I've spent the last two weeks trying to work on marketing and selling books and while the the results have been good and bad, it's making me crazy. I hate it. I want to be a writer and I've done very little writing. That ends today.
To get the ceative juices flowing again, I wrote some more of a side project I'm calling Emerald Beach. If you want to read parts one and two gohere.
All story snippets get a spell check and a pass through the Grammerly editing program and that's it.
20 years ago
Marshall tossed his duffle bag on the bed and headed down the stairs, feeling slightly light-headed. He’d waited six months to hear that voice. It slid down his spine like a fine caress and made his heart jump. Didn’t matter that Lara was married now. He still hurried to meet her. She’d let herself in the front door and was standing in the foyer looking up at him as he came down the stairs. Damn her eyes. Damn her mouth and her smile. God damn him for loving another man’s wife like he did.
She spoke first because he’d momentarily lost his voice. When she threw her arms around his neck he closed his eyes and breathed her in, knowing these moments with her would be few and far between and the next two weeks would go way too fast.
“Hi,” he said, setting her away from him because having her so close made him wish and want and he needed to stop wishing and wanting, especially when it came to her.
The last time he’d seen her had been her wedding day. He’d driven down to the coast, missing two days of school, because even though he’d known it would be pure torture he couldn’t not come. She’d blown his mind with how beautiful she’d been. And he’d known it was because she was happy. Shay made her happy. He’d thought it might change the way he felt about her to see her give herself wholly to another man. He’d hoped, but he’d left after forty-eight hours knowing he would love her until the day he died.
The eleven-hour ride home had sucked. The next few months had sucked. Until he’d forced himself to make some decisions about his life and what the hell he would do with it. He needed to do something, make something of himself. He couldn’t spend his days pining for a girl eleven hours away who was in love with someone else and was building a life with them.
“Come on,” he said, needing to get outdoors and out of the confines of the house. It was too intimate being in the house with her alone.
“I haven’t been to the beach yet.”
Lara fell in step beside him as they walked through the house and out the back door. He’d spent the previous summer in this house with his now good friend, Patrick. They’d both waited tables at The Back Porch. When he hadn’t been working, he’d been with Lara and sometimes Shay. Patrick would have the house mostly to himself this summer.
When they reached the open beach, Marshall inhaled sharply. He relished the wind rushing over his skin, the feel of the sand between his toes. He’d never thought a place and the way it smelled could ever be the cause of such contentment. It was like he belonged here. With her. “This place gets under your skin, doesn’t it?”
“She’s got a life of her own that’s for sure,” Lara said as they headed for the shoreline where the waves rolled over the sand and soaked their feet.
The beach, the Gulf, it was more than a place to her and Shay and the others like them. Since the day he’d saved Lara from a brutal attack and they’d told him what they were, a bond had formed between them. More than once since, he’d wished he were like them. He wanted the ability to breathe water. He wanted the ability to escape to a quiet endlessness and just be. He wanted the ability to be more.
“Where is Shay?”
“He’s taken a job with one of the oil companies, overseeing the repairs on the oil rigs. They’re paying him good and he can come home most nights, unlike his human counterparts. And you know how he feels about keeping our environment safe. It's a perfect job for him actually.”
“And what will you be doing? Will you go to school? Get a job?”
“Actually…” Lara turned into the wind and it caught on the oversized cover-up she was wearing, molding it to her stomach--her round, protruding stomach.
Marshall felt like he’d been sucker punched.
“You’re pregnant.” Marshall was afraid it sounded like an accusation, that somehow she heard how his heart pounded and maybe even heard it crack. He wasn’t sure why he was surprised. It’s what happened when two people got married. Eventually there was a baby. He just hadn’t expected it so soon. It had barely been six months.
“Congratulations,” he forced himself to say though there was nothing that felt good about seeing her pregnant with Shay’s child whether they were friends or not.
“I know it was fast, and we’re young and it’s not like it was planned, but I’m happy, Marshall.”
