Hermon found the first aid learning modules interesting and threw himself enthusiastically into learning. His father had shown little interest in children learning more than was necessary to run a ranch so his experience with learning had finished with high school, and that was only because his father was aware the law required at least that level of education. But being a strong swimmer, he discovered was not enough in his newly chosen profession either. He had to learn about the ocean, its moods and dangers and there were many. A spirit of bravado was not enough as the ocean was much more powerful and some of the sea creatures dangerous. He’d learned something about working as a team in construction, but people’s lives relied much more on teamwork in this new profession. He had to be finely attuned to each member of the team so they could sense when one on a rescue needed their instant support and be constantly alert when assigned to the role of spotter on tower duty. Herman grew over the next two years and loved everything about his new life.
But there were personal issues to contend with in his new role too. Without him being aware of it his personality changed and pride began to intrude to mar the experience. Girls sunbaking on the beach carpet who watched for their potential future mate through dark glasses noticed this tall ruggedly handsome lifeguard from the time of his first exposure to beach patrolling. Under various pretexts they tried to get his attention, but this rancher’s son failed to recognize the signals. It was only when one of the lifeguards laughingly pointed out he was missing the signals Hermon blushingly tried to avoid patrols and request other duties instead. This became a matter of playful teasing by the team until he finally got over his embarrassment.
But the more Hermon thought about the attention he was getting the more he liked the idea. In his growing up years, it had been all work and no play or external interests. So now he’d become aware of the girls flirting he decided to play along. It was just for fun of course and no more than that. So, on patrol he’d boldly walk tall and flex his powerful muscles and chuckle as he saw the girls respond. He discovered he was no longer a number in society but an emerging celebrity and this fed his self-esteem. Pride was knocking on the door. He could have any of them he thought but his stern upbringing held him back from following through.
But there was one girl he was really interested in and she was a fellow lifeguard. Her name was Rosa. Rosa was Brazilian, she’d gravitated to this coast after following surfboard riding competitions around the world and had witnessed a close friend saved by one of the lifeguards on this beach. She’d decided to take up lifesaving as a career and excelled at the trade. She was now a citizen having chosen to spend the rest of her life here. The team had pet names for each-other and Rosa became Reo in recognition of her native city. She had an even temperament and was quick to laugh though there was a boundary through which no male was permitted to enter. Many tried but all failed and those on the team who’d expressed an interest eventually gave up. But the team was strongly bonded when it came to their trade. Professionalism overrode feelings.
And it was at this time Hermon Mentor stood on the beach surveying his kingdom. Six foot three inches put his shoulders over the heads of most of the men on the beach and he thrilled each time one of them looked at his physique with admiration. His chest muscles rippled as he saw them approach and he flexed his arms, so these stood out while onlookers went past smiling approvingly. Most of the regulars were there to show off a little themselves so were there for the same reason.
He became aware someone was watching him and he turned to accept their homage. Sitting in the sand was Rosa or Reo as everyone called her and she continued to study him unflinching as their eyes made contact. Hermon’s chest tightened involuntarily, and he stopped preening for the sake of attention from those passing by. She slapped the sand indicating he should come sit beside her, but she was not smiling. Hermon’s pride evaporated and he moved uncertainly to her command.
Reo continued to study him as he sat beside her, then spoke in heavily accented English.
“Hermon I used to think you were a nice guy but over the years you’ve become a proud jerk the way you flex your muscles to try and impress everyone going by. I notice you flirt with all those empty heads on the beach while patrolling but you never go out with any of them. Now why is that Mr. Proud, I want to know the real person I’m working with on the team. I’ve got every other team member’s number but am curious about who you really are?”
Her directness destroyed Hermon’s couple of years of built up self-worth in an instant and he sat there not knowing what to say. He did a quick inventory of her words and realized he’d changed since joining the team. It had taken a long time for him to build his feeling of self-worth but in the process he’d fought a battle within. The person he most admired had seen through his pretence and destroyed him in an instant. He opened his mouth to respond but no words came out. He slowly got to his feet and stared at her. Then forced himself to speak as he turned to head back to the club house.
“I’m not the person you think I am!” He whispered as he left.
Hermon returned to the quarters and sat on the bed thinking. Suddenly the happiness he’d found in lifeguard work evaporated. Perhaps he didn’t belong here after all. If Reo had seen through him probably the rest of the team felt the same way but didn’t express it? Maybe he’d been foolish to leave the ranch? He missed his family and decided to return. He changed clothes quickly gathered his few things and packed them. He’d leave a note at the office and they could send him whatever they owed him. Then he turned toward the door and standing in the doorway with arms folded was Rio.
“Where do you think you’re going?” The voice was calm and firm.
“You have the hide to ask me that question? After telling me what people in the team think of me? There’s no place for a proud jerk it seems so I’m going back to where I originated from! I really liked you Rio and am sorry you feel that way about me.”
“Well you told me you’re not the person I described and I’m happy to hear that. So, what you’re telling me is the person I watched is not the person you really are. Why are you leaving then when I want to get to know the real Hermon Mentor?”
Hermon paused confused. “What are you saying?”
Rio chuckled. “I’m saying Mr. Proud jerk was just putting on a show for some reason and is really someone I could get to like very much. I’m Latino so what you see is what you get, are you still leaving? I hope not!”
Hermon stood and thought things over. She surely was a firebrand, but he liked that. Maybe he needed someone like that to reality check him sometimes. Not too often though.
“If I stay can we get engaged?”
“Woa, not so fast Mr. Proud Jerk I don’t bargain with people like that. But if you take me out to dinner this evening I may consider calling you something nice and maybe even consider your engagement proposal as well. What do you say, are you staying?”
Hermon hastened to unpack his things and changed into the lifeguard uniform again while Rio watched approvingly.
“You’ll pick me up at seven this evening and take me to the Italian restaurant in town where I’ll consider your engagement proposal.” Rio disappeared down the corridor and headed for the beach.
Hermon chuckled to himself and spoke to the empty room. “You bet I will!”
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