`Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!' The sound of the digital alarm clock awoke Leo with a jolt. The young wolf sat himself up in bed to find the rays of the sun streaming in through the window. A second later, Angel stirred and hit the `off' button on the clock. She yawned, checked the clock, and said,
``Seven hundred and thirty hours; not bad, since breakfast is served in a half hour.'' She looked over at Leo and said, ``How did you sleep, Love?''
``I slept like a log, Mum;'' said Leo, ``I felt much safer with you nearby.''
``Aw... I'm glad to hear that;'' Angel said with smile, ``Now I'm wondering if you would like breakfast brought up to our suite or would you like to eat it downstairs?''
``I'd rather eat breakfast up here if that's okay with you.'' the wolf replied.
``That's sounds perfectly fine.'' Angel said as she got out from the bed, ``Oh, I've just had an idea;'' she said, ``Since we're going to the beach today, I'd advise you to put your swim suit on under your clothes before we leave. I'm thinking of doing that myself since it'll save us the trouble of finding a changing hut.''
``That sounds like a good idea'' said Leo.
``Right...'' said Angel, ``I think you can have a bit of a lie in bed if you want. I'll call you when breakfast is here. Is there anything you want?'' Leo thought for a moment, but since he had just woken up, he wasn't in the mood for a lot of deciding, so he said,
``I think I'll just order the special and see what that is.''
``Sounds good to me;'' said Angel, ``I think I'll probably have that too.'' When she exited the room, Leo flopped back down on the bed and gazed out the window at the glorious sight of the sun coming over the brown mountains. After enjoying the calming feeling, he got out of bed and began to rummage through his bag until he fished out the three pairs of swimming trunks that Angel had packed for him. One pair was decorated like the Union Jack flag; one was all black with yellow Bathound symbols dotted about; whilst the third pair had a black and white camouflage pattern. Leo couldn't decide which one to wear so he decided on a game of eenie meenie and ended up picking the black and white camo trunks. After changing into his trunks, Leo put on a light blue t-shirt since his trunks were the same as shorts and it would be pointless to wear trousers over them. Knowing that he still had a bit of a wait before breakfast, Leo got out a Justice League comic. Reading always made time fly for Leo and before he knew it, Angel was calling him out for breakfast. When he entered the dining room, Angel greeted him with a warm smile. She was already wearing a dark purple dress along with brown sandals. Leo couldn't help but wonder what type of swimsuit she was wearing underneath her clothes, since she owned a variety of different swimwear.
``Hey, Mum...'' said Leo, ``Breakfast is here?''
``It sure is!'' said Angel, ``And it looks scrumptious!'' Leo turned his attention to the table and was met with the sight of plates full of plump Quorn sausages, crispy fried tomatoes, mushrooms, creamy scrambled eggs and a pile of golden brown toast. The sight alone made his mouth water.
``Oh wow!'' said Leo, ``That's the breakfast special?''
``It sure is!'' said Angel, ``But let's not stand around admiring it; let's eat up before it gets cold.'' With that, she and Leo sat down and proceeded to eat. Altogether, it tasted fantastic; Leo even tried different combinations of the different items on his plate; deciding that the eggs, tomatoes, and toast tasted the best together. After the duo had finished their breakfast, they both loaded the plates and cutlery onto the serving trolley and took it out into the corridor, where it would presumably be collected. Next, Angel packed some towels into a rucksack along with some other items they'd need such as money and sunscreen. While his mother prepared things, Leo could not help but feel extremely excited, since beaches had always been his favorite environments. The last time he'd been to a beach had been a few months earlier when as Angel had taken him down to Swanage beach in Dorset for a day trip. It had been alright, though the weather had been far too cold for swimming. Going to a beach in California would be an experience, especially since the weather was quite warm for a winter month.
``Well,'' said Leo, ``I'm ready if you are.''
``Then let's hit the seaside!'' said Angel as she threw on her sunglasses.
``Oh, I almost forgot!'' said Leo as he dashed into his room and fetched his sunglasses out of his backpack before coming back. ``Now I'm ready!'' he said as he flipped his sunglasses on, ``I wonder what the Firewall City beach has in store for us.''
Ten minutes after leaving the hotel, Leo and Angel stepped onto the boardwalk (which was actually made of concrete) of Firewall City Municipal Beach.
``By thunder!'' said Angel, ``This place is amazing!'' Leo couldn't help noticing that she sounded as excited as a child would be for their first day on the beach in a while.
``It's so nice and warm!'' said Leo, ``Nothing at all like Swanage.''
``I'll say;'' said Angel, ``Well, let's not waste any more time!'' She pulled her dress off of her to reveal a Union Jack bikini. Leo also pulled off his t-shirt and kicked off his sandals. Angel stowed her dress and Leo's shirt in her bag for safekeeping.
``You sure you're alright with lugging those around all day?'' Leo asked.
``It beats renting lockers out for the whole day;'' said Angel, ``And there'll be some nice dry towels for when we're done.''
``What do you want to do first?'' asked Leo.
``I was planning to head over to the weightlifting stations;'' said Angel, ``I'd like to show these Yanks a thing or two about British brawn.'' She giggled before saying, ``But don't let me slow you down; you go off and have fun.''
``Really?'' asked Leo.
``Of course!'' said Angel, ``You are a very mature and responsible young man; I think I can trust you to do some exploring on your own.''
``Wow!'' said Leo, ``Thanks! Where and when should we meet up for a check?''
