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Romance Drama

           “Speak now, or forever hold your peace,” the preacher read as the bride and groom nervously searched the crowd for any who might oppose their bond of marriage.

           With no objections, the preacher continued. “By the power vested in me…”

           Suddenly, without warning, the ground began the shake beneath their feet. The wedding guests began to panic and ran from the water’s edge. This beach wedding was supposed to be the perfect setting to begin the perfect marriage between Kimberley and Justin.

           Pismo Beach was seventy-three miles away from Parkfield, the epicenter of the highest seismic activity in all of the State of California, a town located along the San Andreas Fault. Kim and Justin thought their wedding would go off without a hitch since there had not been a single earthquake or tremor in the last thirty days.

           Justin noticed a massive wave building in the distance. On any other day, he would have been grabbing his surf board and rushing out to ride some curls, but all he could think of now, was getting his bride to safety.

           Grabbing Kim by the arm, Justin began pulling her away from the makeshift altar, that had been mostly destroyed at the beginning of the quake. On unsteady feet, they made their way toward the parking lot at the edge of the beach.

           Every step would toss them left or right. As they looked around, they could see many of the guests had stumbled and were struggling to regain their footing. Swimmers rushed out of the water with many parents carrying their children in their arms.

           Lifeguards ran from the lifeguard stations along the beach in search of beachgoers in need. One of the light blue shacks had tumbled to the ground before the lifeguard could exit, and she was buried under a pile of wood and debris.

           People along the pier had herded together like cattle while trying to exit. With the excessive amount of weight in one area, along with the seismic activity, three of the supporting legs had broken, causing the pier to tilt to one side.

           People began to fall over the edge in droves, landing atop one another as they hit the sandy floor below. One man tried desperately to hold onto the railing, but to no avail. The continuous pummeling of people against him eventually forced him to release his grip, and he fell with the rest.

           Meanwhile, Kim and Justin had made it back to the parking lot. They watched as the neon blue Pismo Beach sign sparked several times before exploding into tiny glass shards that flew as projectiles toward people passing by.

           The asphalt began to buckle beneath their feet and they ran for higher ground. When they reached a wooden walkway, they felt a little more stability. Off in the distance, they watched as thirty foot palm trees seemed to be swallowed up by the earth.

           What lasted less than ten minutes, seemed like hours. The tremors had ceased for the time being, and they took that opportunity to track down their wedding guests. Some had taken refuge in their vehicles, while others rode out the quake on the beach.

           Back at the altar, however, they were faced with a grizzly sight. The preacher had been impaled by broken debris and laid upon the sand lifeless. Blood from his wound was being carried out with the tide.

           Kim looked at the preacher and cringed as she buried her face into Justin’s shoulder. All she could think about at that moment, was that this was a sign from God that they shouldn’t get married. Her mother raised her to believe in signs from above, and this could not be more clear.

           She pulled herself from her husband-to-be and walked away. Justin ran after her but had assumed she needed some space and time to calm down, so he kept his distance. Little did he know she was ready to call the wedding off for good.

           Nearly five years had passed since that tragic day, and Kimberley had finally began dating again with the help of her persistent friends. Kim and a few friends had gone to a local bar, and were on the dance floor together when she felt a tap on her shoulder.

           When she turned, she stared in the deep green eyes of dark-haired, evenly-tanned man in his late twenties. He asked her for a dance. At first she refused, but her friends eventually pushed her into the man’s arms.

           He said his name Enrico. He was a lifeguard in Big Sur. Enrico asked Kim if she enjoyed the beach, and it brought back bad memories for her. All she could picture was the preacher being impaled by a broken piece of the trellis. She quickly excused herself and rejoined her friends.

           Enrico gave her some space but later handed his number to one of Kim’s friends asking her to pass it on. Her friend, now extremely intoxicated and feeling flirtatious, offered to go home with him if Kim wasn’t interested, but he respectfully declined.

           It had been days before Kimberley’s friend discovered the paper tucked away in her purse. Thinking it was a number that some guy had given her, she called it up. When Enrico answered on the third ring, she tried to play it cool.

           “Hey, it’s Mandy. I believe we met the other night at Ecstatic Dance in Monterey, right?”

           “Well, yes, kind of. I handed you my number and asked you to give it to your friend, Kim.”

           Not wanting to look like a fool, Mandy thought quickly and said, “Yes, that’s right, but I wanted to make sure you weren’t some kind of creep before I handed her your number. I watch out for my friends.”

