In Our Image – Volume 4 Chapter 5

Author’s Note: You all knew the beach episode was coming. Enjoy!

Volume 4 – Chapter 5

White-hot sand engulfed my feet, rising up to my ankles, individual grains working their way into the crevices between my toes and sticking to my pale skin as I raised my feet for another step. Continuing down the beach, I imagined myself as a soldier marching through the muddy fields of a foreign country, balling my hands into fists and swinging my arms as I searched for a spot to settle in.

My friends followed a few steps behind me, Asher and Miller shading their eyes and offering suggestions on where they thought we should sit, which I promptly ignored.

Meanwhile, Ayame stepped carefully behind them, fighting the sand from claiming her loose sandals. Holding her bag of belongings in one hand while pressing down on the top of her hat with the other, protecting it from the seaborne breeze that sent her hair rolling across her shoulders, she looked all-too similar to a star of a commercial–maybe for a particularly fancy brand of perfume.

In comparison to her movie star-level wardrobe, which drew glances from multiple strangers on the wide expanse of the beach, the rest of us were vastly under-dressed. Asher and Miller were dressed in nearly identical white t-shirts and plaid board shorts of similar color, in which the former became eerily reminiscent of a ghost on the white sand, while the latter put off a bit of an “amateur surfer” vibe.

My outfit–swim-shorts and a matching top hidden under a tank-top–wasn’t particularly stand-out, either, but in the end I decided not to worry about it. Ayame had put in the effort of selecting a killer outfit, and she pulled it off, so I figured she had earned the recognition it garnered.

Finally, after nearly fifteen minutes of travelling aimlessly on the beach, looking for a spot in the sand that wasn’t covered in either stones or people, I spotted it. It was maybe twenty yards away, nestled between a sunbathing family of five and an adorable elderly couple, and, from what I could tell, represented the perfect balance between even terrain and distance from the ocean.

“Found it!” I announced immediately, pointing in the direction of the empty space. “Let’s go, before someone else claims it.”

Without another word, I set off, trudging through the soft sand and ignoring the unpleasant sensation it caused in gathering under my toenails. Asher, Miller, and Ayame followed behind, each at their own pace, attempting to avoid losing their sandals and belongings, stepping on other beach-goers, and the various other hazards associated with traversing the sandy terrain.

While I did chuckle a bit at the difficulty that simply walking in such an environment seemed to cause them, I didn’t stop, forging onwards until I reached our predestined location. Up close, it was even more perfect than it had seemed from a distance–far enough away from the waves to avoid the risk  of getting yourself or your belongings wet, flat and almost completely devoid of stones and other sharp objects, and with a perfect view of the endless stretch of blue water in front of us.

“Looks good,” Miller said, reaching me a moment later. After setting down his bag, he took a look around the beach, hands on his hip. “Nice eye, Cat.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, giving him a slight bow. “It’s wonderful to hear that my valiant efforts are appreciated.”

“I appreciate you finding the spot, at least.” Asher’s voice pulled me out of my servile stance, and I saw him and Ayame laying out towels for us to sit on. “But, I can’t say I’m too grateful for you screaming and running across the beach. Do you know how many people are staring?”

Checking out the immediate area I saw that, just as he said, my antics had drawn the attention of most of the surrounding beach-goers, who were side-eyeing me with various levels of both intrigue and suspicion. I shrugged–I was used to stares, after all.

Turning my attention, I saw that Asher and Miller had both already settled down, spreading themselves out on the colorful beach towels Ayame had laid out next to each other on the sand. As she placed down the fourth and final vibrant stretch of color, she also sat down, joining the guys in their immediate acts of lethargy.

That, of course, I couldn’t allow.

“Woah, woah,” I said, holding my hands out in front of me. “We just got here, and you’re already laying down?”

“Pretty much.” Miller attempted to shield his eyes from the sun, hovering his forearm over his face, before giving up and rolling onto his stomach. His voice muffled by the soft material, he continued “I’m tired.”

“You’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead,” I said, matter-of-factly (after all, it was a fact. “We’re here to have fun, and I don’t see how we can do that if you’re sleeping.”

“Mm.”

His response was so noncommittal that it nearly threw me off of my game. Nearly. Luckily, however, I’m always ready to spur someone into action.

Without a moment’s hesitation, I reached down to my side, where I had set my bag, and reached my hand in, making contact with cool, ridged plastic. Latching on, I pulled it out with a flourish, waving the frisbee in front of my chest.

“Come on, Miller…” I said. He didn’t look up, instantly counteracting the allure of my gesture, but that was easily rectified with a swift toe-poke in the ribs. He looked up and, though he tried to hide it, I caught the flash of interest in his eyes. “Don’t you want to play some ultimate?”

“Y-you actually brought a frisbee?” he asked, trying and failing to feign disinterest. He rolled over, and pulled himself into a sitting position. “You think we should play?”

“That’s why I have it,” I said with a smile. “But, we don’t have to play. It’s only if you want to, Miller.”

He gulped, and I knew that I had him. It took a second, but eventually he stood, stretching out his arms over his head and releasing a small sigh.

“Well, I guess it can’t hurt to play a little.”

He took a step and held out his hand, and I placed the disc in his grip, letting him toss it up and down as I looked towards Asher and Ayame. He had laid down at around the same time as Miller, already looking near sleep, while she sat and looked towards me and Miller.

“How about you two?” I asked, jerking my thumb towards the neon disc currently in the air above Miller. “The more the merrier.”

“I’ll play,” Ayame said, after a brief moment of deliberation. “I haven’t used a frisbee in years, so it should be kind of fun.”