He could see that. She positively glowed and like it always did, her beauty took his breath. “So you’ll be a mom.”
“Yep.” She kicked her foot through a wave, bouncing on her toes. Pregnancy suited her. Her energy reached for him so palpable he could feel it.
“You’ll be a great mother.” And he’d be far away and wouldn’t get to see it. It would be better that way.
“Thanks. Now, what about you?” She wrapped her hand around his biceps and pulled him forward. Marshall hadn’t noticed he’d quit walking. He couldn’t quit staring at her stomach. She gave his arm a squeeze and he forced his gaze to her face. Those pale green eyes sparked with teasing. “Someone’s been spending some time in the gym.”
“A little.” He shrugged and started walking again. He’d spent a lot of time in the gym over the last six months. Since that eleven-hour ride home after the wedding, he’d known he had to do something to get over her. He needed something he could sink his whole life into, and he figured the military was as good of a gig as any. His dad had agreed. “I’ve enlisted in the Navy.”
Lara’s mouth caught on a silent, oh. “Does that mean you’re not staying for the summer?”
“No. I’ve got two weeks. I’m taking a scuba class while I’m here. Figure it couldn’t hurt. And then I report for basic training at the end of the month.”
“A soldier, huh? That’s great, Marshall.” Her half-smile had a disappointed slant and he tried not to read too much into it. They were friends and soon, with any luck, he’d be halfway around the world
“That’d be sailor,” he said. “Or Squid.”
She turned around and faced him, walking backward. “You just be careful. And you’ll write, won’t you?”
He should say no. He should make a clean break. This should be the end of their friendship. “Of course.”
“Good.” She bounded back around, her steps matching his. “I’ve never had a pen pal before.”
Pen pals was better than nothing. Anything was better than nothing.
“Do you know if it’s a boy or girl yet?” Marshall had no idea about the timing of such things, but she looked far enough long that they should be able to tell. And still seeing her round with Shay's child didn’t curb his desire for her. He was sure if Shay knew the extent of his feelings he’d probably kill him. Yeah, the Navy was where he belonged.
“No. We’re not going to find out.” She stepped close, enveloping him in her sweet, salty scent, her mouth close to his ear. “Don’t tell Shay because I think he has his heart set on a boy, but I’m kind of hoping for a girl.”
“Well,” he said, throwing his arm over her shoulder and heading back to the house. “Don’t tell Shay, but I’ll be hoping for a girl too.”
20 years later
Marshall stared out over the beach, the foamy break of the waves visible in the ever-expanding darkness. His daughter was out there on the beach, walking with Jamie, Lara’s oldest son. He’d just sat through the most difficult conversation in his life. Three deployments to some of the worst shitholes in the world and he hadn’t faced anything like looking into Erin’s eyes while her boyfriend, a man under his command, told him she was pregnant.
The word crawled around in his belly, setting a fire in his gut. He supposed there could be worse things than his sixteen-year-old daughter being pregnant, but he couldn’t for the life of him think what that might be.
Erin was out there on the beach now, walking with Jamie, a young man Marshall often thought of as his, especially since Shay had died. He’d treated Jamie like his own. Loved him like he was his own. And Jamie had repaid him by getting his daughter pregnant. Marshall’s hands clenched into fists. He wanted to smash something.
Marshall understood Erin’s infatuation with Jamie, but he’d assumed, like with most young girls, it would pass. And he tried not to blame Clare. By the time Erin had been ten years old, they’d decided she would be the one to handle talks of boys and sex and protection. Marshall couldn’t even put sex and Erin in the same thought.
He’d be the first to admit he'd handled the announcement badly. He’d yelled. Said things he didn’t mean, at least given some more time he might not mean them. He’d almost hated Jamie at that moment. Jamie had betrayed Marshall’s trust in the worst way, and then when Marshall didn’t welcome him with open arms and questioned their rashly made decision to get married, Jamie had punched him. Marshall’s fingers had twitched, and he’d imagined himself going for his gun. Thank God, he hadn’t been wearing it.
