NEW DRAFTNote: At just over 8000 words, this is a relatively long short story for the site. Keep that mind if you read it. Maybe take it and place it on your phone or kindle or like device.
the toilet flushed, Rebecca faced herself in the mirror of the private bathroom. The room was small and lightly decorated with nature photographs hung on the walls and some positioned on the different levels of a wooden cabinet. She had spent time analyzing the different pictures that helped the room seem larger than it was. A waterfall in one stood out to her.
Looking from afar it was like many waterfalls. The photo was framed as to look down at nature from the sky at one of those artistic angles. A small stream danced around in the northeastern portion of the frame leading a brief life to the waterfall that dominated the center. While the stream was small, the waterfall essentially doubled in width cascading down in lovely shades of white to blue. The point of impact with the pond below seemed quaint in comparison to the fall though it still fanned ripples throughout the rest of the relatively calm water. Surrounding the pond and water in general were several different greens of grass and a few colorful flowers. Whatever her surrounding interests in the picture were, the primary was to escape the conversation in the other room.
It was with a dead stare into the mirror that Rebecca first tried to remove the redness from her face. Her eyes and thoughts would eventually wander looking into the glass and catch one of the photographs, though her gaze would always return to that waterfall. She tried several hard blinks to distract her from the waterfall, but that was of no help.
The tight blonde curls that lay on her shoulders caught her interest. Her husband, Patrick, had often called them perfect curls much to her annoyance as she straightened them for particular evenings out. He would call out with feint sadness, “No, don’t, those perfect curls shouldn’t be taken away. Not like that. You’ve got to let them be free.” He once even got down on his knees pleading with tears already forming in his eyes. Her threaten strikes of the curling iron diffused the scene with laughs from them both. Some of their most pleasant kisses came after that delaying wherever they were supposed to be that evening. Few of those memories seemed to matter now.
A light knock echoed off the door ceasing her trip down memory lane. “Are you all right?” It was his voice though these days it seemed like he could not muster the same sweetness. Or maybe it was her would could not find the happiness between them anymore.
Her head fell from her stare into the mirror, and she whispered back that she should not be too much longer. It was only after noting that no footsteps led away from the door that she also said she was fine. Rebecca looked at herself in the mirror again. Several tears rolled down her cheek passing over the few freckles and bumps that she could seemingly never be rid of. They picked up a brisk pace over her cheeks until pausing briefly at her chin. She watched as they fell onto the sink’s countertop. Before leaving the room, she wiped the remnants away from her face.
Doctor Lee’s office had bare wooden floors and white walls adorned with more photographs of nature. One particular spot was dedicated to his various degrees in simple frames. The doctor himself sat behind a large desk, staring down at an open folder. Patrick was in one of the two sofa chairs opposite the doctor.
Her husband looked up with a smile as she took the few steps from the private bathroom to him. The skin on his face was tight and showed the bones of his face clearer than either could ever remember. The smile was still the same though, just like when they met back at the bar RJ’s in college. She had always loved that smirk. Rebecca sat in the chair next to him.
Doctor Lee waited a moment before beginning.
“Now, things are not good.” The doctor tried to look at each of them equally. “As we’ve discussed before, you have a dilated cardiomyopathy condition of the heart, a severe case to be more specific. We’ve already tried several different treatments, but after comparing your most recent tests with those we took weeks ago, your heart is even weaker.” Rebecca grabbed Patrick’s hand, holding it as tight as her conscience would let her. “I’m sorry. There is no positive spin I could put on this. We’ve exhausted most of our options.” He motioned down at the folder. “I have prepared a little packet for you of various hospices nearby and a few that may be further away, but have good reputations.” He closed the folder and handed it to them. Patrick did not reach for it. Rebecca took it while nodding at the doctor. “Do you have any questions?”
Doctor Lee looked at Patrick first who seemed to take the news well. Never did he shake his head during the doctor’s words nor stare hopelessly at empty space. Many men and women had done such things while sitting in that seat hearing the doctor give them a death sentence in the nicest and easiest way possible. Sometimes it seemed like to Doctor Leed that his speciality was giving such news. Instead, Patrick looked back at the doctor paying attention to the fast beats of his heart before shaking his head no.
“There’s nothing else to consider?” Rebecca’s words rushed forward. “What about a heart transplant? Experimental medicines or treatments?” Her skirt caught on the chair as she inched forward forcing her to pause and fix it.