“What about you, Asher?” Miller never looked away from his frisbee. I’ve never quite understood his fascination with the sport, but I try not to question it–it’s never good to look a gift-horse in the mouth.

“Nah.” Asher’s voice rolled like the waves, drawing out the single syllable. “Anyway, someone has got to stay behind and watch the stuff. You guys go have fun. I’ll be here.”

While part of me wanted to argue against his reasoning, the thought of losing my phone and other personal belongings kept me from doing so. Instead, I nodded.

“Fair enough. We’ll be back soon.”

Ayame, seeming to take my words as a signal to follow us, took her hat off and jokingly placed it over Asher’s face.

“Watch that for me, please.”

His response was a brief thumbs up while keeping the hat in its position. Ayame stood and, with a smile, headed off with Miller and me .

Originally, I had feared that we would have to wade through crowds upon crowds of people just to find an area to play in, but we ended up lucking out. As soon as we stood up and began walking, a group of college students only a few feet away finished up an intense game of hacky sac and made for the ocean, leaving just enough room for our game.

Without a word, Miller and I stood opposite one another, motioning for Ayame to take her position at the head of the triangle. Since Asher had decided not to join us, we couldn’t exactly play a game of ultimate, as I’d hoped, but we could still manage a game of catch.

“Which direction do you want to go in?” Miller called out, his voice barely rising above the mutterings of vacationers coming in from all sides. “Clockwise or counterclockwise?”

“Send it clockwise,” I said, slapping my fist into my palm. “I’ll take first catch.”

He nodded and, without another word, sent the disc towards me with an explosive flick. The frisbee sailed, rotating quickly as it made its way straight towards my chest, never wavering. It reached me in moments, and I barely got my hand up in time to receive it, clasping my fingers around its hard plastic edge. I quickly reminded myself that Miller specialized in powerful forehand maneuvers, and to watch out for any trick throws, before passing a soft backhand pass to Ayame.

She caught it with ease as expected, and easily flowed into a steady backhand of her own, sending the frisbee at Miller in a straight, solid line. From what I knew, Ayame had never played competitive frisbee, and I had initially written her off as the odd-man-out in our game, but her ease of movement led me to reassess the situation. No matter which side it was coming from, I would have to be on my guard.

The back and forth continued for some time, gaining in intensity with each successive pass, Miller never ceasing in his attacks. In seemingly random patterns, he would switch from a powerful, almost unsteady backhand, before cycling back to his trademark flick, keeping me on my toes. Meanwhile, Ayame continued throwing backhands to Miller, displaying, if with a bit of a low power level, a deadly consistency in her technique.

To be honest, from my position, I was in a lot of trouble of dropping the frisbee first–and there was no way I was going to let that happen.

So, on the next pass from Miller–a curved forehand that nearly clipped the front of my thigh–I took the disc and held it in the air, shouting with as much force as I could muster: “Switch directions!”

Waiting a moment to make sure they had registered the change, which came in the form of a nod from each, I sunk into a low stance. As things were, Miller had the upper hand, and I decided that, now more than ever, I had to take that lead from him. Locking eyes with my adversary, I gripped the disc tightly, placing the thumb of my right hand on top.

I gritted my teeth. At that moment, nothing else entered my mind but beating Miller, and to accomplish that, I knew what I had to do. What I had to use.

The Hammer.

The move was high risk, high reward, I’ll admit, but it was the only way I could see myself getting an upper hand on my teammate turned enemy. So, abandoning any reservations I may have had, I raised the disc over my shoulder, and had just enough time to see the slight widening of Miller’s eyes before I released it in one explosive downward movement.

It soared beautifully, levelling out and spinning rapidly towards my friend, who stood rooted to the soft ground, ready to intercept the wild pass. He sunk down further, setting his shoulders and lifting his hands just as the frisbee reached him and….soared straight past his shoulder.

Straight past Miller, and right towards the old man lying on the other side of our stuff.

I didn’t realize where it was headed at first, instead kicking myself mentally over calibrating the trajectory of the toss incorrectly. Ultimately, it was Ayame who snapped me back to my senses, letting out a quick “Oh!” and stepping forward, arms out, as if to call the disc backwards into her hands.

As soon as I realized where it was headed, I knew it was too late. The disc was spinning madly on, covering the space between us and the elderly man in a moment, and nothing I could do would stop it. In the end, all there was to do was watch and pray he had strong teeth, or at least well-set dentures.

Then, right before it made contact with the ill-fated gentleman’s jaw, a hand appeared, as if from nowhere, intercepting the disc in mid-flight and lowering it to the ground. My eyes immediately travelled down with the neon orange of the frisbee to see who the man’s (and my conscience’s) savior was, and were met, to some surprise, with the image of Asher, lying on the ground with the frisbee held to his chest.

Leave it to him to do something cool right when I’m about to do something uncool, which, of course, only makes him seem even cooler by comparison. I should have figured. Plus, to make it worse, he hadn’t even taken Ayame’s hat from off of his face!

For a while, all I could do was wonder how he even knew the frisbee was coming–I’ll let you in on some of my theories later (hint: they involve a secret sixth sense that alerts old folk when another of their kind is in danger)–but it didn’t last long, as Miller interrupted my train of thought a moment later.

“That one was on you, Cat!” he called, cupping his hands around his mouth as amplification in an odd display of cheer. “You’ve got to get the frisbee.”

My shoulders slumped, and I let out a sigh. “Yeah, yeah.”

With a quick glance at Ayame, who still stood looking in the direction of Asher and the old man with a hand over her heart, as if she hadn’t gotten over the scare, I trudged off, feet sinking in the hot sand, to retrieve the disc.

That one was their win, I thought, before grinning slightly. But I’ll definitely get the next one.

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