She stepped onto the balcony and looked across the sand.
“One more goodbye to a beach we’ll never use.”
“Don’t say ‘never.’ You never know …” he teased.
She gave him a disgusted look. “I know the work pays the bills, but I wish the work was limited to the actual working hours of eight-to-five. This schedule kills me, sometimes.”
“And hence you are the consummate employee. Giving every project your all, with only the occasional complaint.”
“Now I know you are jerking my chain. But thanks for overlooking the frequency of my complaints.”
He stepped behind her and put his arms around her shoulders. “As long as you don’t complain about things that matter.”
He rested his head on the top of her head and gazed across the sand with her. “We have about 15 minutes to enjoy the beach before we get in the cab. Would you rather run downstairs to kick off your shoes, stand here on the balcony to bask in the heat, or close the door and let me have my way with you?”
To make sure she weighed her options carefully, he slid his hands down her body to her pelvis.
She raised on her toes and pushed her buttocks against his groin. “Hmm. Sweaty and sandy, or sweaty and sexy. Let me think …” She pushed him back into the room and closed the sliding door.
“I could just lift your skirt.”
“You could, but you know how I feel about sex fully clothed. Not enough contact. But lucky you, I wore a shirt waist dress today. Easily removed.” And it was off before she finished her sentence. “The rest of this is just a nuisance.”
As he rushed out of his jeans and sweater, he was glad he had worn no socks today. She hated bare legs and socks. It saved him time to kick off his shoes.
“Don’t look at your watch,” she commanded. “Don’t tell me the time.”
He took her in an embrace and hungrily kissed her mouth. His tongue on her tongue made his head swim and brought him to an erection. As she grasped his hard penis, he slipped the tip of his finger between her legs to see if she was wet. Oh yes, just wet enough. And as he stroked her clitoris, she became wetter still.
“It’s amazing how fast you can get aroused,” he breathed in her ear. “And amazing how fast you arouse me.”
“Let’s not waste it – or the view.” She grabbed the desk chair and dragged it to the sliding door, remaining bent over the arms and exposing her buttocks to him. She looked over her shoulder with wide eyes. “Come up behind me.”
He grasped her hips and searched for her vagina with his erection. It was easy to find, slick with her desire for him. He dragged the head of his penis across her clitoris, just to tease her. A husky laugh erupted from her throat.
“Oh that’s good. But naughty.”
Over the top of her head, he could see the sun flashing on the waves that lashed the beach. As he slid into her, she arched her back and sighed deeply. He took on the rhythm that made her moan.
“Oh Little Boy, I want you to fuck me hard. But I don’t want to go through the glass.”
“Do you want me to slow down?”
“Oh hell, no! I’ll figure it out. Just keep slamming my clit.”
He leaned over the curve of her back and slipped one hand onto her breast to pinch her nipple.
“Oh my God! What are you doing to me?” She was so wet and he was so deep, he couldn’t imagine being any closer to her.
“I can’t see your face. I want to make sure you’re still there.”
“Totally here. Totally all around you. It’s all about you.”
As he felt himself moving toward a climax, he shifted her legs so they were inside his own. He entirely covered her body with his arms, his legs, his torso. He owned her and she had given that power to him. She braced herself and the chair against the glass of the sliding door as he crashed into her and cried “You feel so amazing! You’re making me cum so hard!”
They stayed motionless in that position for a moment, watching the waves and breathing hard. She finally let go of the chair and reached for his wrist. “Ooh, we gotta go!” she said with a quick check of his watch.
“You’re killing me!” he cried. “You can’t let a guy catch some air!”
“I think you’ll live,” she purred as she slipped from under his weight to reclaim her clothes. “Or are you going to tell me you would have preferred a walk on the beach?”
He smiled as he hopped into his jeans and loafers. He loved it when she was right.
+ + +
There was something restorative about the beach. It seemed cliché to think that way, but it was true. To look out at the ocean and see nothing but blue sky. To look up and down this beach and see nothing but the wide expanse of shoreline in either direction. The water here was murky, the sand was gray, but the beach was immensely wide and flat and hard. It was like a highway for miles, with the slowly lapping waves on one side and the sea oats on the other. And due to development restrictions, no high rises to block the sun or disgorge noisy crowds.
