OOC Date: July 9-11
IC Date: July 9

Public Beach


The warm, damp sand sucked lightly at the toes of Victoria Blackwell old sneakers as she raced the pale blue light growing in the sky behind her, and she picked up her pace. There's not much in the world a little exercise won't put in perspective. It was one of her father's favorite jokes, and like most of his humor there was a point waiting to hook you if you weren't paying attention. Life was full of inconveniences and sometimes it took a little cleansing sweat to remind what was really a problem and what was just a passing squall. Something in her still hurt with the fresh, raw ache of leaving D.C. and everything she'd had their behind, but she'd survive. The people who really matter stick with you, time and distance be damned.

A hot rush of tears tried to sting her eyes as she rounded a dune and started up the long crest of one the sand cliffs, but she blinked them away angrily as she refused to let the rest of that line of thought take another spin around her head. A month was long enough to spend brooding over what you were going to be losing - it was time to start learning what there was to like about Seaside, California instead of cataloging all the ways it wasn't like the District. She could feel the cool pre-dawn air kiss her skin as she ran, the salty tang of the ocean flooding her nose, and with that resolution firmly in mind she let all the worries that had kept her up the night before spill off her shoulders as she gave herself to the pure pounding rhythm of the run.

So this is Seaside. The warm early-morning air burned softly in Victoria's lungs as she slowed down to an easy stroll on the edge of the cliff and let her breath come in and out, let the lactic tingle in her muscles fade down to a minimum. Big houses, big money and sand as far as the eye can see. This place must be a zoo during the day.

Still, the view was magnificent. She was practically an expert on the subject, after all - from the Hudson to the Potomac, Tokyo Bay to the Chesapeake, it seemed like she'd spent her whole life in sight of the wide blue expanse of the sea, and Monterey Bay was still enough to take what was left of her breath away. It was enough to make her wish she could bring…. she cut the thought off again before it had a chance to get started on her. Less of that. If you want to beat dawn home, Blackwell, you'd better get a move on.

Morning. Early enough that there's no one out here to see me. Daina Joo-Eun Sakong jogged along the beach, enjoying the feel of the sand under her violet toe-shoes. No one to watch or judge or wonder. Just me and more miles of beach than I could ever run. Maybe one day I'll run to San Francisco… I wonder if I could make that on foot. She smiled, shaking her head and enjoying the cool breeze off the ever-frigid water of the Bay. Though she would never admit it to herself, she had an image as carefully-cultivated as those of the girls at the top of the food chain - but it was one created to keep herself out of the way of their games while allowing her to find people who might be interested in the things she was. "Fitness fiend" didn't fit with that - any obvious attention to things usually associated with looking good didn't fit that - so she kept her running out of sight of that crowd.

Plus, as comfortable as the shoes were, she knew just how silly they looked on her.

Then she saw the other girl, pausing and gazing out at the Bay. The other girl was a stranger to her, someone she'd never seen before, and was new to the area - the look in her eyes was that of someone realizing for the first time just how amazing the views of Monterey Bay were. Daina slowed, then decided to address her. "Moving in, or visiting?"

After asking, she spent a moment looking the girl over. I know I live in a city full of people who'd fit in on runways and in movies, but she's gorgeous. This one's a center of attention for sure.

Should have known the privacy was too good to last. Still, it's not like I can just blow off the first person I meet. It's possible to converse at a run, but the truth is that most people have better things to abuse their lungs with. Victoria slowed her own pace to match the other girl's, a loose-limbed walk that kept her muscles warm without putting too much strain on her well-used cardi-vasc. She took a minute to glance the other girl over in return as she filled her chest with the morning air, then tried out her best greeting smile. "Moved in, and have the knots in my muscles from hauling boxes to prove it. Nice stretch of beach you have here - sorry if I cut in on your morning privacy." Lord knows I wasn't expecting to find anyone in hippie central who knew how to sweat.

There really wasn't a good way to shake hands while strolling, either, and Victoria took a minute to consider it before lengthening her stride enough to pull ahead a few steps and coming to a stop so she could offer her hand. "Victoria Blackwell. I'm down that way." She waved in the general direction of Sunset Cove, a couple of miles distant. "Nice to see the dawn isn't going to be totally wasted on the locals."

"It's certainly not my beach… beach is here for everybody. Everything, too." Daina extended her hand to Victoria. "Daina Sakong. I'm out in Palm Grove; moved here not too long ago from Salinas." Crisp voice. Knows what she wants from people. But I don't know what she wants from me. "North Haven's in the district for Seaside High… I'm there already." Does she know how good-looking she is? Can't read that… "I'm going into my junior year. So, unless you're going to a private school - and I can't see a reason for someone in the district to do so - I guess I'll be able to look forward to having you as a schoolmate?"

