Isle of Enchantment

A short story from Heitmann's new book Pocket Full of Tales

        

Her lips and tongue still had the salty taste of the sea as he kissed her. Her tan body had not yet been warmed by the sun. Her cool, damp and slightly goose-bumped skin glistened and was sensuous to the eye and to the touch. Her long sun bleached hair was straight back from her forehead, and though dripping wet down her back, was more blonde than brown. Her face, beautiful, but not young, was free of wrinkles and her white teeth sparkled in the sunlight. Her tiny black bikini revealed a firm body with long graceful legs and well formed breasts that gave no sign of aging. Her green eyes almost matched the color of the water on this tropical beach. She belonged in this setting. He felt pure joy in being there with her.

Emily knew about Robert. She knew about the cancer that was consuming his body. He spoke to her about his terminal condition with honesty and acceptance on the night they met, in Gene’s Bar on the beach. It was a small place, mostly frequented by locals and fishermen. The drinks there were not tall or colorful enough for tourists. She came in late and sat down next to him as he sipped his dark rum and lime. She ordered the same, which made him turn and look at her. Their eyes met and they both smiled. The conversation seemed to flow easily, almost instantly, as if they had known each other for a long time. The magnetism was immediate. They liked the sound of each other’s names. She smelled of flowers and he of bay rum and they seemed to inhale each other.

“How long have you been here and where did you come from,” he asked her as he looked at her face intently.

“I spent a few years in North Truro, near the end of Cape Cod. For a while the painting went well and I was able to sell enough paintings to the shops in Provincetown to get by. I had a small room in a weathered salt-box cottage owned by a sweet old woman named Virginia. She charged me very little rent. She loved my watercolors and I loved her. I had a view of the ocean and life was good for a while. When she passed away two winters ago, it was time for me to go. I headed south and ended up in Key Largo. An old fisherman there let me paint his portrait, and as I worked, he told me about this island. Now you’re up to date.”

What came before that didn’t seem important now. Robert told her about his last year spent in Montauk Point, tending bar, working as a mate on a charter fishing boat and trying to write. The mix was too much to handle and the atmosphere, too plastic. He, too, found out about the island from an old-timer, a worker in a fish processing plant near the boat dock.

After receiving the news about his cancer, he thought the island seemed like a good place to spend his remaining time. The past six months had been good to him. He wrote easily, enjoyed the island’s dark rum, swam in the sea and absorbed the warmth of the sun. If the cloud of death was imminent, the island breezes kept it at bay. And now, there was Emily.

Robert studied her as she lowered her body onto the frayed woven blanket and settled in beside him. He wondered how it was possible to love so deeply in so short a time. They barely knew each other two months and yet their intimacy felt so complete. He smiled at the thought of how surprising it was for two middle aged people to find each other so late in life and experience such passion. It made him feel good to know that Emily found his writing beautiful and poignant. He found her water color seascapes a feast for the eye. The mutual appreciation of each other’s work added warmth to their passion.

Emily glanced sideways and smiled. They kissed lightly and reached for each other’s hand. Both drifted off into their own daydreams. Both had people in their lives before, but never were they so intensely joined in body and soul. Both appreciated what they had now as sleep gently overcame them.

When Emily awakened, she quietly stood and walked to the water. The tide was high and she felt the cool water rush by her as she dove into a small wave. She walked back to the blanket refreshed and teasingly sprinkled the chilled water from her hair on Robert. He did not stir. She splashed a bit again, but he did not move. Emily started at his lean, tanned body, lying on the sand so peacefully. The smile that they had exchanged earlier was still on his face. She knew he was gone. She kneeled down and kissed his cheek.  She felt strange about not screaming out and not weeping. That would come later. She just looked at Robert and felt grateful for the time they had had together. Even his passing was gentle, as if he had meant it to be less painful for her.

Days later, after she had scattered his ashes into the sea, Emily walked into Gene’s Bar and ordered two drinks of dark rum and lime. She watched as Gene placed them in front of her. She lifted one and clinked glasses with the other. She drank the rum slowly and let the warmth of it spread in her chest. The tears flowed freely down her cheeks.

       

Return to GCWA's Featured Writers