Issue #28: The Beach Episode

This entry is part 4 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 5

Juniper sighed contentedly. Even without Adel, she was in heaven; hot weather, hot sand, and hot sun bouncing off her reflector into her face. It was as if she’d never really been truly warm before in her life and she was reveling in it.

She contemplated just staying there all day, but the tantalizing scent wafting from the burger stand not far from their spot made her realize that at some point, she’d have to get up to eat. Her hand quested out to find her drink. It was warm. That was one of the few things that shouldn’t be so.

Reluctantly, she dropped the reflector and opened her eyes. Directly ahead of her, the volleyball game was still going on. Kay and Cyn had lured a pair of guys, possibly seniors or college age from the looks of them, into a game for a ‘friendly wager’ and were in the process of hustling them for souvenir money.

No one else was looking her way, so she picked up her drink and blew on it. A thin layer of ice formed from the condensation on the plastic cup and the drink instantly cooled. Now armed with a properly chilled drink, she took in the game.

Before long, worry started to creep into her mind. Cyn was definitely making liberal use of her abilities; stretching just a bit more than she should have been able to, throwing her center of gravity around at will, drastically increasing the strength in her serving arm…

Juniper wondered if she only noticed because she knew Cyn so well, or if she was really being so obvious. She prayed Kay didn’t notice, but she was fairly certain neither of the guys did thanks to Cyn’s low necked, black and gold one piece with random slashes cut across the belly and ribs and Kay’s ‘Christmas in July’ themed red hair and fluorescent green tankini.

She briefly considered her own suit; a backless, green and white one piece with a heart-shaped cutout over her belly button. It was cute in the adorable sense; nowhere near as flattering or revealing as those of her friends. Not that she cared. After all, she wasn’t there to scam on boys like Cyn or Kay. She was just there to enjoy her time there and soak up every bit of warmth she possibly could. With a contented sigh, she sank back onto her beach chair and closed her eyes.

“We’re back!” Lisa’s voice announced at that precise moment. Juniper’s eyes fluttered open again in time to see a bottle of sunscreen being thrust toward her. “Jun, you can’t sit out in the sun unprotected like this, you’ll burn or go all leathery or something.”

“But it feels so nice.” Juniper languidly took the proffered bottle. She squeezed some of the cream out on her hand. It was unpleasantly cool. Unaware of her discomfort, Lisa flopped down in the chair beside her.

“You won’t believe who we saw.” JC’s voice followed the sound of the cooler opening behind her.

“Jennifer Kinney?” Juniper guessed, naming the actress that portrayed Winter Capshaw on Malady Place.

JC and Lisa blinked at each other in confusion for a second. “Uh… no.” JC took the seat on the other side of Lisa.

“Oh.” Juniper deflated a little from her preemptive excitement and started to rub the sunscreen on her arms.

“Warrick and Tink are here.” Lisa said before she could guess again.

Juniper made a noise somewhere between a whimper and a sneeze and glanced over to where Cyn was spiking the volleyball. “They are?” she cleared her throat and tried again in a normal, calmer tone. “They are? But how? None of us knew where they were going. Cyn made sure of it.”

“Apparently, that was a mistake.” Lisa sighed and followed Juniper’s gaze to where the game was ending. “She’s not going to be happy when we tell her.”

“Do we have to tell her?”

“Oh hell yes.” JC intoned. “I don’t get why she wanted to make sure we didn’t go to the same place they went, but hell if I want to be around if she finds out, then finds out we didn’t tell her.”

“Then you get to tell her.” Juniper said quickly. “I’m not it.”

At the volleyball net, Kay and Cyn’s opponents ducked under the net to congratulate the victors.

“Damn, you’re really good.” One of the two, a tall, broad shouldered redhead named Sam said to Cyn.

“Correction;” Cyn said, grinning broadly and throwing an arm over Kay’s shoulder. “We’re really good. I can’t spike ‘em without my partner in crime setting them up.”

“So what; are you two on your school’s team or something?” The other, a shorter, dark skinned, slightly overweight brunette named Maxwell asked, taking his wallet form his back pocket.

