A couple has a sailboat date on a clear day when skies and sea become black and deadly.
|Beth made a wish for an enchanted day as she pulled the fabric blinds up in her bedroom. Her heart tingled when she saw the sky was robin blue with fantasy snow clouds.When her children were young, they would all lay on a blanket and make up cloud stories. Even at the age of three, Daniel would study the clouds with intense concentration. Gremlins and dragons fought each other. Lacy saw fairies dancing in castles.
Beth put on a new two piece swimsuit with tropical island colors. This suit was guaranteed to make Brian forget the fish. A quick glance in the mirror told her she still looked pretty good for thirty with two children. Thanks to Pilates and her "Keeping Abs in Shape" DVD. Her diet wasn't as good as it should be but it was so easy to eat fast food with her kids.
'Who wants to cook after working a ten hour day?'
She pictured Brian's beautiful smile and couldn't wait to see him.
Her children were her life, precious gifts she had from her relationship to Ray. Daniel was ten and Lacy, five.
It had been two years since the divorce. She should have seen Ray Blakemores’ narcissism blinking over his head from the beginning but love is blind.
Beth had been totally blown away with his charisma and good looks when they first met. He seemed to have all the qualities she wanted in a mate. He was the kind of person that listened carefully to her. She described her interests and what she was looking for in a partner. He said all the right things.
It turned out the jerk was a chameleon, making himself into her perfect mate. No wonder he was such a great investment broker with the perfect poker face. What a clever liar and she was naive, believing every word.
At first, their marriage was good. He made an effort remembering holidays, excitement about her pregnancies and helping out with the kids. They rented a home in an upper class neighborhood. Ray fed his ego constantly. That meant gym equipment, a Lexus with huge payments and a closet full of Perry Ellis and Armani. His job as an investment broker was a crap shoot; money coming in was never steady.
“We have to show people we have a great life otherwise they won’t do business with me. That makes sense, doesn’t it, babe?”
They hosted neighborhood barbecues. He golfed and she did play dates. They played tennis. The lifestyle went on credit cards.
Ray borrowed money and didn't pay it back. She remembered one incident with shame, Joe Henderson was a sweet guy that owned a plumbing company. He had one of his workers fix their toilets and run new pipes, saving them loads of money.
It was eight months after the job was done in when Joe came to her.
"Beth, I am so sorry to trouble you with this but.....the supplies I used for your job. Well, I put them on my card cause Ray was gonna pay me. It's been months and he owes me over four hundred dollars. That isn't a lot Beth, but I gotta have .....about half anyway."
Beth hung her head and hot tears fell.
"I am so sorry."
She gave him a hundred out of her grocery money.
Later in bed, Beth told Ray about what Joe had said.
"I gave him a hundred."
"Without even asking me? He is a lying SOB!"
She wasn't going to argue. She was tired of fighting with him over money. It was always the same excuse, everyone else was wrong, never him.
After a while their neighbors didn't include them in get togethers.
Beth would have been a stay at home Mom if Ray's need to climb the financial ladder hadn't required her advertising job. She was always bailing them out financially. She had been trying to save for a house down payment but savings was always needed for something. Credit cards that she knew nothing about were suddenly being called about. There was growing resentment.
Then he got sloppy when she found a silk thong in his laundry.
"What is this?"
"You make a big deal about everything!"
"Well, where did it come from?"
"I guess Don thought it would be funny."
Always trying to keep the peace and afraid a divorce would hurt her children, she kept quiet.
Then, the ultimate betrayl happened.
She confronted him, "I have sores and a nasty discharge from my vagina."
She had been so ashamed to go to the doctor. Her gynecologist took one look and announced it was a sexually transmitted disease. He took samples from the areas with swabs to send to a lab.
After Beth had gotten dressed she sat in his office, nervously chewing a hangnail, as he looked straight at her.
"Beth, I am going to write a prescription for you. You must tell your sexual partner that he needs to go to a physician also."
She knew her face was bright red because it felt like standing next to a furnace.
