Chapter Four: Moonlit Skies. or- the confusion sets in. Ari takes a walk, and does some more pondering on what's been leading up to this place in time, and starts seeing double. almost.
“Can I help with anything there?” I ask, as I try to sneak a peek into the pot.
“Naw sugar. You just go and get yourself cleaned up, and go take a seat on the back porch. I’ve already set the table, and there’s a cooler with drinks. Your friends are already out there.” Pinky smiles at me, and shoos me out of the kitchen. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had someone to cook for, so let an old lady have her fun. Now go!”
“Ok, whatever it is, it smells delicious. Can’t wait.” I trudge to my room, and after changing, I head out to the porch that faces the ocean. Leeni is sitting in the lounger with a glass of wine, and Roy has a beer in hand while leaning against the railing.
“How was the swim?” he asks, as he hands me an open beer bottle. “You look better.”
“It was ok, I guess. Thanks for the beer.” I take a long swig, and sit down on the Adirondack chair that was painted with a scene of palm trees and flamingoes on the back and armrests. “I have GOT to get me one of these!”
Just then, Pinky comes out, with a big bowl of steaming goodness. “Welcome to my jambalaya experience. Once you have it, you’ll never forget it, in a good way.” She says with a flourish as she starts serving each of us from the big pot.
We all dig in, as it’s the first real meal in over 2 days for any of us. Now, I must tell you right now, Leeni is by far, one of the best cooks I have ever known. That woman could make a five course meal out of leftovers in her fridge, but this concoction that Pinky fed us was to die for. I had thirds, no, fourths, before I sat back and grumbled “Ugh, no more!! Which one of you is going to roll me to my room? That was amazing!!”
“Why thank you dearie. Won first place at the annual Senior Center Cook-off three years now. That old bitty Ms. Franklin thinks she’s hot stuff, trying to copy me, but she hasn’t got the secret ingredient down yet. Heh heh” With that, Pinky starts to get up and remove the dishes.
“Oh no you don’t. I’ve got that. There’s a hard and fast rule here with our family: ‘He who does the cooking does NOT do the dishes.’” With that, Roy gets up, and takes what he can into the kitchen, and loads up the dishwasher. After everything has been cleared and put away, Pinky says her goodnights, and heads over to her own cottage across the parking lot. The three of us sit there, watching the waves for awhile, having an after dinner drink.
“I think I’m gonna hit the bed now,” Leeni says thru a yawn. “Gotta get up early to get to the hospital.” She stands up and stretches, then leans down to me and gives me a big hug. “Thanks again for everything.” She whispers in my ear.
“No problem. I’m going to take a short walk along the beach, then hit it myself. For some reason, I’m just not that tired right now,” I reply, getting up myself.
“Ok then, see ya bright and early. I want to leave by 7.” Leeni heads into the cottage, with Roy right behind. “Don’t stay out too late, and don’t get lost.”
“Ok MOM,” I snicker at her as I take off my flips and hold them in one hand and start down the steps into the sand.
After walking for about 15 minutes, I find a nice little sand dune, and surprisingly, no houses right at the edge of the beach. This section, all the houses are set back a ways, giving the feeling that you’re all alone with the ocean. I sit down, and just sort of gaze out off into the distance at the horizon, not really knowing how far it is, as it is rather dark by now. After lighting a cigarette, my mind starts to wander…..
“Roberts, Roberts and Smythe, Angela speaking. How my I help you?” the voice says over the phone.
“Um, I’m not really sure. My husb- excuse me, my soon to be ex-husband left this number for me to call to discuss our upcoming divorce with someone there.”
“Ah. Yes. Ms. Rogers. Mr. Smythe will be assisting you with this unpleasant time in your life. When can you come in to see him? He has a 3 o’clock and a 4:15 open today, or anytime in the afternoon two days from now.”
“Well, the sooner the better, I suppose. Please put me in for the 3 o’clock. Where exactly are you located?”