``I'd say every two hours;'' said Angel, ``We can meet up at this sand ramp;'' she gestured to the ramp that lead from the boardwalk into the sand, ``Just remember...'' she said, ``If you need help with anything...''
``Go to a lifeguard or a beach official.'' said Leo.
``Spot on!'' said Angel, ``Well... have a great time, Son.''
``Thanks, Mum!'' said Leo as he ran down to the sand, ``I will!'' Leo sprinted onto the hot sand and immediately felt the burning on the pads of his feet. ``Ow! Hot! Hot!'' he yipped as he ran towards the ocean. He soon reached the cooler wet sand, but had eyes only for the sparkling blue water. As he finally splashed into the ocean, he took a breath and dove right into the trough of a wave. He felt a slight twinge in his scar as a reaction to the saltwater, but it wasn't severe at all, so he barely noticed. After swimming deeper, Leo finally surfaced and inhaled a huge breath. ``Ahh!'' he breathed with satisfaction; the Pacific Ocean was so nice and cooling after the heat of the day. Still full of pent-up energy, Leo began swimming down the beach. Swimming was one of his favorite sports, and he was considering joining the swimming team when he went to finishing school. Swimming in the ocean was a whole nother league since the waves provided all kinds of crests and troughs and currents to try and work with; and that was why Leo loved it so much. At that moment, Leo happened to dive under again and saw a green Frisbee just drifting about in the current underwater. He, of course, picked it up and brought it ashore. Angel had taught him that if he found something like a toy or otherwise, the right thing to do was to turn it into the authorities so it could be returned to its proper owner.
``Yo!'' a voice called. Leo looked up to see a group of teenage male furs making their way over to him. There was a panther, a chameleon, and what looked like an anaconda. At the head of the group was a Dalmatian wearing a pair of trunks that were red on his left leg and blue on his right leg. Leo was slightly startled, but was relieved to see that they were smiling.
``Oh... Hello.'' he said.
``Righteous!'' said the chameleon, ``You found my Frisbee!''
``Really?'' asked Leo.
``Absolutely;'' said the Dalmatian, ``The thing landed in the ocean and we lost track of it.''
``Well,'' said Leo, ``Here you go then.'' He handed the Frisbee over to the chameleon, who was very grateful to have it back.''
``Thankssssss;'' said the anaconda, ``Now we can continue our game. Would you like to join usssssss?''
``Really?'' asked Leo.
``Absolutely;'' said the Dalmatian, ``You are more than welcome to play with us; if you want to.''
``I guess so;'' said Leo, ``I've got to burn off some of this energy somehow.''
``Okay then!'' said the Dalmatian, ``By the way, I'm Captain Liam Bullworth of the FCPD.''
``Really?'' asked Leo. He was both amazed and stunned; this Dalmatian couldn't possibly be older than seventeen; and not only was he already part of the police department, he was a captain!
``Really!'' said the panther, ``Let me introduce you to the youngest officer in law enforcement history. He joined the force when he was only ten years old!''
``Wow!'' said Leo, ``That's amazing!'' He straightened himself out and said, ``I'm Leo, by the way.''
``Nice to meet you, Leo;'' said Liam, ``Welcome to Firewall City! Now... who's team do you want to be on?''
``Three againsssssst two?'' asked the anaconda, ``Now that issssssn't very fair, issssss it?''
``C'mon Joe;'' said the chameleon, ``If you're really as good as you say you are, you can beat us even with him on our team.''
``Yeah!'' said the panther, ``I'm sure we can take this kid.'' Leo took that a challenge, so he decided to be on the team with Liam and the chameleon (who was named Henry).
``You guys ready?'' asked Leo.
``So ready!'' said Liam. Joe threw the Frisbee into play, and the five of them quickly got stuck into their game; jumping, diving, and tossing the Frisbee to each other. As for Leo, he was having the time of his life.
"My, my...'' Angel thought to herself, ``The weather here is almost as hot as Kenya." She entered the workout area to see many muscular mammals, reptiles, even avians lifting various weights at various stations. ``This certainly is an elaborate setup;'' Angel thought, ``Now I wonder what weight I should warm up with... I guess I?ll start with a 150 pound long weight.'' Angel bent down to pick up the weight, when suddenly, a large scaly arm blocked her.
``Whoa there, Missy...'' said a deep voice, ``Those things are a bit too heavy for you.'' Angel looked up to see a komodo dragon wearing a white wife beater shirt, black shorts, and a smug grin.
``Pardon you!'' Angel said, rather indignantly, ``I'll have you know that I warm up with that sort of weight!'' The komodo laughed and said,
``Check it out, boys! This little girl thinks she's got what it takes to lift with the big boys!'' And he laughed again. To Angel's relief, no one else in the station seemed to think that it was funny.
``So what, Ross?'' asked a hawk, ``If she wants to lift with that weight, why not let her?''
``Because she's a frail little lioness;'' said Ross, ``No way she can compete with someone like me.'' It was only then that he noticed Angel's bathing suit; but that only seemed to give him more material to work with. ``And look at this!'' he said, ``She's from England too!'' With this, he got up in her face and said, ``Better run along, `Milady'... Your afternoon tea might get cold.'' At this point, Angel's blood was coming to a boil; but she knew that if she allowed her emotions to get the better of her, things might turn ugly. So she breathed in and said,
``Tell you what, Mate... You and I lift two barbells; two hundred pounds each; first to drop them loses and has to push off.''
