Sharks.

A simple answer that spoke volumes. When asked why he didn’t go to the beach, Brody answered, “Sharks.” He watched “Jaws” at an impressionable age. That did it. He could barely swim. He looked like a spider in a blender; arms and legs frantically flailing. It didn’t matter. He wouldn’t go into the water.

Ever.

Because of sharks.

Hence the irony of living a short distance to one of the most spectacular beaches in Florida. He followed his ex-wife there to be close to his son. Connecticut had its own set of terrors including property taxes and Stepford wives, but it was much safer than Florida. Despite his crippling fear, he now lived where a storm swell could send sharks gliding down his street. Sharknado was not rooted in pure fiction.

Dating.

It explained why he was putting on his only bathing suit, a nondescript blend of aqua and teal to help camouflage himself in the water. Finding love post-divorce had been a struggle; moving to Florida only exacerbated the situation. EVERYTHING revolved around the crowded beaches and shark-infested surf. Restaurants and bars overlooked the water. Gyms held yoga and workout classes on the beach. Everything begged you to come out to meet the sharks, like some demonic neighborhood association.

This was the all-important THIRD DATE. According to dating lore, if he was going to consummate their relationship, it would be on the third date. He couldn’t remember the last time he had consummated anything, with anybody. This date mattered. Rebekah mattered. There wasn’t a time in the day when they spoke or texted and he wasn’t giddy. She was back in school getting a Masters in Sociology while working as a yoga instructor. She was intelligent, compassionate, and absolutely stunning. Well out of his league as far as he was concerned.

She wanted to go to the beach.

Surfing.

She could have suggested skydiving without parachutes. She would swing by and pick him up. All he needed was a beach towel. Brody called his therapist and left a message in advance. If he truly was on the precipice of love, he needed to face his fears. Worst case scenario he would soil himself in the water. Nobody would notice once the shark ate him.

Brody waited outside for Rebekah. She arrived on a salmon-colored moped; a jaunty yellow scarf trailed behind her, highlighting the rich mahogany of her skin. She could have been riding a Vespa in the Piazza San Marco en route to a cappuccino.

He expected a car. A small one perhaps, but at least one built for two. She may have been a yoga instructor, but Brody was on the husky side. His fear of sharks was temporarily allayed since it was unlikely they would make it to the beach.

 She was beaming. “How excited are you?”

“I don’t have the words for everything I’m feeling right now.”

The moped let out an audible groan as he hopped on. He wrapped his arms around her and watched the smooth muscles of her arms flex as she deftly maneuvered the moped towards the crowded beach which spelled his doom. The moped whined in protest and struggled to change gears.

Brody masked his fears as they approached the board rental stand. His heart ticked loudly; he was sure she could hear it. He knew the sharks could.

Rebekah knew how to surf. Brody lied, saying he tried a few times but needed help. Naturally, she would teach him. It dawned on him that if the sharks didn’t get him, his lack of water athleticism would doom the relationship.

Each step towards the water was a funeral march. Rebekah wore a beguiling white bikini with red flowers. Brody ached to remind her that red attracted sharks, but he couldn’t focus on anything except the alarms ringing in his head. He watched from the packed beach as she deftly rode a wave demonstrating proper technique. Her ethereal figure glided above the waves; Brody searched for shadows underneath the surface.

He hesitated as she beckoned him to join her. His surfboard was a shield against the impending invaders. If she knew what it took for him to get this far, she would have fallen in love with him instantly. Brody waded into the surf, heart pounding louder than any crashing wave.

She showed him how to find his balance and paddle out on the board. He paddled on autopilot, a frozen rictus of a smile contorted on his face. He was making peace with death.

Brody’s eyes darted to a previously unseen shadow off to his side. As he lost his focus, a gentle wave knocked him off his board, tossing him underwater. It was then he saw the black fin brush by his face. He yelped underwater and blacked out.

Brody sputtered to life, coughing a few times. In his mind, Rebekah was kissing him on the sand.

“My angel,” he muttered between hoarse breaths.

The lifeguard straddling him performing mouth to mouth, gagged as Brody attempted to kiss him. A gaggle of onlookers from the packed beach laughed in relief. Rebekah had dragged him out of the water as the lifeguard rushed to her aid. The “shark” was a little boy wearing flippers who had swum too close to Brody’s face.

It gradually dawned on Brody what happened. He thanked the lifeguard, apologizing sheepishly for trying to make out with him. Embarrassed, he turned to Rebekah as the lifeguard stalked off spitting.

”I would drive you home and call it a day, but it’s your moped.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! Surfing is dangerous. You were very brave. Also, I think the lifeguard likes you. I gave him your number.”

Brody blushed. “How about next time we do something safer like parachuting or hang gliding?

“I had no idea you were such an adrenaline junkie! I’ve always wanted to film Great Whites from a shark cage,” Rebekah gushed.

Brody realized love was complicated.

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