“We’re in the Clock Tower on Ritchie. Are you familiar? Suite 215.”
“Sure, thank you Angela. I’ll see you then.”
Whew. That wasn’t so bad, I thought. I can do this. Suzi doesn’t need to be picked up from daycare until 5, that should give me enough time, and if not, her mom-mom will be able to get her for me. I’ll just have to call her if need be.
At precisely 3:00, I walk into the offices of Roberts, Roberts and Smythe, and there was Angela at the front desk. “Ms. Rogers?” she asks.
“Yes, that’s me. Am I late?”
“No ma’am, Mr. Smythe is just finishing up with a different client. If you’ll have a seat, I’ll call you when he’s ready.”
“Thank you.” I went over to a comfortable, yet older looking chair, and started rifling through a magazine from two years’ prior. Why are all waiting room magazines from another decade? I thought to myself, just as Angela came around her desk, and gestured for me to follow her down the hallway and into a well furnished office.
“Ahh, Ms. Rogers. Thank you for coming in today. Please, have a seat.” An older gentleman, probably mid-fifties, looking like a younger Wilfred Brimley, greeted me. “As you know, your husband has retained us to start the divorce proceedings. I need to tell you, if you feel more comfortable rescheduling this for when you can have your lawyer present with you, I will completely understand.”
“No sir, I don’t have a lawyer. I just want to get this done and over with. I’m not going to fight over anything BUT custody of our daughter.” I reply, as sternly as my shaking confidence would allow.
“Well, then this should be a cut and dry case then. See, your husband only wants to make sure that his mother retains visitation rights, as Suzanne is her only grandchild. He wants nothing to do with raising her, other than providing monetary support at an amount to be determined by you and me. The house is yours, as it was yours before you two got together, and well, he’s basically signed off on everything and has stated to me that whatever you want to give it to you other than the vacation cabin in Virginia. I do believe he has taken up residence there, as that is the address he left with me to send the finalized paperwork once we’re done. May I ask you, what happened?” With that, he leaned back into his chair at the desk.
“I honestly don’t know. We’ve been having some whopper of fights lately, but nothing physical. Mainly yelling, mainly over him being gone for a long time. Then, last week, Suzi and I went to the beach with my friends, and when we got back, all of his stuff was gone, and I had a note to call you here.” I hung my head, trying not to let the tears start running.
He handed me a tissue, and let out a long sigh. “Well then, let’s go thru this and we’ll let you start your new life. I must warn you though; he did say that he won’t sign the divorce papers. Didn’t leave a reason, just that he wouldn’t. But, in this state, after 13 months of living separately, we can have it finalized whether he signs or not. Don’t worry yourself over it. Although he did the retaining, I think my partners will agree with me that it would best serve our firm if we took your side in this, and still make HIM pay.” His twinkle in his eye let me know that he was in fact, on my side.
Throughout the whole 13 months, Mr. Smythe became a staunch ally in what we termed ‘The Pig and I.’
“Excuse me, but are you alright? I noticed you have been sitting here for awhile now, are you lost?” A voice behind me startled me out of my musings, and made me jump.
“Uh, no. I mean yes. Oh Shoot.” I stammered, not knowing what I should say. “That’s to say, yes, I’m fine, and no I’m not lost, except in my own thoughts. But, thank you anyways,” I state, as I stand up and brush the sand off my shorts. “Sorry if I’ve intruded, but this sand dune looked to be a good thinking spot, and well, I needed one for a bit.” God, that sounded soooo stupid. Open mouth; insert foot around a perfect stranger yet again.
“Yeah, it’s become my thinking spot as well. Not too many around here. You don’t have to leave on my account. Sit back down, I don’t bite, unless you want me to,” the stranger said, with a smirk. It was now almost too dark to see what he looked like. ALMOST. With a gasp, I finally recognized my visitor.