“Something like that.” Cyn shrugged, holding out a hand for payment.

“Damn, I knew we were getting hustled.” Maxwell groaned, slapping four ten dollar bills into Cyn’s hand. “What school are you guys from anyway?”

Cyn and Kay glanced at one another. “School?” They chorused.

“Yeah.” Maxwell continued, “I mean, we’re not technically in school yet, but I’m going to Ohio State this fall and this guy…” he elbowed Sam in the side, “Mr. Smart Guy here got into MIT.”

Kay mouthed the phrase ‘college guys’ to Cyn, who nodded slowly. “Yeah… our school…” She was worn out from playing, addled by raging teenage hormones and hungry on a truly intense level from abusing her powers; all of which conspired to rob her of all creativity. She tried to fake a college name, but only came up with one name. “We’re freshmen at uh… Dayspring.”

Maxwell mouthed the phrase ‘college girls’ to Sam, who nodded slowly. “That’s cool. So are you in-state?”

“My friend is.” Cyn said, presenting Kay like a prize. “Me? I just got here.”

Sam nodded a bit more. “So, me and my friend were wondering… are you two doing anything tonight?”

“Absolutely noth—“Cyn grunted as Kay’s elbow found her side.

“Absolutely, we do!” Kay interrupted. She held up a hand upon seeing the boys’ disappointment. “But not like that. See, we’re playing at the Café on the Dunes tonight. They’re having a big bonfire out on the sand and everything. You guys should come.”

“That sounds good.” Maxwell nodded. Then his expression took on a confused air. “Who’s this guy?” Cyn and Kay turned to see JC sauntering toward them, casting dirty looks backward at Lisa and Juniper who were waving to him.

“Sam, Max; JC.” Cyn introduced them as JC reached them. “JC isn’t one of our boyfriends, if that’s what you’re thinking. He belongs to the girl in white that’s pointing and laughing.” She indicated Lisa.

“Hey.” Sam, Max and JC exchanged head tilts.

There was a long interval of silence. Cyn glared at JC. “And here’s the part where JC tells us why he’s interrupting the flirting.” She growled.

“Hey, blame Flower Child and my girlfriend.” JC shrugged. “they railroaded me into telling you.”

Cyn cast her glare up to her other friends. “This better be good…”

“Warrick and Tink are here.”

Cyn cast about in confusion, looking for the couple in question. “What? Where?”

“Not here here.” JC shook his head. Here as in Dawson Bay. This general ‘here’, not this specific ‘here’.”

Cyn’s anger turned to horror. “How can that even be? I made sure of it—“ She turned to Kay. “Didn’t I make sure.”

“You made sure.” Kay assured her.

“I don’t know,” JC shrugged again. “Something about internet searches not being random or something. Tink figured it out, ask her.”

The look Cyn gave JC could have cut a car in half. “I will not ask Tink, because I will not see Tink. I’m leaving them alone. That was the whole point. I could be the good friend and let them be alone for once!”

“Uh… we should be going.” Maxwell said, grabbing Sam by the shoulder, “Come on, little buddy.”

“See you guys at the Café?” Sam asked, resisting the pull to smile at Kay.

“Totally. You’ll know us when you see us.” Kay replied, “We’re Snackrifice.”

“Great.” Sam said, finally following Maxwell.

“God damn it!” Cyn fumed, kicking sand. “I am tired, I am hungry, and the guy I was hitting on now thinks I’m a stalker or something.” She pointed at JC. “I’m officially blaming you. Bring me five burgers or feel my wrath.”

JC looked indignant. “hey, now wait a minute, I didn’t—“

“Wrath!”

“Fine.” JC huffed, turning to walk back up the beach, “You’re lucky Juniper said she was going to treat everyone to lunch, or I’d be pissed right now.”

“So…” Kay sidled up beside the still irate Cyn. “What do we do now?”

