The beach were not populated with many people and it reminded December of how different it was from the one she went with her parents years ago. Then again, that was where most attractions were.
This place they were at wasn't too rowdy but still active nonetheless.
They smelt the salty air and felt the temperature drop even before seeing the beach, and the closer they got there, the crisper it felt. The sun was still glaring at them but there was little to no burn to it due to the sprays of breeze coming from the ocean.
Not too hot, and not too cold – December thought this was just nice for a day at the beach.
The path they were on led them to see a panoramic view of the ocean, how it hugged the shore lazily, and it was teeming with people sunbathing and playing games like catch, volleyball and flying kites. Lifeguard towers stood parallel in every few meters and there were also people in wetsuits and surfboards in the water, riding the waves that emerged from the friction of the wind and the water surface. There were various shops too; surf shacks, restaurant and even soft serve carts.
December rubbed the chill on her arms absent-mindedly, mind turning in excitement at what she would do; eat some food, test the water by the shore because why not?; pick a spot to rest, and build sandcastles. Ah, I should have brought a book with me too. Although with the happy chatters going on, I probably wouldn't focus much on it.
Brooke breathed the air in rapture, eyes transfixed at the blue and green scenery before her.
"Ah. My paradise."
December agreed. "I'm so glad you brought us here. I'll stay and find a spot, though. Anyone –"
She turned then blinked her eyes at Raven, who was in the midst of wrapping around her long swim- wear skirt, her previous top replaced by a crop tank top, showing a little of her midriff. She smiled sheepishly when December raised a brow.
"That was quick."
"I can't wait." Raven simply said, still sheepish.
She laughed a little. "Alright then. Anyone else wanna go and change, you can do that and I'll just be around here."
"Ridiculous. I'll change when we find a spot." Brooke said, as she sweep her gaze around the beach.
She said that but December saw the intense gaze she had when she was looking for something. No doubt scouring for attractive guys, December thought with an unsuppressed grin.
"I didn't get to bring anything to change into, so I'll be over there." Katya pointed to a clothing store not far away selling beach shorts. Serena offered to follow along.
They eventually found a spot a short distance away from the shore. Despite the slightly pricey item, thanks to Brooke being persistent, they got themselves one of those huge beach umbrellas and laid the beach towels they brought with them.
When Brooke sat down and slathered lotion on herself, she said, "Are you sure you don't want to change?"
December unlaced her shoes, replying absent-mindedly, "Mhm. I don't see the point if I'm going to stay here and rest a little."
Brooke shook her head. "The point of staying at the beach is so you could show off your bikini bottoms, regardless whether you're going out under the sun or staying in here like the vampire you are." She then chuckled heartily.
December couldn't help but joined in – Brooke's laughter was just infectious. "Oh, leave me alone. I'll change when I have to."
December did bring some clothes with her, but she wasn't going to change anytime soon. There was no point to it if she was just going to rest under the big shade and then check some stores out later. She certainly could do that in just her current outfit – besides, Brooke probably didn't know this, but December admitted to herself that she felt a little insecure about showing off her skin and curves. She would love to be confident just like her friends, but confidence, she mused, seemed to have a love and hate relationship with her.
Then she looked at the fine, white sand and her discarded shoes beside the towel. I should probably get myself a pair of flip flops, though.
She cast a quick look around the area, noting Raven's form getting smaller as she went to search for the toilet. December turned then said, "I hope she'll be alright. I can't believe there's no restroom area around here."
"Hmm, yeah. With all the shops and restaurants, you'd think they would put a stall or something nearby, but nope. Anyway," Brooke said mindlessly as she handed December her sunscreen. "Here. Don't forget the lotion."
She took it and put on the sunscreen all over her, not wanting to take the risk of getting sunburned. She felt the breeze caressing her skin, the lazy roll of the waves splashing the shore. She closed her eyes briefly, taking in the salty scent of the beach, and the way the waves tried to lull her – as though they were trying to pull her to the ocean.
A minute later, she heard Brooke gasped, "I found my lifeguards! Oh my God, look at those muscles. The tallest one is so yummy."
Perplexed, she opened her eyes and looked to where Brooke directed her. She was pointing towards the crowd, and December need only to spot a group of guys in lifeguard attire.
Three guys were talking amongst themselves. With the word 'lifeguard' displayed on their person, their uniforms consisted of dark beach trunks, long sleeve shirt, a t-shirt and…one of them didn't have one at all. They were one of those people with obvious lean muscles, always keeping themselves fit. Of course, December thought, lifeguards have to maintain their stamina since they're constantly on the move.
