Beach

They didn’t know what else to do. So they went to the beach.

It wasn’t far but it was a slow walk. Lynnette’s ankle was twisted badly if not completely broken, and Ronny was just tired.

Tired. It seemed like the right word and the wrong one at the same time. It wasn’t strong enough, but something like exhausted seemed off. Dramatic. Tired was a flat, empty word. And Ronny was a flat, empty man.

They stopped at the line where the sand tried to creep over the edge of the parking lot to take off their shoes. Their socks were sopping and hit the ground with syrupy splats. The fresh air on his fish-white and wrinkled feet sent a shiver up his back. That led to a spasm, at the spot where he’d hit that car. As he gripped the closest wooden post, trying to find a position that would ease the muscle, Lynette balanced herself on the next wooden post and pulled off her blouse. The stains had gone completely through, and the same haphazard stripes of red existed on her undershirt. With stiff fingers she pulled at the front of the shirt and sighed.

“This was my good bra.”

Ronny was stained to the skin, too, he was sure. But he hadn’t been wearing anything he’d considered ‘good’ last night. Last night wasn’t supposed to be a special or memorable night. It was only supposed to be another Friday getting drunk at the Marina. He’d barely started his second beer when-

His mind went blank. Static. That was okay. He didn’t really want to think about it. Not yet. His tormented back muscles finally released enough for him to stand up straight. He offered his shoulder to Lynette, and once she had an arm around him the two of them started into the sand.

As the weatherman on channel 3 would say, it was going to be a beautiful day in the Carolinas. The sun was still below the horizon but already the sky to the east was painted with pale reds and oranges. Cotton candy clouds scattered across the sky, but once the sun managed to pull itself up above the ocean they’d see it clearly. It wasn’t very warm yet, but the never-ending humidity was already making it steamy. The waves were small but loud, spraying sea salt into their faces before they were very far in. They found the line of seaweed and shells that marked high tide and stopped.

With a good amount of wincing and gasps from both of them, Ronny helped Lynette to sit. Lynette’s ankle, swollen and bruised and shiny, was the worst injury either of them had gotten. Not the only. There was the bruise Ronny could imagine was blooming on his back, and the one he could see on his upper arm. His lip was split and he’d spent all night thinking his thumb had been jammed, but looking at it now he was beginning to wonder if it wasn’t broken after all. Lynette’s left eye was swollen shut, and based on the way she was cradling her right side Ronny was thinking she had a bruised rib.

With the same noises Ronny got himself into the sand next to her. Close enough for their arms to brush against each other. Before tonight their relationship had been strictly waitress-drunkard. Pleasantries and minor questions, nothing too heavy. He didn’t know much about her at all.

“Didn’t know you could fight,” he said.

She almost shrugged, clutching her side instead.

“I can’t. Not really. Took a few self-defense classes after I left my husband.”

“I didn’t know you’d been married.”

Lynette looked at him through her good eye and gave him a watered-down version of her usual smile.

“It was another life.”

They sat uncomfortably in a comfortable silence. Neither speaking nor feeling like they needed to, but shifting around in the sand, stretching their legs, moving one way then stopping too quickly. The sun finally reached them, officially making it day. Light spread over their faces and down the beach. To the town behind them. The Marina Bar. Revealing what had happened there under the dark.

Static again. Ronny looked up to examine the sky of a new day.

“I wasn’t even working last night, you know,” Lynette said. “I was picking up my check. I had a date.”

“You’re telling me Dennis didn’t pay you straight to your bank account?” Ronny asked, still looking up.

“Nah. He was always an old-fashioned prick. Didn’t think it’d almost get me killed, anyhow.”

“Who was the date with?”

“Carl Simon, you know, down at the auto shop?”

“Yeah, I know him. Seems like an okay type.”

“I had to bring my car in after I ran over a nail and we got to talking.”

Ronny frowned. “He’s got that daughter, doesn’t he?”

“Jessica. Don’t know much about her, she wasn’t exactly coming on the date with us.” Lynette sighed as much as she could through the pain. “He probably thinks I stood him up. You think he’ll believe me? You think anyone will believe us?”

Ronny looked up and down the beach and swallowed hard. The sweat he wiped from his brow wasn’t from the morning sun.

“I’m starting to.”

Lynette had been digging in the sand next to her as she talked. She looked up at Ronny as fast as she dared, startled by his tone. Still, he wasn’t looking at her. Up the beach. Down the beach. Behind them, at the little street and parking lot they had walked through. Lynette did the same, following him glance for glance.

Finally, Ronny looked up to the sky again, and two sat quietly, watching. The sun rose higher and filled the whole beach with light as they watched. It grew warmer, became hot, and soon they were both sweating. Still, they didn’t move.

Ronny and Lynette sat on the beach and watched the sky. The waves were the only sound.


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