“Here, you look like you could use this.” Lara’s voice coasted over him, taking the edge off his rattled emotions.
Marshall ignored the glass of wine she offered and took the bottle instead.
“That bad is it?” He heard the smile in her tone and wondered how she could be so calm. She settled beside him, close enough he could smell her. Close enough a tendril of her hair caught in the wind, the ends of it tickling his forearm. She lifted her hand, fingering the swelling under his right eye. Marshall shied away from Lara’s touch, something he’d never thought he could do, but he didn’t want her touching him right now, not when he was still so angry.
“She’s sixteen, Lara.” He took another drink. One bottle of wine wouldn’t be enough. Erin was going to have a baby. She’d had a future. She’d had dreams and goals. Goals she was working toward. This wasn’t what he wanted for her, married with a baby before she had a chance to finish high school and realize those dreams.
“If he were anyone else but yours and Shay’s kid, I swear I would have...” He failed to finish the thought. He’d already said more than he should. More he was already sorry for.
“If it helps at all, I do believe he loves her.”
Marshall snorted. He didn’t want to hear how Jamie loved Erin. For Marshall, love meant sacrifice. Love meant giving up what you wanted, denying your own desires. “You act as if you’re okay with this.”
She’d remained so calm and cool at his side, her cool touch, her cool gaze the only things keeping him from exploding.
“Oh, I’m not okay with it.” She took a sip of her wine, lifting her face to the slight breeze. It seemed nothing could change the way he felt about her. Not the way she was still in love with her dead husband. Not that her son had taken advantage of his daughter.
“I’m fond of Erin,” this woman he loved beyond all reason started to say before pausing to weigh her words.
“But?” Marshall prompted though she remained quiet. They’d never had trouble being honest with each other, and he didn’t want to start now. Hell, they were about to be grandparents together. Damn, they were about to be grandparents together. That was so far from the future he’d envisioned with her.
“Come on, Lara. You can talk to me.”
She looked down, swirling her wine in her glass. “As much as you mean to me, this isn’t the grandchild I’d dreamed of having.”
It wasn’t the grandchild he’d dreamed of having either. For one, grandchildren shouldn’t even be a part of his imminent future. And two, if anyone were having a child together it should be him and Lara. And that thought caught him totally by surprise. He brought the bottle to his mouth. The wine was already half gone.
“I’ll love him or her, but...”
“It’s disappointing,” Marshall supplied for her. So damn disappointing and that was putting it mildly.
“Yes, it’s disappointing.”
“You know what I find disappointing?” Marshall knew he should exercise caution, but he’d had enough wine, and his soul was heavy enough he didn’t care. He’d lost something today. Something he’d never get back. “The end of us. The hope of us.”
That hope was all he’d had. And what kind of father did that make him? He’d heard the word pregnant and his mind had frozen and he would have sworn his heart had stopped, and the only thought that had run through his mind had been that Lara would never be his. He’d lost her with those words.
And Lara had known. She touched his arm and he’d looked into her pale eyes and she’d pulled him back to himself. That touch had told him she understood. That touch had told him she shared his regret. Acknowledging the loss of that hope had somehow made it more bearable.
“There’s that,” she said.
Marshall took another swig of wine. Their kids were all that mattered now. “People will give them a hard time.”
“I know they will, but we won’t. We’ll be here for them and we’ll love them because they need us.”
Yeah, their kids would need them just like Marshall needed her.
Lara reached for him, threaded her fingers with his and laid her head on his shoulder, the affection between them so easy and right. He thought he’d better say it now because he might not ever get the chance. Their children were having a baby together and that changed everything between them, but he wanted her to know. He’d been chewing on these words for almost twenty years. “I love you.”
The breeze sang over them and she sighed, sinking deeper into his side. “I know. I just wish...”
He pressed his lips to the top of her hair. Wishes were for fools.
~ ~ ~
Now I'm ready for a week of the fun stuff, writing a story.