Sidney picked up empty scuba tanks two at a time and hid them in an old shed behind the main office. She leaned over the cart for the last tank and it fell over, rolling away from her. "Damn." She stood back up, ready to run after it, but it was stopped by a foreign leg coming around the corner. Raleigh bent over to pick up the tank properly and looked around, confused about where it came from.
He smiled when he saw Sidney and she couldn't help but smile back to him, he was just so wholesome and adorable. Today he was dressed in shorts and deck shoes with a baseball cap covering his auburn head of hair and a v-neck t-shirt showing off the light freckles on his chest.
"Hey," He said, walking over to her, "do you need a scuba tank? Or a hand?"
"Just finished," She took the tank from him and put it with the rest, closing the shed and making sure she had secured the padlock back on the doors.
Raleigh stepped out of her way as she backed the cart out onto the gravel road, "Are you going to do scuba lessons in the bay?"
Sidney couldn't help but laugh. "No. That would be a disaster." She backtracked quickly, realizing how rude that reaction was. "I mean, the bay is too muddy for diving. The spoiled brats at the country club got snippy about our gear being near their bloody marys." Sidney shrugged, "So I got to move it all." She put the cart out of sight next to the deck of the office. "What brings you here? I thought I wasn't going to see you until tomorrow."
Raleigh became immediately more reserved. He readjusted his cap, flashing his red hair for a half second. "Yeah, I'm actually working today." He gestured at the camera bag on the office deck.
"Oh," Sidney readjusted her face. She had gotten a little cocky, thinking Raleigh just hadn't been able to stay away from her. "Okay. Yeah." Willing herself to speak, she tried to think in sentences. "Working on what?"
Raleigh looked out over the water, as if he had just realized something important. "I don't know who I'm with today, actually. I would assume your dad. There's a boat of kids going out today. As a part of their summer program."
Sidney smiled, even as she felt her heart flip in her chest. "You'll actually be with me today then. Which is good, we need the ballast."
"Sorry, the what?"
"The weight, it's windy out today." She said. "We had some crew boats out this morning and they didn't even have flat water." Sidney perked up, remembering she had to talk to Anne, she gestured for Raleigh to follow her. "This must be some classy summer camp if they want you taking pictures of the kids sitting down." She let the screen door slam shut behind them. "Anne?"
Anne shook her head, pointing to the phone at her ear.
"Oh." Sidney dropped her voice and turned back to Raleigh, realizing how much taller he was now that he was forced to stand much closer to her.
"It's actually not for the summer camp," Raleigh said, mirroring Sidney's lowered volume. "Someone from the Save the Bay foundation basically put me on retainer for the next month." Raleigh shrugged.
Sidney sat down and pointed to a chair for Raleigh, which he accepted. "Save the Bay? Did they give you a name?" Sidney could already guess the name Raleigh was about to give her.
"Petrocelli." Raleigh sounded unsure about pronunciation, but Sidney knew too well that he had gotten it just right.
"What do you need?" Anne asked, perky as ever as she hung up the phone.
"I just wanted to know if you talked to the crew people. Because they need to pay for their time and my labor no matter how unhappy they were." Sidney leaned forward to look at Anne directly. "Especially because I told them there would be so much seaweed where they planned to row, and I told them it wouldn't be calm enough."
Anne nodded, listening to Sidney and making sure she was done before interjecting. "They're not paying." She said simply.
"Ugh!" Sidney couldn't help herself. "Why did they even want to row here?"
Anne shrugged. She looked at Raleigh as if she had just seen him and Raleigh smiled, but stayed quiet. "Something about their normal spot being used. They only needed a week."
"Well they got a day. That should be enough for them to realize this isn't the place for them." She shrugged and shook her head. She was sympathetic to the fact that the marina was not the best place for them, but she had warned them about it and they had decided not to listen. They also didn't listen to her recommendations for other places to row.
Anne nodded, ready for this conversation to be over. "Who said Petrocelli?"
"Nice segue." Sidney smiled.
"I did, he's the one who hired me." Raleigh said, oblivious to what he was actually saying.
"He does a lot of that." Anne laughed.
Raleigh nodded. Sidney felt a little bad, letting him stay out in the dark. At the same time, she didn't want to explain this situation and wanted to keep Petrocelli as a far off billionaire. "He made it seem urgent. And scheduled me for next week too. But I checked your schedule," he looked between the two women, "There aren't any events that day."
"He scheduled you?" Anne asked. "What did he say it was for?"
"Pretty generic." Raleigh said. "Just a photo shoot. I assume of the marina and you guys."
"Or you guys," Anne said, looking at Sidney.
"Guess it's time to sail." Sidney said, standing up and heading for the door. Luckily, a group of children were gathering outside the office. "Good morning everyone," Sidney said, smiling down from the deck. "First we have a guest photographer today, so we'll need to get the okay from the parents that taking pictures is okay. His name is Raleigh and I'm sure he'll be happy to sell you any pictures he takes of this morning."
"We already got waivers for photography." A mother spoke up from the back. "Is that the same thing?"
