It started again. The itching. I thought I'd go crazy.
As I tried to slither my little finger under my cast, I raised my eyes to find a dark-haired guy watching me. A soft gasp escaped my lips. I was surprised to see anyone paddling in the choppy waves. I'd settled myself on the flat rock overlooking the cove at the far end of the beach where the water was murky precisely because no one ever swam there.
"Hi." The boy appeared to be about seventeen or eighteen. He observed me with a sweet musing look. "I hope I didn't startle you."
"Oh, no," I answered quickly. I noted his large green eyes, the color of the ocean. I'd never seen eyes like his before. "I just didn't expect to find anyone swimming over here. Usually no one does."
"I didn't expect to find anyone sunning herself on these rocks either." The green eyes playfully surveyed me. "Usually no one does." He grinned. "By the way, my name is Adrian. "What's yours?"
"Lariena." Something about this guy, his bemused smile perhaps, or the faint twinkle in his green eyes, melted any distrust I might have felt at being approached by a stranger. At any rate, I figured I could make a quick getaway if I had to, since he would have to climb out of the water before he could grab me.
"Lariena." He spoke the name as if he were tasting it. "What's a pretty girl with such a pretty name doing all by herself on this lonely stretch of the beach?"
"My friends are all swimming and I just decided this would be a good place to sun myself until they all decide to come out of the water," I explained. "As you might have noticed, with this cast on my foot I can't go swimming." I lifted my foot and wiggled it.
"That's too bad," said Adrian. "I would love to ask you to join me in a swim. I just live in the water."
"You sound like my friend Madeline. She loves to swim. I can hardly get her back to shore, even when it's time to go home."
"And you?" Adrian's eyebrows arched mischievously. "Don't you love to swim? When you don't have your foot in a cast, that is."
"Well..." I lowered my voice. "No. I mean, pools are fine, but I don't like to swim at the beach."
"So..." Adrian cocked his head to one side. "What makes you afraid of the water?"
"I didn't say I was afraid of the water." To my annoyance, I could feel myself blush.
"I see." My reaction seemed to amuse Adrian. "Then what have you got against swimming at the beach?"
"It's not the water." My unwelcome blush deepened. "It's what's in the water. Sharp shells. Vicious crabs. Attacking jellyfish. And all those slimy things."
"Slimy things?" Adrian's green eyes widened. "What do you mean--slimy things?"
"Oh, you know. Seaweed. Kelp. Fish."
"Is that all?" Adrian smiled. "How'd you like to get over your fear of 'slimy things' and live a normal life? I could help you. I could start you off slowly by diving for seaweed, and when you feel safe with that we could work our way up--"
"Lariena!" A high-pitched voice called from the beach.
"Hold it. There's Madeline." I stood up and waved to her. "Over here. I'm over here!"
Madeline scrambled up the rocks. "Hi. I thought I'd rescue you from your lonely perch."
"Oh, I'm not lonely. "I've been talking to--" I turned around, gesturing toward the water. But Adrian was gone. I searched the nearby rocks, but didn't see him anywhere. "That's funny. He's not here."