Bodrum Blue

This story was inspired by a Subaru commercial, of all things. 

     Steam was roiling up off the asphalt of the roadway, clear evidence of both the high humidity and the simmering heat of another miserable late summer day in Newark. It was sure to rain later. The smell of that potentiality wafted through the thick humid Jersey air.

     He was late for class, as usual, hence the speeding. As he sped down Ryders Lane, he kept an eye peeled for patrol cars, hyper aware of his surroundings. He couldn't afford another ticket. All his available funds went to tuition, and gas for the car.

     As for cars, he looked through the cracked windshield out across the dented hood of his beat up Ford Taurus. The paint was mostly worn away, replaced with rough patches of rust and corrosion. He grimaced every time the sharp bang of a backfire exploded through the muffler, jettisoning a black cloud of smoke along with noxious fumes. He couldn't even see out the rear window; it was covered with a thick layer of dust. Between his job as a night watchman and his full load of classes, he never had any free time. Sighing to himself, he vowed when he made it big he would never drive anything but the finest of vehicles. Maybe something German like BMW or Porsche. And black. Clean shiny black. No more rusted splotchy gray monstrosities like the piece of shit he was driving now.

     He had plans. Oh, how he had plans. He dreamed of owning his own company. He wasn't quite sure what kind of company yet, but one day he would be sitting at the top, overseeing his own corporate empire. His employees would practically bow to him out of respect as he passed them in the hallways. Maybe there would be a hint of fear, too, in their eyes. But mainly respect. Because he would have built up his empire from nothing. Nothing but sheer determination, hard work and talent. He knew he had the business sense to create and run a large successful company, and he had the ruthless drive to take it all way to the top, to a Fortune 500 company. Someday.

     But today, he was late for class. Business economics, to be exact. One of his more boring classes, though none really held his interest. He was paying good money, money he had worked long hard hours for, to be able to attend college. He pressed his foot more firmly on the accelerator, still keeping a watchful eye out for patrol cars.

     And that's when he saw her. She was up the road, off to his right, standing with one foot on the curb and one foot in the street, her right arm stuck out and her thumb cocked at an angle.

     He was nearly past her, still looking at her, when their eyes met. A jolt of electricity shot through him. He'd never seen eyes so blue. Bodrum blue!

     His older cousin Tomás had described that color to him one day when they were walking along the beach in Miami. He'd been sent to Florida when he was fourteen to live with his grandparents because he had started getting into trouble with the neighborhood gangs in Newark. His cousin, an Army Ranger, would stop by their grandparents' house when he was in between tours of duty and spend time with his younger cousin, who wanted to be just like him when he grew up.

     Tomás used to talk about this one particular place in Turkey that was close to where he'd been stationed. Bodrum was a small seaside village along the Aegean Sea, and it was where he'd lost his heart to a beautiful local girl. He would get a faraway look in his eyes when he talked about her and the town where they met, saying the color of the ocean there was different than any other color he'd ever seen. It was the deepest and most brilliant of blues, and it was the exact color of his girl's incredible blue eyes. He called her his Bodrum babe. And as much as he loved her, he knew he couldn't promise her a life with him because as an Army Ranger, he never knew when the next mission might be his last. And he wouldn't put someone he loved through that agony.

     The young boy had absorbed everything his uncle told him about life, and especially about girls. And he had never forgotten about Tomás's Bodrum babe.

     He slammed on the brakes.

     He would be really late for class, but this couldn't wait. She couldn't wait.

     Whipping his head around, he saw that she was running toward his car. He was mesmerized by her. When he could finally take his eyes off of hers, he took in the rest of her. She was slim, of average height, with long straight brown hair. She was wearing a crisp white long-sleeved blouse tucked into a tight black pencil skirt, which left her long shapely legs exposed. As she approached the passenger door, he leaned over and opened it for her.

     She jumped in, breathless but talking a mile a minute. "Thanks for stopping. I've never hitched a ride before, but my car broke down and I've been walking for miles. I'm going to be late for this special seminar..."

     She'd just shut the passenger door and looked over at the young man behind the driver's wheel. Her rambling stopped mid-sentence, leaving her mouth hanging open, and she twisted her neck slightly, as if to scratch an itch.

     She couldn't stop staring at him. He was well-built, but not overly so, and he had the deepest, darkest brown eyes she had ever gazed into. His dark hair was long enough to brush his shoulders, and it was so silky and shiny she wanted to reach over and touch it. And while she was fantasizing about stroking his hair, she also imagined stroking his smooth chocolaty cheek. His flawless skin was the color of the mocha latte she had chugged down earlier that morning. He was without a doubt the sexiest guy she'd ever seen. Her mouth was still hanging open and she was staring at him, unable to look away.

     He was doing the same thing, but of course his mouth was closed, though the beginning of a grin was pulling up the corners a bit.

     "I...uh... I... um..." she stammered.

     Unbidden, the grin broke out across his face, showcasing one of his best features, his 200-watt smile. Even her stammering stopped as she continued to stare.

