Hitting a beat with the sticks, the band joined in and the crowd sung along to an old favourite. My mind was alive with memories of the past. I’d pursued Lola with a passion only a hot-blooded teenager could. Everyone thought it was sweet that I had a crush on my older sister’s friend, but no one believed it would last.
My mates took the piss, my sister became secretive and called me a freak when she caught me following her into town.
It was on my sixteenth birthday that I first asked Lola on a date. We’d been sitting on the rocks after a morning swim. She lay on a pink and purple towel while we watched the sunrise together. Well, she watched the sunrise. I stared at her, examining every inch of her face. Her clear, sun-tanned skin glowed in the morning light. Her hair hung in dark brown tendrils, thick with sea water, her full lips slid into a smile that reached her brown eyes. Those mesmerising brown eyes. Anyway, Lola told me I was sweet, but at twenty-two, she was too old for me to date. I’m flattered, Charlie, she’d said as she stroked her fingers along my arm. There’s somebody out there for you, someone much more worthy of you, just you wait and see. And I’m still waiting.
Whistles and hollers brought me back to reality. Lacey and the band bowed to the excited audience. She blew kisses and shouted thank yous to her fans. She was loved in Sea Glass Bay, a real homegrown star who was on the road to famed fortune.
Two men helped Lacey off the stage, each intending to show her a good time. It happened after every gig, and each time Lacey was polite, but made it clear she didn’t mix business with pleasure and tonight was no different. Instead of the backstage route she normally took, I watched her wriggle her way through the crowds and chat to the women behind the bar.
“Charlie,” she shouted, raising a beer in the air. “Come on, this drink isn’t going to drink itself.”
“Thanks.” I lifted one hand in reply and steadied myself on the stage railing with my other. My heart tightened and beat as if I’d finished a 5k run. I wiped my sweaty brow with the back of my shaking hand. A meeting with Lola was unexpected. What should I say? How should I act? What if she laughed at me?
I laughed at myself. At the age of twenty-seven, here I was acting like the teenager who was too young to date Lola. No longer that boy. There was nothing to worry about. I’d just go over, say hi, and ask about the last ten years of her life.
“Here he is.” Lacey handed me the beer. “You remember my pain-in-the-arse brother, Lola?”
A blush that hadn’t emerged since I was a schoolboy threatened to betray the cool persona I hoped I was portraying, as I forced myself to look up. “Hi.” Words stuck in my throat when she smiled and hypnotised me with those eyes.
“Hi, Charlie.” She said, serving a customer next to us. When she’d finished, Lola gave us her full attention, wiping spilt beer from the counter. “How could I forget? You’re looking good, Charlie. Been working out?”
For a moment, I thought she was going to feel my bicep, and I tensed.
Lacey mused my hair and laughed when I shrugged her off. “Not so little now, are you, Charlie boy?”
Mel came over with a bottle of wine and three glasses. “Leave my second favourite man alone.” She grabbed my jaw and yanked me towards her over the bar counter. “I swear to the gods, apart from my Tate, you’re the most handsome man in Sea Glass Bay.”
My shoulders relaxed, banter was so much easier than dwelling in the past. “Back at ya!”
“Drink up, Charlie. It’s not often you get a night off. We’ve some celebrating and catching up to do.” Mel handed me another pint. “To the prodigal daughter, who has followed the siren call to her home, to Lola Dearly and a fresh start.”
The chorus of cheers filled the air, and laughter filled the bar.
Lola chatted with customers, served drinks and wiped down sides. She drew me to her without even trying. She mesmerised me, just like she had when we were younger. If we could have five minutes together, I could die a happy man. This time I wouldn’t bother with words. A kiss would be the priority. I’d kiss her and if she stayed, I’d tell her my feeling were still the same. That she is, and has always been, the only woman I’ve ever wanted.
Lacey stood in front of me and blocked my view of Lola. “Will you stop staring? It’s embarrassing.”
I took a last gulp and handed the empty glass to my sister. “Yeah, well, I’m going now, anyway.”
“Are you serious? I really thought it was all a teenage crush.”
“Hmm, yeah, you’re right. A crush.”
Lacey shook her head then tilted it like an expectant puppy, but I was giving nothing away. “Talk to her, nutter. You’re all grown up and for some reason you have the girls swooning. Lola will listen, I’m sure. She always had a soft spot for you.”
“It was a crush. Just leave it, will you?” I pushed past her into the cool night air and headed back to the café with my head filled with Lola Dearly and a fresh start.
Photo by MOHANN on Pixabay.com
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