``You're on, Girlie...'' said Ross, ``Hope you weren't planning on sticking around.'' The other lifters brought two barbells with two hundred pounds each on them and set them up so the contestants would be facing each other. Angel rubbed her hands together and gritted her teeth as Ross gave her a smug look.
``Alright!'' said a gorilla, ``Please bend down and take hold of your weights!'' Both Angel and Ross did so, giving each other one last dirty look. ``Ready...?'' said the gorilla, ``Set... LIFT!'' As she had done hundreds of times before, Angel used her legs to get the barbell moving up before she was able to use her arms to lift it the rest of the way over her head. Ross did the same, and soon the two of them were facing each other with two hundred pounds over their heads.
``Heavy enough for you, Girlie...?'' asked Ross, ``Don't worry; this won't take long!'' Angel knew exactly what he was trying to do, so she shut her eyes and concentrated solely on keeping the weight up. The crowd simply stared in silence; not wanting to make a noise that could throw either of them off their game. Only five minutes in, Ross made another snide comment. ``How you feeling, Girlie...?'' he asked, ``Ready to throw in the towel?'' Angel didn't respond, ``Hey...'' said Ross, ``I'm talkin' to you...!'' Angel then realized what she needed to do. Through the strain of holding the weight, she managed a small smile. ``Are you playin' with me...?'' asked Ross, ``'Cause it ain't funny! I ain't... gonna lose... to a English female like you!'' Angel continued her smile, keeping her eyes shut the whole time. ``Oh it's that way is it?'' asked Ross; clearly getting angrier, ``Why you stupid girl! I just... whoa... whoa... whoa-WOOOAAAAAHHHH!!!'' *CLANG!* the sound of metal hitting concrete rang out and a cheer went up from the audience. Angel opened her eyes to discover that Ross had indeed dropped his weight and had his mouth open in horror. Angel slowly let the weight down and said,
``Not how I usually warm up, but that was jolly good fun!'' She then walked up to Ross and said, ``I believe you need to scarper off, dear boy.''
``Oh yeah...?'' said Ross, ``Well, uh... you uh... you... cheated! Yeah! You must have cheated!''
``Oh I did, did I?'' asked Angel.
``Yeah you did!'' said Ross, ``A girl your size, you gotta be on some steroids or something!''
``Ross!'' said an angry female voice. As Ross wheeled around to see the source of the sound, Angel caught sight of a tall female Basenji dog wearing a lime green bikini. She looked rather upset. ``Causing trouble again, Ross?'' she asked.
``Gah!'' cried Ross, suddenly becoming quite afraid, ``Bobbie! Uh... no! I was... duh... I was just...''
``I know exactly what you were doing;'' said Bobbie, ``Picking on a newcomer just so you can live out your marble age power fantasies.'' She suddenly got right up in the komodo's face and said ``You make yourself scares before I whip your sorry tail into next Saturday!''
``Duh... okay...!'' said Ross; and he quickly made his exit. Bobbie smirked and walked up to Angel.
``I am so sorry you had to put up with that;'' she said, ``That idiot thinks that if covering your chest is mandatory, you aren't fit to... be fit.'' Angel finally got a good look at the Basenji; she was pretty tall, and had shoulder length chocolate brown hair and emerald green eyes. Her fur was a brown tan whilst her muzzle, chest fur, and paws where white.
``No trouble at all;'' said Angel, ``It was satisfying to put that blighter in his place.''
``I wish I had seen it;'' said Bobbie, ``I heard the clang, but that's about it.''
``Endurance contest;'' said Angel, ``He barely lasted five minutes.''
``Yeah...'' said Bobbie, ``He's pretty strong, but doesn't have much staying power. Say... you wanna lift while I spot for you?"
"I?d love to;'' said Angel as she got down onto one of the benches, ``That was really brave of you to stand up to that brute; considering you're three quarters of his size.''
``It's cool;'' said Bobbie, ``There is an unspoken rule among weightlifters, `The strongest of muscles mean nothing without a strong heart'.''
``That's a good philosophy;'' said Angel as she lifted the weights on the bar, ``I'll have to remember that.''
"By the way,'' said Bobbie, ``I like your swimsuit; it's very patriotic. You're British, aren?t you?"
"I am indeed;'' said Angel as she set the weight down and got up off the bench, ``Though I'm Kenyan by birth."
"No kidding!'' said Bobbie, ``My parents are from Kenya too! They're medical scientists looking for a cure to the Ebola virus. By the way, I haven't properly introduced myself; my name is Bobbie Goldhart; maiden name, Cook.''
``Angel Savannah;'' said Angel as she shook Bobbie's hand.
``What brings you hear to Firewall City?'' asked Bobbie.
``I'm here on holiday with my son;'' said Angel, ``Thought it might be a good idea to spend Christmas in the sun for a change.'' She shrugged and said, ``I've never actually been to the states before, so it's a new experience for me.''
``Well you certainly picked the right city to visit;'' said Bobbie, ``So... you think you can watch me while I lift?'' Angel smiled and said,
``Good or bad, like it or not, It's the only one we've got!'' Leo sang to himself as he strolled through the sand, ``I won't let the sun go down on me, I won't set the sun go down!'' The game of Frisbee had worn him out quite a bit, but he was still happy as a lark. He was, however, getting a bit parched; perhaps some ice cream would cool his throat. Good thing his trunks had secret zip up pocket were he had stored a five dollar note, in a plastic envelope to keep it from getting wet. ``Excuse me!'' he called to a passing armadillo, ``Could you please tell me where there's a treat shop around here?''
