"May I sit here?"
Alex looked up, the breeze catching her red hair, blowing it back. "The beach is big, I'm sure if you looked hard enough, you could find some other place to sit," she said, her eyes returning to the orange-tinted waters as her fingers dug into the still warm sand.
"I know," the man replied, dropping his surfboard and himself onto the sand beside her. "You're always here. I dunno, but you always look lonely.
Alex frowned. "So, you're my white knight here to rescue me?"
"I just wanted to see what kind of girl would come to the beach and not even swim."
"The kind that doesn't own a swimsuit." She turned her head just in time to see a wide smirk spread across the surfer's face.
"Ah, but clothing isn't exactly required. I'd be more than happy to join you if you decide to take a dip," he offered. He didn't seem to notice the way her green eyes narrowed.
"You know, as sweet as that is, I think I'll pass."
The man picked up a seashell, examining it as if it was something that was actually worth something. "So do you have a name, or should I just call you Hydrophobe?" he asked, his voice teasing.
Alex wrinkled her nose, her frown deepening. "I'm not afraid of water," she hissed. With a sigh, she added, "It's Alex."
She didn't ask for his name, nor did he offer it up to her; instead he slowly repeated her own as if it were uncommon. "So, why would a girl like you, be on a beach like this, day after day, just to stare at the waves?"
"I like to pretend," she answered slowly, "that if I wait long enough, things will change."
"And do they?"
"I always return to the same place, do the same things, and start all over again the next day; nothing ever changes," she whispered as if those words had been a secret that she never before betrayed.
The surfer took his turn at frowning before he leveled his gaze at the sunset. "I like to believe that the sand that we walk on today isn't the sand that we walked on yesterday. Things always change, whether or not we take notice of them."
"Philosopher, huh?" Alex sneered clearly not taking his well-meaning words to heart.
The man sighed, burying the shell beneath his ever-changing sands for the tide to free and take back some other time. "It's getting late, why aren't you going home?"
"You just love asking questions, don't you?"
The man shrugged, his smile returning. "What can I say? It's a gift."
"I don't want to go yet, there's nothing there." Suddenly she found her words tumbling out of her mouth, finally free from their four year prison. "I do the chores that need to be done, then wait for things to get dirty again. My... caretaker I guess that is what he is tries his best to spend as little time home as he can. And even when he's there, he busies himself ignoring me at least that's what it seems like sometimes. Even when I'm not alone, I feel so lonely," she admitted softly, covering her face with her hands, embarrassed to be telling this to a complete stranger. "I never felt so useless before, like... like...." She sighed, looking up, though avoiding his face. "I have no use, ever since my... accident, I've been worthless. Maybe it would've been better if Blake had left me there, to be just another Jane Doe."
The surfer was silent, watching the waves swim up the sand to kiss their bare toes. "Useless, worthless. Why can't I believe that you are either of those things?"
Alex laughed a nervous, bitter laugh. "You don't know me. And don't give me any of that 'everyone is worth something' crap. Some people are just meaningless, it's a fact that too many people refuse to accept."
"I disagree, I think that is an opinion that too many people refuse to disbelieve," he said, watching her. "I may be a stranger, but I can see it. I can see your worth."
Another small, lifeless laugh escaped her lips as she turned towards him. "If you're trying to get me to strip down, you're doing an awful job."
The man tried to smile, though it didn't quite work; it looked more painful than inviting. "You're more aware of your self-worth than you think you are. I'm just a stranger," he repeated as he pushed himself back up, "but I can promise you that things are changing. Take the beach for example. You didn't believe what I said about the sand, that everyday it's different. You don't notice that the beach is changing little by little, but you can see that a summer beach is different from a winter beach. Maybe you just can't see how things are changing for you right now, but things will get better." He leaned forward, offering her his hand, sand still sticking to his wet fingers.
For a moment, Alex's hand betrayed her, reaching up to take his, but in the end, she lifted herself off the ground with a prideful struggle. She stood in front of him, her face pinched as she tried to figure him out. "You're right, you are a stranger," she finally said, as she limped a step back. "You know nothing about me or who I am. Don't pretend that you could. There's more than what you can see that makes me useless, unable to even provide for myself."
"Why?" the surfer asked, shaking his head in disbelief. "Why are you so useless?"
Alex smiled then, a small, sad smile. "In more ways than one, I'm nothing more than a walking corpse."
Though the man had opened his mouth to disagree with her, the voice did not belong to him. Blake was walking across the sand towards them, his face as unreadable as usual. With a shake of her head, Alex turned away from the surfer and began the slow walk towards the man that saved her from being Jane Doe. As she walked, her fingers brushed against the metal hugging her leg and a hopeful smile touched her lips. Somehow the surfer had been able to make her forget all about the brace holding her leg together.