The parade was the same every year, but here I stood, waving my flag because, America. Soldiers from all branches passed by, waving, and smiling. I swung my flag a bit harder when the Navy men came by. One of the first guys that marched by looked good enough to eat. His pristine white Navy uniform fit his body like a glove, and I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face as he passed. I swear he looked right at me and winked, but the California heat was known to play tricks on you. I shook my head once he was out of sight and tried to focus on the parade. It was the same parade and firework display I came to every year with my family. It was a tradition I would never break.
“Hi.” I looked beside me and saw the guy I was admiring not long before. His hair was a sandy blond and only peeked out a bit from his cap. The blueness of his eyes matched the ocean that I had loved since I was a little girl.
“Hello.” I fidgeted with my jade stone necklace that my father got me when he was stationed in Japan.
“That’s a pretty necklace, did your boyfriend get it for you?” I smiled at his question as he raised his eyebrow. He was trying to be slick and find out if I was currently attached.
“Oh, no.” I stopped playing with the necklace and relished in his eyes. “My father. He got it for me when he was stationed in Japan.”
“So, no boyfriend then?”
“Well, I don’t usually just give out my relationship status to random strangers.” I was trying to be flirtatious but was failing miserably. He laughed.
“I’m Archer. I’m in the Navy and home on leave. I’m allergic to shellfish and I like long walks on the beach.” He took a deep breath. “Your turn.” I eyed him curiously. He was different than any man I met.
“My name’s Amanda. I’m home visiting my family like I do every fourth of July. I’m a law student and I, too, like long walks on the beach.”
Archer brought his hand dramatically to his mouth. “It’s fate. Two people from California who like long walks on the beach. We’re destined to be together.”
Fate. Destiny. All things that every girl wanted to hear. I knew this was just a moment in time. That I was just a girl that smiled at a man as he walked by, but Archer intrigued me, and I didn’t want the conversation or the butterflies in my stomach to go away.
“What are you doing tonight?” I asked, once again fidgeting with my necklace.
He crossed his arms and grinned. “Are you asking me on a date, Amanda? We just met.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for a man in uniform.” I crossed my arms. “My parents own a house on the water. It’s a great spot to see the fireworks. Invite your friends. Come hang out. Food. Beer. Music. It’s fun.”
He pulled out his phone and typed out a message. It dinged almost instantly.
“We’re in.” He handed me his phone. “Put in your number and I can hook up with you in a bit. We want to change out of our uniforms.”
I plugged in my number.
“Okay then. I’ll see you soon.”
“Yes. You will.” Archer left me to finish watching the parade, feeling like I was on cloud nine.
Archer and I were able to sneak away from the party to take a walk on the beach. We found a spot by the dock to sit and talk.
“I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.” Archer played with the sand as it flowed between his fingers. “I love my job. I love my country. I’m honored to serve.”
“Sounds like you have everything you want.”
“Not everything.” He looked over at me, the air around us changing. There was no denying that we were attracted to each other but… this. The feeling of him just being close to me, our fingers almost touching, it was intense, like sparks and fireworks all combined.
“Look!” I pointed to the sky where the fireworks had just started lighting up in various colors. It didn’t matter how old I got; I still loved the fireworks.
Our fingers that were brushing against each other now were intertwined.
“Perfect,” Archer said, looking down at our hands before focusing back on the fireworks. His profile was highlighted by the colors that danced in the sky. I wanted to seize the moment, not let the feeling of just living and being happy pass me by. Leaning in, I placed a kiss against his cheek.
Archer didn’t say anything; he just squeezed my hand even tighter as we watched the sky light up for freedom. For our country. For sparks that could be something more.