After waking alone in the rented house, I padded around to my own schedule. After a cup of tea by the pool, I packed a small cooler and put it in beach trolley with a chair, a towel, and a book. The trip to the beach could have waited, but I wanted to get there before the possibility of a crowd. It was good to survey the neighbors to figure out what the week would be. Were they golfers who only trekked to the beach late in the day? Were they families with young children who needed naps? Were they teen-agers who never tired and needed the entire beach to throw frisbees or footballs or (heaven forbid) la cross balls? Or my favorite, were they retirees who liked to play boche ball and sip Aperol, prosecco and sparkling water?
At this early hour, there were no neighbor to survey. Only seagulls who quickly ascertained I had no food. I set up my chair near the water’s edge and planned to ease into my book. But I was restless – an ill-defined malcontent that settle in my brain. No, it didn’t settle – and that was the issue. The malcontent darted at the periphery, this way and that so it couldn’t be named. It simply felt wrong. I decided to see if I could walk it off.
Leaving my belongings in hopes that none of the neighbors coveted a salty chair and towel or a cooler of seltzer and carrots, I started up the beach and away from the nearest high-density complex. In the distance there was a dog walker and a fisherman that I would eventually meet, but otherwise I was alone. I stuck the earphones to my iPod in and found some tribal music. Drums. I needed drums to give rhythm to my stride and replace the restlessness that was disturbing my morning.
What was bothering me?
It was not the question of my marriage, which I could easily name and was used to over-analyzing. I had told myself there would be time to discuss that and no rush to make decisions and I would be better off with a head cleared of worries. It was not work, since the project had finished on a good note – Deborah and Magnus were pleased – and I had time to complete my report before the deadline. It wasn’t the next project which sent me back to my familiar fast food work.
It was something I couldn’t name.
I did wonder if it was Raleigh. Was there something off about Raleigh? Was I missing something? Something I chose not to see because I wanted him to be happy and unconcerned about his parents and his future? Something I chose not to see because I wanted him to be perfect?
My head said: there is no answer here on the beach. Listen to the drums, feel the pounding of your feet and the slight movement of the sand, feel the sway of your hips and the push of your calves. Let the sun kiss your face and the wind caress your hair, watch the waves wash the shore – and give away the worry. You don’t have to pretend to be in a beautiful place because you are. You don’t have to pretend to be one with nature because you are.
In that mind, I walked a mile and half to the beach club and then turned back. Fortunately, neighbors did not covet my chair, towel or cooler – they were where I had left them. Three miles had helped to clear my head and I was ready to read my book. The breeze was enough to keep me on the beach until the desire for lunch moved me from my chair.
Although I had my phone in my beach bag, I had vowed to leave it in the side pocket until I returned to the house. Partly so it would not overheat or pick up sand, and partly so I would not be distracted. So I was surprised that I had two phone calls on a Saturday – one from Devlin Marks, the AE for my fast food client, and one from Deborah.
The message from Devlin was straightforward: he missed my presence on the French fry front and needed me in a meeting the Monday I returned to work. Deborah’s message was a little more confusing and concerning. Something about an illness and could I call as soon as possible.
She answered on the second ring. “Oh Susanna, I am so sorry to interrupt your vacation, but I really need your help.”
“Sure what’s up.”
“I know we discussed the reporting on this project and you were handing me a summary, but I am in a jam and need you to take over. My daughter is experiencing seizures and I need to get to New York as soon as possible.” Her distress was evident through the phone.
“Of course! Please don’t worry. I have time …”
“I know that’s not entirely true. Magnus did share your template with me, so he and I made a few changes that he can explain. This means you’re going to have to consult with him since it’s really his report. Do you have his contact info?”
“Probably, but can you email me?”
“I’ll send it right away. Again, thank you so much …” And she was gone.
An afternoon had been set aside to work on the summary, but the full report would take much longer. My housemates would need to be informed, although I doubted that my absence would make much difference to their plans for the week. Thankfully, with my laptop I could connect to the internet by the pool and that would become my remote office.