``Certainly, Young Man;'' the armadillo answered, ``Just go up on the boardwalk and find the hexagonal building with a sloping roof. They sell the best ice cream, snow cones, and churros this side of the Rio Grande.''
``Thanks!'' said Leo as he strolled away, ``Now let me see... hexagonal building with a sloping roof. Oh! There it...'' He stopped suddenly. He turned his head seventy-five degrees to the right to see if he could find the thing he had spotted from the corner of his eye. About one hundred yards away, sitting against a beach chair, was what looked like a female Chocolate Labrador who looked like she was about his age. What made her stand out was that she was wearing a bright yellow one-piece bathing suit with a tiny skirt around her waist, and what looked like pink heart-shaped sunglasses. For a minute, Leo didn't do anything; he simply stood and stared. ``Wow...'' Leo thought to himself, ``She sure is pretty. Maybe... Maybe I could go talk to her. But what would I say...?'' Leo's mind went into overdrive, trying to find an excuse to talk to the Labrador girl. ``Weather...? No, that's cliche! Uh... Ice cream...? Yeah! I can ask her if she's had some of the ice cream from the shack and see what she thinks of it!'' His mind made up, Leo began tip-toing over to the Labrador girl. As he approached her, he could feel his heartrate going up several beats. After two whole minutes, he was almost on top of her. Leo was about to open his mouth and say something, when the girl turned her head to face him. ``Oh crumbs...!'' Leo thought.
``Hi there!'' The young Labrador girl said, ``You looking for someone to play with?''
``Uh... kinda...'' Leo managed to say, ``It's my first time to the beach, so... I'm still finding my way `round.''
``Well it's nice to meet you;'' said the Labrador girl as she took off her sunglasses, revealing her bright green eyes, ``My name is Chrissy Goldhart. What's your name?''
``Well...'' said Leo, ``My name is Leo Antonio Lupine. But, uh... As I have different family now, my surname is... Savannah.''
``Nice to meet you, Leo.'' said Chrissy, ``Say... are you from England? I don?t hear a lot of people with that accent around here.''
``Yep;'' said Leo, ``I?ve lived there all my life; this is actually my first trip to the United States. It's certainly a change with all the warm weather around here.'' Leo mentally cursed himself for swinging to the cliche subject of weather, but Chrissy didn't seem to mind.
``Yeah... it's warm most of the time here;'' she said, ``Of course... I wouldn?t mind seeing some snow sometime. We would always get a lot of snow where I used to live.''
``So... you and your family moved here?'' asked Leo.
``Uh... yeah...'' said Chrissy, ``You could say that.''
``Well,'' said Leo, ``I was thinking of getting an ice cream from the shack up there. Would you recommend their ice cream?''
``You bet!'' said Chrissy, ``They sell the best ice cream on the beach. Say... if I pay you, do you think you could please get me a strawberry cone?'' She looked unsure for a moment before saying, ``I?d get it myself, but I... can?t get up right now.''
``Sure thing;'' said Leo. Chrissy reached into her beach bag and pulled out some money before handing it to Leo. With the money in hand, Leo said, ``I'll be right back!'' and headed up towards the boardwalk. In a minute, he was there. After pondering the menu for a minute, it was his turn.
``What can I get for you, Lad?'' asked the flamingo behind the counter.
``I'd like a mint cone with a scoop of raspberry ripple on top;'' said Leo, ``And also a strawberry cone, please.''
``Coming right up!'' said the flamingo. In a few minutes, Leo paid the vendor and took the cones in hand. He made good time getting back to Chrissy to ensure the ice cream would be as solid as possible.
``Here it is, Chrissy!'' he said when he got there.
``Thanks, Leo;'' said Chrissy, ``That was really nice of you.'' She took her strawberry cone and gave it a lick. ``Strawberry...'' she said, ``My favorite flavor; next to vanilla.''
``Really...?'' asked Leo, ``Vanilla's only my third favorite flavour.'' He took a lick of his own ice cream and said, ``Um... I hope you don't find this weird, but... would you be okay if I stayed here for a bit? I'd like to learn some more about your city.''
``No problem!'' said Chrissy, ``I'd actually like to know what it?s like over in England too; my moms were over there just a few days ago with my Aunt Sylvia, shooting a television show. Thank goodness they made it home in time for the holidays.'' Leo couldn't help smiling to himself. ``So...'' asked Chrissy, ``What?s your hometown like?
``Well...'' said Leo, ``Watermane is one of the most peaceful places in England. There's a bakery, a pub, a small train station, and some assorted shops. The best part would have to be the park only ten minutes away from my house.''
``Sounds like a nice place;'' said Chrissy, ``Almost reminds me of my old neighborhood before I moved to Firewall City. What's the weather like in England?''
``Oh, it?s tipping it down twenty-four-seven in the winter and spring.'' said Leo, ``We are lucky to get snow in the winter and it?s really only hot in the summer.'' After thinking for a moment, he asked, ``Does it ever rain much in Firewall City?''
``Well, we do get rain,'' said Chrissy, ``But not a whole lot. Thankfully, we have a great water treatment plant in this city; they?re currently working on a way to make saltwater safe for drinking.''