“There are a few experimental choices that we may consider. I included some information on those, though I would not necessarily suggest them outright.” Doctor Lee paused as he leaned back in his chair, scratching his forehead. “I have not heard of many success stories concerning these treatments, and those that I have were not accomplished without some give and take involving the patient.” The good doctor had heard plenty of horror stories of his patients seeking experimental treatments but did not give any sign of it. He did not want to stifle any hope that his patients could cling to. “A heart transplant could be considered, and I will surely stay on the look out but there are many factors that have to be considered, and even then it is not a guaranteed success. It would be very lucky indeed if we had a successful heart transplant.”
“Are there any other doctors or facilities that we could visit for other opinions?” Patrick reached to his wife with a calm hand. She looked back at him for a moment, her eyes trying to avoid his.
“It is all right, Patrick.” The doctor smiled briefly, the first real smile that the couple had seen from him since their first meeting weeks ago. “There are a few facilities nearby that might be worthwhile to visit. I’ve included them in the packet as well. I would never say to only take my word, but as I understand it, you’ve visited several doctors already, and I was the last to be suggested. Others may have a difference of opinion, though I believe I have exhausted every avenue for you.”
The words left a silence in the room as Patrick looked right at his wife. She could not look back and kept her eyes focused on the folder clasped in her hands. He reached out and rubbed her shoulder, though even he could not keep his hand from shaking ever so slightly. Doctor Lee looked at several of his photographs along the walls as the couple had their moment.
“Thank you, Doctor Lee,” Patrick commented standing up from the chair. He stretched before offering his hand. The doctor joined him and carefully shook the hand. Rebecca’s lips flattened as she gazed at the floor before standing and shaking hands with Doctor Lee.
“Thank you, doctor.”
“You’re welcome.” He walked the couple to the door of his office. “Like I said, I wish I had better news for you. Besides what I’ve already said or what is in the packet, I will say I hope the days ahead of you are as joyful as can be. I’ll definitely be in touch on any possible heart transplants. Call me if you have any other questions.” He opened the door and the couple left.
ride back to their house did not seem to take long even though the only words they shared were a quick back and forth about whether they should stop for lunch. They did not stop. Patrick stared out of the window at everything passing by as Rebecca guided the Land Rover home.
It had not been easy for him to accept his condition, no matter what his outward demeanor suggested. Throughout his youth he played all the sports his school offered and continued to do so in college until his knee was badly injured. Even after that he would play pickup games of basketball with friends. It was learning of his mother’s death that first notified them of the weakness that had always been there.
That day he had been at one of his coworkers’ favorite lunch spots, a little cafe that would serve delicious crumble apple pies on Fridays. His sister had told him over the phone right there at the table unable to wait. His coworkers would later tell him that he walked away with a funny look on his face telling them he had a personal call. He could not remember anything other than receiving the call himself. They would recount to the paramedics that Patrick had a received a phone call and started walking to the door to go outside before collapsing into a waitress.
It, of course, bothered Patrick and his wife that he had been examined almost every month in his youth because of sports yet never did any doctor find the condition. The doctors all told him that it was simply something that was rarely tested for. And just like Doctor Lee said, there was really nothing to be done.
The house came into view, and Patrick stretched his legs. They had bought the house just a few years before. It seemed then that their daughter, Natalie, grew everyday, and the new parents knew their apartment was not going to be enough.
They wanted the family home and got the structure: front and back lawns; swing sets and club houses; and space enough for a deck with a grill, maybe even a pool. During the summer when the weather was right, they would have family friends over who would bring their children. It would be everything that a hot, summer day was supposed to be. The men would drink beer while cooking food and watching the children. The women would relax by themselves with tea or something stronger and talk about everything and anything. The winters would be more of the same, except inside and hopefully with snowmen. All those moments and more had been planned for the house. Patrick still hoped that such things could come to pass.
Rebecca directed the vehicle into the garage and turned off the engine. She quickly gathered her purse and the folder before exiting. Patrick tried to turn to his wife and speak, but she was gone before he could think of anything. There was something that he needed to say; yet the words were not there. He sat for several moments as the heat came into the car and the garage light clicked off after its designated thirty-seconds. It became uncomfortable there, alone. He left and followed her path into the kitchen.
The room was as empty as they left it in the morning. His wife had woken up early, preparing Natalie for school. Patrick eventually woke up and ate some of the breakfast left for him from that she made earlier. He cleaned the kitchen, making sure the faux marble countertops were spotless from the cooked meal. He did not want his wife to worry about the house. She returned a while after he showered, and they left directly for Doctor Lee’s office.
