A dream briefly reunites a father with his son.
Two Bright Umbrellas
Coming here was her idea. I thought our marriage was too far gone. It went bad quickly after we lost Brian to cancer; an expensive ocean front resort wouldn’t change that.
“What are you thinking?” Sandy looked at me, her head titled. The colorful umbrella behind her filtered white sunlight into reds and greens that danced in her golden hair.
“I think it’s hot, that’s what I’m thinking.” I turned to her and caught a glimpse of the woman I loved. Her long lashes slashed her blue eyes and her smile was warm. The image slowly faded, the sadness of Brian’s death replaced it. I used a towel to wipe sweat from my forehead.
“For what we’re spending,” she said, “We should have fun.”
“Ah, forget it.” Grabbing my towel, I stood. Looking down at her, I noticed how her new bathing suit fit her so well. Crossing her slender legs, she reached a delicate hand to mine and pulled me back into my chair. “Stay, enjoy the sunshine, Jake,” she said. Confused by my feelings, I closed my eyes and fell asleep to the rhythm of the waves kissing the shore.
“Dad, c’mon, let’s go!” It was Brian, smiling and pulling me off the porch--he was well. I blinked hard and rubbed my eyes. Brian had his fishing pole in his other hand and he was ready to go. I thought, this isn’t possible. But seeing his clear blue eyes and freckles that looked like sparkles, I stopped doubting, I wanted it to be true.
“Remember what you said, dad, the early bird catches the fish.”
“Catches the bird.” I said.
“Never mind, son, let’s go.” He led the way to our favorite spot. I watched him cast into the flowing creek. Smiling up at me he said, “That’s the spot, dad.” The morning was warm and sunny; the rushing water took my doubts with it; I wanted it to last forever. Later, sitting in the dappled shade of an oak tree we ate peanut butter sandwiches. He looked at me with a question in his eyes.
“What?” I asked. Dragging his forearm across his mouth to remove some crumbs he asked. “What’s wrong with you and mom?”
Avoiding his eyes, I turned to look at the creek. “What do you mean?”
“I mean.” He said. “It seems like you and mom are always mad at each other.”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t even sure this was happening.
“Are you going to leave mom?” He picked at the grass, tossing blades into the air. “Is it because of me?” Sadness turned to tears and dripped from his eyes.
“Of course not.”
“Well, you and mom are never happy anymore.” He said.
“No, really Brian, everything is fine. We’re fine.” I lied.
“I hope so.” He looked at me and laughed. “Remember, you promised me a baby brother.” His smile was contagious, I smiled back at him. “I remember.” I said. Holding up his catch of two fish on a line, Brian said, “I’m going to go clean these.” As he walked away I said, “Hey Brian, stop a minute, I want to take your picture.” He stood in front of an oak tree, his fishing pole in one hand, his catch in the other, while I took two pictures. Before turning back to the trail, Brian said. “I love you, dad… and mom too.” I shouted, “I love you too” as he disappeared in the tall weeds.
“Jake, Jake, wake up. Who do you love? You must have been having a dream.” Sandy shook me. As reality separated itself from sleep I was surprised; instead of a creek at my feet, the water of the Caribbean Sea soaked my bare toes.
“What is it?” I said. “What are you talking about?”
“You fell asleep.” Sandy said. “You must have been having a dream, you were talking.” She began to gather her things. As she reached for her straw bag a wallet fell into the sand. I reached to pick it up, among pictures of nieces and nephews I saw a picture of Brian. He was holding his fishing pole and two fish. He was standing in front of an old oak tree. My hands shook as I handed the wallet to Sandy.
“Are you okay, Jake?” She asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine, honey.”
“Honey?” Her eye brows raised. “Wow, you must have had quite a dream.” She smiled the smile I learned to love a long time ago. “It’s been a long time since you’ve called me honey.”
“Yeah, too long, much too long.” I said with wet eyes. I looked at Sandy for the first time since Brian left us. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m very sorry.” I took her soft hand and pulled her to me. I saw her crystal blue eyes. I fingered the little scar over her lip, left there after a bicycle accident she had many years ago. We kissed.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Jake?”
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time.” I replied. I kissed her with tenderness, and then with love. “Did you know Brian wanted a little brother, Sandy?” I asked.
“Yes, I did.” Her smile broadened.
As I pulled the two colorful sun umbrellas together, I asked, “How do you feel about skipping dinner, Sandy?”