Genre: Love Story
Sarah hid under her wide-brimmed hat, wiggling her toes in the sand. The beach was quiet as usual, only a few stragglers and a family or two. She eyed the water twinkling with a million little suns. It looked so inviting but meant she would have to strip down to her costume and walk past the few people on the beach. It was something she just couldn’t do. She turned back to her book and was soon absorbed in another world.
“Please help” a strange man shouted at her suddenly. She looked up in shock and was disoriented for a moment. “S…sorry?” she stammered unhappy that he was focusing on her.
“Here” he literally threw a wet, screaming infant into her arms and ran down the beach to the water. Sarah was shocked and had no idea what to do with the little girl, who’s screams were now reaching right across the beach.
“Hey, wha…” Sarah managed to stammer trying to stand. It proved more difficult than it looked as the little one was wiggling and still screaming. Instinctively she cuddled the little girl to her chest and wondered what the hell was going on. How does a stranger throw a child at another stranger and take off?
Finally managing to stand and still cuddling the infant who’s screaming had settled to crying loudly, she searched for the man.
“He must be the dad” she said to herself. It was a quirk Sarah had developed by living alone so long. At least she heard a voice, even if it was her own. She spotted the dad coming out of the sea with a coughing little girl and suddenly realized what had happened. She went pale in fear for the unknown little one and took off down the sand, bouncing the baby on her hip as she tried to run with her.
The little girl was hugging her dad by the time she got there. They were both crying and Sarah looked down to avoid seeing his tearful face and embarrassing him.
“Is she ok?” Sarah asked. The little one spotted her dad and started to cry loudly again. He took her and cuddled her next to her sister. The three looked wet, sandy and pathetic on the beach. Sarah looked around, no one else seemed to have grasped what was going on. “What do I do now?” she wondered. “Just leave?”
Taking her by surprise he stuck out a wet hand “I’m Brian” he said. “Thank you for taking my little Anna. I couldn’t just leave her on the beach and you didn’t look like you would run off with her. I had to find Alice. She disappeared under a freak wave by that large rock” he pointed. “I only took my eyes off her for a second” he said shaking his head. Sarah smiled, thinking that they weren’t pathetic, they were lovely together. He was looking at her expectantly.
“Oh, I’m Sarah” she mumbled shyly.
‘How can I thank you?” he said but before she could answer little Anna broke into a new set of wailing. She was wet and scared the poor thing, Brian could see the sympathy on Sarah’s face.
“No … no need” Sarah stammered, walking a few steps backwards. “Are you ok now?”
Brian nodded, trying to soothe both children who were now crying. Sarah walked back to her towel and packed up. She turned to wave as she left but he was busy. Back to my little life she thought, feeling lonelier than ever.
The next day it poured, Sarah’s favorite weather. She had bought a huge bag of plump, red tomatoes that smelt fresh and earthy, to make soup. Today was the perfect day to do it. Busying herself in her sweet, country kitchen Sarah could almost feel happy. Music belted out of the little radio on the counter and she sang as she chopped up tomatoes and added spices. The rain ticked on outside and Jockey, her tabby cat eyed her with disgust. Obviously fish soup would have been more to his taste. She gave him a scratch and a cat treat, but he still stared at her skeptically.
With the soup done and some cooling in little 1 helping freezer containers, she added feta and a grilled cheese sandwich to the mix. “Delicious” she said to Jockey with a smile, he didn’t look impressed.
Sarah stared out at her sea view. The waves rose and fell, dissolving into foam horses at the edge of the sand. It relaxed her completely. She finished her soup, made coffee and tucked her feet up in the soft blanket on the window seat. Picking up her book, she saw that she had almost reached the end. The end. It made her think of how it ended with Billy. Her good mood vanished.
He had been having an affair and she – the good little housewife never knew. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Sarah berated herself for the millionth time. “How did I not know?” she said out loud startling herself. Sadness slipped out of her eyes and trickled down her neck, Sarah cried herself to sleep.
There’s nothing like an unexpected afternoon nap she told herself, snuggling into the blanket. The rain had lifted and left a dripping clean world of fresh air. Taking in a huge breath, Sarah’s thoughts turned the Brian. He looked like he had his hands full at the beach. “I wonder where his wife is?” she said stroking Jockey’s soft back. “Hopefully his girls are ok.” Just for a second she wondered what it would be like to have a family, a husband, people around her.