     "Where are you headed?" he asked, amazed his voice was steady and hadn't cracked. His heart was beating fast and his mouth was so dry, he was surprised he could maintain his cool. Her eyes were definitely Bodrum blue, and he was thunderstruck. Normally, he'd be staring at her bare legs or her stiletto heels, but he couldn't get past those blue eyes.

     "Um... the university," she managed.

     "Rutgers?"

     In answer, her head bobbed up and down a few times.

     "That's where I'm going," he said.

     "Good," was the extent of her ability to speak.

     They both continued to stare at each other until she quietly said, "Shouldn't we be going?"

     The 200-watt smile was back in force. Without a word he put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb into traffic. There was a loud bang, and plume of black smoke boiled up from the back of the car. His head gave a slight shake and he gritted his teeth, but didn't say anything. He let his eyes slide to the right. She wasn't laughing at him, but she was definitely smiling.

     "Do you go to Rutgers?" he asked, glancing her way, unable to keep from looking at her. She wasn't classically beautiful, but she was definitely stare-worthy. She had an energy about her that was contagious, and she couldn't seem to sit still. Her skin was very light, almost porcelain-like, with no freckles or blemishes to mar it. Her brown hair was sleek and straight, and fell like a waterfall around her shoulders. The color contrast of her dark brown hair made her pale skin look luminous. He had to resist the temptation to touch her hair or stroke her cheek. And not only were her eyes the bluest he'd ever seen, they also sparkled when she smiled. He didn't want to take his eyes off of her.

     In answer to his question, she gave a slight head shake. "No. But there's a guy speaking there today that I want to hear. He's big in the fashion industry."

     "Are you in the fashion business?"

     "Not yet." She dipped her head so he couldn't see her timid grin. She was taken aback that he thought she might have some important job in fashion. She was only a sophomore at Douglass College, and not doing very well at that.

     "What are you studying at Rutgers?" she asked, trying to steer him away from asking her any more embarrassing questions about herself.

     "Business." he said. Though maybe not for much longer, he thought. He had no desire to go to his class at the moment.

     "Ah. A future business tycoon?" she teased.

     "You say that like it's something bad," he rejoined.

     "Not at all. It's just that... the future seems so far away. How are we supposed to know now what we want to be when we're grown up? There are so many possibilities and so much can happen between now and then. I don't think I'm ready to decide on something that I could be spending the rest of my life doing."

     "Isn't that what college is for? To try things out and see if you like them?" he asked.

     "Not according to my parents. They think I should have it figured out already," she said, rolling her eyes. "At the rate I'm going, I don't think I ever will."

     "Would that be so bad?"

     "What? Just drift along from job to job? Trying things out?" she said, throwing his own words back at him.

     "It's better than settling for something you don't like. That would be the kiss of death. Especially for someone like you."

     "You don't even know me."

     "I know enough to know you should never be tied down. You seem like the type of person who needs to stretch her wings. To get out there and fly."

     Maybe he did know her, she mused. She reached up as if to smooth down her hair, though it was lying perfectly and smoothly in place, for once. She'd spent the better part of an hour this morning straightening her wildly curly hair so that she would look polished and chic for the fashion seminar.

     "Fly, huh? So, you think I should be... what? A pilot? An astronaut?" she quizzed. "Or a bird? Maybe Wonder Woman?" She gave a low throaty chuckle at her last words.

      "I could see you as Wonder Woman." They both grinned. "Your name doesn't happen to be Diana, does it? As in Diana Prince," he quipped, teasing about Wonder Woman's secret identity in hopes of learning her name.

      She grinned again and shook her head, but didn't answer him directly. "If we're going the superhero route, you are definitely not Clark Kent. You look too confident to be a mild mannered reporter," she joked, shifting in her seat to look at him full on. "You're more like... Bruce Wayne. A young tortured soul intent on conquering his demons and the bad guys, quietly and ruthlessly."

     "Ruthless?" he remarked, raising one eyebrow at her.

     "Only toward the bad guys," she clarified. "I'm sure you are very kind to the good guys."

     "Thank you," he quipped. ''Looks like I have my life's work cut out for me, being Batman and all. And with you as Wonder Woman..."

     "As if..." she gave an undignified snort. "The one time I tried to fly, I fell off the garage and broke my arm." She rubbed her left elbow for emphasis.

      He glanced over at her. "That was just because you didn't have your Lasso of Truth with you, or maybe it was your golden bracelets," he said, reaching out and touching the bangle she was wearing on her left wrist. A spark tickled his fingers as their skin touched. He couldn't blame it on static electricity with the high humidity that drenched the air.

      She rubbed her wrist as if she, too, had felt the spark of electricity when they touched. "I'll try to remember to keep both of them with me from now on out. Never know when you might need to fly or battle an enemy," she bantered. "But when I'm not being a superhero, what am I? What do I do with my life?" she asked, more to herself than to the young man sitting next to her.

     He gave her a thoughtful look. "You should do whatever turns you on." And then a sly grin crossed his face as he asked, "What does turn you on?"

     Her cheeks turned bright red. There was one thing that she knew turned her on, and he was sitting right next to her. She replied, a little coyly, "I like anything mocha latte." She tilted her head back and laughed, as if what she'd said was the funniest thing in the world.