It was an awful experience and Beth knew this was the end of their marriage.
Now, Ray stood in front of her with a smug look on his face.
"I don't have any symptoms. Guess your lover must have been messing around."
That was it. She saw red and instinctively slapped his face.
"Get the hell out of this house!"
He came after her.
She grabbed the phone to press 911.
Saved by the crazy universe, Daniel came in the door from school.
"Hey, Mom, I'm home! Falllon's coming over for dinner, okay?"
Beth took her son by the hand. "I think something is going on with your goldfish. Let's go take a look, ok?"
While they were upstairs, Ray headed for the door with a suitcase.
Daniel may have saved his Mom's life. Ray had never gotten more violent then pushing Beth the one time. She wasn't hurt but the thought of what he might be capable of was frightening. Then she had called the cops and they suggested she fill out a restraining order. The kids never knew what he had done.
Now Ray knew she had something to hold over his head.
Beth called Lonnie. Lonnie Donovan had been her best friend in high school. He had been out of Beth's life for all her married years because Ray was jealous.
It was so easy to talk to this man that still sounded like he cared deeply about her. He was furious when she told him about Ray's behavior. Now Lonnie agreed to be her lawyer too.
Beth was generous about letting Ray see the kids every other weekend. She told him before they signed the divorce papers, if the kids ever mentioned his temper, he wouldn't see them again. She had never seen him physically hurt the children.
The divorce was painful for the children. They loved their Dad and he seemed to truly love them. But it was hard to trust him. He was a real Jeckyl/Hyde, great at bringing home gifts. He showed off by taking a group of Daniel's friends for jet skiing and pizza parties, paying for all the video games. He was going through a period of having money right now.
Then Ray had someone help with the kids. The "children's entertainer" looked like she came from Hefner's Bunny Mansion. She wore a skirt that played peek-a-boo to impress Ray. Beth got complaints from parents. Beth asked Lonnie to call Ray. Whatever was said, Ray took it seriously.
Life was going along smoothly. Beth had moved into a loft apartment and was working for a better paying advertising firm. With her salary and what Ray contributed when he could, she had a comfortable life. She spent her evenings with the kids and Lonnie was still her steady date for social engagements. He came over a couple of nights a week for pizza and movies with children he had bonded with and loved. He had never married.
Beth tried to set him up and it never worked.
"Give it up. I am happy! Look at what you went through."
Brian came into Beth's life at her dentist's office. Daniel had lost his favorite Boy Scout knife in the parking lot. They had looked all over and couldn't find it. Daniel was giving her a hard time.
Brian, just about to get into his car, offered to help Daniel find the knife if he would "adjust his nasty attitude".
"Bribery, huh?" Beth asked.
"Hey, it may not work for Dr. Phil but it does for me," he laughed.
She loved his deep spontaneous laugh right away. It was sexy.
He found the knife, tearing a hole in his suit doing it. Beth was sick about it and offered to pay for it. She knew she couldn't afford the suit. He invited her to dinner and to see Phantom of the Opera. She said she would pay for dinner. He didn't argue but when the time came, a bill never showed up.
'What a very sweet guy.' Maybe she had hit the jackpot.
After the show they went to get espresso and he kept her laughing until her stomach ached.
Each time they dated, he managed to gently blow some healing stardust to repair damaged parts of her heart.
Lonnie wanted to met this guy that was spending so much time with his best girl. They all helped to cook dinner and Lonnie grilled Brian, lawyer style. At forty-five he had never married. He was too busy building a career . He explained that he had several small businesses that were doing very well. There was two stationary stories, one in New York City and the other in Chicago. The other two were book stores with coffee bars that featured open mic nights. He only had to check in with them because the people running them were doing a great job. He explained that his father had left him quite a bit of money and he had invested well.
Lonnie, satisfied after doing his own background check, often kept the kids so romantic evenings could be planned.
Now Beth's future had taken a marvelous turn and she was going to enjoy it. Time with Brian was always an adventure; a lovely Cherry Blossom Festival, a surprise ride in a hot air balloon, and horseback riding. Brian had money but it was the time without the treats that showed her he cared. A daisy chain necklace and hand written notes said so much more than material things. The special twinkle in his eyes when he looked at her said all her heart could visualize.