Patrick found his wife in the dinning room in the room over with the folder spread across the table. Her eyes scoured each part. The room was large and open with the walls mostly bare save for a few family photographs and a glass china cabinet while floor to ceiling windows looking into the backyard provide the light for the gloomy day. There was seating for eight at the table, though it had not been taken advantage of as much as they hoped.
Her eyes were now redder than before yet there was no evidence of the perpetrator. She turned away from him as he approached, her hair falling between them. He stopped.
“I’ll be in the office, if you need me.” His words were weak and the only ones he could find. He waited, but she only nodded, not looking at him. He placed a box of tissues on the table near her before leaving.
In the other room, Patrick sat behind his desk. It was large and of solid oak, his father’s from years before, as was the library on the walls along the room. Pictures of his wife, his daughter and of all of them together lined the top of the desk in silver frames. The one of only Rebecca was from college.
It had been taken several weeks after they had met at the RJ’s. It turned out they shared a class and that day shared skipping it. They wandered around the campus with camera in hand. Photography had always been one of their favorite pastimes. Patrick liked to boast that you could see everything of their love in that picture: Rebecca lay on her stomach on the grass her eyes locked just slightly off the center of the camera with a slight sly smile showing just a glimmer her white teeth. Autumn leaves surrounded her and even a few found some way into her hair nestled amongst the curls
He smiled at the picture before taking out his cellphone.
Rebecca called from the dining room. “Where are you?” She was nearly halfway through the packet. Some of the needless details she skimmed, but the vast majority still weighed in her mind.
He yelled back from the office as much as he could though his words did not reach her ears. She did not wait for long. “Honey, there is this one place nearby just outside of Richmond. From what Doctor Lee says, it could be nice.” Silence filled the hallways again while Rebecca continued to look over the packet. A few minutes later, Patrick finally appeared in the doorway.
There were no more tears or visible redness on her face, but he noted that most of her makeup had been wiped away. The tissue box was gone as well. “There is also one in Boston that has high marks from the doctor.” She looked up at him for a moment before staring at the wall away from him. “Maybe I should look at some of these online.”
She leaned back in her chair. “What?” Patrick shrugged his shoulders. “I see that look on your face. What do you have to say?”
“A look?” He grinned for a moment.
“Don’t patronize me.” She shook her head. When her eyes fell back on him, he knew there was no bitterness there. “I can tell something is on your mind.”
“It’s nothing. Finish looking over your information.” They stared at each other. Her brow dropped as her cheeks crowded her eyes. Few times was that a happy look. He reached out for a pile of overturned papers and asked. “Should I look at these?”
“No.” Her hand quickly pulled the pile closer away while her eyes locked on his. “Say what you have to say, now.”
“It’s nothing that can’t wait.” She put the papers back into the folder, closed it and set it aside. “All right. I was just going to suggest that we should ... go to the beach.”
“What?” She smiled widely, shaking her head. Her hand ran through her hair, and he sat down.
“I’m serious. Let’s go there, away from everything here. We could use a brief moment to ourselves, as a family.” The past weeks and months had been nothing but doctor visits and tests. All that they were able to do in spite of this was to ensure that first grade for Natalie went smoothly.
“Shouldn’t we look at these places though?” She said, reaching out and tapping the folder. Her voice was strained, and her eyes dipped down periodically. “Talk to other doctors. Maybe there’s something that we missed?” He reached out and took her hand.
“Becca, I’m dying.” His voice did not break, staying strong through each syllable. She shook her head and tried to pull away, but he held her firmly. “I can feel how each beat is weaker than the last.” He took both of her hands now, slowly massaging them. “I’m tired all the time. I don’t have the energy to fight this anymore. I just want us to be a family again. Like we were.”
His hand loosened as tears built in both of their eyes. She grabbed his hands, breathed deeply and her face softened. “Where would we go?”
“Blue Cove. It opened a few years ago and is supposed to be beautiful.” She nodded at his words. “Several of my coworkers have been, and they’ve always been telling me I should go. It is only a few hours away. And we already have a room booked for the weekend.”
Rebecca broke out into a smile and laughed before standing. “Is that what you’ve been up to in there?” She asked, getting a glass of water.
“Yeah.” She drank some of the water. “That and searching for the camera.” They both stopped for a moment and smiled at the other.
She finished her water. “I’m not going to fight you, Pat.” She filled the glass again and handed it to her husband. “What about Natalie?”
“She’ll be thrilled to go to the beach.” He took a small sip of the water. “She can tell the other kids on Monday how much she loves her parents for whisking her away for the weekend.”