"I guess so," Sidney said. Obviously Petrocelli had thought this one out, and she owed him a phone call when she got back onto shore. "The next thing is life jackets. All the kids have to wear life jackets and all the parents following the sailboat can make their own decisions about whether or not their going to wear life jackets. One of our full time patrol guys is going to give all the parents a ride in one of our motorboats. Are we all ready?"
The children weren't sure how to react so Sidney just led the way out to the dock, hoping they would lighten up as quickly as possible. She approached Hudson, the man who had been running the deck for almost two decades now. He was shirtless and his long sun bleached hair was left loose, hanging around his shoulders.
"Well good morning, Sid." Hudson said. "Looks like you got yourself a party." He knelt down to greet the kids, rather than Sidney. That was the best part of Hudson, and he had only gotten more attentive since he had his daughter, Isabella. "Hi, everyone. Y'all look pretty ready to go out on the water, but you know what you need?" He waited patiently for someone to answer, smiling at them for encouragement.
"Sunscreen," one of the kids said. "A lifejacket!" another piped up.
"Well you need both of those, but more importantly you need a weather report. I know it doesn't sound very exciting, but it's just as important as your lifejacket. Right now we're at high tide, does anyone know what that means?"
Sidney stepped back, letting Hudson teach the children about the importance of tides. She shifted her attention onto Raleigh, who was watching the kids and Hudson as if it was the most fascinating thing he had seen. After a few moments he shook his head as if coming out of a trance and noticed Sidney watching him.
"Hey." He said, smiling at her.
"Hey." She replied, laughing a little. He was so adorable without even realizing it.
"Where's Mookie?" He asked, realizing her normal companion hadn't made an appearance all morning.
"At home, I didn't want him on a boat with the kids. Or messing with the rowers."
For a moment Sidney felt like she and Raleigh were the only people present. As if they were going out on the boat alone. The strap for his camera was over his shoulder and he held onto it lazily with one hand. His other hand was in the pocket of his shorts and she could see him playing with the lens cap through the loose fabric. His baseball cap made him look much younger and hid the soft growing wrinkles around his eyes. She had the desire to knock it off his head, but didn't feel like she knew him well enough to do something so goofy and slightly rude.
"Alright, Sidney," Hudson said loudly, jarring her out of her stream of consciousness, "I think these kids are ready to go out on the water."
Sidney took the lead back, making sure everyone's lifejackets were on securely, boarding them all onto the boat and watching Raleigh move through the boat deftly. He walked passed all the children sitting down in the safe hull of the boat and instead moved up under the jib, lying on his stomach so he could see her sit down at the tiller.
She pulled herself away from staring at him so she could focus on speaking to the smaller people in front of her and using the tiller to steer away from the dock. "Okay, Hudson told you about the tide, right?" There was a wave of nods. "Did he tell you about the wind?" She had to ask because she hadn't actually heard. There was a more tentative group of nodding heads. "Well today, you can feel the wind and that's good because it means the boat will move, but it also means you need more weight on the boat. Did Hudson tell you what that was called? Adding weight to the boat."
"A ballet set." One girl said from the back. Raleigh smiled and hid his laugh by adjusting the settings on his camera.
"Yeah, ballast. And it makes sure we don't end up in the water, since we're not swimming today. She checked over her shoulder to make sure the parents were all being loaded onto a boat with Hudson. The other thing we're going to do is make sure our smaller sail, the jib," she pointed above Raleigh to the triangle sail, "is secure because we don't want to have a lot of stuff moving around. So can you make sure that the rope, we call it a sheet, is tight in that clamp?" Sidney moved up a little to help them pull the jib sheet tighter into the clamp. "Perfect, now we're not going to touch that for the whole ride."
Eventually Sidney settled into her normal speech about sailing and her section of the bay. This was a more interesting only because the kids had interjections to her monologue and Raleigh was intently taking pictures of her. She stared at him for a long time before he lifted his face from the camera and pointed out at the bay, reminding her to pay attention to what she was doing. At the end of the ride, the wind had settled down a little bit so she let each of the kids play with the tiller a little bit before going back to the dock.
After she had made sure all the parents and children were reunited and happily on their way she found Raleigh on the porch of the office. "How'd you like your ride?" She sat down next to him.
"Look at this." Raleigh shifted the camera so she could see the picture.
In the tiny screen she saw herself and her tan skin in stark contrast with the main sail. She was standing and talking, with one hand keeping the tiller steady while resting her other hand on the boom so it didn't swing into her chest.
"That's the best you've got?" She looked up at him and smiled before realizing how close she was to his face. He was wearing his glasses now, to see the small screen on the camera and she could see some of his red hair escaping from under the baseball cap. She ignored the closeness and held firm with her comment.
He looked taken aback, and a little disappointed. "That would be perfect for an ad. Especially with the kids at the bottom of the frame. Everyone loves kids." He looked back down at the camera, putting it back in his lap to scroll through the pictures.
"I was kidding." She said, putting her hand on his wrist to stop him from looking for another picture. "It's perfect for an ad." She mimicked his words. "Especially with the kids at the bottom of the frame."
"Shut up." He said, laughing and then leaning his head back like he was embarrassed.
