The prompt for this month is to use all five of the following words in a story: sand, sea, cartwheels, tequila, and sunburn.
Today’s post comes from Kathy L. Price. Her book, Down the nanoTubes, will be released shortly.
Return to Cabo San Lucas
“Ow, ow, ow,” Courtney winged as she gingerly lifted the strap of her bathing suit over her right shoulder. This was, by far, the very worst sunburn she had ever gotten in her entire life. Normally, she was religious about slathering on sunscreen before venturing out, but she had not done so that day. After all, they’d only just arrived. Immediately after checking into the hotel, they’d hit the bar. Nothing which happened after that was clear but she must have had way too much tequila at lunch, then fallen asleep on the sand. She was now toasted beyond belief. At least the front of her body had escaped the intense rays.
Her head throbbed and she felt queasy. Crap. At her age she should have known better.
“What was in those drinks, anyway?” she wondered, “and where’s Fred?” He hadn’t been beside her on the beach when she had finally come awake.
It had been his idea to fly to a resort in Cabo San Lucas for their seventh wedding anniversary. Courtney had not been all that thrilled with the idea, but Fred had promised it’d be fun and romantic, a grand adventure, so she had agreed. On the flight down he had been unusually talkative and enthusiastic. It had been years since she had seen him express much interest in anything so Courtney had high hopes this trip might renew the spark in their increasingly stale marriage.
Tomorrow they were supposed to go fishing. Courtney knew she’d have to cancel and Fred would be disappointed but there was no way she’d be able to sit in a boat, rocking around on the waves, with the backs of her legs all red and raw.
After a gentle shower with cool water to take some of the heat out of her skin, she slipped into a silk shift, forgoing her bra, and began to worry. Where was Fred? Initially, she thought maybe he had come back to the room, although she couldn’t figure out why he’d leave her alone, passed out on the beach. If he hadn’t fallen asleep, or had awakened before her, why had he just left her there to burn? Where was he?
Twenty-three years later, sitting in the back of a dark, smoke-laden blues bar in downtown Chicago, she saw him. No. It couldn’t be Fred. It had to be her imagination, but that “I know you” pull was strong. As she continued to watch the man, she recognized Fred’s mannerisms, the same quick nod of his head he always used to do whenever he was trying to make a point. He was chatting up a much younger blond with long legs, a very short skirt and amazingly high heels, although it didn’t look like he was making much progress. It had to be Fred. He had a bit of a paunch, now, and his hair had thinned considerably, but there was no mistaking those eyes or the shape of his nose, the dimple in his chin.
Life had certainly been a challenge since he disappeared so long ago. She had managed to raise their two young children by herself. Her parents, of course, had been supportive and had stepped in to help on many occasions. Fred’s parents, too, had stayed involved in their lives, even though Courtney suspected they blamed her for his disappearance. There had, of course, been official police inquiries. Had it been a case of a jealous wife murdering her husband and hiding the body? A drug-related kidnapping? A suicide? In the end, Fred’s disappearance went into the cold case files and was forgotten.
Knowing how heart-broken his mother, Audrey, had been, Courtney shook her head and thought, “You bastard. How could you do that to your own mother?” The not-knowing what had happened was what had killed them all. So, Fred hadn’t been man enough to tell her he wanted out, that he’d screwed up his life and gotten into debt, that he’d found another woman. No, Fred had taken the coward’s way out and had simply disappeared. His children had grown up without a father. Considering everything, maybe that had been for the best.
Courtney stood and smoothed her dress. Even at fifty-six she had a smokin’ hot body, with luxurious shoulder-length dark hair and heads turned as she crossed the room. She ignored the appreciative stares and focused on the man at the bar. Now, should she say hello or simply walk past, letting him wonder if it was her?
When she was directly across from him, she glanced over. She was wearing her usual perfume, his favorite, and wondered if he’d recognize it. He didn’t even glance up, so focused as he was on landing the blond. Should she confront him, make a scene, or leave it alone?
After a short stint outside in the night air to clear her head, Courtney returned to her seat to listen to the night’s featured performer, Chelsea: her daughter, Fred’s daughter. Was that why he was here? He wanted to hear her sing? Doubtful. Chelsea had always used a stage name, so maybe Fred didn’t even know it was her. So much had happened in the years leading up to this night, so many things Fred had missed: Chelsea learning to ride a horse; the delighted expression on her face when she completed her first successful cartwheel on the balance beam; how beautiful she looked the night of her Senior Prom; her graduation, with honors, from a prestigious performing arts college. What would Chelsea think, if she were told her dad, who had purposefully chosen to walk out of her life when she was only three years old, was in the audience? And Brad? Brad would be so angry. He had taken it particularly hard, a boy growing up without a father. Should she tell their children she had seen him? That he was alive?
No, she wouldn’t open them to more hurt than they’d already endured. She would, however, let Fred know she found him. From her table at the back of the room, she looked over to see him encouraging the blond to leave. The blond, however, indicated she wanted to politely stay until the singer had finished. Courtney, too, waited for the end of Chelsea’s set, then slipped out to follow them. Once outside, she quickened her pace to catch up but pulled back when she heard the squeal of tires. In shock, she watched as a car ran the red light at the intersection, was broadsided by a dump truck and careened down the sidewalk, smashing Fred and the blond into the brick wall of the building.
Two weeks later, on what would have been their thirtieth wedding anniversary, Courtney found herself back in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. From the deck of a chartered fishing boat, she scattered his ashes into the sea.
The Spot Writers – our members:
Catherine A. MacKenzie
Kathy L. Price
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