Rebecca smiled and rubbed her husband’s face. The skin was tight, but she still felt pleasure from it. “She’s going to tell them we whisked her away?”
“Well, maybe not that exact phrasing.” They laughed then kissed, pulling away before either wanted to.
“Drink your water and eat something. I’ll pack.”
was not a long drive to their daughter’s school. Living in the suburbs had its benefits, notably the commutes. Besides the fine details of a lawn and plenty of space, school districts had been the next factor of where to live. The two began to look for what would be their home a few months after Natalie’s birth. They settled on one of the suburbs just a little under an hour away where several of his coworkers lived who introduced and showed the new family off to others in the area. Baby Natalie was always the toast of the events with the various women fawning over her and Rebecca as the men congratulated Patrick. They had always believed they chose a good place to live.
The Land Rover slowly parked next to the sidewalk. Patrick exited and climbed the steady incline to the school while his wife remained in the car. Children walked by him with their parents while others whizzed by playing. The building stood at the top of the hill, and the flag on the center tower was visible miles away. Closer to the school, his breathing became heavier, but he was able to stop at the sight of his daughter.
Natalie stood only twenty feet away from him with some other girls. While her hair was blonde like her mothers, it lay flat on her shoulders like his instead of in curls. This little act of nature did not mean that it was never in curls, just that Rebecca had to work hard on her daughter’s hair to make it so. The young girl talked to her friends, though periodically she looked around with squinting eyes. It did not take long for her to finally see her father. She darted for him forgetting to say goodbye, her backpack bouncing on her shoulders with every step.
“Daddy!” Her eyes were wide as a smile took over her lips. The last time he had picked her up from school was in kindergarten the previous fall.
Patrick returned the smile, bending down as his daughter approached for a big hug. She had been told long ago to no longer jump into his arms, and yet she still slammed into him with some force. They stayed in each others’ arms until he could only smell her fruity shampoo then setting her down.
“Hey, dear. How did your day go?” They turned and walked.
“Great!” She screamed before laughing. “I made a new friend today.” She stopped her father and looked straight into his eyes. “The best friend.”
“Really?” He smiled and pulled her along. “What’s her name?”
“Jessica. She has blonde hair, too. And this bow thing was in her hair. I want one, daddy.” Her head nodded with every word.
“A little ribbon?”
“Yeah. I liked it a lot. She even took it out and put it on me, but I told her that my parents would get me one so she could keep hers. It was pink.”
“And what would you want yours to be?” They reached the Land Rover and stopped.
“Well, we’ll get you one that is purple and then others so you can wear a different one every day.”
She squealed and launched at her father, kissing him on the cheek. “You’re the best.” He hugged her back and, with brief strength, carried her to the backseat door, setting her inside. “Mommy,” Natalie began once inside the vehicle. “I made a new friend today. Her name is Jessica.”
“Really?” Rebecca said after Patrick sat next to her all secure in the vehicle now. She directed the vehicle out of the parking spot.
“Yes. And she had a ribbon in her hair. Daddy says we’ll get me one too.” Her mother glanced at her father who could only smirk.
“He did? Well, did he tell you where we’re going for the weekend?” Natalie shook her head no. “We’re going to the beach.”
“Really?” Those green eyes lit up, a sight her parents had always enjoyed, yet those eyes had also gotten their way plenty of times before. “Can I invite Jessica?”
“I think it’s just going to be a family trip,” her mother said, looking into the rearview mirror.
“Your mother is right, dear.” Natalie sat back in her seat with her arms crossed, crushing her backpack. Patrick chuckled before turning back to her. “Maybe we could pick up some sea shells, and you bring some back for her and tell her about your weekend on Monday?”
“All right,” she mumbled. Her eyes stayed on the floor until she quickly perked up to the front seat. “Did you bring Bubbles?” Patrick dipped into the floor and pulled up a little, stuffed bear. He handed it back to his daughter who quickly took it in her arms.
The ride to the beach calmed down over time as Natalie began to run out of things to say of Jessica and her day at school. Sleep eventually took her and her father. Besides the radio and a brief dinner at a chain restaurant, Rebecca was left in silence.
She had noticed her husband becoming different long before his mother’s death and the subsequent heart attack. He once worked out everyday. Slowly that ethic gave way to only five times a week, eventually dropping to three. Then to none, but there was more. Something changed in his eyes, walk, and touch. She thought it might have just been work at the beginning. That was wrong, and the changes spread. While she would never say they lost their intimacy, their sex life decreased. They went to therapy for a time. During and out of those sessions, he always did what he could to please her. When he was asked what was wrong, Patrick would say that he was just a bit tired and that he would make it up.