She felt herself blush at the sudden attractiveness of their gestures which was usually nothing out of the ordinary. The one on the left wore a long sleeve shirt, grabbing his slick mane and tying it into a knot at the top. December thought he had that vibe of being a fearless warrior and a bartender at the same time. The guy on the right shoved the left one playfully and even that seemed deliberately seductive.
The third one, though, was gracing the beach with his shirtless self. She watched, entranced, as he raked his wet hair back from his face, his arms flexing while he did so. He shone brighter than the two for some reason she couldn't comprehend. As though he was the missing piece to complete the three-man puzzle.
They were walking with such ease, taking their time on God's earth, as though nothing could stop them from living the moment.
Then, she noticed their heights; they were like pillars, or the ruins she saw on historical sites. Full heights and a smidge shorter. It didn't really make a difference much, but was still something she noted.
But wait…why does one of them look familiar?
"You're kidding." Brooke exclaimed in disbelief, and December suddenly felt her heart racing. "Is that…is that Zach?"
December glanced at Brooke sharply, "What? No way," before squinting her eyes at the guys. Then, they widened, her lips parting as her face reddened even more.
December could recognize that dimpled smile and his laugh – now that they were getting nearer and in their hearing range – and the way he carried himself; confident, one that he seemed to be born with.
But most shocking of all was that…the shirtless lifeguard was Zach.
Already she noted some women and girls looking at him discreetly.
Thoughts raced in her mind. What was he doing here? A lifeguard? Why didn't he tell her anything?
Her relief at seeing him changed into curiosity. She couldn't help but think of the times when he didn't text her. She remembered that he volunteered for Sid's brother's event back then…yet, she thought he could have mention about this too.
Despite her concern, she could feel herself losing her composure because Zach in a dashing school uniform, in a pair of gym wear, in just casual apparel was enough to make her feel out of sorts. But Zach shirtless…in a beach trunk…looking unapologetically beautiful?
The fact that she hadn't swoon like some of the heroines in her romance novels amazed her.
He was perfection.
His tanned complexion; healthy from the sun's glow, his pecs that are visible but not painfully so; the way his arm flexed when he reached to pat the tallest guy's shoulder.
She didn't think it was possible to feel even more euphoric in that moment than she had ever been.
December was mesmerized, her heart soaring when she saw Zach at the beach and she felt the urge to reach him.
Before her feet could, her voice did.
"Zach!" she called out.
He looked up, searching, and searching, and then their eyes met and her breath hitched.
He seemed to be assessing something, before the surprise registered on his face, and then he was walking towards her.
All at once, she could breathe again.
But then she saw his expression changed; from pleased to pure worry.
Bemused, everything in that moment next seemed to slow in motion. She saw him jogging, trying to reach her faster, his lips working out the words, but the sound came a beat later when she found out why.
She heard people letting out a shriek – was it her friends or someone else? – and the last thought she had before meeting the ground was, Ah, this feels like déjà vu.
Something hit her. She didn't know what but she remembered something hitting her and then her vision blacked out. What…happened before that? She couldn't pin a specific thing to it…
There was a cold sensation somewhere on her body, but it could probably be the wind.
She was also hearing sounds but thought it sounded quite far away. It reminded her of being in a glass or a space that was soundproof, but almost poorly.
It was getting nearer now. Another thought occurred, and with it the panic slowly engulfing her. Water…am I in the water…or maybe I am coming out of the water…? But I can't swim! So why would I –
Her eyes fluttered open, blurry, the frantic voice of someone saying her…name? They were saying her name. Like someone who was slowly coming out of their slumber, December noted the now growing noises and sounds around her, and felt people crowding in on her. She heard someone asking people to step back and give some space.
And then she saw him. An angel.
She was seeing sparkles now too, around a translucent ring of pink haze. December thought if she hadn't already lost herself to a realm with clear blue skies and cotton clouds… that should confirm it.
But…why would an angel have a crease between his brows? He was saying something...but what? And why did he looked familiar the more she focused on him –
"Zach. My angel." She breathed dreamily, her voice thin as air as she murmured, "You're here."
She felt something warm in her palm, and then, "Yeah, I'm right here." She heard something like relief from him, and then his voice sounded soft and gentle but assertive. She felt assured of his presence.
He then held up his fingers in front of her. "How many fingers am I showing?"
She squinted to get a clearer vision, but otherwise said, "Three."
He moved fast but practical, checking her vision and searched for wounds, though not in a way that made her feel disturbed or uncomfortable. This manner of him reminded her suddenly that Zach must have been used to doing this.