Working on vacation was not new to me. With shifting deadlines, it had become commonplace for me to have to drag out the laptop while James and Raleigh entertained themselves. As I thought about it, the working vacation had come into being as the need for a fully engaged mother and partner had waned. As Raleigh had asserted more independence and interest in his social world, he had used vacation as a time to connect with old acquaintances from the summer before and make new friends. His growing proficiency in golf meant he spent more time with James, who paid the greens fees. And James – well, James had less need of me as well, preferring the driving range or a book to a walk on the beach or a moonlight chat. It was easy to fill my solitude with productive work that received accolades from my co-workers and clients. So I became that woman who worked by the pool.
Besides: it paid for the opportunity for everyone else to have fun.
When my phone rang I expected to see an agency number but was elated it was my sister, Margaret. How I missed Peggy! We had our ups and downs, ins and outs – but in the end I could count on her to be honest with me in a way that no one else would. And could count on her to hold my confidences. My sadness was that her spouse’s work had taken her to Seattle, thousands of miles and three time zones away. In addition, her role as a mental health counselor kept her keenly busy and the frenetic schedule of her three children kept her unavailable for long chats. A call from her was unexpected and a rare treat.
“Peggy! How did you know I was languishing by the pool?”
“Bitch! I didn’t know that but now I am supremely jealous. Why don’t I hear the other vacationers making merry?”
“Guess. They are playing golf.”
“Figures. I hope you have a good book. Or a pool boy.”
“Neither at the moment. Looks like my laptop will be my best friend.”
“Oh Suzie! Not another working vacation? I hate it when you short yourself that way.”
“Can’t be helped. I could explain … but I won’t.”
“Hmm. Sounds slightly suspicious but I’ll leave it that way. I’m calling with a question.”
“But of course! Why else would you call.”
“Stop it. I always want to check on you but wasn’t sure you were able to talk freely.”
“There’s really nothing to talk about so don’t feel bad.”
Peggy clucked, a sound of disappointment. “Sorry for that. Again, another call. Look, what do you know about online video conferencing?”
“Not much. It’s new technology. Somewhat problematic because not everyone has internet, not everyone has high speed internet, not everyone is comfortable using the internet and not all the providers can guarantee they are secure. From a research perspective, use of online conferencing skews the participant population to young and upscale and runs a risk of compromising confidentiality. But sometimes it is the only way to reach certain populations, so we might run the risk.”
“Thanks for the quick take. My agency is talking about online video with patients and I have some major concerns.”
“Holy crap. At this point in time, the confidentiality issues are huge. All that may change over time, but it’s currently a risk.”
“Yea, the HIPAA Act of ’96 is a significant concern. But we continue to have the discussions. I suggested we use it inhouse for training purposes first. See if there are online courses.”
“Make yourself the guinea pig.” Not an unusual technique of researchers.
“Get free coursework toward my PhD.” Better yet, still competing with me.
“Enough about me. But seriously, are you okay? Being the only female in the beach house?”
“Remember, I hear that from my patients all the time.”
“I know but …”
My feeble excuse was cut short by the return of the bogey men. Hot, Sweaty, Tired, Thirsty. They made their way to the sliding door after stopping by the refrigerator for a beer. I laid the phone on my chest and mouthed to them “My sister.”
James waved. “Tell Peggy Sue I said hello.” Even though he knew she despised that nickname as much as I despised Suzie Q. Mark was already singing the Buddy Holly song in the background.
She groaned. “On that note, I have work to do. I’ll call later in the week to get a synopsis. I expect a better report. Love you …” My sister’s sign off sounded slightly threatening.
“Love you, too.” And she was gone.
I moved to the glass door to assess the mood of the golfers. In case the scores were not what they had hopped, it was better to make the outcome of the game the responsibility of the lay of the land rather than their sensitive athletic abilities. “How did the links treat you today?”
They seemed jovial enough. “Fair. After all, it’s a fairway,” said Mark with his corny sense of humor.
“But damn, it was hot. I am wiped out,” shared my son.
“So what’s next?”
