79 - Except for the Tray of Fruit

The Guardian Dolphin

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Al was back in the driver's seat. They had followed the bus to it's next stop, and Jonesy had jumped out, telling Al to slide over. He waited patiently, happy to be behind the wheel again.

After a while, Jonesy came walking back, shaking his head.

"He wasn't there. Get on the radio. Ask the police for help."

Al reached for the microphone. Jonesy climbed in, still shaking his head.

"I don't get it," he said. "We were right behind it the whole way. I don't see how he could have got off."

Al mumbled to himself.

"Must be magic."

Jonesy looked at him sharply.

"What?"

Al shrugged.

"Nothing."

* * * * *

I was several blocks away by then, and had just turned off the main highway into a residential area. It was slow going. My leg throbbed mercilessly, even though I tried to carry all of my weight on the good one. I was sweating like a pig, and it wasn't just from the heat.

Still, it was nice to be on a tree-lined street, out of the sun and traffic.

At least I was moving downhill, toward the beach.

* * * * *

About that time, Julie was sitting in her little corner of the deck, not thinking about me anymore at all. The sudden appearance of the girl from the picture had blown every thought out of her mind. All she could do was watch, mindlessly, as Tim and the girl talked, laughed, and teased each other.

Had she been able to think, she probably would have thought that the girl was very attractive, that Tim seemed to be happier than she had known him to be since they met. That Tim and the girl locked eyes in a way that she and Tim never had.

But none of these thoughts went through her mind. She just watched, mesmerized, thinking nothing.

This could have gone on forever, except for the tray of fruit.

It lowered in front of her, slowly, until the pineapple completely blocked her view.

She looked up, momentarily confused and still not thinking any real thoughts at all, to find herself looking into the eyes of the waiter who held the tray.

* * * * *

Danny smiled.

* * * * *

"Some fruit?" he asked.

Julie continued to stare—no words formed in her brain.

The waiter lowered the tray toward her hand.

"Try a grape."

Julie took one, mechanically, and pushed it between her lips. It was firm, and cool. She bit down and the juice, sweet, but not too sweet, cascaded over her tongue and down her throat. The skin was slightly bitter as she chewed it, setting off the flavor of the pulp.

The waiter was still smiling.

"How is it?" he asked.

Julie finished swallowing.

"It's… It's good."

The waiter nodded.

"Have a bunch."

Julie reached out, but her hand couldn't find the grapes without the help of her eyes, which refused to look away from his.

He laughed, and put a bunch in her hand.