     He liked hearing her laugh. It was a genuine hearty laugh, not the tittering most teenaged girls affected. In fact, he liked everything about her, the way she looked, the direct way she spoke, even the way she smelled.

     As they turned onto the street into the Rutgers campus, he asked, "Where do you need to go?"

     "The Bove Auditorium," she replied.

     "It's right up ahead," he said, disappointment in his voice, as the car in front of them came to a stop.

     The campus was normally a busy place, but today it was more than busy. Hundreds of people lined the sidewalks and the main street was clogged with vehicles. Newark police officers were out in force doing double duty controlling the crowd and directing traffic. It was stop and go all the way to the auditorium.

     "It's normally not this crowded," he said. "This speaker you are going to hear must be someone really big to draw this many people."

     "He is THE name in fashion right now. His designs are all the rage. I just had to come. And it looks like half of Jersey did, too." The young woman grabbed her purse and put her hand on the door handle. "You can let me out here. I can probably get there faster walking. Thanks for the lift," she said.

     "Wait!" he almost shouted. In a panic, the young man put his hand on her arm. "What's your name? And your phone number? Maybe we can get together for coffee sometime?" That one quick touch of her skin sent a current of electricity through him and made the back of his neck tingle. He couldn't just let her walk out of his life. "I'll even buy you a mocha latte," he offered, his full on smile in force.

     She laughed again but hesitated. "I'm going to be late. Again, thanks for giving me a ride. You saved my life." She pushed open the door, got out and started walking briskly down the street.

     He almost leaped out of his car to follow her, but at that moment there was a break in traffic, and he was able to move forward. He pulled ahead of her, keeping her in sight, but the forward movement didn't last long. Traffic stopped again. The young woman stepped off the curb and dashed in back of his car. Grinning, he watched as she wrote her phone number in the caked on dust covering his back window. And then she slipped into the crowd.

     He was still grinning as he quickly found a place to park near the building where his class was held. He was definitely late. He had to run. Finding a place in the back of the room, he quietly slid into a seat, hoping the professor hadn't noticed his tardy entrance. The long lecture went by without his notice. He was preoccupied with thoughts of a certain blue-eyed girl. When the class ended, he was the first one out the door.

     As he strode across the parking lot, there was a terrific craaack of thunder, and lightning lit up the sky. Within seconds, a torrential downpour started.

     He looked on in horror as sheets of rain sluiced the dirt from his car and from his back window. And along with it, his Bodrum babe's phone number. Without thinking, he started running back toward the auditorium and immediately slipped in a large puddle. His pride bruised and his clothes covered in mud, he got up and continued his race across the field. The rain came down even harder, but he made it across campus in record time. By the time he reached his destination the rain had slowed to a light drizzle.

     The crowd had been waiting inside Bove Auditorium for the thunderstorm to pass, and they now poured out of the building. Soon the rain-slick plaza was filled with hundreds of well-dressed and bustling people. He searched the milling masses for her, looking for her blue eyes and long straight brown hair. Many people carried umbrellas making it difficult to spot anyone. His clothes still covered in mud and his hair dripping wet, he pushed his way through the throng and stopped dozens of long-haired girls, but none of them were her. He was getting desperate as the people shoved by him trying to make their way to the waiting cars and cabs parked on the street in front of the auditorium. He couldn't lose her. He just couldn't.

     Just then, the crowd of people parted and a man in an Army dress uniform walked by. He stood tall and proud, his uniform immaculate even though a light rain was still coming down. He didn't have to push or shove. People automatically made room for him to pass. He reminded the young man of his cousin. A flash of envy and then wistfulness shot through him as he watched the quiet unpretentious soldier get into a waiting SUV. The thought flashed through his mind, and not for the first time, that that was what he wanted to be doing, not wasting his time going to classes that meant nothing to him.

     The SUV drove away and the young man returned to his quest. The crowd had thinned out and still he couldn't find her. His heart was beating hard at the thought that he'd never see her again. Even though she'd only been in his life for a few minutes, he knew she was special. She was different. She made him feel different. She made him feel good.

     He made his way to the curb and watched each person get into the waiting vehicles. There were only a couple dozen people left on the plaza. None of them was the girl with the Bodrum blue eyes. When the last person was gone, he turned toward the auditorium and even through the light drizzle of rain, he could see through the double glass doors into the lobby, and she wasn't there either. Dejected, he started the long trek back across campus.

     Just before he left the sidewalk to go down a side path, something made him turn around. Several vehicles were motoring down the street on the other side of the median. And there she was...in the back seat of a minivan filled with giggling girls. The van was about to turn the corner. Her face was pressed up against the window, her Bodrum blue eyes focused on his brown eyes, a halo of bouncing brown curls framed her pale face. Then the van rounded the corner and was gone.

     The next day, the young man walked in to the local US Army recruiting office.

Author's Note: This story didn't end as the Subaru commercial did, but maybe, just maybe, it has a different ending a few years later when these two young superheroes find each other again.

 

tanna@tannathornburg.com © Tanna Thornburg 2014