It was the heart attack that clued them all that something major was wrong. She never believed that it was just stress, pushing him to undergo more tests and to see more doctors until they found the truth. Often in her solitude, she wondered if it was the right thing to do. Could their lives the past months have been more enjoyable had they not chased every chance? Was the knowledge worth it? Would it have been better if they had just lived what was their lives and one day he died?
She looked to her husband some miles away from the resort. The ocean air already filled the car with its scent. With the radio turned down, the waves breaking on the beach covered the compartment with a calming noise and complimented the light snores of her loved ones. He sat there, sleeping against the fine leather interior. His chest rose and fell, a chest that had once been filled out with muscle and a growing layer of fat that came with age. She knew it was better to know these were their last days than to falsely believe they had many more to come.
Land Rover pulled into the waiting area of Blue Cove. It was a fairly large, U shaped resort facing the ocean that looked like many other hotels on the ocean with its white finish and windows for each room. Patrick had booked a small condo on the fifth floor, a little more than half way up, that was supposed to have a clear view of the horizon.
Rebecca did not need to look at the digital clock on the dashboard to know that it was late. Leaning over, she ran her fingers through her husband’s short, brown hair. A moment later he woke, and she told him softly that she was going to get their room key. He yawned heavily but stayed awake as his wife rubbed his cheek. Natalie still lightly snored in the backseat.
Patrick watched as his wife strolled through the automatic glass doors. Her loose jeans and red T-shirt did nothing for her figure, but he knew it well enough to pick up the contours in the loose clothes.
A small birthmark could be found in the middle of her back, on the left side. It was barely the size of a pea, but against her clear skin, it was clearly visible. He first found it on their third date when they decided to stay in her dorm room. When his eyes came upon the lower portion of her back, he kissed it once and paused staring at it. Before long, she turned and asked if anything was wrong. He chuckled for a moment looking back into her eyes with a smirk and running his hand along that lower back and the birthmark. He said everything was great, and they continued.
The breeze outside held a sharp coldness tearing the thoughts of his wife away as he stepped outside. He breathed deeply in, and then the air was warm. It had been nearly five years since they had last been to the beach. Their friends and family urged them to get away, saying that they needed a few moments of peace. Everything fell into place when Rebecca’s parents stepped in to take care of a very young Natalie. Flying to a secluded resort, they each entertained thoughts of how it was going to be a great trip. It was not to be so, though. They left after two days, finding more enjoyment and peace in the constant smiles of Natalie and her bald head.
He turned and looked into the vehicle at his sleeping daughter. A deep desire rose in him to open the door and wake her, to spend one more moment with her. He would hold her in his arms, and she would smile with her green eyes. They would both enjoy it, but he did not reach into the vehicle. His hand spread on the glass, and he thought of the moment they could have had instead.
Rebecca made her way back with a small envelope in one hand as the other pulled a dolly. Patrick opened the rear door and let his wife pull the large piece of luggage down before closing it back. They were silent in their movements as their minds worked as one. He took the dolly and walked to the glass doors as she parked the vehicle, returning to him with Natalie and Bubbles in her arms.
Together, they walked into the resort. The entrance was dark, save for the bright lights around the main desk. A lady stood there and nodded a quiet acknowledgement to them that they returned. The dolly easily crossed the seashell encrusted floor while Rebecca’s flats smacked it with each step. Black and white photographs of the beach and surrounding sites lined the walls to the elevator.
The elevator binged to life carrying them up the levels of the building binging again as they came to their designated floor. They walked the short distance to their room as Natalie fell back to sleep. As Patrick pushed the door open, the cool breeze greeted him again. Earlier in the day, he had failed to tell his wife the whole truth. One of his bosses owned a portion of the resort and told him plainly that they could have anything they wanted. The condo was not a villa by any means, but it was all that Patrick requested. They shuffled pass the small kitchen and made their way into the bedroom.
After his two ladies changed and took their silent places on the large bed, Patrick stood there in palm-tree pajamas watching them. Rebecca lay with her back to the outside of the bed as her arms stretched over Natalie. Their blonde hair mixed in a mess on the pillows while their lips held the smiles of good dreams. He knew that he could easily find sleep next to them, but something kept him from doing so. With a few minutes of searching through the luggage behind him, he took several pictures of his sleeping beauties. Content, he lay down and fell asleep with a smile.
was not the sun that woke Patrick up. Nor was it an alarm on his cell phone or the clock next to the bed. His hand drifted to the other side of the bed as it had always done. It searched the sheets for life, feeling every inch until it met the end of the bed. He was alone, yet not worried. Being told that you could have a heart attack at any moment actually had a calming effect.
