The waves crash against the North Carolina shore, spouting mists into the early morning fog. Water vapor commingles and blends sky and earth, the blue grey of the sea becomes one with the blue grey of the horizon. A young woman soaks in the early morning sun, relishing the calmness of solitude. This is a feeling she hasn’t known for some time now. A recent high school graduate, the bronze-skinned young lady had become inured to the typical stresses of being a teenager, among other things, for the past four years. Needless to say, her senior year wasn’t at all what she expected. But really, whose life is truly as glamorous as they expect it should be?
As she walks she notices a small boyand girl finishing a sand castle. Getting ready to leave they join hands. And as they start to walk off she overhears the boy ask, "Will you marry me?" The little girl giggles and whispers, "Yes, of course I will."
She stands for a moment, a gentle tear falling down her face, the soft rays of the morning, contemplating the taste of salt air on her skin. Trying so hard to release, to let it all go. The water ebbs and flows, and with every return of the tide, she feels a stronger swell of peace within her soul. The white sands of Atlantic Beach didn't have the high volume of sea shells she expected to see. But resting near her foot was a starfish, nearly dried out, sitting on the brink of death. How painful it must be, she thought, to dry up and die when what you need to survive is within arm’s reach. The young woman bent down to pick up the creature, and with a strong toss, she cast it back into the sea. Hoping, beyond all else, that it would find new life.
After quite some time, she began to walk into the path of the sun, still though she wouldn’t take her eyes off of the ocean. It’s as if she almost expected that starfish to wash right back up where she found him. But, as we all know, the danger of keeping your eyes locked on where you’ve been, is not being able to see where you’re going.
Nearly lifted off her feet, the blonde-haired girl jolted into a more wakeful state. Before she knew what had happened, she felt an arm around her back, gently cradling her weight. Looking up, she saw the face of a young man, not much older than her, smiling. “Oh my god, I am so sorry!”
The young man helped her back to a more fixed standing position.
“I was just so focused on the beautiful sights, I haven’t really been here before, see? And I, well, I’m sorry, I just wasn’t—”
“Whoa,” the young man said, “it’s all right, I understand.”
She shaded her brown eyes to get a better look at who she was speaking to.
Laughing a little, the young man said, “I don’t normally run into such a beautiful sunrise either.” He made a gesture with his eyes as if to admire her alluring figure draped in a black bikini.”
She blushed a little, but returned an almost impish smile, even though she was still apologizing.
Almost cutting her off, the young man stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Tom. Tom Marks. And you are?”
Taking a breath, only now realizing how much she had been stammering, the young lady said “Anna. I’m Anna Sopoulos.”
“Whew, that’s a mouthful!” He laughed at his own joke. “Are you here on vacation or do you just make a sport out of tackling other beach-goers?”
Her eyes widened and she almost screeched from embarrassment before realizing he was kidding with her. “You, Tom, are not very nice to girls you just meet, are you? If you must know I am on a sort of vacation. I’m here with my parents.” She brushed her long hair from her face. “What about you?”
“Nope, not me,” he said. And as if he were going to leave it at that, Tom began to walk in the direction from which he came. After taking a few steps he turned and looked over his shoulder, “You were coming this way right?”
Anna smiled and walked to his side.
“No, I actually work down here. Which, hey, you can’t really get much better than that right? I get to live in this wonderful place looking out at the ocean, take a swim or work out anytime I want, and occasionally I get knocked head over heels by a beautiful young lady named Anna Sopoulos!”
“You’re funny,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure there aren’t so many Greek girls knocking you over as you might let on.”
“That’s true, you might be the first.” He winked at her.
She returned his wink with a playful shove. “So where do you work?”
He nodded his head and said “Right over there at the resort.”
“Oh really?” She couldn’t hide the excitement in her voice. “That’s where my family and I are staying!”
“You don’t say?”
The Ramada Inn stood tall among the underdeveloped motels and cottages on this side of the beach. Seven floors of newly renovated vacation space housed most of the out-of-towners in the area, and the Ramada Inn boasted nightly entertainment to keep them coming back year after year. As the pair came closer to the towering monolith, they noticed an old man further up the shore.
“There’s Melvin,” Tom said, “setting up the beach chairs and umbrellas like every morning.”
Anna looked at the red-haired man struggling with all the equipment, fumbling with the heavy load all by himself. “Do you work with him?”
Tom laughed, “Funny thing is, I technically work for him.”
“Tom! You should be helping him right now then, what are you doing talking to me?”
“No, you don’t understand, it’s not like that.” He paused for a minute and then finally said in a lower tone, “Melvin owns this joint. The whole thing.”
“What? You’re pulling my leg.”
