Love is like sand in the wind, if you plan it right.
|Mara took a deep breath of the morning air, savoring its fragrant blend of salty sea spray and fresh-brewed coffee. She had just watched the fiery arrival of sunrise igniting the clouds in vibrant hues and now the second gorgeous sight of the morning was just coming into view. Mara positioned herself on the deck chaise in such a way as to show her figure to its best advantage. She suddenly felt foolish and coquettish all at the same time.
And there he was, her sandman - the tanned, well-built jogger who ran along the beach past her cottage every day at dawn. Mara pretended to concentrate on her coffee, knowing that her dark glasses concealed her stare. She’d been an eager spectator nearly every morning since she leased the seaside cottage a few weeks ago. The quiet island was the perfect place to finish writing her book - even with these minor distractions - and being out of the city made it more difficult for her publisher to harass her about deadlines.
Despite her best efforts to be nonchalant, Mara suddenly realized that the jogger she had dubbed “the sandman” was well aware of her presence and was waving hello. Mara, unable to disappear into thin air, had to acknowledge him with a friendly wave of her own and before she knew it was inviting him to share coffee with her.
“Hi, I’m Kyle,” he took her hand in his as he introduced himself. Mara felt a little electric shock go through her as his bronzed fingers warmly enveloped hers. “I’m a scuba instructor over at the hotel,” he continued. Mara quickly calculated how far behind she would get on her writing if she took time off for diving lessons.
That morning was the first of many that Kyle stopped to have coffee with her. To her delight, Kyle didn’t just come by every morning for coffee, he began stopping by in the evenings for dinner and eventually stopping by in the evenings and staying until morning coffee. Mara felt as if she were a character in one of her novels. She told herself she was being foolish. It was crazy to fall in love with a beach bum, but she had and she didn’t care.
Sometimes, when they were lying in each other’s arms, spent from lovemaking, the lights from the hotel pavillion shimmered out over the water and the breeze carried strains of music to their ears. Mara longed to dance with her beautiful lover amongst the other couples. But Kyle was reluctant.
“Darling, we have so little time together,” he would tell her. “I don’t want to share you with anyone, least of all those annoying tourists. I spend all day with them, trying to keep them from drowning. I just want to be with you. Aren’t I enough for you?”
His protestations fed her ego more than her curiosity. But happiness has a way of overriding caution and Mara pushed away the nagging questions and the doubts. As long as Kyle loved her, nothing else mattered.
As an author of the romance genre, Mara was well aware that love disappointed more often than it lasted a lifetime, but still, she was unprepared for the sudden awakening from her dreamy relationship with Kyle that was in her future.
One day, when she’d had enough of typing passionate dialogue for her characters as the plot took them through misunderstandings and misadventures on their way to the obligatory happy ending, she decided she needed a break. Kyle was always busy with scuba lessons in the afternoons, so she decided to take a walk into the village.
The main street was paved with cobblestones and lined with charming little shops and cafes. Mara stopped by a curious little shop with a hodgepodge of herbal medicines, charms and potions for sale. The shopkeeper was an older woman with an odd accent that Mara couldn’t place. Her skin was deeply tanned and leathered by years of sun and sea. Her white hair was plaited and wound around her head like a halo. Mara would later think how she looked very much the part of the strange guardian angel she became to her.
Mara soon became intrigued by the stories the shopkeeper told of hexes and spells and the purposes to which her potions could be applied. It was then that fate drew back the curtain that Mara had so carefully put up to shield her heart. For while she chatted with the old woman, Kyle strolled by the shop window with a tall, cool blonde on his arm.
Mara’s mouth dropped open, but to her surprise, there was no sound coming from it, no scream of surprise, no anguished cry of betrayal. Still, her hand flew to her mouth, covering it. But the only sound was the one made by the glass potion bottle that she sent crashing to the floor with that movement..
The old shopkeeper did not seem surprised or alarmed by Mara’s state of shock. In fact, she had already guessed the reason for it, and quickly ushered Mara into the back room.
There, over a cup of tea, she told Mara about Kyle’s many beach romances which included hotel guests and cottage tenants of all ages and regardless of beauty or marital status. Some he preyed upon for their money and the expensive gifts they bought for him. Others, he romanced to satisfy his lust. The married women returned to their husbands, with the dream of romance still fresh in their memories. Some women wrote to him for months after they returned home, believing that he loved them and that they would plan a future together.
“He just throws the letters away if they don’t contain money or gifts,” the old woman shook her head. “Once I found some letters he had tossed into the bin outside my shop. I read them, then sprinkled them with a potion to heal hearts. It was all I could do for them.”
“But, is that really all you can do?” asked Mara. “Isn’t there some way we can stop him?”
The shopkeeper lowered her head and brought her face close to Mara’s. “You can stop him, my dear, if you have the courage.”
The next morning, Mara did everything exactly as she was directed by the white-haired herbalist who was now her partner in vengeance. While Kyle slept, she took his sunglasses, and the towel he had used after his shower last night and went down to the beach. She started drawing a figure in the sand. It wasn’t as difficult as she’d thought it would be. Mara knew that body, that face so well, that even if she hadn’t a splash of artistic talent, her hands could still have rendered his image from memory. She placed the sunglasses over the face of her creation, and laid the towel across the body.
“Hey, what are you doing down here so early? Building sand castles?”
It was Kyle. He had woken to an empty bed and gone looking for her, just as she expected he would.
“Come here, darling,” she called . “I need you as my model. Sit there next to my drawing so I can get your handsome face just right.”
“That’s not bad,” Kyle told her as he squatted on the sand next to his sand portrait. “But I don’t think you have my mouth. It’s much sexier than that.”
“That’s why I need your help, darling,” she said. “Now here, put your hand here where I drew it so I can see if I have it in proportion.”
Kyle did as she asked and when he did, she quickly sprinkled the contents of the small, blue bottle that the old woman had given her.
“Ouch, that burns,” Kyle yelped. “What the heck was that stuff?”
Kyle tried to jump to his feet but the potion was causing smoke to rise from where his hand used to be. The smoke consumed his arm, then his upper body, head and other arm before working its way down his legs to his feet until nothing was left of him but a pillar of grey smoke. This swirled over Mara’s sand drawing and then seeped into it. The smoke filled out the limbs and the features of her sand creation until it was a full-sized sculpture of Kyle which rose and stood before her. But it was the substance of the smoke that had given her sculpture its new dimensions and brought it upright. Kyle was in there, but he couldn’t move these arms or legs.
Mara briefly caught a flash of movement in the eyes behind the sunglasses, though. They were fearful, she thought. “Don’t worry, Kyle,” she reassured the sandman. Then standing on tiptoe to put her lips close to his ear, she whispered, “I will stay with you until it’s over.”
Mara sat and listened to the gentle percussion of the rolling waves as the ocean swelled and grew nearer. She smiled as her sandman dried under the island sun, crumbling grain by grain. She kept her word and her watch until evening when the tide returned and the ocean reclaimed him for its sandy floor.
“Goodbye, Kyle,” she whispered.
Word Count: 1541