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He stood at the bonfire with his head high, shoulders back, radiating a military type of confidence. With one hand he swept his dark hair across his forehead and even through the flickering orange hue I could tell he had amazing eyes.
Something drew his gaze to mine. Fate? Providence? My heart stopped beating. He smiled shyly then glanced away, his focus returning to the erratic dancing of the flames.
I’d never seen him before which, in Eastcove New Brunswick, was an unusual occurrence.
My best friends, Samara and Becca, stood beside me, each with a can of Coke in their hands.
“Who is that?” Samara shouted over the noise of the music blaring from a truck that was backed up close to the pit. Four teens sat squeezed together on the tailgate laughing at someone’s joke.
Becca shouted back, “I think it’s a new guy.”
Samara fiddled with her long black braid. “Since when does anyone new move to Eastcove?”
“He’s cute!” Becca said.
“I saw him first.” I gave him a little finger wave and started to make my way to the other side of the fire. I meant to clearly establish my intentions to claim this new boy.
I was intercepted by Colby Johnston.
“Hey, Seaweed.” He moved in a little too close for comfort. I took a subtle step sideways.
I couldn’t stop twisting my neck, watching the mysterious new guy. Another girl was chatting him up and a tickle of irritation curled up in my gut.
“What’re you looking at?” Colby’s gaze followed mine. “Ah, him.”
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard about him already. Eastcove was a dying fishing village, the kind of town people left. A new family would’ve definitely made the gossip hotline.
“So, about us?” Colby said, like he’d said it a thousand times. Which he had.
I took a sip from my water bottle and tried to pretend I didn’t hear him.
“Dori. We need to talk about this.”
I let out a frustrated sigh. “Okay, talk.”
He swigged back his drink, then spoke into my ear, “I know you already know this, but I guess I always thought we’d get together sometime. Sometime soon.”
I did know this. I think everybody knew this. We were swim team champions. We were good friends. Even Samara and Becca thought we’d make the perfect couple.
Colby’s dark eyes reflected the jumping flames, and I resisted the urge to reach over and rub his buzz cut, wanting to make everything okay.
Instead, I shook my head softly. “I’m sorry.” I hated hurting him. I couldn’t help that I didn’t feel the same way.
His head fell forward. “I know, Seaweed. Forget I said anything.” He slipped away, losing himself in the crowd. I blew out a heavy sigh.
The flames of the bonfire licked high toward the murky, open sky. The burning wood snapped and popped at its base. Smoke meshed with the salty essence of the sea and I breathed it in slowly. Peering through the sparks I kept my focus on the mystery guy. He caught me looking at him and this time he didn’t look away. We gradually moved toward each other, until finally we were side by side.
“I’m Dori Seward,” I said, loudly.
“Yeah, like the fish in the movie.” Did I really just say that? “It’s a nickname because I like to swim. A lot.” Okay, so much for smooth. Just kill me now.
He motioned for us to move away from the music toward the waves slapping the shore.
“It’s a little quieter over here,” he said. Then he shook my hand. “I’m Tor Riley.” It was warm and strong.
“Where did you move from?” I asked, tucking my hands back into my pockets.
“So, you’re not that far from home.”
“I guess. I still have the Bay of Fundy.”
He sipped his soda and I relieved my dry throat with my water.
“What do you think of Eastcove so far?”
He shrugged. “It’s okay.”
“What brought your parents here?” I knew there wasn’t much left for work.
Tor fussed the sand with his shoe. “Uh, I’m not here with them. They, uh, travel a lot. I’m living with my uncle.”
I got the impression it was a touchy subject.