Daina took the extended hand, shaking it with a firmness that was surprising from her small form. "If you'd like, I could show you around town some later. I know most of the nice places… not so much the cool ones, but the spots that are pleasant to hang out at. Quiet or entertaining, good food or good drinks, things like that. If you're interested, of course."

Good grip on her. Victoria smiled instinctively at the feel of wiry strength in the other girl's hand as she mentally shrugged off the peace-love-and-harmony answer as not worth getting exercised about. Guess I'm not the only short girl who can keep up with PT. Wonder what else she's got in the way of surprises?

"Sounds like we're going to be classmates, then. My mom picked the area for the school, so hopefully it's going to live up to expectations." She suppressed a grin the other girl wouldn't have understood with an effort, imagining the havoc that Captain Margaret Kensington-Blackwell was likely to inflict on any administrator or teacher who had the misfortune not to live up to their excellent billing. "I'm in for third year, too, and everything I know about Seaside I read on Google. So if you want to give me the dollar tour, I'd be more than happy to accept."

Giving up on keeping moving for the moment, Victoria settled for keeping herself limbered up with a long stretch that pulled her whole back tight. It was a pose that went a long way toward heart stopping, and it was utterly characteristic of her that she was totally unaware of that fact.

Not that her new acquaintance could be expected to know that.

Okay, so I think she knows she's hot, but I'm not sure she knows how hot. Daina tried not to stare - and maybe tried to convince herself that not staring wasn't as much of an effort as it was - as Victoria stretched. "I think I'd like to do that… you seem worth getting to know." Even if being her friend is likely to buy me some trouble with certain A-names. "Want to grab lunch and go from there? There's a great gyro place in the market that everybody should try at least once."

Once Victoria rose from her stretch, Daina, realizing that both of them were wasting time better spent moving, started on a light jog again, smiling inwardly at the tiny protests of her muscles - she'd gone further today than usual, and would have to go further to get home as well, but she was quite glad she'd done so. "Should I expect to see you out here most mornings? I think this might be the best place in Seaside to take a run."

Victoria fell in next to her with the easy, rhythmic cadence of someone used to keeping formation on a run. A few muscles in her legs twitch in protest, and she resisted the urge to grumble about how much of your edge you could lose when you took a week off regular workouts to move across the country. Suck it up, girl. Nobody likes a whiner. She let a few hundred meters of beach roll by under their feet before she got around to a reply, taking the extra time to savor the simple pleasure of the exertion.

"I'm out every day right about now. Might switch up the route a little, just for variety, but…" she paused as the last of the cliff dropped off into the dunes and the golden trail spread out before her along the curve of endless blue that was just now starting to be tinged with the first strands of sunlight. "But damn, I'm not sure I can pass up this view."

Her voice was surprisingly level and smooth for the pace, and she felt a flicker of pride at the fact that her conditioning hadn't gotten that rusty. "Lunch sounds good. I'm more of a steak and potatoes girl, myself, but I'll take your word on the gyros. How's tomorrow for you? I've got to help my dad finish unpacking today, or my mother will give me the Look when she gets home."

Daina enjoyed the silent jogging, eyes occasionally going to Vic or to the sea beyond. "Sometimes I run through town, but my feet hurt less and my legs burn better when I run on the beach… the sand's great for it. And… yeah, the view. I have a hard time imagining a place more beautiful than here… it's amazing to live here." Daina adjusted how her arms were moving to run more comfortably, improving her balance a bit. "You're lucky to have landed here… then again, so am I. Where do you come from?"

Daina was a bit winded by now, though nowhere near exhausted, and found herself admiring Victoria's obvious conditioning. "Tomorrow sounds great. I usually have lunch a bit early… 10 AM or so. I can get you directions to the gyro place if you'd like, or we could try a meatier place. I'm not all that picky." The Asian girl decided to pick up the pace a bit. "Whatever you'd prefer, really… though for more American things, I don't have any great recommendations."

"The District, mostly." Victoria caught the momentarily blank look on the other girl's face and managed the breath for a long chuckle. "Sorry, I'm so used to calling it that that I forget not everyone knows I'm talking about D.C.; this whole West Coast thing is going to take some getting used to. Before that, pretty much all over. We move a lot."

