait, crossing his arms. Every other customer was outside sitting at the tables; he was completely alone inside the building. Though Aaron didn’t fancy the idea of talking to Lily, he despised standing in silence while she undoubtedly stared at him. He could see her running her light blond hair through her fingers in his peripheral vision. He’d been avoiding Lily for weeks; he knew she was after him, and though that was fine, she gave him the serious creeps. If she wanted to hang out with him so badly, why didn’t she just ask? Instead, she only stared at him. Truth was, she gave him the serious creeps. She looked like a goth girl, but she never wore any black. He’d given up trying to figure her out months ago.

“Aaron,” Lily said sharply, snapping him out of his thoughts. She was holding out his burger, which was wrapped in tinfoil. He took it from her quickly and turned on his heel, heading for the door without a word. “Come again,” she said as he left, with her usual flat laugh. He raised his left hand in a half-hearted goodbye, and then he was gone.

He shook his blazing red hair out and went back to his spot on the wall, soon forgetting the encounter. The crowd was still on the beach, though they’d dispersed to explore together. Many were collecting shells, while others were digging their feet into the sand. A few of them were watching the surfer boy, but even with an audience, his gaze remained fixed on the board. It was typical, Aaron thought. He unwrapped his burger. It looked delicious, and he took a bite. He figured that the tour would start soon, and then he’d leave. He wasn’t sure what was compelling him to stay. The tourists must not have ever seen a dedicated server. The boy was good, and Aaron couldn’t deny that. Anyone who practiced as much as that kid had to be. However, something about him made Aaron suspicious, even from a distance. Maybe he just couldn’t understand him, but he seemed almost like a machine, going through the exact same motions every time he got up onto the board. He was overthinking it, he thought. He looked away from the waves and looked back at the crowd, which was beginning to split up. Whoever was overseeing the tour must have seen this, because suddenly, the shrill screech of a whistle snapped Aaron out of his own thoughts. He jumped, his grip tightening around his burger. “Bloody hell,” he muttered, his perfect British accent coming out strong. He’d barely seen the surfer boy fall off of his board mid-wave. The boy had fallen ungracefully into the water with a splash and was coming up, shaking out his hair aggressively. In the many months Aaron had been watching this boy, he’d never seen him fall. The crowd was beginning to come back together, the tour guide now visible with a megaphone.

“Hello! Welcome to the two o’clock fishing tour,” he called through the megaphone, over the waves. He kept talking, but Aaron was too focused on how irritating he was. He tuned him out, his eyes landing once again on the surfer. To Aaron’s surprise, he was swimming towards the shore in long, angry strokes. Once he hit the shore he pushed himself up swiftly, grabbed his board, and started running. His free hand flew to his ear, his entire body caving in on itself. When he was just past the crowd, he looked back at them before he continued running. Aaron immediately straightened up; he knew he was staying for a reason, and the surfer boy was coming right for him. It was the first time he’d ever seen him up close. As he got closer, Aaron took note of his features. He was average height and slender, his wetsuit gripping his body tightly. His long, black hair stuck to his caramel skin, dripping down his body. However, what perplexed Aaron most was his face. His features were twisted into a pained expression, his eyes squinted and his teeth gritting tightly against each other. He stopped when he got closer to the stairwell, setting his board down and catching his breath. He didn’t seem to notice that Aaron was right above him. He ran a hand through his hair, which was sticky with saltwater. The tour guide had stopped talking, and the group was beginning to walk down the shore.

The surfer looked back at the shore, and straightened his back a little before he took to the stairwell. Aaron didn’t know this boy, but he could tell there was something that wasn’t right.

“Hey,” he said as the boy came out of the stairwell next to him. He didn’t seem to hear him; he kept walking, board in hand. “Hey, wait!” he called before the boy was out of earshot.

He turned around quickly, locking eyes with Aaron. “What?” he snapped harshly, making Aaron jump. His dark brown eyes were burning holes into his skull.

“Uh,” Aaron stuttered, his words suddenly gone. “Are you okay?” he finally choked out, gulping.

The boy said something quickly; at first Aaron thought he was mumbling, but after a second of processing he realized that he wasn’t speaking English. He sat gawking at the boy for a few seconds until his eyes finally softened, realization coming over him.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, looking down in shame. “I said I don’t like crowds.” Before Aaron could say anything, he turned on his heel and started running again.

Suddenly, Aaron wasn’t hungry anymore. After the mysterious boy had disappeared down a side street, he pushed himself back up onto the wall, and tossed his half-eaten burger into a trash can. He was thoroughly shaken; confusion and curiosity were coursing through his mind. He lingered at the trash can for a few seconds, thinking about what just happened. However, he shook it out of his mind, and went back home. By the time he was turning his key into the lock, the incident had almost completely left his mind.