His eyes opened after several long seconds and were blinded by the sunlight that soaked the room. The luggage that he had searched through for the camera last night lay open on a folding stand next to the desk along the far wall. A plastic bag of what he knew to be dirty clothes was tossed on the floor near it. After yawning himself into something resembling consciousness, he got out of bed.
The condo was quite lovely in the daylight. The resort did not spare much when outfitting the different rooms. Patrick could attest that the bed was the type a person could melt into and sleep for hours. The desk next to their luggage was covered in pamphlets and other items trying to sell the local sights. Each were potential perfect days for the family. The entertainment provided by the different locales might not be worth the price admission, normally, but this weekend was different. Sadly, he looked over them knowing they would not have the time.
He shuffled into the other half of the condo. A small living area covered the left portion of the room up to the sliding glass doors of the balcony that gave a clear view of the beach. He stepped out onto it, and his bare chest enjoyed the morning breeze. There were several pools below along with lounging areas and various hot tubs. Children joyfully screamed and shrieked in the water while their parents watched, but Patrick’s eyes lingered there for only a moment.
The ocean was the main attraction. It was nothing spectacular: no clear, blue waters nor pure white sand. This was a private beach, though, and one that even then was not overly crowded. Just like in the pool area, there were some families already getting a start on the day. They threw various types of balls or played some other game while others road the waves on boogie boards. Patrick knew that his family would be out there soon, and the world would be their own.
Rebecca had left him a note in the small but appropriately furnished kitchen saying she and Natalie went to pick up a few groceries and items for the beach. She was always one to wake early, and he knew that Natalie must have been excited to explore the little island. His hand trembled slightly when he read the note knowing that there would be things he could never explain to her and that in all likelihood, they would never share another trip like this.
Trying to force those thoughts out of his mind, he decided to clean the condo. The bed was first. The sheets were heavy and soft, calling him to lie back down. He resisted just enough and even placed all the throw pillows back on top. He hated the little things, even though four covered his bed at home. Rebecca’s desire, not his. After a shower, Patrick sat on the sofa in his bathing suit along with a beach shirt covered in seagulls and stared out at the clear horizon.
they first entered the condo with their arms full of bags, Rebecca had to hold back Natalie from rushing forward. Patrick had fallen asleep at some point stretched out on the sofa. The young girl could only see his brown hair on top of a pillow but knew she wished to wake him up. Her mother, though, suggested they get into their new bathing suits to go to the beach sooner. The suggestion worked. Several minutes later, Natalie awoke her father with a kiss before resting her head on his chest. He smiled and looked down at her and the new, yellow one-piece.
“Where’d you get that, dear?” He returned the kiss.
“Mommy got it for me this morning.”
“She tried on her blue suit earlier,” Rebecca interjected from the kitchen. Patrick looked behind him and nodded enjoying the sight of his wife in a similar, yellow two-piece cutting fruit. “It didn’t fit as well as it once did, so I thought we’d pick up a new one while out for a few groceries.” Natalie spun showing off the outfit before running to her mother who handed her an orange slice. “I made you a fruit smoothie,” she said looking back at her husband.
“Thanks, but I’m not really hungry. Bought yourself a new bathing suit as well?”
“Your daughter helped to pick it out. Also, don’t try to change the subject. We already ate breakfast, and you definitely need something. You won’t last long in that sun otherwise.” She smiled at her husband, and he returned it knowing that he was going to drink it. All of it. “I already packed a bag for the beach. We just need to put on sun screen, and we’ll be ready to go.” She brought the smoothie and the sun screen to her husband, kissing him as she sat down on the sofa nearby.
He took a small sip of the drink before turning towards his daughter who practiced some of her ballet moves while eating the orange slice. “Natalie, you know what the most important thing to do before going to the beach?” She stopped her moves for a moment with the slice firmly between her teeth. He motioned for her to come closer. “You have to put on sun screen.” Natalie laughed as he poured a little bit onto his hands though she pulled back as he rubbed it on her arms. “Cold? How’d you expect it keep you save from the sun?” She nodded her little head and held her arms higher. “Now, there are several things to remember when putting on sun screen. First, you’ll need some help putting it on so don’t feel bashful about it.”