“No!” I don’t have time for that she said out loud. It was always easier to blame time than to be honest. In all honesty, she was terrified. Billy hadn’t just stomped on her heart, he had shattered it and scattered the pieces. Never again would she give it away, she wasn’t strong enough to survive a second round. She kept to her little life and it was enough.
Sarah was back at the beach, under her hat the next day. She had moved around the point a little, where there was no one else. It was better that way. She finished her book while nibbling on sweet grapes and dry wine. “2 fruits for lunch” she smiled. A quick dip later and she felt refreshed, all the heat of the day washed off. Completely avoiding her usual spot she got back home to her quiet house. Jockey greeted her at the door, mewling against her leg in protest for her being gone so long.
That night Sarah lit the fire basket. It wasn’t that cold but she felt like a friendly fire. Flames licked at her toes and she heard the waves smacking the shore, it was peace on earth. “It would be nice to have someone to talk to” she surprised herself with the thought. “Where did that come from?’ she said out loud. She remembered Brian and his tear-streaked face. His wife was lucky to have such a lovely man as the father of their children. Sarah started allowing herself to dream that she was the wife for just a bit but quickly pushed it away. Rather be emotionally dead than allow herself to be hurt again.
“I can’t do that again” she mumbled. Sarah didn’t realize how little and alone she looked from the beach. So dejected.
Friday’s Sarah went shopping. Her treat was cake and coffee at “Lindy’s”, the only decent coffee shop in town. It was also the day that the fresh produce came in. Most of all, it wasn’t as busy as a Saturday but there were still sufficient people for her to lose herself in. With her shopping safely stored away in her car, Sarah popped in at Lindy’s, taking a table facing the sea and with her back to the other diners.
Coffee on order she sat back to relax and heard “Hello”. It was Brian with both little girls in tow. “Oh hi Brian” she stammered blushing. “Hello you two” she smiled focusing on the children, so he wouldn’t see her discomfort.
“I almost didn’t recognize you without your beach hat on” he smiled. Sarah smiled back not knowing what to say.
“Are you waiting for someone or can we join you? That is if you don’t mind two fussy little ones?”
“Of course” Sarah indicated to the chair opposite, feeling a little hesitant but didn’t show it. They sat, Brian arranging a baby chair for Anna. The waitress came back pen ready “1 cappuccino and two pink milkshakes please. Small ones” he smiled at the waitress and Sarah had to stop herself staring at his smile, it was infectious and she was smiling too when he looked back at her.
“We wanted to thank you – didn’t we Alice” he asked his little girl. She nodded, her curls bouncing around her ears. Sarah took a good look at the girls, they were so happy and well looked after. Chubby, rosy cheeks and sweet little faces pulled at her heart strings and again she wondered if their mommy knew what little gifts they were.
“Is your wife joining us?” Sarah asked.
Brian looked down “I’m a widow. My wife was killed in a car accident 14 months ago when Anna was a tiny baby”. Sarah saw his sorrow written all over his face.
“But I have these 2 gorgeous girls in my life and that has to be enough” he said with finality. “Are you hungry?” he asked obviously changing the subject.
“I usually have a piece of Mozart cake, its my favorite” Sarah smiled.
“I’ve never tried it” Brian said with a smile “Today’s the day” he snapped the menu closed and smiled at Alice who was trying to fit her fist into her mouth.
“And you he asked? Married?” he knew she didn’t have any children as she was always alone at the beach. He had seen her there many times but never chatted to her.
“Sorry” Brian responded.
“Don’t be – it wasn’t worth saving” he heard a tinge of bitterness in her voice and guessed it hadn’t ended well.
The coffee’s and milkshakes came and they kept on chatting, time flew past and Anna started to fuss. “Can you believe its 3 o clock already? I better get going” he smiled. “Anna is a grump when she doesn’t get her nap.”
Brian insisted on paying and they walked out together. Sarah was anxious about goodbyes but he just thanked her and they walked away waving. Sarah got back to her car glad that she managed to park in the shade so her perishables survived. She thought about Brian all the way home. If felt strange to have something other than her mundane life to think of.
