DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.
Marissa Takes a Break
Sunshine streaming through her dorm room window distracted Marissa from her studies. She decided homework could wait. It was bad enough spending the summer on the campus of Pacific Lutheran taking extra classes without having to while away the rare sunny July day indoors. She put on white shorts and a blue top over her yellow bikini and completed the ensemble with a pair of thick-soled flip flops.
Getting off the bus near the picnic shelter, Marissa found a spot on the sloping grass beach where the sun showed down just right. Despite the unusual abundance of sunshine, Spanaway Lake Park wasn’t crowded that summer afternoon. She got her towel laid out and was just about to shed her shorts and top when she stopped to look around and see who might be watching.
Marissa noticed a fit young man in cut-off jeans a short way down the beach and decided that sunbathing could wait until she’d taken a walk along the water’s edge to get a better look. She thought he looked pretty good lying there in nothing but his cut-offs, soaking up the rare Pacific Northwest sunshine. When he raised his head to get a better look at her, Marissa wished her skin wasn’t quite so pale. Getting much of a tan in Tacoma was hard. She thought about pretending she hadn’t noticed him noticing her but instead turned and smiled at him. When he smiled back and started to get up, she followed her impulse and walked over to him.
David Takes Notice
David squinted into the afternoon sun to get a better look at Marissa as she walked along the grassy lakeshore between him and the water. He was about to look away after noting that she was rather cute, if a little thin, when she turned her head and looked him right in the eye. David couldn’t see her face well with the sun behind her, but he did notice the smile that flickered on her lips when she caught him looking at her. He smiled back and started getting up to go over to introduce himself. By the time he got to his feet, she’d walked over and was standing next to him.
With her was standing close to him, and the sun not in his eyes, David realized Marissa wasn’t just cute; she was beautiful. The sunlight accented the natural highlights in her long brown hair, and her warm brown eyes seemed to draw him in. He realized that she wasn’t so much thin as she was lean and toned, and she was only a few inches shorter than his six-one.
Why Do People Call You D?
Marissa correctly figured David to be about six-one. There didn’t appear to be an ounce of fat on his lanky frame. His extremely short hair made it hard to tell, but she thought it was probably dark brown. What struck her most were his eyes. They were such a bright blue that they seemed to reflect the clear blue skies overhead. She wondered if they became gray on cloudy days. Based on his physique and haircut she guessed he was probably a soldier from Fort Lewis.
“Hello,” he said in a baritone voice that Marissa didn’t just hear but felt inside somehow. “I’m David. My friends call me D.”
“Hi, David,” she said in a voice that made him think of sunshine and candlelight at the same time. “I’m Marissa. My friends just call me Marissa. Why do your friends call you D?”
He laughed, and explained, “My full name is David Douglas Dennison the Fourth. That’s a lot of D’s. My great grandfather was David. My grandfather went by Douglas. My dad goes by Davey. They just called me D.”
Where Does D Work?
“Then I guess I’ll call you D,” Marissa said with a smile. Then she asked, “Do you work on the base?”
“Yes, I’m stationed at Fort Lewis,” he said. “Second of the Twenty-third Infantry, Alpha Company.”
“I’m not sure what all that means,” Marissa said. “What do you actually do?”
Before answering David indicated with a gesture that they take a seat on his towel.
“I’m just a basic infantry rifleman,” he told her. “We joke that we’re really facilities maintenance specialists. It seems we spend as much time cleaning the barracks and cutting the grass as we spend in the field.”
“Oh, what did all that second two-thirds alpha stuff mean?” Marissa asked with a hesitant smile.
“Alpha Company, Second Battalion, Twenty-third Infantry Regiment,” David said. “That’s my unit. What about you, are you from around here?”
Sharing the Where Are You Froms
“No, I’m not from around here,” Marissa said. “I’m going to school at Pacific Lutheran. My hometown is clear across the country, the little town of Buzby Beach, North Carolina.”
“That would explain your beautiful southern drawl,” David said.
Marissa smiled a self-conscious smile, “Yes, I suppose it would.”
David asked, “Would it surprise you to know that I know right where Buzby Beach is?”
“Yes,” Marissa said, “it would.”
“It’s near Wilmington just north of Carolina Beach,” David said triumphantly.
Marissa’s eyes widened in surprise. “How in the world do you know that?”
“My grandmother, on my mother’s side, lives in Wilmington,” David explained. “My mother’s family has lived around there since before the Revolution.”
“Well I’ll be,” Marissa said. “You don’t sound like you’re from around there.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not,” David admitted. “I was raised in Boston and spent my summers at camp in New Hampshire. I got to spend one week each summer with my grandmother in Wilmington.”
Marissa shook her head slowly. “So that is a Yankee accent I detect.”