He is a lifeguard, her mind echoed. That reminds me…
When she was adjusted to her surroundings, December thought to sit up but Zach held her.
"Careful, don't get up so soon." He warned, voice still clouding in concern. She bit her lip and nodded slowly, taking note of the crowd lessening around her. The two guys who were with him had first aid kit with them, one trying to calm the people around – she noticed that Brooke was with him, but Raven, Serena, and Katya were still not in sight – and the other was looking at her.
"Is she alright?" He said to Zach, bending a little as he put his hands on his knees.
Zach nodded to him, glancing up to show a grateful smile, "Thanks for bringing the kit, Leo." before helping December to sit up slowly.
She was shy again. Her gaze wandered and she averted it from his body, only to find herself glancing again – or trying not to – at him. It was a tug of war within herself; avert or absorb the view?
He smiled a little wider and it made her wonder if he knew her struggle. The worry was still there, though. She felt a pressure of something cold at the back of her nape. "Here, hold the pack against your neck." He directed her hand on it, and then added, "How do you feel? Any pain or discomfort?"
She shook her head testily, not wanting to strain her muscles before saying, "I feel…fine. And no. No pain at all."
"That's good. I'm glad." He nodded before adding in a remorseful grimace. "I should have gotten to you on time."
December didn't really know what to say to him at that. She could barely form her thoughts. But she was glad that he was beside her, that he was here with her. He also saved her life, in a sense.
Wanting to say something – her gratitude – but fearing the words coming out wrong, what she managed to say eventually was, "Hey, don't think like that. You're here now. I'm okay, really."
She turned to see Brooke glaring but also failing at the tallest lifeguard who had been barring people from crowding them. He was blond, a lighter shade than Caleb's, and he was looking down in amusement at her.
Brooke then looked up at him – who was a head taller than her – and although she tried to appear irritated, December thought her friend was still smitten with the guy who obviously vexed her.
"Excuse me, are you saying I can't see my friend right there? Are you a lifeguard, or a bodyguard?"
The guy only quipped, "I can be both, depending on what I'm needed for." before glancing towards Zach and December.
Zach blinked before shaking his head with a laugh, already accustomed by the guy's antics.
"She's a friend, Hans."
She saw Brooke storing his name and with a quick assessment, decided that she would still be interested in the tall guy she must have been eyeing earlier.
"Well," Brooke said, giving her best displeased look but somehow one that portrayed she thought he was a fine looking specimen, then adding, "Excuse me. I am needed by my best friend."
December bit her lip from smiling at Brooke's theatrics. She managed to amuse and warm her at the same time, and that was, she mused, one of Brooke's magic.
"Brooke. I'm all right."
Brooke gave her a look of disbelief before looking at Zach. "Is she hurt? Do we need to get her to the hospital?"
Zach smiled, the relief apparent when he said, "No bumps or bleeding, thank God." He then turned to December and said, "But if there's any complications, if you feel nauseous or any discomfort, tell me right away. Otherwise just take it easy and rest."
December felt her heart warmed when he said that. That he practically told her she could count on him – yet a part of her felt embarrassed and guilty, for putting a burden on him – even though he was her boyfriend.
"That's the plan coming here actually." December said sheepishly.
Brooke pursed her lips. "I think he means stay away from the crowd, and from guys with balls."
A moment of pause, saved for the chatters around them.
December, Zach, and even the two guys looked at her funnily.
Brooke rolled her eyes, accustomed to explaining. "The guys playing with balls earlier?" She gave them a 'duh' look.
That didn't help matters either because December's face looked pinched – torn between laughing and cringing – and Zach couldn't help the grin on his face, whereas Leo raised his brow at her in merriment.
Hans burst out laughing.
Brooke's face had a pink hue to it, as though the sky had caressed her cheeks in endearment, amused as well by her.
"The volleyball guys," She exclaimed before adding in disbelief. "Am I the only one here who doesn't have her mind in the gutter? And isn't this an emergency? This is not a time to be amused."
Hans dwindled his amusement to a few chuckles.
"Of course it's not." Leo said lightly, before adding with a knowing look to Hans, "But as having dirty thoughts, we can't really help it, can we?"
Hans grinned at Leo and waggled his brows.
Brooke seemed to be reading something between them, and her eyes droop a little in disappointment.
Still, there were some hope glimmering in her eyes.
"Thank you for your help," December said, slowly getting to her feet with the help of Brooke and Zach. "That was quite embarrassing, actually."
Zach frowned. "No, it's not. These things happened almost every day and it's our job to help and save lives. You shouldn't feel embarrassed."