``That's amazing!'' said Leo, ``I never thought something like that would be possible.''
``Well if it works,'' said Chrissy, ``Not only will we get more drinking water; we'll also get big blocks of salt to sell to companies that make water softener salts and ice melting salts! Of course, that's what this city is built upon; industry and enterprise.'' Chrissy then sighed. Leo was about to ask her what was wrong when she said, ``You know, I?m glad I?ve got someone to talk to. Most of the boys at Turner Middle School just don?t get me.''
``Wow...'' said Leo, ``I can understand that. Back at my school not many other kids apart from a few show any interest in me. Sometimes when I want to talk to someone and start a conversation, I feel like I have the words in my head, but I just can?t get them out.''
``I?m sorry to hear that;'' said Chrissy, ``But, trust me... I know the feeling.''
``Well...'' said Leo, ``I guess it's nice to finally have someone who understands what I go through.''
``Yeah...'' said Chrissy, ``It is.''
``Hi, Chrissy!'' said a voice, ``Sorry I took so long.'' Leo looked up to see a female Cocker Spaniel wearing a bright baby blue one-piece bathing suit. What stood out about her was that she had scarlet red hair that turned blue as it ran down her back. ``Oh...'' she said, ``I see you?ve made a new friend.''
``Hi, Mom!'' said Chrissy, ``I sure did! This is my new friend, Leo.'' Leo was amazed; no girl his age had ever regarded him as a friend before.
``Oh, um... Hi, Miss.'' said Leo, trying to be polite.
``Why hello there, young man;'' said the Spaniel, ``Enjoying the California sun?''
``Um... sure;'' said Leo, ``My name is Leo Savannah, and I was just talking with Chrissy here.''
``Well that's nice;'' said the Spaniel, ``By the way, my name is Elizabeth.''
``Well it's nice to meet you, Miss Elizabeth;'' said Leo, ``It's my first time in the states, and I'm quite amazed by this amazing city.''
``I'm very happy to hear you say that;'' said Elizabeth, ``You might not believe it, but my family has history in this city.''
``Mom...'' said Chrissy, ``I'm sure he's not in the mood for a history lesson.''
``Oh... you're right!'' said Elizabeth, ``How silly of me. Say... how about we go swimming?''
``Sounds good to me!'' said Chrissy.
``Me too!'' said Leo.
``Good;'' said Elizabeth, ``Let me just get your lifejacket on, Chrissy; and we should be good to go.'' Leo didn't say anything as he watched Elizabeth put a blue lifejacket on Chrissy; for fear that saying anything wrong would get her upset with him. But for some reason, Elizabeth picked Chrissy up in her arms rather than helping her to her feet. Overrun with curiosity, Leo said,
``Uh... Chrissy...? I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but... Do you wear that lifejacket because you aren't a strong swimmer?'' Chrissy suddenly looked rather worried; Leo was afraid he had put his foot in it and ruined everything.
``No...'' Chrissy sighed, ``I know how to swim, but I can't because... my legs don't work.''
``Don't work...?'' asked Leo.
``I can't even feel them anymore;'' said Chrissy, ``So I can't do anything with them. I can't walk, I can't run, I can't swim, I can't even jump for joy anymore.'' She had suddenly become rather somber.
"Oh...'' said Leo, ``I?m sorry to hear that, but... It doesn't matter to me!''
``It doesn't...?'' asked Chrissy.
``Not at all!'' said Leo, ``I don't think that it should matter at all.''
``Thanks...'' said Chrissy, ``That really means a lot to me.''
``No problem;'' said Leo.
``Well then...'' said Elizabeth, maybe now we can go have some fun swimming.''
``Alright!'' said Leo. He ran down the beach and into the water. Elizabeth was right behind him with Chrissy. Once in the water, Chrissy brightened up a lot. She was whooping and laughing as the cool waves carried her and Elizabeth in their currents. To Leo, the sound of Chrissy' voice was nothing less than sweet music.
Back at the weightlifting stations, Angel and Bobbie were taking a break after their strenuous workout.
"Woah...'' said Bobbie, ``You did pretty well there. How did you mange that?"
"Well;'' said Angel, ``When I?m weight lifting, I mentally tell myself that?s it?s not heavy and sometimes focus my mind on something else." She took a swig of water before saying, ``By the way, you?ve got a great structure.''
``Why thank you;'' said Bobbie, ``I?ve been training since I was sixteen years old. I've also stuck to a good diet and mental regime. That's why I'm so strong today.''
``That's really impressive;'' said Angel, ``You certainly don't fit the American stereotype these days!'' Both of them laughed. ``So tell me,'' said Angel, ``Is Firewall City really the safest city in America?"
``It sure is;'' said Bobbie, ``We've got the best police force in the world, a strong fire department, and excellent medical services. With all that, I think I can safely confirm that Firewall City is the safest city in the world." At that moment, a young Basenji cub, wearing a lime green pair of swimming trunks, ran up to them.
``Hi, Mom!'' he said.
``Hey there, Ryan;'' said Bobbie, ``How have you been?''
``I?m good;'' said Ryan, ``The water is great, but Casey and Joey had to leave, so I decided to come and find you.''
``And how did you know to look here for me...?'' asked Bobbie.
``Given how much time you spend here;'' said Ryan, ``I think it was a safe bet.''
``That's my boy!'' said Bobbie as she tousled her son's head fur.
``I take it this is your son;'' said Angel.
