Tides (A Short Story)…

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The dusky sunlight cascaded through the moss that hung haphazardly from the banyan trees. There was an intermittent breeze wafting through the heavy air that made it slightly more bearable to be outside. A distinct saltiness danced with the breeze and with it, the reminder that tide was rising. This was the best part of the year. The “dog days of summer” transported the mugginess of the hotter months to the doorstep of the oncoming fall.

Airlie rolled from her back over to her stomach and threw the novel that she was reading down to the blanket. This was an annual tradition for Airlie. For the past four years, she would take a two week sojourn to Venice Beach, Florida. She would stay in her family’s property and decompress before she started the new semester teaching Ethics to anxious college students trying to fulfill their elective credit requirements. Airlie loathed having to spend time on the minds of those who were merely tolerating her banter and probing about being autonomous, civic-minded adults. They didn’t really care about ethics, they just saw her class as a check mark on their transcript.  That was neither here nor there at this moment. This was her moment. It was her time to reflect, relax, refocus, and revel in the miraculous creation that she called her temporary home. Airlie exhaled. It was both a lament of frustration and a sigh of relief. She gazed at the grass and the moss that had fallen from the banyan tree that she was lying under.

“What would it be like to start over? What would it be like to leave it all and never look back,” Airlie wondered out loud. She desperately wanted to have “spark” in her life. The “something” that would be meaningful and invigorating. Airlie felt boring. What would it take to make things right again?

“Ah. Whatever!” Airlie yelled in the air. She didn’t want to get too wrapped up in her own head on thoughts that may never amount to anything. The sun was going down and she decided to watch the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico. The beauty of nature always distracted her from her own insanity. The shore was only a five minute walk from her family’s property. Airlie put her book and other belongings in the house before she started her trek, but she brought the blanket along. She also grabbed a thick envelope and tucked it in back pocket as she hurried out of the house. As she walked through the lawn and down the driveway toward the beach, her mind raced with ideas to make life more worthwhile. This exasperated Airlie. Why couldn’t she just relax? Then it happened. Airlie stepped on the beach and walked toward the ocean, but stopped about five feet from where the water met the sand. She spread the blanket at that very spot and collapsed in the middle. She began to cry. Why was this so difficult? How could someone who seemingly had everything feel like she was bankrupt? Airlie was a successful professional who made great contributions to her community with service and time. She loved the Lord and she knew that He loved her more than she could ever imagine. Her family surrounded her and she was comfortable in every aspect. Well almost.

It was Liam. She missed him. In her grief she realized he was the absent piece. This made her cry even more. The man who meant the most to her had moved away, and he had done so before she made her heart clear to him. Airlie loved this man and she never let him know. She thought that it was a silly notion because he had never said anything about love outside of their friendship. She wiped her face constantly, but the tears still flowed. She took the envelope out of her back pocket and took out the four pages that were nestled inside. The words sang to her from the pages. The invitation beckoned her with promise, a promise that she refused. Airlie felt her heart beating irregularly in her chest. She started to pant and cry uncontrollably.

The ocean roared as the sun departed. The sea foam was coming closer to Airlie’s pallet on the sand. The seagulls sang their lullaby as the blue sky faded to a burnt orange glow. Airlie felt so helpless. All she could do is ask herself why she had let the opportunity leave her? The week before Airlie left for her trip, Liam gave her the letter asking for her to accompany him to Austrailia for a year. Airlie thought that the proposition was ridiculous. Yes, she and Liam were great companions, but move her life to the other side of the world? Completely outlandish! Who does that? Certainly not Airlie and she shut it down. She was upset that Liam had the audacity to leave in the first place, but to ask her to take such a big step without the fairy-tale ending was just plain rude in her opinion.

Airlie read the letter twice before the sun was completely out of sight. She started to get cold and her feet were wet. The tide had come in and it was about to take her blanket back to the watery abyss. Airlie wiped her face and stood up. She faced the moon and took three deep breaths. And she prayed for God to make the pain in her heart go away. All she wanted was a new start; a new beginning that wouldn’t include the distraction of her emotions. Airlie dug her bare foot into ground. The cool, white sugar sand was littered with shell, which caught her attention. Still holding the letter, she picked up a couple and rolled them back and forth in her hands.  This shuffle made her lose her grip on the letter and it flew out of her hands, all four pages. This startled Airlie and she ran after her treasure, but it was too late. The wind held the letter captive and it barreled into the surf. Airlie ran clumsily to retrieve her letter, but by the time she was able to rescue it, the ink made a collage of blots and the message was lost. “Great,” she thought. That was Airlie’s cue to head back to the house, pour a nice glass of wine, and have a bubble bath.

As she approached the bungalow, she saw the lights on. She didn’t remember turning the lights on before she left the house, but there were timers set on many of the lamps for security reasons. Faint music was coming from the Florida room, and this alarmed Airlie. Her heart quickened and she ran to the back of the house to retrieve her revolver. She may have had a free spirit, but she wasn’t stupid. Airlie brought her T4 Nighthawk everywhere, and since she was going to the beach, she locked it up in a secret compartment in the back of the house. She prepared her weapon to fire when needed as she entered the house from the rear. “How dare anyone come here and try to ruin my vacation?! I don’t think so!” Airlie whispered under her breath. It was amazing how she could cry like a baby one minute and turn into James Bond the next.

Airlie entered the living room and called out “ Whoever you are, you’ve got ten seconds to leave this house before I call the cops. If I see any part of your body it will be shot off, I have a hot piece of metal in my hands and it is ready to burn you!”

“DON’T SHOOT AIRLIE!”

The voice was familiar and it prompted her to immediately disengage. Airlie put the safety back on her pistol and kicked it under the couch. She knew the voice even though she didn’t see the face.

“Don’t shoot, it’s just me.”  Liam came out of the bedroom with his hands raised.

“Liam…I thought you had left, how did you get here? What is going on?”

“Airlie, I had to come back. I couldn’t stay in Australia without facing you one last time to ask you to reconsider.”

Airlie was awestruck. Was this really happening? The man that she was blubbering over just 30 minutes prior was standing now standing in her living room, offering the opportunity for a second chance. She looked at Liam and he looked quick odd. It seemed like he was scared. He was sweating and he had his arm behind his back like a lame duck. Airlie had no idea of how to respond, nor did she know what was really happening before her eyes. Was she dreaming?

To be continued…

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