           “I respect that, Mandy,” Enrico replied. “Good friends are hard to find. I’ll tell you what, if you give Kim my number, and if she is interested in meeting up sometime, then why don’t you come along and chaperone? That way you can see if I meet up to your standards, deal?”

           Mandy agreed and passed on the phone number, though Kim wasn’t too drunk to remember why she ran away from him that night. She was not ready to open her heart to another man, especially one who spent his days in the one place that she had not wanted to return to in five years, the beach.

           Nearly a week had passed since Mandy’s conversation with Enrico, and Kim still refused to call him, so waiting for the opportune moment, Mandy sent a text to Enrico from Kim’s phone telling him that she would meet him at Sly McFly’s at 7:00 p.m. but not to text back with an answer because she wanted to be surprised.

           Mandy quickly deleted the message and hoped that Enrico would show up without texting. When Kim returned from the bathroom, Mandy told her that they were going out that night, and she was not taking “no” for an answer.

           Mandy and Kim arrived at Sly McFly’s just before 7:00 p.m. and found a table near the window, facing the water. They ordered two mojitos to start. The band wasn’t scheduled to come on until 9:00 p.m., so Mandy thought that would be just enough time for Enrico and Kim to get to know each other better, if he didn’t chicken out.

           At precisely 7:00 o’clock, the door swung open, and in walked Enrico. Kim had her back to the door, but Mandy saw him immediately and excused herself to use the restroom. She approached Enrico and pointed out where Kim was sitting.

           Kim gazed captivated over the glistening ocean water. Gulls shrieked out a warning to all around that they spotted some food below, and that nobody else was to get in their way. Suddenly, a gentle male voice resonated in her left ear.

           “Hello, Kim,” he said.

           Kim spun around so quickly, that her mojito splashed over the edge of the glass and onto the floor, splashing on the toes of Enrico’s sandals. She looked up to see a pair of familiar green eyes that seemed to glow from the sunlight shining through the window.

           “Enrico!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

           “This is when you wanted to meet me, right?” he asked. “Your text said 7:00 p.m. today, didn’t it?”

           “Text? I didn’t send you a text, Enrico.” She thought for a moment, and it finally came to her. “Mandy. She must have sent you the text pretending to be me. I’m sorry, Enrico. That was a cruel joke.”

           “Actually, I am grateful. I was hoping for another opportunity to speak with you. Our last meeting was cut rather short.”

           “I’m so sorry, Enrico. I wasn’t in my right mind that night. Please, have a seat and join us.”

           Enrico sat down and the two started a conversation about where they grew up, what their interests were, and more, when Kimberley realized Mandy had not yet returned to the table. Concerned, she excused herself to go check on her friend, but assured Enrico that she would return this time.

           When she entered the restroom, Kim checked under each stall for Mandy’s feet, but it was empty. Then she stepped outside thinking that Mandy may be on the phone or having a cigarette, but when she looked through the parking lot, Mandy’s car was gone. She had abandoned Kim at the club.

           Kim went back to the table where Enrico waited patiently for her return. She explained the situation and Enrico laughed.

           “What are you laughing about?” Kim asked.

           “I’m sorry for laughing, but it seems like Mandy had this all planned out from the start. Don’t worry about a thing. I will make sure you get home safely.”

           Kim hardly knew Enrico, but for some reason, she felt comfortable in his presence. They continued with their evening until the band finished at 11:00 p.m., then, as promised, Enrico drove Kim back to her apartment. He walked her to the door and thanked her for a wonderful evening. Enrico began to walk away when Kim grabbed his wrist and pulled him back.

           The next few seconds seem to pass by in slow motion. When their lips met, it was if lightning had exploded inside their bodies. Every cell was suddenly awakened, and they both knew that this was kismet.

           Kimberley was ready to invite him inside, but he said that he should go and asked if he could see her again. She accepted with a smile that seemed to light up the night. Kim’s body was still tingling as she watched Enrico’s silhouette disappear into the darkness of his car and drive away.

           When she entered the apartment, Mandy was waiting on the couch, ready to receive a tongue-lashing for leaving her at the club. Instead, Kim just walked in dreamily with a smile that said it all and sat down beside Mandy on the couch.

           “So, tell me all the juicy details, girl,” Mandy demanded.

           “I don’t kiss and tell,” Kim replied.

