Northanger Revisited 2015: My short story in Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, edited by Christina Boyd
Author’s Note: Catherine Morland, a 21 year-old college student with a penchant for romance novels, is spending the summer with her Aunt Paulette and Uncle Alan on Northanger Island, just off the Georgia coast. For a college girl, Catherine has led a sheltered life. This summer, however, will teach her a thing or two—about friends, about love, and most of all, about herself.
Today, though, she’s only after a pina colada from the beachside snack bar…
“Two piña coladas please.” Catherine pushed her sunglasses on top of her head and smiled at the cabana boy behind the bar.
“You got ID, miss?”
“I do.” She pulled the driver’s license out of her wristlet and handed it to him. As he handed it back, she became aware of someone at her elbow, leaning over to take a look at the card in her hand.
“Well, you sure are twenty-one, aren’t you? Could’ve fooled me.” His slow, lilting, Southern speech was accompanied by a lazy grin. “Just barely though.”
“Barely gets it,” Catherine retorted, zipping her wristlet closed and lifting her chin in defiance. She turned to face him, and her features softened into a smile. He was young, probably no more than five years her senior, and the first thing she noticed was the pleasant good humor in his expression. He was nice looking, but not pretty. His hair was a curly mop of brown curls high-lighted to a burnished gold by the sun, and his eyes were a warm whiskey brown. The lemon-yellow polo he wore contrasted with his tanned skin.
He laughed and sat back on his bar stool while he took a pull from his beer bottle. Suddenly, as if deciding on something, he held out his hand to her. “Henry.”
“Pleasure, darlin’.” He held her hand a second longer than was strictly polite.
“So, you here on vacation, Miss Catherine?”
“Yes, and I’m having the time of my life.”
He grinned, showing off a matching set of dimples. “Did you talk your boyfriend into drinking one of those girly piña coladas?”
“My boyfriend? Oh”—she shook her head, smiling—“I don’t have a boyfriend. This is for my aunt.”
“And who might your aunt be? I know most everyone around here.”
“Paulette Allen. My aunt and uncle rented a home here on the island for the whole summer. My uncle is Alan Allen.”
“Really?” He looked amused.
“Do you know them?”
“I don’t believe I do.”
“But being a local, I would be considered an insensitive boor if I let you go without the traditional tourist welcome.”
“There’s a traditional welcome here? You mean, like a handshake?”
“Certainly. It goes like this.” He put on an affected version of his delightful Georgia drawl and took her hand in his. “Well, hello there, little missy. Welcome to Northanger Island.”
She laughed. “Thank you, kind sir.”
“Is this y’all’s first visit?”
“Why no, sir, but I haven’t been here since I was a child. I hardly remember.”
“It can’t have been that long since you were a child.”
“I’m twenty-one last February.”
“That can’t be! I declare it impossible.”
“Why the surprise?”
His voice deepened into its normal timbre, his eyes dancing with mischief. “I have to seem surprised to keep the conversation going. Now, let us proceed.
“Well then, since you’re all grown up, on this visit, you should make sure to visit the Pump Room café, and the Upper Dance Hall for night life, and the shops on Crescent Avenue for various souvenirs and trinkets. Now I can go about the rest of my day knowing I’ve welcomed you properly.”
“Oh, I see what you’re thinking. You’ll be posting on Instagram about that weird guy you met down by the beach.”
Catherine put on a teasing voice of her own and batted her lashes in wide-eyed innocence. “How do you know I even have Instagram?”
“Of course you have one; all you co-eds have Instagram. You’ll post a selfie, wearing your designer swim attire with its matching cover up.” His eyes took in her outfit but came back to rest on her face. “The caption will read, ‘Looking good, but had to suffer a goofy stranger trying to chat me up while I bought a piña colada.’ Don’t forget to post a picture of the piña colada.”
The bartender rolled his eyes.
“I’ll do no such thing,” Catherine declared.
“You know what you should post, don’t you?”
“‘Met this great guy down at the beach snack bar. Had a fascinating conversation. He’s probably a genius. Want to get to know him better.’ That is what you should say.”
So, should our Catherine find out more about this handsome charmer? Inquiring minds want to know…