Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 22
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disaster at Age 40: Part 23
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 24
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 25
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Epilogue
Recently divorced Anna Waite is learning to appreciate life after first love. With the support of her best friend Kira and a solid sense of humor, Anna tackles the world of dating. This is her coming-of-middle-age story.
THE DATE(?) WHERE I GO TO THE BEACH
In the past, beach days consisted of me packing a huge bag, loading a cooler with snacks, then begging Mike to join us. You know I hate the sand, he’d say, butt on the couch, remote in hand. Which should’ve been an omen. Never trust a man who hates sand.
But this time is different. First, Dylan invited me. In an oh-so-casual tone, sometime after he boldly declared the-words-which-I-shall-not-think-about. That I can’t stop thinking about. The words neither of us acknowledged.
If I kissed you, you wouldn’t have jumped in the bushes.
Nope. No wondering what he meant or imagining how good his kisses might feel. His arms wrapped around me; his lips soft… I’ve been down this road before, parked at the intersection of What If and Yes Please, and the disappointment of the Just Friends stop sign almost sent me into a self-medicated chocolate coma. Dylan will need to be a lot clearer with his interest because I refuse to play that game again. Brownies can only heal so much.
Second, my focus is normally on the boys, hyping them up for fun in the sun. This time, my attention wanders to the handsome man driving. The one who makes a pair of swim trunks look real nice.
I sit shotgun in Dylan’s Jeep Cherokee with Devin, Josh, and Savvy in the back. Music pumps through the speakers and chatter flows. But the conversation never wanders anywhere near the-words-which-I-shall-not-think-about.
Moving on. Take two.
Dylan drives onto the beach, passing families and small groups until he finds an open space. As I step from the car, the humid gulf breeze greets my skin in a salty film. Soft sand bunches below my feet, piling over my toes, covering my flip-flops, and I wiggle in deeper. Tipping my head back, I close my eyes and breathe in the scent of coconut sunscreen and briny air.
“A woman after my own heart.”
“What?” My eyes pop open to Dylan standing in front of me. A canopy, chairs, and towels load down his arms, but he carries it all with ease.
“I recognize someone who rejuvenates at the beach.” The brim of his blue ball cap perfectly matches the color of the sky. “It’s my Zen zone too.”
I stare at my image in his mirrored sunglasses. In the distorted reflection, I resemble a leading lady from a Hallmark romance. My pink coverup hits me mid-thigh, the capped sleeves frilling at the shoulders. A wide-brimmed straw hat sits on my head, and twin pigtails peek out.
If this was a movie, now would be the moment Dylan makes a move, dropping everything to pull me into an embrace. He’d dip me back, make some cheesy comment like, forget the ocean, I’m drowning in your beauty, then kiss me senseless.
But this isn’t a movie. And Dylan stares at me in amusement, as if he knows my dreamy imaginings.
Shaking myself from the script in my head, I step forward. Or attempt to. I forgot I wriggled my feet in the sand. My buried sandal heel snaps back. Fighting to stay upright, I flail my arms, windmilling wildly. My reflection turns more horror than Hallmark, and the inevitability of gravity pulls me down.
The gear Dylan carries crashes, hitting the ground, and his arms wrap around me before I face-plant. “Feet are supposed to go with you.”
I hear the smile in his voice rather than see it, since my torso drapes over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He stands, lifting me from the sand, and I squeal in protest. “What are you doing? Put me down.”
“Just helping you along,” he says.
Self-consciousness swamps me. Can he guess how much I weigh? Can he feel my sweat?
“I’ll break your back,” I call out, and he laughs. A real belly laugh that shakes me on the perch of his shoulder.
“Hey Josh, can you grab a chair for your mom?” He walks toward the water, not waiting to see if Josh obeys. Which he does. From my viewpoint, I see a smiling Josh lift one from the pile of discarded gear, shuffling to catch up.
Within record time, we’re settled on the beach, sunscreen-ed, and eating snacks.
A lone seagull hangs nearby, and its beady eyes watch us. Rule number four at the beach is: never feed the seagulls. A single potato chip shifts one bird into fifty, flapping their wings overhead, cawing for scraps, and wreaking havoc.
I adjust my chair away and hope the feathered friend takes the hint. No food for you! But from the corner of my eye, I see it hop closer. And closer.
“Oh no.” Savvy leans forward and I follow her line of sight to the winged menace. “He only has one leg.”
“Really?” I say at the same time Dylan asks, “Who?”
“That poor seagull,” she tells him, pointing.
Sure enough, the bird hops nearer to our picnic on one webbed foot. Below the plume of white feathers, a stump of leg peeks out, ending well above the knobby knee. He cocks his head to the side, meeting my gaze. Feed me, he seems to say.
“Hey, Mom. Can we throw the frisbee?” Devin stands next to me, a bright green disc in hand.
“Sure.” I nod, distracted by the poor bird. It hops a step closer.
“Can I join you guys?” Dylan kicks off his flip-flops and walks to the water’s edge with the boys.
“Do you think he gets enough to eat?” Savvy nods to the seagull, tugging on her blond ponytail.
“He seems healthy.”
“I don’t know. He’s kind of skinny.” Her voice worries at the edges.