Daina caught just the faintest hint of pain in her voice on those last four words, the lightest touch of shadow behind those brown eyes, but Victoria accelerated past it without giving her much of a chance to follow up. "Anyway, it definitely looks like I could have done a lot worse. I'll just have to learn all the best ways to take advantage of it." Her smile was back, now, and with reinforcements. "Like being willing to try something new. I'll give those gyros a go, and ten will work out just fine for me - not like I"m going to be sleeping in!"

She's doing pretty well for a civvie, but I'd probably better back it off a bit before she falls down on me. Victoria slowed her pace a bit, hitting the standard quick-time instead of the double she'd been keeping up. Be better for my conditioning if I did this in full dress, but I think that might send the wrong impression. Doesn't seem like the kind of place where the 'right' people are out lugging uniforms and heavy packs. "So what brought you up here from … Salinas, right?"

"I've never been to DC, but I'd love to go. See the place where it all happens… the Capital, the White House, the Supreme Court. Where the decisions are made… I went to Sacramento once, when I was eight, but it was… kind of unimpressive. But I've seen photos of Washington, and it looks wonderful." Daina slowed to match Victoria's pace, giving her a grateful look. "Military family?" Only thing I can think of that would lead to that much moving around, plus she's got the mannerisms. She's remarkably nice for a military girl, though.

"Nobody stays in Salinas if they've got a choice, and my parents finally had their hard work pay off, so we got out. I still head up there occasionally, though… grab a burger or something. I didn't really have a lot of friends there; not too many people there shared any interests with me."

"People are a pain in the ass that way." Victoria's smile was just short of a laugh, and she threw a wave toward Seaside without throwing off her stride more than slightly. "I mean, here we are on this gorgeous beach, and is there another soul in sight? People are just lazy these days." She drawled the word deliberately, hoping she could get a laugh out of Daina - and, on reflection, hoping Daina had enough breath to laugh.

I wonder if I should tell her that this time of year, you're forcibly reminded that the District was build by draining a swamp? No… then I'll probably shoot my mouth off about how many of the current governmental residents would have fit right in with the old environment, and it'd probably be good to know the girl for a few days before we go wading off into that minefield.

"It's a gorgeous city," she said instead. "I'm going to miss being able to just hop down to the Mall and see the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial and the galleries all lined up waiting for me. I used to get down there every chance I had - there's nothing like it outside of maybe living in Manhattan. If you ever get the chance to go, jump on it." That nagging ache started up in her chest again, and she pushed it away with a deliberate subject change. "Anyway, yeah. My mom's in the Navy, and they moved her down her to teach in Monterrey, so here I am. Are those bikinis everyone shows on TV actually a uniform down here, by the way? Because I don't own a single set."

"Once the sun's all the way up, people are out here doing their short jogs… just enough to convince themselves and their peers that they're into fitness without actually having to break a sweat." Daina shrugged dismissively, then laughed at the way Victoria drew out the word. "Though I've got no doubt your parents had the same thought about their peers too." I have no idea how much my parents worked out when they were my age… I can't see Dad doing it at all, though he must have done some rough work before he got over here.

She listened to Victoria describe Washington, imagining the experience of being in the midst of all those things, noticing the pain in the other girl's voice but not inquiring about it. She'll tell me when she's ready, if we become friends. If not, she'll find someone else to tell. She laughed at the question about bikinis.

"You don't want to swim in one… the water's way too cold for that. Most locals hardly ever wear them… it's the tourists you see tramping about in them; city's full of tourists for the summer. Locals will wear them to the beach to sunbathe if they're not planning to swim, but if you get in the water you'll want a wetsuit." She turned her eyes on Victoria. "But you'd look damn good in one, if you don't mind my saying."

"I never turn down a compliment - it's against my religion." Victoria flashed another devil-may-care grin as she sprinted lightly up the side of a dune and slowed down on the down-slope to let Daina catch up to her, dragging a few rogue strands of her hair out of her face that seemed to have escaped from their ties, and the gesture was strangely cute for someone who clearly didn't aspire to be any such thing.

"Still, it's a bit of a relief to know that I don't have to go around looking like an escaped inmate of the Malibu Barbie farm just to fit in. Speaking of wetsuits, I don't suppose you do any diving?" Might as well go for broke and see if I luck out on doubling up my jogging buddy with a water-buddy. "I've always thought it sounded like a blast, but the Chesapeake isn't exactly what you'd call friendly for that sort of thing. If I can find a good place locally, I might even be able to talk my mom into paying for it, so I figured I'd ask my noble local guide for suggestions."

Daina stopped talking for a moment to catch her breath after the dune, eyes half-closed as she focused on moving efficiently to allow her to replenish some of her energy. "Then I'll tell you you'd look damn good in one." She smiled to Victoria, obviously struggling a bit at this point. "I think I'm going to have to turn around in a moment to head home… I didn't realize how far out we'd gotten!" Her exhausted grin was infectious.