“Oh! Dr. Shaw! I didn’t realize it was you. What are you doing out this way?” I asked, now rather shy about the whole situation.
My statement was met with a hearty chuckle, one that resonated all the way to my nether-parts I had forgotten I had. “Oh, I see you’ve already been swept off your feet by my oh-so-charming brother. Great. He always seems to find the beautiful ones first.”
Confused, I tilt my head to the side, and take another look, as my eyes were finally able to adjust to the lighting, and got a closer look. Same colour hair, although this was much shorter, almost clean shaven. Same piercing blue eyes, but with a distinct twinkle, like there’s something he knows.
“Let me introduce myself – my name is Kevin Shaw. You have obviously, somehow, met my younger brother, Dr. David Shaw, but how he’s done it, I just don’t know.” He extends his hand, and as I go to shake it, he takes mine up and places a kiss on the back of it, then gives it a slight squeeze. Oh my, have I fallen asleep, and fell into an alternate universe where I run into the two cutest gentlemen ever, who just happen to be BROTHERS? Nah, can’t be. I’m not that lucky-
-“I live a bit down the beach a ways. Well, actually, I’m renting a place down the ways. I live up north, but I’m down here helping out a friend’s family with some renovations. It’s almost completed though, so I’ll be heading home in the next few weeks. Can’t say I want to go, tho. It’s been too darn nice down here weather wise and all, but at least it’ll be before the hurricane season starts, so I won’t have to worry about that. I’ve never been anywhere there’s been a hurricane, so I can’t say that I’d want to be,” Kevin was rambling.
“I was at my grandparents once in Nags Head during a hurricane. We lost a few shingles off the roof and two shutters, but that was about it. Not too bad, considering that a whole hotel was leveled a mile away from us. But, it was a weak one, compared to what Katrina was a few years back.” NOW who’s rambling? Geez, get a grip on yourself.
“By the way, all my friends call me Vin. And what should I call you?” His smile lit up the whole beach, if it was possible.
“Ari. My name is actually Ariel, but only my grandma still calls me that, and my dad when he’s angry, which is about 98% of the time.” I smiled to myself. “Well, Vin. It’s getting late. I should make my way back and get some sleep. Gotta be up early tomorrow with Leeni.” I start to make my way down the dune to the beach, and Vin starts to follow.
“Who’s Leeni? Where are you staying, so I can walk you home,” he asks, as he falls into step with me.
“Leeni is my sister from another mister. I am closer to her than to my biological sibling, if that makes any sense at all. And, I’m at Pinky’s place. Oops, I mean the Shady Grove Cottages.” I am sooo embarrassed that I let slip my name for the owner!!
“Pinky, huh. Bet Esther would love to hear that name! Guess I should tell her-“
“You know Ms. Esther?! How?”
“Well, considering that she’s my best friend Paul’s grandma, and I’ve been doing all the work on the whole place, and I’ve been staying there since I came down here, yeah, I know her pretty well. Between you and me, Pinky is a perfect name for her,” he squeezed my arm and laughed at the look of mortification on my face. “Don’t worry, you secret is safe with me. Oh, and Dave. He’s bunking with me until he finds a permanent place of his own here. He just transferred to the Miami hospital from Hopkins. Let me guess, yous were the friendly sorts that she made her jambalaya for tonite. I should’ve known.”
“Wow, it’s a small world then. Yup, we’re in the double cottage on the end.” I stare out at the ocean for a second, trying to get my bearings. The very cute doctor of my dreams is staying at the very same cottages as we are. And now his MUCH cuter (and more my age) older brother is not only walking next to me on a moonlit beach, but is holding my hand as we walk. Oooh, wait til Leeni hears this. She’ll start playing matchmaker for sure! Get a grip, we’re going home soon, can’t start anything, don’t go all mushy. MUST PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT HE’S SAYING-
“-that is, if you want to.” Vin finished, and just stood there, waiting for me to answer, but with a slight grin on his face. “Do you want me to say all that again? You looked like you were communicating with those dolphins out there just now.”
