Austin Murray is fifty years old, owns a bookstore, and loves to walk on the beach at sun-up. He's a beachcomber, too, always in search of something unique to add to his collection. One such winter morning, an unkempt, sad-looking stranger roars into his life on a motorbike and his heart turns over for the first time, ever.
Murphy Vickers is world-weary, hurting, and unable to connect with anyone. He travels from place to place looking for work, but never stays anywhere very long. He's trying to outrun a painful event in his past that haunts him to this day. When he stops in a seaside town, he meets Austin, who offers him a job and a bed for however long he needs them.
Murphy is surly and reticent, But Austin won’t let that stop him from breaking through his barriers, and maybe getting a biker of his very own.
As I dried off, I looked at myself in the mirror, blue eyes sparkling, gray hair mixed with brown in need of a cut. The crow’s feet at the corners of my eyes, the laugh lines on my face all spoke of a life lived and yet, I had room for one more experience, and I wanted it with Murphy.
When it was lunch time at the bookstore, I left Maury in charge and headed to the diner. I saw Murphy’s bike out front and through the glass I glimpsed him leaning against the counter talking to Bertha.
I entered the restaurant and greeted both of them. “I got lasagna for you today,” Bertha said and went right back to flirting with Murphy. He was giving as good as he got, and though I felt a little envy, I was happy he had relaxed enough to have some fun.
When I seated myself in a far booth, Murphy joined me on the other side. “Bertha’s trying to recruit me to work in her kitchen.”
“She’s shameless, is our Bertha and pretty single-minded. Don’t let her force anything on you.”
He grinned, and the sight of it hit me like a freight train. “No one ever forces me to do anything I don’t want to. You can believe that.”
A few minutes later, Bertha brought two helpings of lasagna and iced tea for both of us. “Enjoy, boys, and Austin, make sure you convince Murphy to stay. We need more good-looking men in this town.”
“What’s that say about me?” I retorted, and she just laughed and walked away.
“So, what do you think?” I asked as I took a bite of my food.
Murphy shrugged. “I dunno. I like cooking, and I don’t have anywhere to be, but I can take it or leave it.” He drank some iced tea, and the wetness of his lips was distracting.
“Keep an open mind,” I replied. “Not too many places like this around. And you have a friend here in Leonard, and me, too, if you’d like.” I focused on my plate and wondered if he heard the undertone.
“You thought I was asleep this morning when you untangled from me, didn’t you?”
I almost choked on my food. “What are you talking about?”
He smirked. “I pretended to be asleep when you got up. It was nice to wake up with someone in my arms. Hadn’t had that since the army, and being on the road is damned lonely.” And just like that, the mood changed.
“Is that what you want? To be with someone again, in a relationship? Would that make you feel human again?”
“I wouldn’t mind it at all, but I’m also used to moving around, too. I don’t know if I can have both those things, or if my wanderlust is permanent.”
“I guess you’re gonna have to figure it out, huh?”
We finished our meal and I went back to work. What choices would he make?