``He sure is;'' said Bobbie, ``Ryan, this is Angel Savannah. She's visiting from England.''
``England!?!'' said Ryan, ``Cool!'' he turned to Angel and said, ``Have you ever been to London? What's it like there?'' Angel laughed and said,
``I?ve been to London quite few times; and it?s safe to say it is very atmospheric. Not to mention plenty of sights to see. The tower of London, Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, The London Eye, and Buckingham Palace."
``Wow!'' said Ryan, ``I've always wanted to see those for real! I've been trying to convince Mom to take us there for a vacation some time.''
``Well...'' said Bobbie, ``We might just end up doing that next summer.'' She turned back to Angel and said, ``So, Angel, ready to begin another session.''
``Sure, I...'' Angel started, when she noticed the time on the clock. ``Oh snap!'' she cried, ``I forgot to meet up with Leo! We were supposed to meet half an hour ago!''
``I can help you look for him!'' said Bobbie, ``Let's go!''
``Thanks!'' said Angel. She quickly got up, grabbed her bag, and ran out of the weight lifting station, followed by Bobbie and Ryan.
Back in the waves, Leo had also lost track of time because he was having such a wonderful time playing with Chrissy. At one point, Elizabeth let her float about in the waves. Leo was impressed how Chrissy could still move about without the use of her legs.
``Wow, Chrissy...'' he said, ``You're still a good swimmer.''
``Thanks!'' said Chrissy, ``Being in the water is one of my favorite things.'' At that moment, there was a slightly bigger wave than the one before it. ``Whoa!'' cried Chrissy.
``The surf's picking up;'' said Elizabeth, ``We better head for shore.''
``Good idea!'' said Leo. He turned himself and said, ``Grab my ankles, Chrissy; I'll pull you in.''
``Okay then!'' said Chrissy. She took hold of Leo's ankles and held on tight as the young wolf started swimming. Remembering Angel's training, Leo kept his head down as he paddled; only lifting it when he needed to breathe. Elizabeth was speechless; Leo and Chrissy were already almost to shore. In no time, Leo hit the beach and used his arms to haul himself into the sand away from the water; dragging Chrissy behind him in what could only be described as a comical and undignified manner.
``Oh...'' he said, ``Sorry about that, Chrissy, I guess I got carried away.''
``Don't worry;'' said Chrissy, ``I'm fine. Maybe if you turned me over it would be easier.''
``Uh... okay...'' said Leo. He got up and approached Chrissy, almost afraid to actually touch her. Thinking quickly, he took hold of her shoulders and gently turned her over. With Chrissy on her back, it was much easier to pull her along without worrying about getting sand in her face. In a matter of seconds, they were back at the beach towel.
``Wow...'' said Chrissy, ``You?re so strong. Are you an athlete?''
``Kinda...'' said Leo, ``My mum is very athletic; she hopes of joining the Olympics someday. I kinda... follow in her paw prints.''
``Cool;'' said Chrissy, ``My Aunt Bobbie is a personal trainer, so she?d be impressed.''
``She certainly would be!'' said Elizabeth as she joined them by the towel, ``That was an impressive display of strength and skill, Leo.'' Leo practically glowed with pride.
"Why, thank you...'' he said, ``Not a lot of people really see me as strong.''
``Well I certainly do;'' said Chrissy, ``I wish I could be as strong as that.'' Suddenly, there came a beeping noise from the bag. Elizabeth opened the bag and took out her cellphone.
``Chrissy...'' she said, ``I just got a text from Aunt Bobbie; she needs me to help her look for someone.''
``Okay, Mom;'' said Chrissy, ``We'll be here.''
``Take care now!'' said Elizabeth as she ran off. At that moment, Chrissy turned her head in such a way that she caught sight of something she hadn't before.
``Oh my!'' she said, ``You've got a scar on your arm!'' Leo froze up for a moment, then looked over at it and said,
``Oh that...'' he said, ``Yeah...'' I got it in an... accident a few years ago. I'd rather not talk about it.''
``Okay;'' said Chrissy, ``I'm sorry I brought it up.''
``It's okay;'' said Leo, maintaining a kind face.
``So then...'' said Chrissy, ``Are you here with your family?''
``I sure am;'' said Leo, ``My mum and me.''
``Your dad couldn't make it, huh?'' asked Chrissy.
``Well... no;'' said Leo, ``The truth is, I don't really have a dad. He walked out on me when I was only six.''
``Ouch...'' said Chrissy, ``That's horrible. Man, it really stinks when your mom and dad basically abandon you.'' She suddenly became more somber and said, ``Trust me... I know...'' Leo suddenly became very intrigued at this revelation, but decided not to ask about it for fear of upsetting Chrissy. Then, Chrissy looked back at him with a look that Leo couldn't quite place.
``Hey...'' said Leo, ``Are you feeling okay?''
``Oh yeah, I'm alright...'' said Chrissy, ``It's just that I... I've never really met anyone like you, Leo. You?re strong, friendly, courteous, and... um... handsome...'' Leo didn't know what to say; he could only blush.
"Why... T-thank you...'' he said, ``You know, you have to be one of the nicest girls I've ever met in my life. Also, you're uh... really pretty...''
``Really...?'' asked Chrissy, ``You really think so? That's the nicest thing any boy's ever said to me. So... thanks.''
``You're welcome;'' said Leo. Suddenly, he remembered... ``Oh shoot!'' he groaned, ``I forgot to meet up with Mum.''