“God, I am sooo sorry. My mind has a tendency to wander away from me at the most inopportune times. I apologize,” I stammer, trying to not look mortified.
“It’s ok, I totally understand. I was saying that I could give you all a lift to the hospital tomorrow morning, or if you’d like to ride with me, and let your friends have the car…”he left the ending go, waiting for my answer.
“Um, yeah, that’s a good idea. Wait, how’d you know we were going to the hospital?” I asked, knowing he probably already said something to that effect while I was lost in space a moment ago.
“Ok, you WERE talking to the dolphins. Just admit it. I was saying, that Dave had come home and was telling me, without details of course, about some kid there, and how his mom and her friends got there in less than 15 hours, driving from Baltimore, and that they had beaten my best time by almost an hour, and I just put two and two together, and figured it was yous all.” He laughed, that low chuckle again, and I melted just a bit.
“Oh. Yeah, I’ll ride in with you, and that way, Leeni and Roy can get an early start. I’m not much of a morning person, but I can be ready by 8. They were saying that they wanted to leave by 7, to go get breakfast first. All I need to get going is a cup of high-octane coffee, and I’ll be ready to go. We really beat your best time by an hour? Hmmm…” Stop the rambling.
“Me too, although by like 11, I’m ready to gnaw my arm off for lunch, so what do you say we grab something to eat for lunch after the surgery. I know of this really neat place that does an Ok job of some crab soup. Not as good as back home, but it’ll pass.” He looked like I just said yes to going to the prom with him. He is soooo cute! Can I jump him now, please?
“Back home? Where is that, exactly?” I wondered, could the gods be playing with me? Do I really have a chance here?
“Well, I’m originally from Philly, but when I was ten, my parents split, so I moved to outside of Annapolis with my dad until I was 16, then we moved to Tampa where I finished high school. After my time in the service, I sorta followed my roots, and found this nice little town in PA, but I’ve been down here for the past six months or so, helping Esther fix up the place in time for the summer crowds.”
HELLO! Hometown boy! Yes YES Yes!!! Well, close enough for me right now.
“Wow. Too surreal for me to even say. I was born in Philly too. And, I live outside of Baltimore, by about fifteen minutes, been thinking about selling and moving, tho. Time to get a fresh start, before my girl gets too big, and doesn’t want to leave her friends. Too weird that we’re over a thousand miles away, and we meet like this, all due to my friend’s son getting hit by a drunk driver. What are the odds?” I shake my head, as if tho it was all another one of my daydreams.
“Yeah, that IS rather amazing, come to think of it. How long have you lived in Maryland?” He asked, as he took hold of my hand again, and walked slowly next to me up the beach towards our cottages.
“Actually, all my life. My parents both went to college in Philly, and I was born 3 weeks before my dad graduated, then we all moved back to Maryland, and I’ve lived there ever since. Spent a few months in North Carolina each summer, but that really doesn’t count, since it was with my grandparents and it was when I was 5 thru 14.” Oh my goodness. He smells nice.
All too soon, we were back at the cottages. “Well, I guess this is goodnight. I’ll see you around 8 then? There’s a really good coffee shop on the way to the hospital, so we can get our transfusion of get up and go there, if you want.” Vin said, as he reluctantly let go of my hand.
“Sounds good. I replied, with a shiver. “Geez, you’d think that in Miami I wouldn’t be this cold. Well, goodnight. See ya in the morning.”
“Sure thing.” He said, as he walked away with a wave over his shoulder. I watched him as he went into the cottage three down from ours, wishing he would turn around and invite me with him, but knowing that in doing so, I would just be confirming my self thoughts of how much of a slut I was. Who in their right minds would go off with a guy the first night they met? Well, me, for one, seeing as I haven’t had any real action in quite awhile. UGH! I need to get some sleep.