Maya lay on her stomach, soaking up the, hopefully healing, sunrays. She let her mind wonder while she closed her eyes. Six months, she couldn’t believe it had been that long since Cinder had died. No, since she’d killed herself. After all that time, Maya still couldn’t understand why. She’d thought perhaps that Andrei guy would answer some of her questions, but he hadn’t stayed long enough for her to get a chance.
He wasn’t anything like she’d expected. Cinder had portrayed him to be a monster. But he’d seemed genuinely upset at the memorial service. He’d also saved Cinder from the people who’d hurt her and brought her home. Someone who would do something like couldn’t be all that bad, could he?
She turned on her back and told herself to stop thinking about it. Cinder was gone, so what did it matter? Closing her eyes again, she let the sun pull her into a light doze. Moving to Isla Paradiso had been the best decision she’d made in a while. Constant sunshine, beautiful beaches, cool and clear waters. It was a bit of heaven on earth. And that was exactly what she needed.
That thought woke her up. She needed to get as much sun and beauty as possible. In a month, she would have to start chemotherapy for breast cancer. She felt the tears threatening to spill yet again. “Pull yourself together Maya!”
What she needed was to say the hell with it and have some fun. She would enjoy her life, inhibitions be damned. Soon she would be weak and depressed and she could cry then. But now? Now, everything was sunshine and cool breezes.
“The hell with it.” She giggled and closed her eyes.
“Do you typically talk to yourself?”
Maya flipped her eyes up to find a man standing above her. She couldn’t really see him, since the sun was behind him, but she recognized the voice. Andrei. She sat up and turned around, shading her eyes to try to get a better look at him. He was shirtless, in shorts and running shoes. Speak of the devil. “Not typically, no.”
He smiled down at her and she smiled back. “Fancy meeting you here.”
He leaned down and reached out to give her a hand standing up.
“I run this beach almost every day; I’ve never seen you here before.”
Standing, she could see him clearly now. “I just found this beach. It’s much quieter than the others on this island.”
“Yes, it is.”
When he didn’t say anything else, she bent down to retrieve her blanket. “Well, I’m going to head back home then. I’ll see you around.”
“Home? You live here?” He was watching her movements with an odd look on his face.
“Yes. I just moved here last week. I’ve become something of a health nut recently. Chasing the sun and all that.” Done folding, she stood up straight and turned back to him. “I take it you live here too?”
“I do, yes.” He still had that odd look on his face. “Listen, do you want to maybe grab something to eat?”
She raised her eyebrows at that. That was sudden, but watching him, she couldn’t say she didn’t want to. What the hell. “Sure, I could go for some food. Laziness builds up an appetite.”
He smiled slowly and she bit her lip. He had a beautiful smile. He had beautiful lips. He was just plain hot. She tilted her head and studied him. He really was handsome, with his wavy dark hair and golden eyes. His nose was classical – straight and smooth. It was his lips though, that kept him from being pretty. They were full, too full for modern tastes, but they worked with the rest of his face.
Yeah, he was hot. “I just need to go change. I hope you weren’t thinking something fancy.”
“I was thinking Rebecca’s Café, actually. And if by fancy, you mean shorts and running shoes, then I think you’ll be fine.”
Maya laughed as she walked towards the women’s changing rooms. He was cute and funny.
“So, what’s good to eat here?”
“I have absolutely no idea.” When she looked up at him in surprise, he laughed. “It was the only place I could remember when I asked you out.”
He made it sound like they were on a date. She lowered her eyes back to her menu. Where they on a date? A sudden image of Cinder flashed to mind. She quickly brushed it away. She would not feel guilty about sharing a meal with this man. In all the times they’d interacted, he’d been nothing but kind. She was a good judge of character and so far, she didn’t get any bad vibes from him. Plus, they were somewhere public and relatively safe. “Can I ask you a question?”
He was still smiling, “Sure.”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Deep sea diving. I’m basically a pirate.” He said this with a straight face, but Maya couldn’t stop herself from laughing.
“Well, I live on a boat and hunt for buried sea treasure. That’s what pirates do, right?”
“That and steal from other ships and kidnap damsels. Do you do those things too?”
“I don’t steal, but I’ve been known to take a damsel or two.” He winked at her.
She smirked. The waiter came and took their order. Before long, they were enjoying a delicious meal and she brought up his career again. “You live on a boat? That sounds amazing.”
“It is. Waking up and being able to go wherever you want is the ultimate freedom. Not having the world to deal with can be freeing.”
“I bet. I’m a big fan of the sea.” She thought about her own world, how frantic it would become soon and sighed. She would love to just forget it and fall off the face of the earth for a while.
“It can be dangerous too. I had a friend who just disappeared one day; no one knows what happened. There are so many things in the ocean that we don’t know about. It’s exciting, but you have to be careful, too.”
Maya nodded. “Same thing happened to a friend of mine as well. Left behind a wife and a newborn. It was very sad.”
Andrei stopped eating and narrowed his eyes at her. “Armani Adler?”
Her eyes widened. “Yes. How did you know?”
“It would seem we have the same friend.”
“Small world. Were you at their wedding last fall?” That was odd that she hadn’t noticed him. Then again, until Cinder’s memorial service, she hadn’t known what he looked like.
They talked for a while longer and when their meal was over, Andrei walked her to her car. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed so much, definitely not since before Cinder. She brushed her hand over her hair. She kept forgetting how short it was now. In preparation for the chemo, she’d cut it. Less hair to fall out later. “Well, thank you for dinner. It was fun. It’s nice to know that I’m not completely alone here.”
He tracked the movement of her hand and a slight frown appeared on his face before it disappeared. “New girl problems?”
She laughed. “Yeah, something like that.”
“I’d like to see you again Maya.”
My, he was blunt! But if she was being honest with herself, she would like that too. For a couple of hours, she hadn’t thought about Cinder or her cancer. She’d just laughed and had a good time.
“I would like that too.”
“Good. Very good.” They exchanged numbers and she drove him to his boat, marking the address down before making her way to her own home.