What Sue didn’t realize was that she was talking to herself out loud.
“Um, excuse me. Can I help?”
“What?” Sue exclaimed as if the man had just asked her a much too personal question. But really, just look at him, she said to herself. Ten years her junior, soft brown eyes that perused her face as if he was looking at a delicate flower. Wearing navy blue shorts that seemed more bathing suit than shorts. A blue t-shirt that caressed his chest and muscled arms just a bit too tightly. Humph.
But still. No reason to be rude to the man, who looked a bit familiar to Sue. Did he work at one of the resorts around here? In fact, maybe he was a scuba diver, or captained the whale watching boats, or… she decided to strike up some courage into her introverted self and just ask, but he jumped in first.
“I’m Joe. I was raised here. I went to school with the bookstore owner’s kid and used to stock the shelves. So I promise you, if you’re looking for a particular book, I can find it for you.” Joe’s smile was as wide as the ocean surrounding the island, and his eyes sparkled as if his greatest pleasure would be to give Sue pleasure.
She squeezed her fingertips together and chastised herself for the thought.
“You look familiar,” she replied. “I’ve only been living here for five months. Best decision I ever made, considering what’s going on, on the mainland. Not that we don’t have to ‘stay in place’ here, but who wouldn’t want to stay in place in paradise?” Sue was babbling, but something about the way Joe looked at her encouraged her to open up. “Every morning I see locals surfing – as soon as the sunrises! – and I figured that maybe I could find a book that, you know…”
He finished for her. “You want a self-help book on surfing?” His incredulous expression embarrassed her.
“Well, when you say it like that…” She turned her back on his insouciance.
“No, I didn’t mean it that way.” Joe touched her shoulder, and Sue turned back toward him. “I’m Dr. Joe. We met the first week you moved here ….”
Sue’s face turned redder than last night’s sunset. “That’s right! You’re Dr. Joe, the surfing doctor. Thank goodness I got to you by 12:50 that afternoon, because the sign on the door said ‘Gone surfing – Closed 1-4 p.m.’ ” Sue’s expression turned dour.
“How’s your kidney stone?” he asked, his voice gentle.
“Gone, thanks to you,” she conceded.
“So.” Dr. Joe’s eyes skimmed the books in front of Sue. “I suggest you’d learn easier with a real surfing instructor. Are you free tomorrow, at 2?”
Sue realized she’d just found the perfect self to help her.