While I was playing the boy scout in town, William was giving last minute instructions to Nick.
The two of them stood in his study, between the circus posters and the sketch of the pipeline.
"…and tell my nephew to keep his girlfriend away from the library." William said.
He waved a nervous hand in the general direction of the sketch.
"Her mother doesn't want her to know about that pipeline going across their beach."
Nick made a note on his pad and looked up for the next instruction, his face a little too bland.
William paused, suddenly suspicious.
"Tim's here, isn't he?"
Nick swallowed before answering.
"No? What do you mean, 'No'?"
"He isn't here yet."
William's hand wandered toward his breast pocket, and the reassuring feel of his lucky pen.
"There, you see? That's what I mean. Little things like that begin to happen, and… and…"
Images of his red top wandered furtively through the recesses of his brain.
"…the equilibrium begins to… to wobble, and the first thing you know…"
"He'll be here," Nick said. "He's a good kid. He's just a little late, that's all."
William teetered on the edge of panic for a moment, then pulled himself upright. He hated surprises.
"Yeah, well, he'd better have a good excuse, or he won't be spending any more vacations at the beach with me."
* * * * *
The reason that William's nephew was late for his duties at the party had dark brown eyes and light brown hair. Julie was eighteen, slim in a way that made her seem fragile, and would have been quite beautiful if she hadn't always looked so worried.
I can't blame Tim for being late. When I met her, later that evening, I fell instantly and irrevocably in love myself.
But at the moment, I was still making my way through town, William was still blaming Tim for being late, and Julie was struggling along a rocky beach in her party dress.
She came to a stop in front of a good sized boulder—which Tim had clambered over without even slowing down—and wondered exactly how she managed to get into these situations.
If she only knew where they were going, or why. It was her own fault. She should have asked him before they got out of the car.
She contemplated her immediate problem, the boulder directly in front of her. Did she risk her shoes, or take them off and almost certainly get a run in her stockings? Talk about a no-win scenario. Maybe Tim could give her a hand. She called after him.
"Tim! Wait! Come back a minute!"
He turned, already a hundred yards down the beach.
"Come on, we're late already-Uncle William's going to kill me."
No, she hadn't really thought so.