ONCE EVERYBODY FRESHENED up, the family gathered on the beach to wait for the sunset. Although the muggy weather would take them some getting used to, their orders of Goombay Smash came punctually to help them adapt. While the guys stood close by to discuss current affairs, the ladies indulged the remaining daylight in sunbathing on beach chairs.
“I’m glad that Danny decided to come. We haven’t seen you both together in such a long time,” said Brenda, taking a sip of her drink.
“It feels nice to be away from home,” Allison admitted.
“So, what changed his mind? I bet sex had something to do with it.”
“What? Isn’t that what you girls talk about these days? Back then, your grandfather was a very conservative man. I wouldn’t dare even mentioning the word ‘sex’ to my few intimates, fearing that he might find out somehow and be disappointed in me —”
“There’s no need to mention that now either.”
“Sounds like someone’s embarrassed. But really, he was always manners this, manners that, and much more into finding me an eligible husband than encouraging me to become an independent woman. That was how I met your father actually, through his introduction. And just like he expected, your father’s been a perfect gentleman to me all these years. Although, I must agree with the feminists today, there’s absolutely no shame for us women to allow ourselves some rough pleasure every now and then beyond the purpose of procreation.”
“Where did you learn that?”
“Well, nowadays, there’s the Internet.”
“But you and Daddy are not… young.”
“Whoa, I beg your pardon. What? So you think your father and I no longer make love?”
“I don’t really think about that.”
“Fifty is the new thirty they say. We are still very much active for your information, and picking up some new moves here and there —”
“God. Can we please talk about something else?” Allison almost leapt from her chair to beg of her.
“Am I making you that uncomfortable?”
“What do you think?”
Brenda laughed at her reserved bashfulness, and then moved on to talk fascinatingly about her last visit to Sweden, and the one before it.
“All I’m saying is, you and Danny should come with us next time, so you know what a beautiful country it truly is.”
“That’s what I said.”
“Mom, we have no intention to move out of Minnesota, let alone the country. Even though you and Daddy are considering it.”
“Did I say that you should?”
“That’s what you are getting at isn’t it? Why else would you mention that idea to me twice in a matter of weeks?”
Did I?” Upon spotting the sparkling, diamond-shaped pendant resting charmingly on Allison’s chest, she sat up to look at it more closely. “That’s one beautiful necklace you have there.”
“Uh-huh. Is that real diamond?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Still, it looks pretty on you. I suppose that’s the anniversary gift from Danny.”
“Oh no, this is actually from Adrian for my sixteenth birthday. You don’t remember? You and Daddy were there when he gave it to me…”
As if Allison had just said the worst thing possible, she watched her mother’s cheerfulness dissolve and expression turn grim at her response. “Why are you wearing it?” she asked her, almost judgmentally.
“I thought it goes well with the outfits I picked out for this trip, so I figured, why not. Anyway, Dan’s been busy with work lately, so he wasn’t as prepared as I was for our anniversary —”
“Are you trying to deliberately hurt me?” Brenda cut her off mid-sentence, withholding her temper no longer.
“Hurt you? It has nothing to do with you.”
“Hand it over.”
“Hand the necklace over now!”
“It’s not always about you, Mom!”
The guys turned their heads.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, Daddy. We are just fine.”
Elton was doubtful, but knew better than to get involved at this state of their quarrel, and so returned to his conversation with Daniel.
The fire was just starting.
“I’m not going to let you ruin this trip, Mother, but just so you know, I found out about your visit to Dr. Cooke.”
Brenda’s eyes widened. “What did you tell her?”
“Nothing you need to know.”
“I’m your mother! Tell me what you said to her. Did you talk to her about your brother?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“I said tell me this instant!” she shouted, grabbing her by the arm.
The guys turned their heads again.
“Let go of me!” Allison broke from her grip, and stomped off towards the alluring shoreline for some time alone.
During her way down the long stretch of warm pink sand, she stumbled upon a curious little boy building a sand castle. He looked up at her with the most innocent green eyes, naturally reminding her of her childhood memories with Adrian, the pleasant time they spent together before all that criticism prevailed over love and family.
They exchanged smiles. As she walked on by him till the ocean was at her feet, he stayed back to watch the waves hit her above the ankles when they crashed into shore and sprawled over the beach, all agog. A minute later, Daniel joined in next to her. He picked up a flat stone somewhere nearby and threw it across the water. It bounced off the surface thrice before sinking.
“Are you okay?” he asked her in a consoling tone.