Sidney made a face of mock surprise. "Are we really at that point in our relationship?"
Raleigh laughed again. "I guess so. Are we still on for tomorrow?"
"I guess so." Sidney said, mocking his tone again.
"Good," he said. He was still smiling but sounded more serious. He leaned forward, kissing her on the cheek, the frames of his glasses pressing gently against the side of her face and his lips sending a pleasant warmth down her spine. He pulled away and picked up his camera bag before walking away.
"Oh shit." Sidney said to herself after Raleigh was safely out of earshot. She got up and went into the office to call Petrocelli about the new schedule she was now expected to follow.
"Getting lots of attention, huh?" Anne said, smirking from her desk.
Sidney sighed and shook her head. "People severely underestimate the amount of information you have. I guess you saw that whole thing?"
"You like him." Anne said, smirking.
Sidney sat down at her desk, pulling out Petrocelli's file and looking for a cell phone number. She wasn't going to continue the conversation with Anne because it would quickly turn into a game of "who are you going to marry?" and that never ended well. She dialed Petrocelli's number and tapped her fingers nervously as she waited for him to answer.
"This is Petrocelli." He said. His voice sounded expensive, like velvet.
"Hello, Sir. I just wanted to ask about my schedule for next week. Because apparently I have one." Sidney said. She was unsure about how flippant she could be without getting into trouble, but decided to take the chance anyway.
"Sidney?" She couldn't tell if he was amused or not.
"Yeah," she said, trying to stay still and calm, as if he would be able to tell if she was tapping her fingers or not.
"Well, I was going to call you in about an hour, but this is better." He said, sounding pleased. This calmed her a little, and she imagined him sitting at a fancy desk while wearing a suit and casually playing with his tie. "I guess you've already seen Raleigh today?"
Sidney felt a little pang of guilt replace the warmth that was still leftover from Raleigh's kiss. "Yeah, this morning."
"Your dad said he was the one who normally photographed the races. He has also taken some very exquisite pictures of you, which I would assume comes from his attraction to you." Petrocelli sounded like he was talking about the weather, and Sidney wasn't sure if she was being tested in some way.
"You talked to my father?" Sidney asked, ignoring everything else he had just said.
"To get Raleigh's contact information." He said matter-of-factly.
"It seems like my father's been taking control of a lot of stuff lately. Raleigh said you had already hired him for next week. Why?"
Petrocelli waited a moment, maybe thinking about how he was going to explain this situation. "That is a tentative date. I would like to do a full day of shooting soon so there is a stock pile of pictures for when magazines come and want to write stories."
"Don't magazines usually want to take their own pictures?" Sidney asked, wondering what magazines would ever be interested in writing stories about her or the marina.
"I have found that if you provide photos it saves them money and you manage the image a little closer. So if next week doesn't work for you I will schedule a different day for us to take pictures."
Sidney weighed the options. If she said next week didn't work she would inconvenience Raleigh, have to explain herself to her dad and she could see the situation between Petrocelli and Raleigh getting messy if anything happened. "Next week is fine."
"Perfect. I'll have my secretary call and confirm and we'll see you next week. Have a good day."
She could hear that he was smiling into the phone but she couldn't bring herself to be as chipper. "You too, see you soon."
"Alright," Anne said, once Sidney had hung up the phone and had a moment to shake off the conversation. "You're going to have kissy face take more pictures of you with Petrocelli present? That's not going to turn out well."
"Anne." Sidney said. She hadn't meant to be so short, but she also didn't want her inner monologue spoken out loud yet. Anne closed her mouth dramatically, knowing Sidney would eventually have to talk it out. "I had a drink at Petrocelli's house." Anne gasped, but Sidney didn't stop. "And it was gorgeous, obviously. And he's so… dominating. Not really controlling, but I feel like he's just so used to being in control. Anyway. I'm going on a date with Raleigh on Friday. On tomorrow Friday. Tomorrow. And he just kissed me. On the cheek kissed me, but still. And he's really sweet and he's so good with his kid, Savannah."
"Okay. Pause." Anne said, holding up a hand. "First, you didn't tell me you went to see Petrocelli's house, which I'm sure is a mansion. Second, you didn't tell me you had a date with hipster photographer man and third you didn't tell me he had a kid!"
"Guilty." Sidney shrugged. "But what do I do?"
"You go on your date and see if thick rimmed glasses wants to kiss you again. More importantly, you should see where he wants to take you. Then you see how weird taking pictures with Mr. Big is."
"It's not with him. He'll just be there."
"Being dominating. And you know he'll want pictures with you. It's his project. You're just the face. And when he touches you, American Apparel will know that there's a total attraction to that sexy, tan, Itallian body." Anne's eyes went fuzzy for a moment, off in her own world.
Sidney snapped a couple times to get her back down to earth. "He said Raleigh was attracted to me and that's why he takes good pictures of me." Sidney said.
"I heard that." Anne nodded. "And he doesn't seem too bothered by it. Or he's really bothered by it and seeing you guys together is how Daddy Warbucks is going to judge his chances of getting you."
"Sorry, I'm running out of names. Who else is rich?"