Tom held up three fingers and said “Scouts honor.” Clearing his throat Tom said, “And if you turn to go back to your room now you may never know the rest of the story!” He took off in the opposite direction in a mock sprint.
Without hesitation, Anna called out “Wait!” and chased after him. “Whoever said I was planning on going back upstairs?”
“Well then I can tell you more of the nitty-gritty then, can’t I?”
“Oh, well, whoever said I was going to walk with you?” She turned in the opposite direction and pretended to walk away. But after a few steps she turned around, enjoying the way shock was written across Tom’s face. “Gotcha!”
He laughed and said, “You know how to keep a guy on his toes Miss Anna, that’s for sure.”
“That, unfortunately, is something I have had quite a bit of practice in but have never fully mastered.” She paused and kept walking for a moment, studying the way her toes disappeared into the sands with every step. Quickly changing her tone back to a chirping excitement she said, “So finish telling me about Melvin!”
“Oh, that’s right. So, this guy owns the Ramada Inn outright, it’s all his. And he sets ups those chairs and umbrellas every single morning at the crack of dawn. I asked him one day why he doesn’t just pay someone to do it for him.”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing really, it was kind of odd. He mostly just grunted and said something about being useful. I don’t know, maybe the old coot is starting to lose it. Funny thing is, he was the one that looked at me like I was the crazy one for asking!”
Anna laughed at how Tom told the story, how he gestured with his hands and affected his voice. Then she remembered, he had never answered her question. “So what exactly is it that you do at the resort, other than pester the owner and not help him set up chairs?”
“Nah, you first. I’ve talked enough already. Any more and you might realize that I’m boring.” He smiled and the sun seemed to beam from within him instead of reflect off his skin. “How about you tell me where you’re from and what brings you here?”
“Oh, you’re no fun!” She stuck her tongue out at him. “I’m from Columbiana, Ohio and I just graduated from high school.”
“Hmmm,” he said, “I travel a lot, but I’ve got to admit I don’t know where Columbiana is. I’ve been through Columbus, is it close?”
“No, it’s farther than that. We live right on the Pennsylvania line, nearer to Pittsburgh.”
“Ah, now Pittsburgh I’m familiar with. Went to a few Irish pubs there. Never really felt welcomed, that’s for sure. I don’t know, must be an ethnic thing up that way.”
Anna just nodded and walked on.
"Well, Columbsy Anna, tell me more."
"Am I going to have to hit you?" she said drawing back her fist."
Laughing Tom said, "No, no—I'll behave."
“So, this trip is a sort of graduation celebration then?”
Anna tried to answer but her voice cracked. She felt a heat behind her eyes. “Not exactly,” she finally said.
Tom looked over and saw the beautiful girl he had just met nearly in tears. “What’s the matter?” he said. “Did I say something wrong?”
She shook her head, “No, no, it’s not that.” Laughing nervously and forcing a smile, Anna finally replied, “Celebration just isn’t the word I would use. That’s all.” She sighed and walked along, studying the ocean’s waves. “It’s been a tough year. Sometimes you just need to escape, you know?”
Tom nodded. “Now that I understand.” He took a deep breath that made his cheeks puff up and then exhaled like a tea-kettle. With wide eyes he said, “I know all about tough years. It’s like nothing seems to work well as far as work or money goes. Past few years have been fine, smooth sailing even. But then I went to Canada for two months—”
“Canada? Did you go to Montreal? Toronto?”
“Oh no, not at all. I got to spend my days in the wonderful wilderness towns with dirt streets and moose that wandered up and down them all day and night. Let’s just say that a compass would call that area the Arctic Circle.”
“Wow,” is all Anna could say.
“Yeah, wow is right. I did see the Northern Lights, but that was pretty much the only beautiful thing. They look like someone throws paint up in the sky and it keeps drizzling down.”
“That does sound beautiful. Who knew I was talking to such an adventurer?”
Tom laughed and shook his head. “Who? Me? I’m just trying to work is all. So when things went south I decided I would too. Came down here to take advantage of the resort opening and I’m just trying to figure out what I’m going to do next.”
They walked along in silence for quite a while, each of them heading toward forever on their own pathways, yet somehow conjoined. Anna saw the endless beach and the limitless seas as the forever that lay before them, but Tom felt something deeper, something unseen. He kept thinking about the Northern Lights, how the colors looked like they were falling from the sky but would stay in motion forever. Together though, walking so closely and meditating on such a similar idea, they appeared as twin flames, illuminating something that would otherwise remain ethereal.
Excerpted from "If: Book One of the Twin Flames Trilogy" by Spencer Michaels. Copyright © 2016 by Spencer Michaels. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.