“Yes. I’m fine,” she replied, thankful that he had come after her.
“If it helps at all, to tell you the truth, I don’t know how many times I’ve wished to storm off in front of your parents like you did back there.”
She let out a little laugh. “I don’t blame you. I know best what kind of people they are.”
Daniel squatted down to pick up another stone, threw it across the water, and stood back up. This time it bounced off the surface four times before it lost its momentum. “Yes!” he yelped quietly to himself, doing a little fist pump while at it.
Allison shifted her eyes sideways to peek at his victorious face, which made her smile.
He noticed her looking. “What?”
“Nothing,” she said, but her smile hardly faded.
“Right. Because when a woman says ‘nothing,’ she really means nothing.”
She gave a snicker and told him, “I was just thinking about the first time you brought me to that park near the university. You did the same thing there, except you were trying to skip rocks in a fountain.”
He smiled on reflection of the incident. “You laugh now, but at the time you just stood there, quiet.”
“I was nervous.”
“So was I, I just didn’t look it. That was also the first day I started to skip classes. I almost didn’t graduate because of you.”
“That’s not true! Is it?”
Even now, his laugh still made her heart flutter. Slowly, she moved closer to him till the back of their hands touched, wanting them to fold into one. They most certainly would have, had they not been distracted by a shriek coming from the little boy whom she met earlier.
Wishing to copy the adults and soak his tiny feet in the massive body of water, he had apparently run for it without parental watch. The peaceful tide turned out to be relatively staggering for his small body of just over three feet. As it came at him, one effortless push was enough to knock him over. Wave after wave, he tried to stand back up on his own, but each endeavor ended in vain.
Daniel rushed to scoop him up from the unforgiving sea before it could — although very unlikely — pull him out further. Luckily, apart from the shock, the boy was well and unharmed. Allison as well hurried to their side and watched in awe as her husband cradled him in his arms, speaking to him in a calm, protective voice, “Shh… shh… you are okay. No more scares…” Though still crying, the little one clung to his chest and appeared to be quieting down until his parents’ arrival half a minute later.
“Alex! Oh my baby! Thank you! Thank you!” the mother exclaimed out of relief.
Daniel turned the boy over to her. “He is fine. Just swallowed a few mouthfuls of seawater.”
“If it wasn’t for you, he could have been much worse. Here, a little gratitude from us,” said the father, handing him a hundred-dollar bill.
“Please, keep it. Anyone who saw what happened would have done the same.” He turned to little Alex in his mother’s arms, patting him on the head. “Take care now, little buddy.”
The boy gulped down his sobs. As if parting with a superhero, he was a little timid yet a little unwilling to. As soon as he went on with his parents, the bawling automatically started again. Finding his naive nature adorable, Daniel grinned watching them leave.
Moving on, the couple strolled along the seaside as the half-setting sun painted the sky red. Up ahead at a perfect spot, they sat down on the fine sand to watch in admiration of its disappearance from the horizon.
“I wonder what our life would be like if we were to have kids,” Allison thought aloud.
“Well, I suppose, it would be more interesting,” said Daniel.
“You think so?”
“I do. I would have liked to take them to Burgers n’ Bounce every weekend.”
She smiled at his remark, and rested her head against his shoulder, respiring deeply. “What if… what if we adopt?”
“What? Are you serious?”
She looked up at him, affirming with a wholehearted “yes.”
The last time they had this discussion was two years ago at her gynecologist’s office. After being informed of their slim chance of conceiving, Daniel brought up the idea of adoption, which led to a heated debate where Allison eventually, vehemently, rejected it.
“What has changed?” he asked her, failing to overlook her contradiction.
“Well — I just thought you would be a wonderful father. It would be a shame that you don’t get to be one in your lifetime, don’t you agree? I’ve heard people adopt children from all over the world. I just hope the process isn’t too complicated, but I’m sure the many agencies out there would be more than willing to help us through it…”
Her change of heart silenced him. He stared into the distance with this faraway look in his eyes, for the good two minutes she took to paint him an optimistic picture of their future with two endearing children. Upon catching him lost in thought, she interrupted him, “What are you thinking about?”
“Huh? Oh, nothing important.”
“Heh. So it’s okay when men do it.”
“You said ‘nothing important.’ Am I supposed to buy that?”
“Yes,” he answered, rather coldly, and stood up.
Even knowing the contrary was true, Allison decided to pretend so as to not blemish a perfectly good time with him. Promptly, she grabbed onto his hand held out to help her get up, brushed away the sand from her bottom before they headed back.