Cyn closed her eyes and breathed. “I’ll tell ya, Kay: I’m going to snarf those burgers, then we’re going over there;” She pointed to where a group of people their age, including a number of attractive young men, were grilling, “And we’re hustling another game of volleyball.”

“You’re not going to go nuts over this Tink and Warrick thing?”

“Kay; my friend, I’m a little sad and a lot hungry right now.” Cyn said philosophically. “But I’m getting free food, lots of shirtless guys and we’ve made almost two hundred bucks in the past two hours through the gratuitous abuse of my secret powers. I’m going to be just fine.”

***

Alexis smiled and took another sip of wine. They were far enough out that the only thing of the shore she could make out was a huge bonfire going on the beach and the faint lights of the boardwalk.

“So? Good vacation so far?” Ian asked, folding the remnants of their candle lit, shipboard meal into the basket it had been produced from. Renting the boat and having the meal catered had been a perfect synergy of his sensibilities and Laurel’s resources.

“Very.” Alexis agreed. “I have to say, I’m glad we did this.”

“You know I am.” Ian held out his hand, palm up and began tracing intricate patterns in the air with his fingertips. The wine in Alexis’s glass boiled to life, rising and forming up into the shape of a rose blossom inside the glass.

She laughed and watched it in awe. “My, you’re just full of surprises this weekend, aren’t you?”

“I try.” Ian said, trying to sound casual despite the concentration required to keep the rose formed. “Hell, I even picked the place using a random web search.”

Alexis got a devilish look on her face; a look Ian remembered from their days at the Academy, which generally meant that some sort of trouble was to follow. “I guess it’s my turn, eh?” She lunged at him, capturing his lips with hers.

The rose collapsed almost instantly.

***

“I’m afraid I still don’t understand.” A gaunt, bespectacled man was saying. He stood before a large, round desk, at which sat an elderly black man.

“You don’t really have too, Jerry.” The old man said, smoothing his simple, but immaculate suit. “Put it up to me being eccentric if you want. Put it up to me being fickle. But that’s what I want done. Have I ever steered you wrong before?”

He hadn’t. He knew it, Jerry knew it. No matter how strange their arrangement was, Jerry had to admit that everything that his business partner told him to do turned out to be the perfect choice. It was like having a friend with a Midas touch.

But recently, Jerry had wondered if being even richer than he was now was worth being a powerless figurehead in the company everyone thought he masterminded. Carrying out the orders of a man that insisted on not having any public connection to the company was less and less appealing.

“I’m only telling this for your own good, Jerry; and for the good of our customers. Sure, it was novel, but the way it is now is just false advertising, isn’t it?”

“But you suggested it in the first place!” Jerry argued.

“And now I’m changing my mind. Let’s not forget that I designed the Quintillion search algorithm; the fastest and fastest updating search routine on the new internet infrastructure. And just about every other piece of hardware and software we make. I know what I’m doing. Have some faith.”

Jerry frowned, but relented. His business partner was always right after all. “Okay; change the randomizer to a totally random seed system. Got it.” He sighed, “Any other minor code changes that will require us taking the entire network offline while we’re at it?”

“No, Jerry. Just go home and get some sleep before you do any more work. You seem stressed. By the way, there’s a gift for your wife in your office; you forgot her birthday again.”

Jerry’s eyes widened in panic. “Oh my god, I did!” Any concerns about his relationship with his business partner dissolved before the memory of the numerous other times he’d been helped that way. “Thank you so much, George, I’d be divorced ten times over if it wasn’t for you!” He hurried for the door. “And don’t worry; I’ll put in the work order on that search fix before I leave tonight!”

George smiled at the closing door. “Only five times over, Jerry.” He mused, “But it won’t ever come to pass if I can help it.” He swiveled his seat to look out the window. A tacky little snow globe featuring a surfing penguin sat on the sill, proclaiming to be from Dawson Bay, VA Beach.

Picking up the snow globe, he shook it. Jerry wasn’t the only one in need of some stress relief, George reminded himself. Everyone deserved a beach episode every once and a while. He was just happy that he could help.

End Issue #28

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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