That night as she nibbled on blue cheese and dried pears, sipping her Chardonnay, her mind kept wandering back to Brian. It must have been hell on his own after his wife died. Having to grieve and look after 2 children… Although they must have helped him get over her, children are all consuming and a great distraction she supposed. Sarah opened the windows onto the garden and snuggled down on her window seat. She looked so lonely there, nursing her glass of wine.
The next day was hectic, her cleaning lady was in and Sarah spent the morning moving furniture and taking curtains down. By mid-afternoon the cleaner was finished and so was she. Looking out to the sea she decided that a refreshing swim was in order and quickly changed, grabbing her hat and a towel. Within minutes she was in the water and loving it. Sarah had the best of both worlds – a tidal pool and a great stretch of beach. Today she felt like the challenge of the waves and it if felt wonderful on her body.
After pulling hard through the water she turned onto her back and let the sun warm her face. Brian crept back into her head and irritated her. She put it down to the fact that she hadn’t bothered to make any friends so it was unusual to have a conversation with someone. Especially someone as handsome and Brian. She ducked under the water at the thought trying to clear her head.
Reinvigorated she went to get her towel. “Hello” a man’s voice said. She knew who it was before she turned around. She was very self-conscious in her turquoise bikini and held her towel to her chest as she faced him.
“Hi Brian” she said too brightly, shocked at the effect his voice had on her. “I’m not bloody 18” she thought to herself. She wrapped herself in her towel after rubbing her hair to fluff and sat on the sand. He joined her.
“Where are the children?” Sarah asked.
“With Becky’s mother, my mother in law”.
“Oh free to misbehave” she laughed hastily adding “I don’t mean with me, I…I just meant cause the children aren’t here.” Sarah blushed. They sat in silence for a bit, just enjoying the sound of the sea. Stealing a look at his legs she noticed that they were muscular and tanned, her tummy tingled and she wondered what the hell this reaction was about. “It’s not like I have had sex recently” she thought.
Sarah realized that Brian was waiting expectantly, “Sorry?”
“What are you doing tonight?” he asked again. “Oh… ah, nothing” she couldn’t think of a way out quick enough. “How about we meet for a drink?” Sarah shocked herself by agreeing.
“Toby’s or the Lobster Grill?” he asked mentioning the 2 best diners in town. “Do you feel like fish or pasta?”
“I like both but love fish” Sarah said.
“Pick you up at 7?”
“Do you know where l live?” Sarah looked surprised. Brian nodded towards her house. He must have seen her coming and going.
“See you at 7” she answered still clutching her towel around her, she headed home. Her excitement grew and she was really looking forward to the evening. It had been months since she had been out and the last time was with her mother, which didn’t count.
She hadn’t been on a date since before she was married. At that thought she went pale. “I can’t do this, I must cancel” Sarah said shaking her head. Talking herself into it she realized that she didn’t have his number. “Damm”. She popped into the shower shampooing her hair and used her favorite body wash. It was nearly finished and she made a mental note to get more, it made her skin smell divine. Sarah tried hard to convince herself that the effort was for her, not for Brian.
It was way too early to be ready! She wanted a glass of wine for her nerves but thought it better to wait until they were at dinner. Sarah busied herself in the kitchen taking out a chicken to defrost for tomorrow. Cooking wasn’t a chore for her and her freezer was usually full of tasty, 1 meal containers. Planning the chicken a la king for tomorrow helped keep her excitement at bay.
At exactly 7:01pm she heard a car and Brian pulled up outside. Being a gentleman of course, he climbed out with a small bunch of flowers. They looked like wild peonies and Sarah loved them, not one for huge presumptuous bouquets. Brian came in while Sarah found the perfect vase for them, they framed her window charmingly, Jockey looked on suspiciously.
Neither of them spoke much in the car and Sarah wondered if this was going to be a long evening. It won’t be boring with Brian would it? He looked charming in a navy-blue jacket and t-shirt, Sarah loved that he had made an effort.
The Lobster Grill smelled like garlic, fresh bread and butter. It was heavenly. Sarah was excited, it was so long since she had been out in the evening. Smiling they both ordered garlicky lobster rolls and fresh salad. Sarah sipped her crisp wine, enjoying herself despite her shyness and the fact that the conversation was stilted.