"Okay, then I feel stupid for not minding my surroundings then. I'll be careful." She nodded vigorously when she saw Zach about to protest.
"You heard what he said. Back to the shade, you." Brooke quipped before sharing a look with December.
December knew what it meant; she needed an explanation as to why Zach didn't tell her he was here…as a lifeguard apparently. I mean, she thought to herself, isn't this something you'd tell your girlfriend?
"Looks like things are under control. We'll be at the post to write this in. Meet you back there?" Hans said.
Zach nodded and said he would catch them later.
Brooke's eyes followed Hans and Leo, her eyes widening when she saw Hans squeezed Leo's bottom before the latter pushed him jokingly. She looked on in disappointment, her lips slightly pursed.
"Hey," December whispered, having seen what upset Brooke. "I know he's cute, but you know there's so many guys out there who would vie for your attention, right?"
Brooke flashed December a smile, her dejected look replaced by one of pure confidence. "I know." She whispered back. "Thanks for reminding me."
December chuckled. "Glad to do so."
When Zach looked at the both of them questioningly, a lopsided grin on his face, Brooke grinned but said nothing otherwise.
December only said, "Just girl talk."
"Ah. I see how it is." Zach nodded knowingly, his brow lifted in mirth as he looked at a still laughing December.
When they got December under the shade, Zach left to attend to his duties. Before he did, he took her by surprise when he said, "I'll come and see you when my shift's over, okay?"
December had to remind herself to plant her feet on the ground, for fear she might float. The way he was smiling and worrying about her, was it bad of her to revel in it all? Of course she had never wanted people to worry about her, but if she could grasp a piece of attention from him, then she didn't think she would mind it at all.
Besides, he wanted to see her. He didn't forget about her after all these days.
December felt her spirit lifting.
"Yeah, okay." She said softly, an exuberant smile lighting up her features.
Brooke watched him go then nudged her shoulder, saying, "See? He wants to see you. And look, he's been a busy guy and on top of being a lifeguard, even I can't blame him."
December paused in thought, agreeing with Brooke and realizing that she had been overthinking it. She didn't want to feel like a needy girlfriend who needed to know her boyfriend's whereabouts all the time. It also felt silly now, worrying that he had forgotten about her because he didn't get back to her in time.
I guess…the only thing that kind of nagged at me was him not telling me about it, she mused.
"What…did I miss?" Raven approached them, noting from their expressions that something had happened. Of course, the first thing she noticed was the cold pack in December's hands. "Why do you have that ice pack, D?"
December looked on sheepishly. "I got hit and fell."
At Raven's wide and worried look, Brooke nodded and added, "She fainted too."
"What? How did it happened? Are you hurt in anyway?" Raven tried to check on her, but December assured her she was fine.
"I saw Zach and I got eager but then I didn't see the ball coming and well…that happened."
Raven raised her brow. "Wait, wait…you got hit? And Zach…is here? Wow, I sure miss a lot."
Brooke tilted her head in an uncertain nod. "More or less. But according to Mr. Lifeguard – that's Zach, by the way – she's alright."
"I did tell you." December raised one brow at her.
Raven was jaw slack at the information she was receiving. And like them, she was surprised to know that Zach was also here, and that he was a lifeguard. Was there anything he couldn't do? Still, her friend's condition was important and she was glad that December didn't need to go to the ER.
Just then, Serena and Katya joined them, both looking exhausted but already in their beach wear.
"You looked tired. What happened?" December asked.
"The one we went to didn't have what we wanted, and so we had to go around, only to find that there was a place a few stores away than the first." Serena said tiredly before adding, "They could have just told us."
Katya shrugged. "I am not surprised at these self-calculating pricks. They'll give us hell if it means not helping their rivals or whatev – huh. What happened to you?"
December laughed. That seemed to be the first thing her friends said. She shook her head and explained to them all. "But enough about me. If I don't feel well, I'll just go and tell Zach, okay?"
Katya noted December's flushed cheeks whenever she spoke of her boyfriend. She made a mental note to keep in mind that December actually was dating someone, instead of being single. She frowned, not knowing how she didn't think of that. Perhaps she just gives me a single's vibe, she mused.
"Katya, is everything okay?"
She snapped to December, registering the girl's bemused expression. Or maybe she's just too kind?
She shook her head. "Yes. I was thinking of those boat rides," before pointing to a couple of people on a speedboat. "Want to ride on that?"
They turned towards where Katya was pointing, their pleasant expressions turned pale.
Well, it was mostly December and Brooke.411Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsakWYNVjB4ns 184.108.40.206da2