I breathed hard, the wind knocked out of me from surprise. When I looked up, William was the one wincing.
“Are you okay?” I pointed to his forehead, now marked with a scrape. My heart lurched towards him, and my blood pumped faster with worry. I didn’t want him to be hurt because of me.
“Don’t worry about me. I think that lamppost got in my way,” he said, gesturing to the streetlight along the boardwalk.
“You hit the streetlight when you were pulling me out of the way?” I asked, incredulous but also amazed.
“I didn’t want you to get hit,” he said, as if there were no other choice but to save me from the bike. “The cyclists around here can be crazy.”
I reached for his forehead, gingerly touching near the cut. “You sure you’re okay?”
He nodded. “It’s totally nothing. I’m sure it’ll look cool later when it becomes some rugged scar.”
I smiled again. “Scars are rugged.”
“See? It was worth it.” He flashed a smile at me. The man was so charming I’d need a new word for charming. He was more than charming.
“Well, thank you. That was quite gallant of you,” I said, pretending to bow grandly.
“Just call me Gallant William,” he joked.
“Do you need a Band-Aid, Gallant William? I have some with me.”
“You carry Band-Aids?” he asked, sounding as shocked as if I’d said I was packing heat.
“I’m a guy. I don’t carry Band-Aids. I also don’t need one for my forehead, but thank you for the offer.”
Then I heard an even more beautiful sound. The sweet soprano voice of a rising starlet calling out to her accessory dog. “Sparky, do you want some water?”
William and his bravery slipped into the rearview mirror.
I was the horse at the gates, ready to be the first out. I didn’t even need to bring the camera to my eyes. I whipped it out of my backpack, held it in front of me, and snapped picture after picture of Riley and Miles laughing as Miles held down the button that sent streams of water shooting into a green-rimmed silver bowl at dog-eye-level and Sparky McDoodle happily lapped up his H20. They didn’t even notice me.
“Oh, Sparky McDoodle, you are so adorable. Isn’t he cute just drinking water?” Riley said to Miles, her right profile in frame.
“He is adorable at everything he does,” Miles said, flashing his cute actor smile at Riley.
William might have snagged some shots, too. I stopped caring about him, because I had a higher calling, and I was off and running to the public restroom a hundred feet away. I raced into a stall, slammed the door, unzipped my backpack, and yanked out my laptop. I grabbed the card from my camera, slid it into the drive, downloaded and uploaded, and sent the pictures to J.P.
When I left the stall five minutes later, there was a reply on my phone from J.P.
Check out Up Close in twenty minutes. Pics will be there. Come by tomorrow for $$.
Cash. My favorite four-letter word.
Looked like I was a little closer to the price of admission for next semester’s anatomy class and learning exactly how the knee bone was connected to the leg bone.
“Do you want to get an ice cream?”
The question came from William as I walked down the boardwalk, and I prayed I’d heard him wrong. The last thing I wanted was to get an ice cream with William because that’s the first thing I wanted. The ice cream and the time with him. Especially because he wasn’t only handsome. He was gallant.
“Why would I want to get an ice cream?” I tossed back casually.
“Why wouldn’t you want to get an ice cream?”
“I’m not hungry.” I didn’t make eye contact. The second I re-engaged with him, I’d want to spend more time with him. I kept on a path toward my beat-up black scooter with the well-worn seat. I’d bought this scooter myself because it was the only model I could afford, and even then it was used, and even then I’d haggled at the dealership for a lower price. But it was all mine. I owned that baby outright and I loved it.
“You don’t need to be hungry to get an ice cream,” he said, in a matter-of-fact tone, as if this was a completely obvious answer. “It’s like in that movie with Paulie DeLuca, Anyone’s Dough, when he offers a doughnut to the lawyer who’s trying to take over his firm and he says—”
I couldn’t help myself. I knew the movie. I loved the movie. “‘Since when do you have to be hungry to eat a doughnut?’”
We said the line in unison, and William couldn’t hide a big fat smile. “You like the movies, don’t you?”
As if he’d learned my naughty little secret. I didn’t hide my affection for films, but I didn’t wear it on my sleeve, either. And William had already figured it out. Like he’d figured out that I wasn’t Jessica.