``Do you want to go find her now?'' asked Chrissy. Leo thought about it, then said,
``No. I can't leave you alone; who knows when your mom and Aunt Bobbie might be back from whatever it is they're trying to find?''
``This is a big beach;'' said Chrissy, ``They could be looking for a while. I really would appreciate it if you would stay with me, Leo; and if your mom does find you with me, I promise I'll put in a good word for you; several even!''
``Thanks;'' said Leo, ``I'd be glad to keep you company until your mom comes back. So... wanna build a sandcastle?''
``Sure!'' said Chrissy, ``Then we can be the mighty king and queen!''
``Yeah...'' said Leo, ``The king and queen...''
``Oh...'' moaned Angel, ``Leo's not going to think very well of me if he was kept waiting that long!'' She, Bobbie, and Ryan reached the ramp that led to the sand, but Leo was nowhere in sight.
``I don't see him here...'' said Bobbie, ``But Elizabeth should be here soon.''
``Thanks;'' said Angel, ``I really appreciate it. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to split up on a beach this big.''
``It can be a bit intimidating for visitors.'' said Ryan. At that moment, Elizabeth showed up.
``Hi, Bobbie!'' she said, ``I'm here!''
``Great!'' said Bobbie, ``We're looking for this lady's son, Leo Savannah.''
``Leo Savannah...?'' asked Elizabeth, ``Why... I was just with him!''
``Really?!?'' asked Angel.
``Yeah!'' said Elizabeth, ``He's with my daughter, Chrissy! C'mon! I'll take you to him!'' Angel quickly fell in behind Elizabeth, flanked by Bobbie and Ryan. In no time, they reached the towel where Leo and Chrissy had built a rather impressive sand castle.
``Leo!'' said Angel.
``Huh...?'' asked Leo, ``Mum! There you are!''
``Thank goodness!'' said Angel as she walked over to him and gave him a smile, ``I'm so sorry I forgot our rendezvous; you must be upset with me.''
``Well... not really...'' said Leo, ``Seeing as... I kinda forgot too.''
``I guess we're even then;'' Angel chuckled.
``Hi, Aunt Bobbie!'' said Chrissy, ``Did you find what you were looking for?''
``We sure did!'' said Bobbie, ``Because, as it turns out... we were looking for your new friend here!''
``Hi, Leo!'' said Ryan as he stepped forward and extended his hand, ``I'm Ryan Goldhart; Chrissy's brother.''
``Nice to meet you;'' said Leo, ``I'm Leo Savannah.''
``Well then...'' said Angel, ``It appears we've all made some new friends today!''
``We sure have;'' said Elizabeth, ``And what a day it's been so far.''
``I'll say;'' said Bobbie, ``Angel here can lift like you wouldn't believe; she even beat out that bum, Ross, in a powerlift-off.''
``Far out!'' said Chrissy, ``About time that guy got what was coming to him.''
``I'll say;'' said Angel. Then, she bent down so to shake the young Labrador's hand. ``I'm Leo's mum, Angel, by the way;'' she said.
``Nice to meet you;'' said Chrissy, ``I'm Chrissy Goldhart.''
``Goldhart...'' said Angel, ``What a beautiful name.''
``Thanks;'' said Chrissy, ``I've had a great time playing with Leo; he's so strong and friendly.''
``And Chrissy's really nice too;'' said Leo, ``We've had some great fun today.''
``Tops!'' said Angel. She then turned back to Bobbie and said, ``Well... It appears we now have two beautiful new friendships on hand. It would be such a shame to see them broken up so soon.''
``I agree;'' said Bobbie, ``Is there any chance that you and Leo might like to meet up with us tomorrow?''
``Sure!'' said Angel, ``We're still new in town, so it might help to have someone who knows the ins and outs of Firewall City.''
``Well we'd be honored to take you on a small tour tomorrow;'' said Elizabeth, ``Wouldn't we, Bobbie?''
``Certainly!'' said Bobbie.
``Alright!'' said Ryan, ``Leo, there's a comic store near the city center that you have to see!''
``Comics...?'' asked Leo, ``Sounds like a good time to me.''
``And wait till you see Margarita's Coffee Shop;'' said Elizabeth, ``Best place for a pick-me-up in the western seaboard.''
``It all sounds so exciting;'' said Angel, ``But for now, we should probably get going; I think Leo might want to see the boardwalk park before we go back to the hotel.''
``Okay, Mum;'' said Leo. So arrangements were made for both parties to meet up the next day. Before they went their separate ways, Leo looked at Chrissy and said, ``I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Chrissy.''
``Me too, Leo;'' she said in return, ``See you tomorrow!''
Hours later, after a lovely excursion in the boardwalk park, Leo and Angel were back at the hotel. It had been a lovely afternoon, but Leo simply could not get Chrissy out of his mind. He had tried taking a relaxing lavender bath in the hot tub, and a self-meditation session to clear his head, but he just couldn?t get the image of the beautiful Labrador out of his head. The memory of the relatable conversation he?d had with her as well as helping her swim were all fresh in his mind as though they?d happened minutes ago. Finally, in defeat, Leo collapsed on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. So far in his life, Leo had never gotten this far with a girl his age. Granted, he did have a liger cousin, who was a relative of Angel's, but she was much younger than him and he considered her part of his family. No girls in his school seemed interested in him; not even just to be his friend. Whenever he tried starting causal conversations with them, he?d easily become lost for words, usually due to nervousness. One time he?d tried to talk to a pretty German Shepherd girl in the canteen, but despite his best efforts, she mostly ignored him and finally told him (in a rather rude manner) that she?s couldn?t be seen with him. For the first time in his life, Leo felt love and attraction for someone that felt genuine. As they would likely be seeing each other tomorrow, Leo wondered how Chrissy would react if he mentioned that he had feelings for her. He feared that she would be creeped out and not want to associate with him anymore; unless maybe, she would understand his feelings and might even have similar feelings towards him.
