Ch. 20 Fair Skinned Woman

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***Beth

No one can look attractive with a snorkeling mask and tube stuck to their face. Not even Russell, unless she looked at his shoulders down—then the story was quite different. Her heart rate picked up, sending starry flashes to her eyes.

Stop it, she thought. Stop it! For pity's sake, stop reminding yourself how sexy his body is. She could have sworn there were distant drums beating in an urgent, tribal rhythm.

"Okay, so bite down hard on the tube or you will feel like you're gagging and water will leak in," Russell was explaining. Beth tried to pay attention and banish the drum beating. "Keep your head and body flat on the surface, we'll try diving some other time. It can be tricky. Stay next to me or if for some reason we get separated, then head back for shore."

"Are you sure this will work? I'm not a very strong swimmer; after a couple of minutes, I'm bushed," she said, nervous.

"Snorkeling is nothing like swimming. You float the whole time, there is almost no effort, I promise. That said, it can still be dangerous if you go too far and get caught in the current, which is why we are not going too far today. Ready?"

She nodded and stomped awkwardly through the sand in her flippers to the water. She did exactly what he did: waded in slowly and leaned forward to float on her stomach. She had a short moment of panic when she had to take her first breath while her face was underwater, but it passed as soon as her lungs were full.

Fantastic was the only word she could find for the experience. She wanted to sing every goofy Disney song she could remember from The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tangled and after a few minutes The Sound of Music. She wasn't sure what the Austrian hills of pre-World War II being sung about by a novice nun had to do with snorkeling in Hanalei, but that was how she felt; that this whole underwater world was vibrantly, fabulously alive and full of song. And there she was, floating around on it, soaking it up, living with it; the coral, the rocks, the sliding sand, a sea turtle (!), the brightly colored fish and dancing sea weed. Where the heck was her camera?

She would have to buy one of those bright yellow, underwater cameras she had seen in store, and come again tomorrow when she was prepared.

Russell seemed content to follow her around as she flapped this way and that. Every once in a while, he would dive to go in between the coral reefs and she was as happy to watch him as she had been to watch the fish.

So she was weak, there were worse crimes. Live it up while you can, she told herself as they swam back to shore. There is so much to admire; he was just one more gorgeous creature to look at on this island. Go ahead and be weak.

They rinsed off under the public showers at the beach bathrooms and by then, it was evening. Beth was starving.

"So where do we eat tonight?" she asked. "I hope we don't have to catch our own fish and grill it back at the campsite. No way am I doing that."

"It is one possibility, but if that doesn't sound exactly appealing to you, then I suggest we go to a beachside restaurant I know of."

"Was it one of your favorite places to eat when you came here?"

"My aunt was an avid lunch packer and my uncle was a master griller. The very few times I ate out, I went to this restaurant," Russell said, smiling.

"Then by all means, after you."

***Russell

Interesting how some things never change, and even when they do, it still feels exactly the same, Russell thought as he opened the door to the North Shore Grill and Buffet. The hole-in-the-wall restaurant was, as they say, off the beaten path and not near anything else except for a lonely stretch of sand. It was kept alive by the reputation of its great food. They had remodeled; the paint was new and the tables were solid wood. Yet, the atmosphere was the same and the view had not changed. He was fifteen again in a thirty-four year old's body. The smell had not changed, either; his stomach contorted in hunger pains at the grilled food odors pervading the tiny restaurant.

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