"I don't dive, but I'm planning to learn to surf… that's sort of the thing to do in the water around here. Monterey and Santa Cruz have some of the best waves in the world, maybe the best in North America." She blinked as the surf crashed against the beach, not three feet from them when the water was almost ten, as if to prove her point. "I've never done it before, but I figured it was as good a time as any to learn."

She slowed to a stop, stretching a bit to get some exhaustion-imposed kinks out of her muscles. "I'm planning to get a board in the next few days… need to do some research on what's good for a beginner and such first."

Victoria slowed her own pace to a leisurely walk, her own grin mirroring Daina's as she stretched her arms up over her head and rolled her spine. Going to have to set things up so I have some room on either end of our runs if we keep doing this together. At least until she gets her endurance up…. She always laughed at her own instinctive desire to push her new acquaintance to go farther and faster, but kept it to herself. It wasn't the sort of thing most people appreciated. "I see what you mean about the waves, that's for sure. Though isn't there some sort of unwritten requirement that you have to hang out on the beach, skip school and chase tanned, half-naked girls if you want to be a good surfer? I'm sure I read it somewhere."

Two stops today. Either I'm going to kink up and get sore, or all this stretching is going to make staying loose today a cinch. Victoria worked her hamstrings slowly, each stretch drawing the whole muscle taut before loosening it, then folded forward to dangle her fingers a few inches from the golden sand as she slowly stretched her lower back one vertebrae at a time. "I'll see you out here tomorrow before we meet for lunch?" She rattled off her new cellphone number from memory, and she felt a smile of satisfaction touch her lips as she hit all ten numbers without having to pause to think about it. I really am pretty good at this moving thing. Though I guess I probably have enough experience with it to earn a decoration or two! "You can text me the directions for that gyro place tonight."

Daina watched Victoria stroll, enjoying the sight of the other girl stretching more than she cared to admit to herself. She also stretched, keeping herself loose while she rested from the slightly too-long jog. "I'm pretty sure that rule only applies further north, and to boys. Not sure, though… we'll see if my personality suddenly changes the moment I figure out how to not fall off a board when the ocean gets bumpy."

I think I found a jogging partner… and I think she's someone I'll actually enjoy exercising with. Though she's a pile more hardcore than I am. "I'd love to meet you out here tomorrow. Same place and time?" She committed the number to memory, as she wasn't carrying her phone, and responded with her own number. "I'll do that. See you tomorrow, bright and early!"

She grinned widely, then turned to head home, savoring the ache in her muscles as she moved.
Victoria watched her go, catching the subtle signs of a runner who's pushed a little too hard and finding herself grinning at the girl's stubborn refusal to let that slow her down. That's one Seaside girl with grit, at least; looks like it's not going to be completely hopeless around here after all. If I'm really, really lucky, she might even turn out to be the rule instead of the exception. She thought about that for a moment, then snorted quietly. Sure, and maybe the dolphins will line up by the shore and do a recital for me. Not likely, Vic, not likely. Now get it in gear before your legs tense up, or you'll be paying for this run all day.

The three kilometers back to her house turned out to be more pleasant than the five she'd already run, and as she came up the long driveway toward her parents' house she even had the energy to manage a dry chuckle at just how much more modest the house looked now that she'd seen the kind of mammoths that the rest of the area could boast. And here I thought it was huge, compared to the place at Fort McNair. Of course, this isn't two miles from the Capitol and the Mall, but I could get to like it. She crested the top of the drive, and the view of the Bay from the top of the bluff tried to conspire with her legs to take her breath away again. Damn, yes. I could definitely get to like it. She took the stairs up to the front porch and then around the side of the house to the back, grabbed the towel she'd hung off the rail there and scrubbing the sweat and sea-salt from her hair and skin as she looked out over the water and just drank it in. The sun was just still low enough to be hidden from her by the bulk of the house behind her, but she could see the golden gleam of it beginning to spread over the water down below. She hadn't quite beaten sunrise home, but that was all right - she'd made her first friend on the West Coast instead.

A quick check of the old-style brass clock and barometer on the wall told her she had another twenty minutes or so before she'd need to hit the shower if she wanted to make her father's 06:30 omelet’s, and that was something she absolutely was not going to miss. Which means you'd better get started on those 10-6-10s, Miss Blackwell, or you are going to be late. She flicked the towel across the railing again, checked it to be sure a wind wouldn't carry it off onto the bay, then dropped into the first ten push-ups with a will.

Sooner started, sooner done.

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