“I’m sorry if I’m a bit quiet, I haven’t dated since, well since…” he stopped. Sarah gave his hand a quick squeeze “me neither” she admitted smiling.
“Cheers” Brian said and they touched glasses, each feeling a bit more relaxed. They chit-chatted away barely noticing how the time was flying. Each getting and giving a bit more of each other than they planned. The food was outstanding, the wine cold and the evening perfect.
On the way back Sarah started stressing about the end of the evening. Should she invite him in? Would he think its an invitation to sex? Would it be rude not to offer him a nightcap? Her dread grew the closer they got to her home. Brian pulled to a stop. Sarah gulped in indecision. He got out and opened her door for her. Heart pounding, she got out too, her hand was clammy. Brian leaned forward and Sarah closed her eyes, he gave her a big hug.
“Thank you Sarah” he whispered into her ear. “I had the best time.” He smiled at her, closed the door and started to climb back into his car. “Oh wait, can I have your number?” he asked a little unsure of himself. If the date wasn’t as wonderful for her as it was for him – he would soon know.
“Sure” they exchanged numbers and waved goodbye. Sarah sighed. “What am I doing?” I like this guy but I can’t fall in love again she told herself sternly. Pouring herself a nightcap, she opened the windows to the fresh, salty sea breeze and sat down.
Sarah allowed her mind to wander back to the night her marriage ended. Coming in from work, she sniffed the air. Nothing. Wilbur always made supper, he got home first and she was starving. “Wil?” she called.
“In here”. She had walked into the lounge about to pretend to be angry when she noticed the suitcases and boxes in the corner. She faltered. “Am I missing something?” her brow creased and Wil stared at her with sadness and regret.
“I’m so so sorry Sarah” he said. The next sentence would pour ice water down her spine and change her life forever. “I’m not in love with you anymore. There’s this woman…” he faltered but hadn’t needed to say anymore. “The last thing…” he began.
“Shut up!” she whispered looking down at her clenched fists. “How could you? We have something special here, our vows….” He shook his head. “I’m sorry”.
“Get out” she screamed. “Go! Go! Go!” Her voice got louder and louder. Getting up, he gathered his things. Stopping next to her he tried to touch her shoulder, she moved away. Waiting just long enough for him to quietly close the door, she broke into heaving sobs. Her knees gave and she lay on the dusty carpet sobbing until there were no more tears. Hours later she found the strength to stand up. Walking to the kitchen she drank a huge glass of water, put it in the sink and wandered up to the spare room, avoiding their bedroom. Gratefully she sank into the orange, silk pillows and hugged them until she slept.
That was 2 years ago. Sarah vowed never to let another man have such an effect on her. So far she was successful, her life was fine. It was organised, routine and she was happy. “But are you living or just existing?” she asked herself. “I’m terrified of failure. Of having my heart shattered again. I won’t survive.” But she was and had and would. And now Brian.
Sunday came and went without a word from him and Sarah was too shy to contact him. She made pots of creamy chicken and froze enough for a week’s meals. But had enjoyed eating out for a change.
Monday morning was cool and rainy and Sarah regretted spending Sunday cooking and not getting to the beach. She snuggled in with a good book and tea, enjoying the light rain and fresh breeze. Her mind wondered often back to Brian and the progress on her book was slow. At around midday Brian phoned.
“I enjoyed our supper” he said. She noticed he didn’t call it a date again and smiled to herself. After catching up Sarah invited him to supper on Wednesday evening. The girls were with his mom and they relished the chance to get to know each other alone first.
Sitting outside in the warm summer breeze, they ate creamy tomato soup followed by chicken pot pie with buttered roast potatoes. This time there were no awkward silences. They felt like old friends and it was wonderful getting to know each other.
Sarah realized she had been missing out. Not living. And that kind and gentle men like Brian did exist. She decided to take a chance, leaning in she brushed his lips with her own. Brian quickly leaned forward, taking her face in his warm hands and kissed her back. “Please don’t break my heart” she begged. “I won’t” he promised kissing her again. Sighing, they knew that this was the start of something special.