“The very Yankee-est I’m afraid,” David said. A worried look creased his brow. “Can we still be friends?”
Marissa’s laugh was all honey and sunlight. “Well, since you do have Southern roots, I reckon I can make an exception in your case.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Now, do tell, how did a nice southern belle like you wind up here in the all-too-often wet northwest?” David asked.
Marissa stifled a chuckle at David’s attempt to sound Southern and Boston at the same time.
An Invitation Offered
“It was about as far away as I could get from home and stay in the U.S.,” she told him. “I had good grades in school, and I play a mean game of volleyball. When I contacted the school and told them I was interested in coming here, they offered me a scholarship.”
“I’m glad you took it,” David said. “Otherwise I’d be sitting here talking to myself and that wouldn’t be a good thing.”
Marissa laughed again. “As a psych major, I can assure you that it would be a bad sign.”
David decided he could never get tired of Marissa’s laugh. He took a deep breath, stretched, and rolled his shoulders. He noticed the way Marissa watched him. The sun was lower in the sky but still beating down on them, giving his chest and abs a light sheen of sweat.
“This sunshine is nice,” he said, “but I’m getting thirsty. How about you? You want to go get something to drink, or maybe some dinner?”
Marissa hesitated for a moment. David thought she was about to say no, but when he saw the smile cross her face and the light sparkle in her eyes, he knew she had decided to accept his offer.
Marissa couldn’t believe what she was about to say. She’d just met this guy. “Dinner sounds good.”
David smiled and stood. “Where can we go to dinner around here dressed for the beach like we are?”
“There’s a Bonanza Steakhouse in Parkland near the college,” Marissa said. “It’s a pretty casual place. I’m sure we’re dressed all right for that.”
“I suppose I’ll have to put my shirt on,” David joked.
Marissa was surprised to realize she was disappointed when David pulled his t-shirt over his head. She rather liked seeing him in only his cut-offs. Instead of the Army t-shirt, Marissa expected, David’s shirt had the logo of the Gilford Yacht Club on it.
David noticed her quizzical look. “My great-grandfather was a founding member of the GYC. I’ve been a paid-up member for life since birth.”
“You…have a yacht?” Marissa asked.
“It just means sailboat when you’re talking about the yacht club,” David said. “My family has a couple of sailboats.”
“Interesting,” Marissa said. “So, you’re a sailor and a soldier.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” David said with a smile. He picked up his towel and carefully shook it off.
“I meant to ask you,” Marissa said as they walked toward the picnic shelter to pick up her towel, “how did you happen to be here today instead of on, what did you call it, facilities maintenance at the barracks?”
“I had CQ last night,” David told her. “That means I got today off.”
“What is CQ?” Marissa asked.
“It means Charge-of-Quarters. Actually, I was the CQ Runner. I answered the phone and ran messages and stuff all night. The CQ is an E-5.”
Marissa wished she knew more about the Army so she wouldn’t have to keep asking David to explain, but she asked, “And an E-5 would be?”
“E-5 is the pay grade,” David explained. “An E-5 is a three-stripe sergeant, a non-commissioned officer.”
“It looks like I have a lot to learn if I’m going to hang out with you,” Marissa said in mock resignation.
David’s eyes lit up. “I hope you will.”
Marissa flashed him a teasing grin. “We’ll see.”
They arrive at David’s vehicle, a 1983 Jeep Cherokee.
Marissa nodded and ran her hand over the fender. “Nice truck.”
“I like it,” David said. Then he frowned. “They’re not going to be making these anymore. Not this big anyway.”
He opened the door for Marissa, and she climbed up into the passenger seat. As he walked around to the driver’s side, Marissa wondered for just a moment if she should be driving off with this guy she’d just met. The smile David gave her as he got in dispelled any doubts. This could definitely be the beginning of something nice.
“You’ll have to give me directions,” David said. “I may have been here since January, but I still don’t know my way around that well.”
“I’ve only been here since last summer,” Marissa said, “but I know my way around Parkland pretty well.”
It suddenly dawned on David to ask Marissa if they would have to return to the park to pick up her car.
“No,” Marissa said. “I don’t have a car here. I caught a ride on the bus. It’s a short ride.”
Soon, with Marissa’s precise directions, they pulled into the parking lot of the Bonanza Steakhouse. David was frowning when he opened her door.
“Is something wrong?” Marissa asked.
“Well,” David said slowly, “this is kind of our first date, and I just wish I could take you someplace nicer.”
Marissa took his chin in her hand. “You can make it up to me on our second date.”
David relaxed and smiled. “I guess that means we’ll be having a second date.”
Marissa leaned toward him and kissed him gently on the lips. “It’s looking good so far,” she said.
© 2019 DW Davis