“Um.” Patrick turned to his wife. She just smiled and shook her head, rubbing the lotion on herself. “It means ... you should not be afraid to ask someone for help. Basically. But only ask those who you know like mommy and daddy.” Natalie looked at him, her head bobbing slightly. “Second, you’ll need to put it on multiple times if you stay out for very long.”
“Also,” Rebecca began. “Don’t forget to take something to cover up with. That’s the reason we bought those little, loose dresses. Sometimes you have to put something on while out there to be warm. The sun can wear you out and make you feel cold sometimes.” Natalie looked straight at her mother this time, processing every word before nodding. They spent a few more minutes applying sun screen to each other. Natalie’s parents watched closely as their daughter put it on their backs one at a time. Happy with the results, they headed out of their room.
The walk through the resort did not last long. Rebecca carried a large beach bag with every sort of thing she could imagine bringing: magazines, books, a coloring book, crayons, towels, the camera and, of course, more sun screen. Patrick held a small cooler where his wife had packed sandwiches, vegetables, juice boxes and waters. It was firmly shut, and she warned him about opening it for fear that it would not easily close again. Natalie carried assorted plastic buckets and a pair of little shovels. It had taken some convincing, but she left Bubbles back in the hotel room.
They stepped through the three pool section rather fast hoping that Natalie would not become distracted. There were plenty of children out now playing in the water and running around the pavement, nearly slipping with every step. The young girl thought several times of asking her parents if they could stop and play, especially when passing the artificial waterfall. Rocks and moss surrounded it, and the water fell ten feet down into the pool. The brave kids walked through the downpour, some not even screaming from the piercing water, while others swam underneath it. She stopped such thoughts remembering the sea shells she had to get for her friends, especially Jessica.
At the edge of the beach, Patrick requested a location with an umbrella and two lounge chairs from one of the attendants. The teenage girl was happy to direct them to an unclaimed spot, all part of the standard hotel experience she said. He tipped her twenty dollars, and the family made their way there. Barely had they set down their stuff before Natalie ran straight to the ocean, squealing. Patrick watched, taking heavy breaths and told Rebecca he needed to sit for a moment. She kissed him and followed the little girl. Resting comfortably in a beach chair, he dug into the beach bag for the camera.
Natalie stood away from the ocean at first watching as the salt water came in and out, the foam bubbling just spaces away from her. Her mother watched for a time before coaxing the young girl into the ocean. The girl stepped into the water one toe at a time. It was warm, and when the tide went out, foam remained around her feet not wishing to leave.
“You like it?” Rebecca asked, her hand now locked with her daughter’s. Natalie did not answer. She wiggled toes and her lips broke apart revealing her little, white teeth. There was no other thought in her head save for the wonderment when the water came back, moving between her toes.
Patrick stood up with strength again and slowly walked to the other two. He snapped pictures of his wife and daughter without worrying about running out of film. Rebecca heard his steps and the heavy breaths he took. She knew each step must have been difficult with the shifting sands. Letting go of her daughter’s hand, her eyes solely focused on her husband. Natalie did not notice the absence of her mother. The tide was slowly taking the sand beneath her feet, causing her to sink. Her eyes widen at the development.
The wind picked up, and Patrick carefully dropped to a knee with the camera ready. His wife walked to him with a quiet smile. Her eyes darted at him then away as he took photo after photo. They had done this before. With her hand pushing the camera down, their lips met. They lingered there briefly before she ran her cheek against his, whispering into his ear, “Be with her.”
She pulled away, camera in her hands now, and snapped a photo of him. The breeze pulled at his short hair, giving it volume not seen for years. Sunlight filled his face bringing back the youth that had been robbed from him.
She thought back to that night at RJ’s when she spilt her drink on the guy next to her, Patrick. He turned and smiled that smirk, telling her that his wet clothes did not matter as long as she would talk to him. She would later reveal to him that it was no accident that her drink was split on him, and he told her he made sure to be close enough for something to happened between them. That night at the bar, though, they lost each other in conversation and forgot about the spilt drink.
As the sand shift under his feet, Patrick almost fell, and the image was gone. Rebecca was too far to attempt to steady him but he easily corrected his balance and turned back to shoot a large smile to her. He walked more carefully through the sand till he was next to his daughter. He stood there a moment with his eyes on the young girl as hers stayed on the water amongst her toes. Finally after the water came in and out, his feet sank as the sand was taken back to the sea.
“Do you like the sand?”
“Yes.” Patrick looked down to his daughter’s feet. They were completely covered now. “How does it do this?” she asked, looking at him.