One perfect evening they went to a local park that showed old movies like "Casablanca" on a big screen. They had a picnic dinner he had made with great chicken salad sandwiches. The thick quilt and secluded spot were chosen well.
She had not made out like that since high school and now both knew how to heat the flame and then blow it out with a trip to ecstasy. It was a perfect preview to the first New York City trip and their own romantic movie. The story line to climax and ending credits didn't disappoint.
The best trip to New York City had been to see a Broadway show and dinner at Sardis’. He had included the kids. He genuinely liked them. The kids argued about where they wanted to go and what to buy for a souvenir. He gave them a price limit and then stuck to it.
'What a great guy!' Beth kept thinking.
It was all going too well. Then the day came that tested their trust in each other.
They drove to the marina and untied his polished wooden boat. Brian had brought a lunch basket from an area deli and a bottle of champagne. They had been dating one year.
They headed out for their special island. Spreading the blanket, they toasted their "good fortune at finding each other." Then he unpacked a lovely lunch of Brie and crackers then rosemary rotisserie chicken, Waldorf salad, and cream puffs.
After words of thanks and a deep kiss he handed her a velvet jewelry box. She opened it. He would never forget her look of pure joy.
There lay a white gold charm bracelet with a sailing ship, a seal, the mask from Phantom, a Ferris wheel, and a tiny pen knife, and then there was a mustard seed. All their days together were reflected. She was so touched. This kind of gift took time and thought.
"This is too much, Brian," she said with a tear filled voice.
"This is just the beginning."
They sun bathed and collected shells. They began to head back to the marina. The sky suddenly changed from a deep blue to gray. The fish that had been leaping up to show off their silver bodies were now gone. Seems King Neptune had become angry as the waves became rough, rain pelting them so hard it felt like razors cutting the skin.
The shoreline had faded from sight and the engine stopped. They tried to radio for help but the signal wouldn't go through.
Brian sent up flares and they prayed out loud, joining hands. Brian's face was filled with terror and he knew all about boats. He was a strong swimmer. That look of fear overwhelmed Beth.
The air seemed charged with electricity, lightening illuminated the sky. They huddled together under a tarp. The cabin area had water in it.
This was the end.
Beth thought of her children. She was afraid Ray would not be a good father. She knew that Lonnie would take care of them. He had even drawn up papers giving him partial custody but she began to bargain with God.
Brian was very quiet, blaming himself.
It was getting worse, the wind was literally turning the boat in circles, and the hail was golf ball size. It was so black. They were tossed around despite trying to hang on to each other.
Beth lost her grip on his shirt and tore it loose as her body slid away from Brian. He couldn't see her so had to depend on her voice as he found an oar and she pulled herself back up to the covered area.
Twenty-four hours passed and the storm had calmed but they were lost. The engine had shut down and portions of the ship were torn into jigsaw pieces. They were dehydrated and exhausted, trying to keep each other awake.
The two talked about the things they wanted to accomplish.
"I need to raise my children. I don't trust Ray. I want them to go to college."
Brian smiled, "It will happen! Have faith and know this isn't the end of our story."
They had to scream at each other.
This was the partner she wanted. He was trying to calm her and stay positive in the face of death.
At the same time, they looked in each other's eyes and said, "I love you."
Then, a distant horn sounded.
Was it Gabriel's angels?
No, it was another vessel coming their way in the driving rain.
It was the Coast Guard.
A year later Beth and Brian came back to the island. They brought along family including Lonnie, friends and a Priest.
The two of them had been through challenges and made it together. That was life; like the sea with gentle determined waves that carried you through storms.
They said their vows surrounded by loved ones.
It was another blue sky with cotton ball clouds. It stayed that way until sunset that glowed with colors, like tropical silk scarves in tangerine, scarlet, turquoise, canary yellow and pink coral.
By Kathie Stehr