``C'mon, Leo!'' he mentally screamed at himself, ``You're thinking crazy! You've only just met her and even if she did like you, keeping a relationship solid when you're on opposite sides of the world is just too hard!''
``I know!'' Leo said out loud, ``But... what if she does like me...? Staying in contact with her wouldn't be impossible; just difficult.'' But then again, unless Chrissy fancied him as well and wanted to stay in contact with him, Leo doubted a long distant relationship would work. So for the next ten minutes, Leo lay back on his bed staring up at the ceiling, whilst his mind swam with nonstop information. He didn?t even notice Angel enter the room.
``You alright, Sweetheart?'' she asked.
``Aah!'' Leo jumped a bit before saying, ``Uh... I'm fine; Just... tired.''
``Well, you look a bit tense;'' said Angel, a bit concerned, ``Is there anything bothering you at all?'' Knowing he couldn't hide it for long, Leo sighed and said,
``Okay... If I was tell you, would you...?''
``Honey; whatever you tell me stays between us and only us.'' said Angel, ``You have my word.'' Leo took a deep breath and said,
``Mum, I... I... I really like Chrissy.''
``Really...?'' asked Angel, interested.
``Yeah...'' said Leo, ``I know it sounds crazy as I just met her, but for what I know of her so far, I really feel I like her. From the sound of things, the two of us actually have a lot in common. She said something about being abandoned by her parents, and I feel like it's something that I can identify with.'' He sighed and said, ``It's a darn shame, that we live so far apart... I... I know I must be sounding crazy at this point...''
``Not at all, Leo darling;'' said Angel, Those feelings are perfectly normal; epically for a boy your age as in a few more months you'll be 13; officially a teenager.'' She smiled and said, ``Besides, I'm very happy that you have someone new you can relate to. Yes, it's annoying that she lives a long distance away but, unfortunately, life is never simple.''
``Right...'' said Leo, ``So, what do you think should I do, Mum? I really feel like Chrissy is special since no girl has ever been interested in me before. Not even as a friend. Should I tell her that I like her and have feelings for her?''
``Well, all I can say, Leo;'' said Angel, ``Is be yourself; because you are a nice, helpful kid and yourself is all you can be. As for telling her that you like her; that is your decision alone. Tomorrow I'd get to know her more and then just find the right moment.''
``Ok;'' said Leo, ``I just hope she doesn't get put off by me; or worse, creeped out, if I was to tell her.''
``Well she sounds like a nice girl and her family was very nice as well;'' said Angel, ``I could be wrong, but I think she'll understand and won't be creeped out.'' She thought for a moment and said, ``Did you get her number or her email address? That way you could both keep in touch much easier.''
``Ha! I didn't think of that!'' said Leo, ``But I will when we meet again tomorrow.''
``But remember, Leo;'' said Angel, suddenly becoming rather serious, ``You're still very young; and you have your whole life ahead of you. I know that Chrissy feels like the only girl in world to you right now, but... IF it somehow... doesn't work out, I'm sure you'll meet loads of girls later on in life.''
``Okay, Mum;'' said Leo, ``I understand.''
``Good,'' said Angel with a smile, ``Of course, there's no harm in trying.''
``Say, Mum...'' said Leo, ``Did you... well... did you ever meet someone you fell in love with?''
``As a matter of fact, I did;'' said Angel, ``There were a lot of boys whom I thought were rather cute when I was in starter school. But I didn't get a real boyfriend until I was twenty; and by that time, I was at University...'' She chuckled and said, ``Of course, that didn't quite work out. But in all honesty, there's nothing really wrong with being single, and I'm quite happy with it. And I'm not alone since I have you.''
``Thanks, Mum,'' said Leo as he got up from the bed and gave her a hug, ``I feel a million times better now.''
``I'm glad to hear that, Sweetheart;'' said Angel, ``Now I've also been thinking about what we should do tonight.''
``How about we head out to the city plaza cinema?'' asked Leo, ``We could see Wolf's Blade or Cyber Runner? Gary said Cyber Runner's supposed to be a really great film.''
``Alright then!'' said Angel, ``I've been wanting to see Cyber Runner for a while now. But we best get a move on; the plaza is roughly a 10 minute walk away from the hotel.''
``Can we get dinner afterwards?'' asked Leo.
``We won't need to!'' laughed Angel, ``I've been told that the plaza cinema has dinner theater; we can eat our dinner while we watch!''
``Cool!'' said Leo. So the two of them got dressed and headed out to the city plaza, looking forward to a night on the town. Even so, Leo kept that happy memory of Chrissy fresh in his mind.
``I'll tell her tomorrow...'' he told himself, ``I'll be myself and tell her exactly how I feel. The worst that can happen is that she doesn't feel exactly the same. There's no reason at all why we can't still be friends.'' With this in his mind, he settled in for a fun evening out.
To Be Continued...