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Rated: E · Fiction · Relationship · #2295281
A young couple's day at the beach. A fictional story.
Diary of Paige Hunter

I turned to another page of my photo album. I spotted one of the benches, in the park, by the ocean. It reminded me, yet again, of the day Donnie left. That was our spot, the one we claimed exclusively ours. It happened a dozen years ago, in our senior year at Jackson High School in the valley. We were voted the couple most likely to get married. I think my baby bump would prove that prophesy true.

I hid my belly with fashionable peasant blouses paired with long skirts. We could not wait much longer to reveal my condition. I thought we would have eloped by then. I was certain my mom knew or correctly suspected we were pregnant. Donnie was thrilled about being a father.

When school ended, we began our pilgrimage to the beach. The fog doesn’t lift until eleven in the morning at Santa Monica Beach. It was our hang-out that summer. We drove there every weekday. I could not get away on the weekends. Saturdays I stayed home. That was the day my brothers and sisters, along with our parents, pitched in to clean the house, as we had done for as long as I can remember. My chore was cleaning both bathrooms. Sunday was family day. We did things as a family like playing board games, cards, or taking a car ride.

During the final school year just ended, Donnie and I got in trouble from time to time. One time, Donnie and I went bowling. We were curious about how the pin setter worked. We saw the maintenance guy walk on the far side of the lanes. We waited a few minutes before we followed. Noone was around when we opened the door. The noise of the machines was so loud, no one could hear us back there. We were fascinated with the pins being scooped up, dropped into metal holders, and ready to set up fast. All went well until Donnie decided we needed to have a bowling pin to take home as a souvenir. It was impossible to hide our prize. Mom was called immediately. We were taken to the manager’s office and told to sit tight until someone came to get us. Donnie was remorseful. He apologized to me admitting what a dumb idea it was. Mom did not look thrilled when she got there and walked to the front desk to talk to the manager. She came into the office. Her jaw was set. That was not good.

“You are coming with me, Paige”, she ordered through clenched teeth. “You may go home now, Donnie, and think about the trouble you caused”.

That was the most mischievous thing we did. We routinely broke curfew. To our credit, we would call and check in at least so the families would not worry. That cloudy day in Santa Monica, the day this photo of the bench was taken, was depressing. It was dark and dismal. Thinking the sky would be clear and sunny up north, we got back in the car and drove north on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). We stopped at San Luis Obispo for lunch. We laughed as we ordered a chocolate shake with two straws. We drove up a short distance when we saw the exit to Pismo Beach. It was as far as Donnie wanted to go. The gas gauge suggested we may not get home before needing to stop.

The exit led through an underpass to the west of the freeway. We drove past the Shoreline Hotel and a pizza parlor while looking for a way to get close to the ocean. We turned left on a street that looked like it extended to the water. It ended at a small park area. In the center was a white gazebo. After we parked the car, I gathered up our snacks, including a couple of cold sodas from the ice chest. I handed the bag of food to Donnie as I climbed out of the car. We walked over to the park, through the gazebo to this wonderful large bench overlooking the ocean. There was plenty of room to lay out our snacks and set down the drinks. I stood up and walked toward the edge. There was no barrier at the edge. It had to be several hundred feet or more straight down. I backed up several yards. I was then more comfortable looking up and out toward the ocean. I swallowed at the beauty and majesty of the vast Pacific Ocean. The visibility had to be at least ten miles. I returned to the bench where Donnie had laid out my heavy wool plaid blanket. We talked and ate, cooling our throats with the cold soda. A small gold plate affixed to the back of the bench said To the loving memory of Lisa Anne. Forever in our hearts. We speculated on Lisa. How she lived and how she died.

The once clear blue sky filled with cumulus clouds. They rolled in, casting shadows from the bench. As happens in southern California, storms come on quickly. The wind followed close behind. We got all our belongings back in the car before the first raindrops fell. Driving home the rain pounded harder. Sheets slammed on the windshield. It was harrowing, to say the least. The left windshield wiper needed to be replaced. It did a poor job wiping the water off the windshield.

I never saw the other car. I was told the impact pushed us into oncoming traffic. I woke up in the emergency room. The nurse told me Donnie had been airlifted to a trauma center downtown.

I will stop writing for tonight, Dear Diary. After a dozen years, the end of my story is the same. The speed of the emergency evac helicopter did not change the outcome. Traumatic brain injury, amnesia, full care nursing home. Accidents happen, my mom said over and over until I wanted to run away. No kidding, really?

That is not the end, however. I told a huge lie. Donnie is not Emily’s biological father. I was going to tell Donnie that day. The words formed in my throat, but could not be vocalized. The rain postponed telling him. And that, Dear Diary, is what’s on my mind now seeing that photo.

I put down my diary, pulled the picture from its paper frame, and took my lighter to it. I watched it burn until it was one big black ash. I thought it would help my memory of that day fade, as Donnie’s mind did. Alone in my second-floor apartment in Riverside, I whispered, “Life sucks, and then you die. Or, are left in a perpetual state of living nothingness like Donnie”.

Goodnight Dear Diary. See you tomorrow night. Same time, same place, same station. I promise to write my story’s epilogue.

❤️ Paige
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