He emerged from the water after a long swim. The sun felt nice and warm on his back. He had been on the beach for most of the day. It was where he liked to go when he had a lot on his mind. And he had a lot on his mind right now. He had done something he never thought he would do–he had fallen in love with a seventeen year old girl. He saw her one morning when he dropped his sister, Joan off at the Catholic school she attended.
When they drove up, she was standing with a friend beside the pole with the American flag, talking. She looked around and their eyes met. Joan was busy chatting about something. She was always talking a lot. He was thankful that he didn’t have to drop her off to school often–only when his parents were unable to. That day, he had to because his father was out of town on business and his mother had one of her headaches. His mother had called him that morning to ask him to take Joan to school on his way to work. “Don’t you think it’s time for her to start taking the bus to school?” he had asked. “She’s seventeen years old. Kids younger than her are taking the bus to school.”
“Joan doesn’t want to take the bus and I don’t want to force her. Now, will you please come and pick her up?”
“All right. I’ll come and get her.”
Joan was ready and waiting for him when he got to the house. She ran down the steps and after opening the back door to toss her knapsack on the seat, she climbed into the passengerside seat and fastened her seatbelt. He barely managed to say, “Good morning,” before she began prattling. He tuned her out. Thankfully, the drive to the school was less than half-hour.
“What are you staring at?” Joan demanded, sounding a little irritated. “Have you even heard one word I’ve said?”
“Who’s that girl over there?”
Joan followed his gaze. “Which one?”
“The one with the braids standing next to the pole with the flag.”
“Oh, that’s Anaisha. Her father is Nigerian and her mother is American.”
“Do you know which grade she’s in?”
“She’s in grade 12 like me. Why?”
“No reason. Was just curious.”
“How come you didn’t ask me about Miss Murphy?”
“Yes, my English teacher. You met her when you dropped me off to school the last time. She’s always asking me about you. It’s obvious that she likes you.”
“She’s single and very pretty. I can get her number for you if you’re interested–“
“No, don’t bother doing that, Joan.”
“What’s the matter with Miss Murphy?”
“Nothing is the matter with her.”
“Then, why don’t you want her number?”
“Look, Joan, I don’t mean to be rude but, will you just get out of the car, grab your knapsack? I have to go to work.”
“Oh, all right.” She unfastened the seatbelt, flung it off and pushed open the door. She slammed it.
Eliot glared at her. “There’s no need for you to slam the door,” he told her.
Joan grabbed her knapsack and closed the back door. “Goodbye!” she said before she turned and marched off, her thick chestnut hair pulled back in a ponytail swung from side to side.
His gaze shifted to Anaisha who was watching him. He smiled and she smiled back. He waved at her as he drove by and she waved back. On his way to the office, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and by the time, he parked his car in his assigned spot, he had decided that he would drop Joan off to school the following day. Suffering through her incessant chatter was worth the aggravation if it meant seeing Anaisha again.
His mother was taken aback when he called that evening and offered to take Joan to school the next day. “You don’t have to,” she said. “My headache is gone.”
“Oh, I don’t mind, Mother. I’ll be there at the same time as yesterday. How did Joan get home yesterday afternoon?”
“Megan’s grandmother usually pick her and Megan up. I’ll let Joan know that you’ll be taking her to school tomorrow morning. Thank you, Eliot.”
“You’re welcome.” He wondered what she would say if she knew the real reason why he offered to take Joan to school.
Joan seemed to be in a better mood and was soon chattering away about the cute new boy in her Math class with the unusual green eyes. He smiled to himself as he imagined her talking that poor kid’s ear off.
When they got to the school, he looked for Anaisha and his heart skipped a beat when he saw her standing under the flag pole again. This time she was alone. He wanted to get out of the car and go over there and talk to her but stayed put, deciding that it probably wasn’t a good idea to do that, especially when Joan was around. “Will I see you tomorrow?” she asked him now as she poked her head through the open window.
“Yes,” he replied, dragging his eyes away from Anaisha. “Have a good day, Joan.”
“You too, big brother.” She smiled and then, turned and walked away. She said hi to Anaisha as she passed her.
He racked his brains for an opportunity to speak to Anaisha when his eyes fell on Joan’s water bottle. He grabbed it and got out of the car. His heart pounded as he walked over to Anaisha who was staring at him. “Hello,” he said when he reached her.
“Do you know my sister Joan?”
She nodded. “Yes. We’re in the same English class.”
“Could you do me a favor? She forget her water bottle in my car. Do you mind giving it to her when you see her?”
“No, I don’t mind.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it. I would do it myself but I don’t wait to be late for work.”
She took the bottle from him. “It’s no trouble.”
“Thanks…what’s your name?” I didn’t want to let on that I already knew it.
“I’m Eliot. Thanks again, Anaisha.”