“It takes time, dear.” He picked up a ball of the wet sand in his hand. Gradually, pieces fell away as he gripped it tighter. “Just give it enough time and it will be gone.” He placed his hand into the water letting go of the ball and looked at his daughter. “Let me get you out of there.”
Natalie nodded as her father lifted her out of the water. Clumps of sand covered her feet. She wiggled her toes as her father twirled her around before setting her gently back into the water. They smiled at each other and turned to her mother who made sure the day was not forgotten with the camera.
placed Natalie on the bed of the condo.
The day had taken all the young girl’s energy, the price of spending several hours on the beach making sand castles and relaxing under the umbrella. After a while lying on her father’s chest under the umbrella, Natalie insisted that they gather sea shells, and her parents gave in easily deciding to walk the beach as she searched. There were several times where they came upon spots where shells abound. Her parents would sit, talk and take photos of Natalie rushing around with handfuls of the seas shells. She would bring them to her parents and ask if they were the most beautiful things ever before dropping them in her plastic buckets. Once, Patrick took a large shell and held it to his ear. Natalie stared with eager eyes as he told her to listen and hear the ocean within it. She smiled and knew that she found the right shell for Jessica.
The overhead light’s arrival forced the young girl to slam her eyelids shut and twist in the bed burying her head into the pillows. Rebecca pulled the covers over her daughter carefully and set Bubbles down next to her. Natalie found some comfort with the stuffed bear close to her and stopped her struggle, melting into the bed. Her mother kissed the top of her head and whispered, “Goodnight.” Natalie did not respond for her dreams were already taking shape.
Ten minutes prior, all three of them finished their meals in the resort’s restaurant. It was quite a change for Rebecca and the mechanical dinner they had on the road. Tonight, Natalie could not stop talking of the beach.
She went over the sand castle several times with the waiter describing every detail, making sure to mention how her parents followed her commands in its construction. It was a large thing with spires everywhere and a moat that not only surrounded it but also fed water to little streams between the towers. Through the long description of her sand castle that was eventually destroyed by the tide, Natalie grew weak and tired. At first she only lifted her legs into the chair, sitting with them crossed, though by the end, she had curled up into a little Natalie ball in the chair. Her parents just smiled.
A cool breeze caught Rebecca’s back as she closed the bedroom door. Her husband stood next to the sofa, opening a bottle of white wine from the restaurant. They had not shared a bottle of wine for some time since the doctors always advised against drinking alcohol with his condition. Now, he only cared to spend a beautiful night with his wife as they had once done.
They sat down on the sofa with glasses in hand and stared out at the night’s sky. She put her feet up on the sofa and nestled back into Patrick, laying her head on his chest. Both looked out to the mostly still ocean drinking in silence with only the breaking waves filling the room.
“You were right, you know?” Rebecca said, leaning forward.
“Right about what?”
“Today. The beach.” She looked out at the sky before turning to her husband. “It was more than just fun, we needed it.”
They sat several moments more, eyes on the other.
“I know you’re dying. I just wish ... I wish there was something more to be done. Some other way we could fight it.” She set her glass on the coffee table with her eyes focused on the floor.
“There’s nothing we can do. I just want to live my last days with you and Natalie. That’s all I have left to do.” Patrick leaned towards his wife, setting his drink on the table, and kissed her quickly. His hand held hers as they broke away, and their eyes never left the other’s. “You are going to live, and you’re going live well. You and Natalie are going to have lives that I cannot even possibly think of it. You’re going to be strong, as you’ve always have.”
She nodded and kissed him. After a moment, he pulled away from her. Words that he had searched for many days finally formed. “Becca, there’s something you need to know.” Her hand quickly touched his chest and felt his heart beat fast, but that was nothing unusual now.
He smiled down at her ready to speak. “You can’t ... you cannot live alone after I die. Not because of me. You deserve to always be happy, especially when I’m gone.” His hand drifted to her face, moving her blonde curls away so he could see her face without anything between them. “I know you can raise our girl alone, and that you would make everything right for her. I don’t want you to, though.” Tears formed in both their eyes. “I want you to have everything. I thought I would be that love for you. That we would grow old together. But I’m not.”
The tears dropped from his eyes. They slid down following the curvature of his face as his wife’s did the same. Neither of their tears have chance to fall from their faces alone. They embraced and the tears fell together from their chins. There were no more words to be spoken. They kissed. She pushed him back on the sofa, and he pulled her to him. Their hands found all the spots that they had always found before. It was not going to last. His heart was beating fast, and both felt it. They did not care for this was a moment they would have.
Edited by Ronmar The Only, 28 March 2013 - 02:55 AM.