“Don’t fall for it, ladies.” Dylan stretches to catch the frisbee before glancing at us. “You know what’ll happen. Flock attack.” He goes back to playing, impervious to our dilemma.
“What if he starves to death?” Savvy’s lips pinch as she picks up a box of Ritz. “We have all this food?”
The seagull must sense our weakening because a low caw rumbles from his beak. Almost a whimper. The foot he stands on trembles.
“He’s like Tiny Tim in the Christmas Carol.” My heart softens, imagining him with a tiny cane and cap.
“God bless us, everyone,” Savvy whispers and Dylan laughs. The heartless skeptic.
“That bird is less Tiny Tim and more con man. Or rather con bird. Trust me on this. There’s never just one.” Scrooge tosses the frisbee to Devin.
“Don’t be so cynical. Look around.” I point to the clear blue sky, empty of anything flying, aside from the occasional pelican diving for fish.
He just smiles in that Dylan-esque way. The way that makes my breath catch and my mind conjure scenes. Like building sandcastles together or wrestling in the water. All the standard beachy romance tropes. Shaking my head, I turn to Savvy.
“Give me the crackers.” Decision made, I take the box, rattling it in my hand. Con bird? Hardly. I pull out a Ritz and break it in half, double-checking the sky. All clear. “Hey, buddy. Here you go.”
Another whimper-noise escapes from Tiny Tim’s throat and I hurl the cracker. It lands a few inches in front of the bird, and he crouches to scoop it up, gobbling it down.
A smile curls the corners of my lips, good deed accomplished. But the pleasant expression freezes when a loud shriek screeches from Tiny Tim. I jump at the sound and drop the crackers. Distant screeches echo to answer the call.
Like something from a nightmare, several specks appear in the sky, drawing closer to our position. Tiny Tim squawks again, and I throw him another cracker, begging him to shut up. But it does no good. In a matter of seconds, a swarm of flapping wings and cawing beaks descends. They hover above us, dozens of birds circling, the cackling chatter louder than an 80’s hair band.
What have I done?
Bird poop plops onto our beach blanket. One of them dives for a stray cracker. Savvy waves her arms, yelling “scram” and “get outta here.” Ducking my head, I pull the oversized brim of my beach hat around my ears, hiding in shame. The con bird suckered me. I am a hapless victim of the seagulls.
Dylan marches into the melee, confidence radiating from his beautiful face. “You’re such an easy mark.”
With that, he grabs a bag of potato chips, throwing a handful several feet away from us. The seagulls follow, including their intrepid leader, Tiny Tim. Dylan moves further down the beach, chucking the salty discs like flower petals at a wedding. And the seagulls chase behind, chomping them down as fast as he drops them.
Forget sandcastles and water wrestling. Dylan running with a bag of potato chips, flinging them sporadically, is the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen.
After resolving Seagull-Gate, Dylan sits in the beach chair next to me. His wide smile puts the bright sunlight to shame, and my lips turn up in response. My reflection looks back from his sunglasses, slightly more haggard than when we arrived.
“Don’t say it. Apparently, you were right.” Savvy stands and huffs at her dad. “I’m going to swim.”
She leaves us alone, the boys still throw the frisbee, and Dylan and I both relax in our chairs. I peek at him from the corner of my eye, and suddenly the temperature rises. Dylan in profile is a masterpiece, a work of art fit for a museum. Shoulders that glisten with sunscreen. The tank top clinging to his torso. Long, muscled legs, absorbing the sun, ending at his casually crossed ankles. Yes, I look. Abundantly.
My phone chimes and I ignore it in favor of my new interest in art.
“Are you going to check that?” Dylan keeps his head tipped back, but the slight smirk tells me my subtle admiration may not have been subtle.
“I try to avoid my phone on beach days,” I say, but reach for the cell, opening the screen. Two text messages, one from Isaac and one from Mike, plus a missed call from Mike.
The last thing I want spoiling my toes-in-the-sand-time is the ex-hole. I open his text first to clear it from my screen and my thoughts.
Mike: We need to talk.
Hard Pass. I open the next message.
Isaac: I have Tuesday night off work. Would you like to go out?
Would I? Dating Isaac is nice. Like playing with a puppy. But is that really what I want?
“You’re frowning. That can’t be good.” Dylan takes off his sunglasses and gives me his full attention. After staring at my reflection all day, the startling blue of his eyes catches me off guard. They pull like the power of the tide, drawing me in deeper.
“This is my thinking face.” I take a breath, testing the waters. “Isaac texted.”
“Isaac of the bushes?” Dylan lifts an eyebrow, his expression caught between amusement and something else.
The mention of the bushes brings me back to the-words-which-I-shall-not-think-about. But I’m not the only one remembering them. Dylan’s declaration drifts between us, and I wade in. “He asked me out again.”
His forehead creases and his lips part. The blue in his eyes darkens and an ocean of thought swirls in their depths. Words hang on the tip of his tongue, and I want to yank them free. But he stands suddenly. “I need to check on Savvy.”
Disappointment, thy name is Dylan Pound. With a sigh, and a plan to make a batch of Friendzone Brownies later, I answer Isaac.
Me: Tuesday night it is.