He said goodbye and hurried back to his car. She was still standing there, watching him when he drove away. For the next several days, he dropped Joan to school and each time, he saw Anaisha but all he could do was watch her and wave. He wanted so badly to talk to her again. He got his opportunity one morning after he dropped Joan to school. After Joan got out of the car and went off to hang out with her friends before school started, he was about to leave when, to his surprise and delight, Anaisha walked over to the car and around to the driver’s side. “Hello,” she said, smiling shyly at him.
“Hello,” he replied.
“Um. There’s a basketball game on Saturday. Would you like to come?”
“Are you going to be there?”
“I’ll be playing.”
“Really! Then, I’ll definitely be there.”
She smiled and handed him a flyer. “I’ll see you then.”
“You bet.” He smiled and winked at her as he took the flyer. “Thanks for inviting me, Anaisha.”
Her sweet smile and the way she said his name made him catch his breath. Reluctantly, he said goodbye and she stepped back from the window so that he could drive off. He couldn’t wait for Saturday to come.
Saturday came and he was sitting there in the bleachers watching Anaisha and the girls’ basketball team play against another school team. It was an exciting match. He had never been to a high-school basketball game nor watched girls’ or women’s basketball before but he was happy to be there, cheering Anaisha and her team on. They won by a considerable margin.
After the game, he went over to her and congratulated her. “Thanks for coming,” she said.
“I told you that I would be here.”
“A bunch of us are going for burgers after we leave here, would you like to come?”
“Sure.” He welcomed any opportunity to be with her even if they weren’t going to be alone. “I can take you and three other people.”
Four of them, including Colleen, their coach, headed over to one of his favorite burger joints. They joined the group. He sat between Anaisha and Selma, a pretty Hispanic girl. He had the Black Bean burger with French fries and Anaisha had the veggie burger with sweet potato fries.
“Are you married?” Selma asked him as she swallowed her first bite into her Cajun Salmon BLT.
Eliot shook his head. “No.”
“What about a girlfriend?”
“I’m single and so are most of the girls here. Would you be interested in going out with any of us?”
He shook his head. “No.”
“Why not?” Selma demanded.
“Oh. My parents would never let me date a guy in his twenties.”
“At least your parents would let you date,” Meghan said to Selma. “Mine told me that I’m not allowed to date until I’m twenty-one. Can you believe that? I have to wait four years before I can date.”
“That sucks,” Selma said.
“Yes, it does,” Meghan agreed resentfully.
“Come on, let’s talk about something else,” Selma suggested. “Did you see the latest TikTok video by Party Girl?”
Eliot turned to Anaisha. “Are you dating anyone?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“How old are you?”
“It’s too bad you aren’t 18 or older,” he said regretfully in a low voice.
“I’ll be 18 on the 24th of March,” she told him.
“I’ll have to wait until then before I can date you.”
“In the meantime, couldn’t we just hang out together–as friends?”
“I guess we could do that.”
She looked very relieved.
“How come your parents didn’t come to the game?” he asked.
“My father had to work today and my mother had to attend a friend’s funeral.”
They talked about the basketball game and other things and then, it was time to split. He took Selma, two other girls and Colleen back to the school where the girls waited for their parents to pick them up. Colleen waited with them. Eliot offered to give Anaisha a ride home and she readily accepted. It was about a twenty minute ride. After he stopped the car in front of the house and switched off the engine, he turned to face her.
“Are you free on Saturday?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Spend the day with me.”
Her face broke into a big smile. “Okay.”
He asked for her number which she quickly wrote down on the back of the receipt for the burger and handed it to him. He folded it and slipped it into the breast pocket of his shirt. “Thanks again for inviting me to the game. I had a great time.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow evening regarding Saturday.” Tomorrow was Friday.
He got out of the car to open her door for her. Their eyes met as she climbed out. He felt his face grow hot and wondered how he was going to manage being just friends with her when he knew that he would want to hold her hand and kiss her and…He didn’t finish the rest of the thought but he could feel his body reacting. He closed the door behind her and watched as she walked up the driveway. After she opened the door, she turned and waved. He waited until she went inside before he got into the car and drove off.
As promised, he called her on Friday evening and they spoke for hours. On Saturday, he turned up at her house at nine in the morning. Her parents weren’t there. He didn’t even have to ring the doorbell. The door opened as he was going up the steps for the porch. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Anaisha standing there, smiling at him. She looked great in a white tee shirt and jeans. Her braids were pulled back. After they exchanged greetings, they walked to the car. He opened the door for her to get in.
“We have a full day ahead of us,” he told her as he pulled away from the curb.
He was right. They started the day off by having breakfast Bayside’s 2nd Floor Food Court. After they left there, they went to Jungle Island where they got up close to exotic animals including parrots, reptiles, lemurs, orangutans, African penguins and others. They strolled through the lush landscape with palms, tropical flowers and waterfalls while enjoying animal shows. Anaisha was able to hold a baby chimpanzee while Eliot held a big boa constrictor. He encouraged her to touch it but she shook her head vigorously and kept a safe distance.
