Paul’s pudgy, alcohol-fed body carelessly lay splayed out on the lone deckchair. He lazily tossed yet another empty beer bottle at the rapidly mounting pile on his right. It landed on it with a noisy clink and slid down on the hot sand. The beach was filled with its usual cacophony; teenage girls in skimpy swimwear playing volleyball and cackling away, Hawaiian music playing in his beach shack nearby, a toddler bawling when the waves swallowed its sand castle, and so on. Oblivious to all this, Paul’s eyes were set on the figure playing in the ocean, a mere speck from where he lay. She wanted a memorable holiday, right? He was going to give her one.
In his 39 years of existence Paul had done every crime in the book; robbery, extortion, kidnapping, murder, what say you. His checkered past had earned him several years in prison and a bunch of blood-thirsty enemies. Raised in the tough neighbourhood of Queens borough, he had learned to match aggression with violence early on. Gang wars had claimed the lives of his parents and elder brother when he was merely ten years old. The cat-and-mouse game between him and the world had begun then and was still on. He moved every few months, hiding and assuming a new name and occupation to keep away.
Lanikai Beach in Honolulu was his home for now. He had rented a rundown beach shack for fun and surprisingly turned it around. His shack served authentic local cuisine and cheap booze for people looking for an exotic holiday experience. Respite from the sun during the day and a bustling party place with sparkling lights at night, it had soon become a tourists’ favourite. People thronged there, took pictures, and brought a smile to Paul’s often expressionless face.
Elena had arrived on the beach with her parents on an otherwise regular day in a tourist bus. Her bright smile and lovely olive complexion were in complete contrast to Paul’s tanned skin and beaten demeanour. While her parents and other tourists settled down for a drink in the shack, she happily mingled with him and his staff attacking them with a barrage of questions. She was eight years old and very bright. The tiny seashell bracelet in her left hand made a musical tinkling sound every time she moved. Is she a happy child or just happy to be on holiday, Paul wondered.
The sun moved westward and everyone collected near the bus when the driver blew the horn to leave, as promised. Some were brushing off sand from their hair and clothes, some were scanning their cameras for the best pictures while others were already discussing the next spot. Paul glanced at the leaving bus from his shack and felt an unidentifiable pang of regret. What was it? He sluggishly went for a stroll on the far side of the beach before the night crowd arrived and broke its serenity. Detecting a movement in a deserted area he moved closer to find Elena running to and fro from the beach to the water, apparently making a sand castle.
Stricken by panic, Paul mindlessly sprinted towards her. What was she doing there all alone? Had her parents not ensured that she was on the bus when it left? What kind of irresponsible idiots were they, taking off like that? Do they call this a family holiday? The questions in his mind only flared his anger further. Once near her though, he took a deep breath, forced a smile, and asked her where her parents were. She looked around and seemed to register the quiet for the first time. Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly spotted her bus missing from where it was parked. “Have they left without me?” was all she could say.
For a moment Paul wished to do nothing and have this beautiful angel to himself. Could this be his chance at a family? Her presence had warmed his heart and given him hope he never knew existed. She could be his daughter! Thankfully, sanity prevailed. He wanted to get the cops involved but that could open a can of worms. Instead, he got in touch with the bus company and informed them about Elena’s situation. They found her worried parents soon enough but they could take an hour to get there. Elena danced with joy when he told her about the development. He suggested that she play on the beach in front of the shack till then where he could keep a watch at her. She happily agreed.
Looking at her from the deckchair now, Paul couldn’t help smiling to himself for his silly digression. He rose clumsily and walked towards her. He saw people come and go every day. Holiday goers, regular beach lovers, photographers, college kids, and so many more. Elena was something else though. She had shown him what happiness was, just with that beautiful smile of hers. Maybe a few years from now she would look back at this day and remember him fondly too. He could live with that.
This post was created for the Blogaberry Creative (Monthly) Challenge.
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