She was walking on the beach. It was all she ever really wanted to do these days. She had run away from home at last. Not far away, not so far that she wouldn’t go home Sunday afternoon. But for now, she was here, and she didn’t have to think about the inevitable.
She’d been walking for a while, and had missed lunch, so it was time for food. “Carryout,” she thought. “Or maybe I’ll just sit outside, that should be safe enough.”
She headed up the beach. There was a little restaurant on the pier that had raw oysters. Oysters, a salad, and a beer. Or white wine. Which did she want?
It was only 4:30, early enough, that not many people were eating. In fact, there weren’t too many people on the pier. This time of day, they were heading back to their hotels, cleaning up before their Friday night on the town. She smiled, there was enough space that she didn’t even need to put on her mask.
She was settled at her table, glass of wine in hand, waiting for the oysters, when she noticed the man. He came from the other end of the pier, and she noticed him because he was just her type of man. Old enough for her – she was in her 50’s after all. Ok, late 50’s. He was at least that, but he was moving with ease, as if he were comfortable in his body. He reminded her a bit of Robert Redford, but with longer hair. Just a touch of bad boy.
He looked at her and before she could discretely look away, he smiled. Just a hint of a smile, but she couldn’t help smiling back. Politely. Smiling back politely, not like she was interested in him, and he looked away then.
She turned her attention to the view, the ocean in sight, watching the whitecaps and the birds until the waiter brought her food. She sighed contentedly. Raw oysters and the house salad, which included hearts of palm and asparagus tips. Lovely.
She was on her third oyster when she realized that someone was seated to her left. The tables were well-spaced so she still didn’t feel crowded, but glancing over, she noticed it was him, the kind of Robert Redford looking guy. She looked back down quickly.
He was alone. Probably waiting for his wife. Or girlfriend.
She concentrated on her food. Delicious. She watched the ocean, waves rolling in and out. It was lovely having this time away.
She could hear the murmur of voices as he ordered but couldn’t tell if he’d been joined by the hypothetical wife. He was seated in such as way that she would have had to turn her head to see him and she was annoyed with herself for wanting to check. “Robbie,” she thought. I’ll just think of him as Robbie.”
She continued eating, savoring the food and the ocean view. She felt a bit self-conscious, wondering if he was watching her. Finally, the temptation to check became too strong to resist. She leaned back in her seat, turned her head to the far right as if she were just taking in the view of the pier, then moving her gaze to the center and finally to the far left. At that point, he came into her view. At the table. Alone. Looking at her.
He smiled, just a bit, and nodded. She smiled back, nodded, and quickly turned her head away.
Silly. Such silliness. She fussed at herself, “You are an old woman. Fifty-nine years old. What do you think you’re doing?” She finished her meal without sneaking another look at him. She paid the bill, tipped generously, and decided to walk out to the end of the pier.
She was watching the people fishing, standing near the rail, when she became aware that someone stood near her. Not too close, but close enough that she looked to see who was there.
It was him. “Robbie!” she thought, laughing at herself.
He looked at her before she could look away and smiled again, a warmer smile this time. “Didn’t you just have dinner at Fisherman Charlie’s?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, smiling back. “Yes, I did.”
“Good food,” he said.
“Mmmmhmmm,” she said. There was a pause, and then she added, “What did you have?”
“The blackened shark,” he said. “It was excellent.” Another pause and he said, “Are you on vacation?”
She paused. Was this a vacation? What was this?
“In a way,” she said. He nodded, as if that made sense. “What about you?” she asked.
He grinned, and she was startled by the response it stirred in her. “I’m just here for the weekend,” he said She nodded, and they stood quietly, watching the fishermen cast their lines and reel them in again.
It seemed comfortable, just standing there together, or nearly together. But after a while, she shifted from one leg to the other, then turned away.” “Well,” she said, “I guess I’d better go. I’ll probably see you around. Nice chatting.”
But as she turned, he said, “Wait,” not with any urgency, and not quite a request, but she paused at the tone, as if he had touched her.
“Do you have plans for this evening?” He didn’t wait for her answer, but went on, “There’s music tonight at the Overlook, a band. Outside, on the rooftop. They’re supposed to be pretty good, and shouldn’t be too crowded this time of year. If you don’t have other plans, would you like to go listen to some music?”
She hesitated. The last thing she needed was a relationship, no room in her life for a man. On the other hand, she knew the band that was playing tonight and music was more fun when you’re alone. “Sure,” she said, smiling easily, keeping it casual. “We can meet there. About eight?”
He nodded, “Sounds good. I’m Simon,” he said, stepping forward, hand outstretched.
“I’m Phoenix,” she said, stepping back toward him to take his hand. They shook hands and for a second, everything disappeared except that contact. His hand was large enough to make hers feel tiny, his skin just a little rough, and his grip was firm. He held her hand maybe just a few seconds longer than he should have before he let her go.
‘Damn,’ she thought, noticing her heartbeat was a bit fast. ‘He could be trouble.’
Then, “Phoenix,” he said, and she felt as if he were holding her name the same way he’d held her hand. “Eight o’clock then. You know where the Overlook is?”
“I do. See you there then.” Turning, she quickly walked away.
Watching her go, he wondered if she’d show up. He didn’t know why he’d invited her, the last thing he needed was a woman. Particularly not some vanilla woman, which she probably was. He sighed. Well, no harm in a night of music. It would be fine.