The brutal August heat was defeated after the sun had set. The wind off the ocean pulled cool breezes across the pier as waves slammed against the wood pilings. During the day while the pier was overrun with tourists, it was difficult to hear the ocean over the boisterous chatter. The evening had grown late and stretched into night sending most of the people home, leaving Caitlin lost in the cadence of the waves.
She sat sideways on one of the benches by the railing, hugging her knees to her chest. She watched the foaming crests of waves as they approached the shore, rolling over each other relentlessly. The moderate lights of the pier only allowed her vision a short range before the water was swallowed by the black night. She had realized it was a lack of the moon that drowned out the light, and accepted the poetic justice the universe offered her as a sign of empathy.
Caitlin was so involved in her thoughts of self pity, she had failed to notice someone had decided to watch the ocean only a few feet away from her bench. He leaned against the railing on his forearms, staring out into the night in the same direction she had been watching. She felt an uneasiness creep up her spine from his quiet proximity. He wore a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, blocking any peripheral view of his face. His common baggy jeans didn't offer any distinction, but his heavy black boots were out of place for an ocean pier.
She fixed her eyes back on the ocean, but kept a subtle watch over the stranger. They maintained their standoff for several minutes, neither openly acknowledging the other was aware of their presence. She visibly stiffened when she noticed his head turn just enough to see past the hood of his sweatshirt. He caught her reaction and lowered his head in defeat. Caitlin watched him more openly as he clutched the railing and rocked back on his heels, stretching like a cat.
"Well, would you prefer to just sit here and act like we don't see each other, or can I actually talk to you so I don't look like some sort of stalker?"
The tension slid off her shoulders as his face came into view. He wasn't the terrifying escaped felon she had pictured. He was probably her age and not bad to look at. Then a small reminder flicked the back of her mind that Ted Bundy had been attractive.
"Sorry, I don't think I've got much to say right now." Caitlin tucked her chin back against her knee and stared back out into the ocean.
"I actually think you've got a lot to say, but it's just not meant for me to hear."
Caitlin looked up again through narrowed eyes. He just shrugged and gave her a half smile. "None of my business. I get it." He approached her bench and gestured to ask permission to sit. She tucked her feet further back to allow him a seat, but gave no friendly indications. "I would however, like to know how long you plan to stay out here though. It's getting cold and I've got to work tomorrow and would like some amount of sleep before the sun comes back up."
She was doing her best to suppress her inner bitch, but he was incredibly invasive at a time she least wanted interrogations. "Why do you care?" she snapped.
"I didn't stand there for the last hour and a half making sure no one bothered you just to leave you to fend for yourself now when it's even later." He shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and leaned against the back of the bench and closed his eyes. "I guess I could just sleep here, but that would be sort of counter productive to my whole protective image."
Caitlin couldn't hold back the small laugh that bubbled up from her chest. He opened one eye and smiled back. "Laughter? Does this mean you're done feeling sorry for yourself and ready to leave?"
"Not quite." Her smile faced as her reason for hiding on the pier came back to the forefront of her thoughts. "What time is it anyway?"
He pulled a phone out of his pocket and glanced at the illuminated screen. "Eleven twenty two."
Chewing the inside of her cheek, Caitlin calculated the hours since she had left her apartment and if it was safe to go back yet. "No, definitely not ready to leave." She shifted her focus back to the persuasive stranger. "If you're going to baby-sit me, you could at least tell me your name."
"I kind of like this mysterious thing I have going on."
"So you just don't want me to be able to identify you in any way to the police later?"
"Hey now. All this time standing out here making sure no one bothers you and suddenly I'm the threat?"
"I dunno. Maybe you just didn't want anyone to steal your victim." Caitlin shrugged. "I'm not too sure how all that works. I never had much of an urge to kill a stranger at random. Now killing someone I know..."
"Ah, that's a feeling I can relate to. The someone you know part, not a stranger." He extended his hand. "Myles."
"Caitlin," she responded, offering her own hand into his. She was surprised by how calloused they felt for someone so young. She turned his hand into her other hand to look at his palm. "What exactly do you do for a living?"
He jerked his hand away and stuffed it back in his pocket. "Oh, I work on cars. Not exactly helping my hand modeling career."
"Well it's at least more interesting than sitting in a classroom all day listening to lectures about business ethics."
"There are worse things you could do than be in school." Myles settled back against the bench and closed his eyes again.
"Depends on your perspective," Caitlin mumbled into her sleeve.
"At any rate, you still have two weeks of summer before classes start."
Caitlin felt her stomach twist. Two weeks would be an eternity. Two weeks of avoiding her apartment, acting like everything was fine when she actually was there. Two weeks with nothing to distract her from the constant presence of her now ex-boyfriend.
Tears started up again and she forced her thoughts to shift to any other direction. She cleared her throat and tucked a loose strand of blond hair behind her ear. "So what were you doing out here? I mean before you were stalking me."
Myles sat back up when he heard the quaver in her voice. "Stalking? First I was a potential serial killer and now I'm a stalker? Good to know I managed to make you feel safer." He smiled at the sound of the small laugh she managed. "I was just clearing my head, going for a walk. I realized you were alone and it was getting late. Just didn't feel right leaving you sitting there like that."
Caitlin took a deep breath to ward off a fresh set of tears. Already raw from her three year relationship being torn away, the statement from a stranger that she didn't deserve to be left alone was overwhelming. She wiped at her eyes, hating that she felt like such a girl. She stretched her legs out and decided she was in need of a change of subject and scenery. "I think I need a drink. How about you come with me?"
His eyebrows raised at Caitlin's abrupt change. "I dunno. I need to be at work pretty early and..."
"Just one, please?" Caitlin got to her feet and offered a hand to help Myles up. "I owe you for protecting my virtue." She knew her eyes were rimmed with red and her hair was a victim of hours of salty wind, but she pouted her full lips in the way that always got men to agree with her.
Myles watched her act with a critical look on his face, but Caitlin refused to relent. "Maybe another time. I can walk you out to your car."
"Don't bother," her eyes darkened and she turned to storm off. She called back over her shoulder, "I can find my own way to the bar."
She only managed a few steps before Myles caught up to her. She couldn't suppress a satisfied grin as she looked up at an irritated Myles. "Changed your mind?"
"Do you always get your way?" His earlier tone of amusement had evaporated, but Caitlin continued to smile.
"Most of the time." She wrapped her hands around his arm and led him off the pier.