She’s Red Riding Hood in a bikini, searching for her wolf in a James Dean lookalike. I’ve seen this shit before.
Her foot draws loop-de-loops in the sand; a bubble inflates between her lips. She’s all legs and arms, half woman, half child, maybe too much of the former. When the boys arrive on their two-wheeled steeds, she stops with the loops, flips the beach towel over so Minnie Mouse is face down, and stretches out. Pride and Prejudice trades places in her bag with a tube of lipstick. If her mother only knew.
These boys, the way they look and leer and lie.
A chin-knock toward the beach, an exchange of words, the leader of the pack dismounts. I don’t need to be close to smell the beer and tobacco on his skin; see the roughness of his hands or the falseness of his smile. I don’t need superpowers to read his thoughts as he walks toward his prey, boots kicking up sand.
I could get up. Get moving. Meet him halfway and tell him to go after bigger fish. I could snatch away the cigarette he offers and crush it before she lights up and sucks smoke between cherry lips. I could warn her not to pack up her beach bag and let him lead her to the bike, not to swing a leg over the saddle, not to giggle and wrap her arms around a strange body that won’t be strange for much longer.
What I do: drive home, eat dinner, talk to my wife, tuck my girl into bed and lay a hand on her blonde curls without a word, keeping it there like a shield because right now this is all a father can do.