           “Kiss? Okay, that’s a good start. Was it a good kiss? Who am I kidding? Of course, it was! Just look at your face!”

           Kim’s face turned crimson as she got up and said she was going to bed, leaving Mandy guessing at what else may have happened.

           The next morning, after a peaceful sleep, Kim awoke to a text from Enrico asking if she would be interested in meeting for brunch at 11:00 a.m.. Kim replied back and asked where to meet him, but Enrico insisted on picking her up.

           At 10:45 a.m., Enrico’s 2022 Honda Accord, with a silver exterior, and a charcoal grey leather interior, came into view. The dual exhaust roared as he rounded the corner from her apartment. He walked up to the door just as Kim was walking out and he escorted her to the car, opening the passenger door for her.

           Enrico turned on the radio and went to a playlist on Spotify that he created. It was a wide array of music from the eighties to present day, with a mix of genres from pop to R&B. They drove off listening to “Summer Girls” by LFO, a song that Kim had not heard in years.

           Ten minutes later, they pulled up to Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Enrico parked the car, and after opening the door for Kim, he walked to the rear of the car and opened the trunk. When the trunk closed, Enrico was holding a picnic basket and a blanket.

           They walked toward the beach and Kim stopped once her feet touched the sand. She told Enrico that she couldn’t go any further. Concerned, he led her back to the car and they sat and talked.

           Kim decided to tell Enrico about her wedding day and how it affected her, but she wasn’t expecting what Enrico said next.

           “I was there that day, Kim. I was working in Pismo Beach on the day the quake ruined your wedding day. I was busy rescuing people from the water that day, and my girlfriend at the time was killed when the lifeguard shack collapsed on her, so you see, that day affected me too.”

           Kim took a moment to take in what he was saying.

           “I’m sorry about your girlfriend. How could you continue doing what you do after all that?” she asked.

           “My life has always rotated around the water in one way or another. I came close to drowning a few times while surfing or trying to swim out into dangerous waters to rescue someone, but I realized that if I am still here, then it is not my time to go. I can’t stop living just because I faced death. If anything, I feel more alive than ever.”

           Kim had never thought about it that way before. Without a word, she opened the door and stepped out.

           Enrico called out, “Where are you going?”

           “We can’t let this food go to waste, can we?”

           With the picnic basket in hand, she started toward the beach. Enrico grabbed the blanket and quickly caught up with her. They traveled along Scenic Road to Scenic Bluff Path, then made their way down to Carmel Beach where they laid out a blanket on the sand and sat down to a delicious meal of cheese, fruit, fresh bread, and sangria to wash it down.

           Their excursions continued for several weeks along the coast. Enrico even taught Kim how to surf and signed her up for a First Aid and CPR course. She had never been happier in her life until the day he popped the question.

           It was a romantic setting. The sun was setting over the water and the sky lit up like a ball of fire. In the distance, dolphins leapt playfully across the horizon. On the beach, Kim and Enrico sat at a tiki bar while a local band entertained the crowd.

           Just when the scene was perfect, the band called Enrico up to the stage. Kim wondered what they could possibly want him up there for. Then the music started, and Enrico grabbed the microphone and began to sing “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran.

           Kim watched in amazement. She had no idea Enrico could sing. As the song neared the end, Enrico had made his way to the stool where Kim sat. On the last note, he got down on one knee, held out a ring, and asked her to marry him.

           The crowd waited silently for her response. It didn’t take long for her fear from the past to disappear, and she grabbed the microphone saying, “I would love to marry you.”

The crowd erupted with cheers and the band began to play once again. Everyone was on their feet and drinks were passed around freely in celebration of the newly engaged couple. Mandy and the rest of Kim’s and Enrico’s friends soon joined the party that continued throughout the night.

Three months later, the happy day had arrived. Everyone had driven or flown to Las Vegas, and they all met at an airfield where a 128-foot Carnival Cruise Line blimp was preparing to take off.

The Airship along with crew and twenty guests traveled up into the wild, blue yonder, and with the help of an Elvis impersonator singing, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” they walked down the aisle. Kim and Enrico exchanged their vows without fear of being interrupted by earthquakes.

As the preacher said the words, “speak now, or forever hold your peace,” the only sound they heard, was the humming of the engines. “I now pronounce you man and wife.”

With a kiss to seal the deal, Kim and Enrico were ready to start a new chapter in their lives together.

March 21, 2023 12:46

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