James had a plan. “Make a sandwich, fill up the cooler with beer, grab the umbrella and head to the beach for a nap.”
“I was there earlier and it was lovely,” I shared.
“So why are you back here?” asked James, as the other men rummaged through the deli meats.
I explained the phone call from Deborah and the time I would need to put into the project. James was somewhat disappointed, but mainly for me - not for himself. He seemed to have his time planned, and my absence did not have an impact.
“I need to wrap my head around this change of events, which means another phone call. Save me a seat at the beach and I’ll catch up.”
Wrap my head around this change of events meant start an email thread with Magnus. I saw no reason we had to discuss the reporting by phone initially when we would end of swapping documents anyway. Before I could add my salutation to the draft, the phone rang. It was Magnus.
“You’re stuck with me. You tried to sneak off to vacation at a tropical resort but that didn’t work out, so now you are paying the penalty for being a loyal employee. Thanks for stepping in for Deborah.”
“Yea, well, there’s a rum and coke calling my name somewhere. No one said I had to be sober to write this thing.”
“True, so let’s discuss timeline so that you can schedule you cocktail runs.”
A few minutes later we had sketched out the timing and responsibilities, which was surprising. I actually expected Magnus would give me his timing and all the responsibility, but he wanted to divide the work so who was I to complain. I was used to the AE making edits to my draft but not contributing to the content.
“If it helps, let’s also schedule a time to discuss each day.”
“Oh, do you feel a conversation is necessary? I mean, I can make myself available but I didn’t know if you felt we would need to talk as long as we shared documents.”
“Call me old-fashioned but I still like to talk to people. Unless you object, since it is your vacation.”
“No, I can arrange it.”
“That’s settled then. I’ll send you the work that Deborah had completed along with my notes and give you time to read it. But I hear that rum and coke shouting your name so you better get to it while I toil here in the fog and rain.”
“Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?”
“Not yet. Thanks again for chipping in. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Since it was the heat of mid-day, attacking my notes in the shade seemed like a wise choice while the sun passed its zenith. Plus I was strangely motivated after the conversation with Magnus, so why not harness the energy. An hour later, I had a good start for later. The rum and coke fit in a large insulated container, so I took myself and my traveler down to the beach.
Only a few hours ago I had made this trip to the morning beach in solitude. As I approached the same spot in the afternoon glare, it had been transformed. The tide was out, adding 20 yards to the expanse. There were families everywhere: umbrellas and coolers, beach chairs and plastic buckets, couples strolling and children running. The sounds of the waves receded into the distance as the tide retreated, overtaken by chatter and laughter. It was a different scene than the one I had encountered to start the day. And I had different things on my mind.
I found my band of brothers with their legs stretched out from the short beach chairs, a foam sleeve encasing a long-neck beer in one hand. Mark was sleeping, Raleigh and Luke were scanning the horizon for women, James was reading a book.
“Thought I would join you to make sure no one baked on the first day. That tends to ruin the rest of the week.”
“Yes mom,” Raleigh said with mock indignity, rolling his eyes behind his dark glasses. “We applied the instructed amount of sunscreen. Although it looks like we might need to roll Uncle Mark over to roast on the other side.”
“Who me?” Mark asked from his slumber. “I’m working on my championship tan for the Bahama Bronze competition of 2004. I set the timer to change positions every 30 minutes.”
“I think you missed a spot,” laughed Luke.
“Anyone up for a walk?” I aimed the question to James.
“Those eighteen holes took it out of me. And I’m not at a good stopping point in my book. Later?”
I considered later. Looking at his entrenched relaxed posture and the number of beers in the cooler, I doubted that later would come. Past experience told me that later would not come. With my hand shading my eyes and my sunglasses masking my disappointment, I made a decision between joining the crowd on the edge of the umbrella’s shade or embarking on my own.
“I think I’ll go check out the crowd near the beach bar, just for fun.”
“Great idea. Tomorrow maybe we’ll all walk down there for drinks,” said James as his turned a page.
Tomorrow. Turn a page. There’s always tomorrow. Turn a page. I wondered about that as I strode toward the crowd in the distance.