Even if I wasn’t looking…
Even if I wasn’t watching…
Even if I wasn’t obsessed…
There’s no way in hell I could miss her.
The beach is packed. It’s Saturday afternoon. And even though it’s a hot June, today is Orange County perfect. Seventy-eight degrees at eight PM and just enough wind to make her golden tresses dance around her heart-shaped face. The waves are just big enough to keep the surfers entertained as she eats her fast-food dinner from the steps at Pier Plaza. The sunset, a red mixed with orange that lines the horizon far off in the distance, sets a scene with warm light that falls across her bronze body.
It’s the perfect evening. But this girl is the only thing I see.
I’ve watched her for three months. She comes to the beach twice a day. Once in the early morning, just before Huntington Beach Pier opens. She does some crazy routine that probably does zero for her conditioning, that’s how easy it looks. Not easy for most. Easy for her. This routine—it’s probably something she’s been doing since she was a kid.
She comes out again each evening. More fast food, eats on the Pier Plaza steps. More sea-watching. Even if there aren’t surfers out there to entertain her, the Pacific Ocean is what occupies her mind.
She pays attention to everything. Everyone who walks by. She never talks to anyone. If the skaters on the bike path hanging out in front of the steps get too close, she leaves. If they engage her, she turns her head. They call her names sometimes, but she’s either deaf or very well-trained.
She’s not deaf.
I know she’s not deaf.
I know where she lives.
I know she’s hiding.
I know I’m the last person she wants to see.
I know she sleeps in boy short underwear and a tank top.
I know she has anxiety issues because she keeps a bottle of pills in her bathroom.
I know she never takes those pills. I count them. But every time I check, the bottle has been moved. So I know she thinks about them often enough to want to hold the bottle.
I know she has a phone. But I also know she never uses it. I’ve checked the minutes. It never changes. I know how much money she has, what’s inside her fridge. I know she touches herself at night sometimes. And she moans as she comes, her back arching for a second.
I know she’s sad and she fights it off. I’ve read her journal pages. It’s not really a diary. She writes the pages each night, then goes to bed, wakes, reads them. Then burns them in the kitchen sink before she starts her AM routine.
They always say the same thing. Please hurry. Please come to me. Please find me. Please don’t forget me. Please, please, please, do not leave me here all alone.
I know a lot about her but I don’t know her name. Or who she’s waiting for. I have an idea, but that might be wishful thinking. I don’t know why she’s here. Or why I’m here, for that matter. I’m as unsure about all those things as she is that this absent prince will come save her.
But I’m certain of one thing.
She is mine.
I’m the one who came to her. I’m the one who found her. I’ll be the one to keep her.