They went for lunch at Pepito’s Plaza in Mary Brickell Village, an open-air shopping and entertainment area with a wide variety of restaurants. He had the Sautéed Steak Saltado while she had the Sautéed Chicken Saltado. After lunch, they spent some time browsing Brickell Village’s stylish boutiques and then, headed for Bayside Marketplace for a 90- minute Island Queen cruise. They enjoyed light refreshments as they cruised past Biscayne Bay, the Miami Skyline, Port of Miami, Fisher Island, Miami Beach and Millionaire’s Row where the Homes of the Rich and Famous were. It was a beautiful, sunny day.
They had a great time and were both sorry when it was time for him to take her home. When they were standing on the porch, she said to him, “I had a great time today.”
“So did I. Have you ever been on a Big Bus Tour?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“I’ll take you on one tomorrow if you’re free.”
“Good. I’ll call you tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your evening, Anaisha.”
“Thanks. You too, Eliot. Good night.”
As he walked to his car, it occurred to him that rather than hanging out as friends, it felt like they were dating and that was their first date. The next day, they went on the Big Bus Tour which took them South Beach, Little Havana, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and other popular spots around Miami. They had lunch and then went to Biscayne Boulevard where they hung out for a while before he took her home. They saw each other only on the weekends because he had stopped dropping Joan to school which suited him fine. She had started taking the bus to school because it turned out that the cute new boy in her Math class with the unusual green eyes was taking it.
For the next several weeks, Eliot and Anaisha saw a lot of Miami. They went to parks, museums, the Everglades Alligator Farm,
For the next several weeks, Eliot and Anaisha saw a lot of Miami. They went to parks, museums, the Everglades Alligator Farm, Coconut Grove, Zoo Miami, rented Deco Bikes rental and rode along Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and the historical Miami Beach Art Deco District. They went for lunches, dinners, concerts at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre, Taverna Opa where people danced on tables and sometimes threw plates on the floor.
They went bowling at Bird Bowl and to an IPIC Theatre where there were large seats decorated with blankets and pillows and waiters tending to them throughout the movie, taking food and drink orders. It was tough for him, sitting there in the theatre, close to her tempted to hold her hand or to put his arm around her shoulders. He had to keep reminding himself of the trouble he would get into if he were to become romantically involved with her before she turned 18.
They were sitting in the car in the parking lot of the theatre when impulsively, she reached over and kissed him on the cheek. His heart lurched and heat surged through his loins when he felt her lips against his skin. When, she drew back, he stared at her, his eyes dark and smoldering. His gaze dropped to her lips which parted slightly. Unable to resist, he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her. She kissed him back eagerly, her hands resting on his thighs.
He suddenly broke off the kiss, his face flushed. They were both breathing heavily. His eyes were troubled as they met hers. “I’d better take you home,” he muttered as he removed his hands from her face.
Anaisha drew back and settled in her seat. Her hands shook as she fastened the seatbelt.
Eliot started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. They didn’t speak as they drove over to her house but when they got there, he said to her, “I think we should stop seeing each other for a while.”
“For how long?” she asked forlornly.
“Until after your birthday.”
“But that isn’t until March 24th.” It was mid-January.
“I know, but it’s obvious that we can’t hang out as friends. I want you and you want me but nothing can happen between us until you’re 18.”
She sighed heavily. “All right.”
“We can still talk to each other over the phone.”
“It isn’t the same as being together.”
“I know but it’s the best that we can do for now.”
She unfastened her seatbelt. “All right.”
He got out of the car and went around to open her door. “I’ll call you tomorrow evening,” he said quietly.
“All right. Goodnight, Eliot.”
“Goodnight, Anaisha.” He watched her walk away, his heart and body aching.
That was last week. He stood there now on the beach, thinking about her and longing to be with her. It was sheer agony. Talking to her on the phone wasn’t enough. He wanted to see her, to be with her. March 24th seemed so far away…
She sat in the lobby of the condo building where he lived. Was he going to be surprised or upset to see her? She hoped that he wouldn’t be angry but she couldn’t wait until after her birthday to see him again. The days and weeks seemed to be dragging. March 24th seemed so far away.
She had thought about it all week and had decided to come to him. She missed him like crazy. Did he miss her too? She couldn’t stop thinking about him or the kiss. Her body did crazy things every time she thought about the kiss. It was her first and it was amazing.
She was madly in love with him and wanted so badly to be with him but the last thing she wanted was to get him in trouble because of the age difference. In Florida, it was against the law for a man his age to be in a relationship with a girl her age. No one had to know that they were seeing each other and they didn’t have to have sex until she was 18. Sex. Most of her friends were having sex but the guys they were dating were 17, 18 and 19. Eliot was 27–ten years older than her. He was an adult and she was a teenager. Maybe coming here was a really bad idea. She should leave before…Too late. Her heart skipped a beat when she glanced up and saw him heading towards her.
Sources: Criminal Defense Lawyer; Noodle; Indeed; Miami and Beaches; Hotels.com; College Magazine