Sunshine shimmered above the calm sea, which sparkled like a blanket of diamonds in response. I fumbled with the fiddly locks, threw open the double windows and breathed in the cleanest air I’d tasted for years. After one long inhale followed by a longer exhale, I swear city fumes that had made a home in my lungs packed their bags, ready to be evicted.
“It seems like a lifetime ago we stood here together.”
Mel stood beside me, and we scanned the sea view together. “That’s because it was. Last time we watched the waves crash, you had pigtails, I resembled a boy, and we’d experimented on each other with your Gran’s make-up.”
“Oh, Yeah.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m sure I have a photo of our clown faces somewhere.”
“Oh no, no, no.” Mel poked her finger at me. “That must never see the light of day.”
“Yeah, you’ve got some kind of street credibility now, I suppose. Working with kids has its own pressures, right?”
Mel smiled. “You’ve got that right. I’m sure I’ve aged twenty years in the last five.” She rubbed my arm with the back of her hand. “Fancy a drink?”
“Sure, help yourself, if there’s anything in the cupboards.”
“No need, I brought a little something for us to celebrate, and of course, commiserate.”
She pulled a bottle of Chardonnay and two wineglasses. “Still chilled,” she said, pouring us two generous glasses of wine.
A warm breeze tangled my hair, and I scrunched it into a messy bun once we were seated at the garden table on near the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach below. Mel’s layered hair kept its short style as always.
Waves hit the rocks below and each crash spoke to my damaged heart. Here I was, a thirty-three-year-old failure back in the little seaside town I left a decade before for fame and fortune. Instead, I’ve returned, head hung low, to say goodbye to the person who loved me unconditionally, even as a stroppy teenager. Gran had cared for a thankless granddaughter until the end.
“Lola, snap out of it. What did the doctor say about sharing and dealing?”
I cringed at her words, “Okay, scary as shit, teacher. I think you get off using that voice.” She returned my smile and lifted her glass to mine and winked. “Yeah, you’re probably right, power sizzles, don’t you think? Anyhow, speech time.” Mel stood and waited patiently for me to follow. “Most importantly, we’ll lift our glass to precious Gran Dearly. She shall be deeply missed and celebrated daily in our hearts.”
“To Gran.” I echoed, as did the clink of the glasses.
“We send out gratitude for your generosity and Lola ‘proper promises’ to look after your cottage with the same care and love as you.” Mel stared at me for a few seconds before furrowing her brow and shrugging her shoulders like I’m a lost cause. “Well, show gratitude to the universe, or at least make your promise aloud. Gran Dearly needs to hear you.”
After a slow shake of my head, I raised my face to the midday sun, the gentle sea breeze caressing my skin as I cleared my throat. “Gran, I know you’ve already taken your place as the brightest star in the sky, and I shall see you each night. Just want to say thanks for keeping a roof over my head for years and now when I need it most. Love you Gran, life won’t be the same without you.”
I wiped tears from my cheeks with a soggy tissue. Mel gave me a hug and a clean tissue, then ushered me back to the cushioned green chair.
“Right,” she said, ticking a box on a list in her notebook. “That’s a start. You’ve acknowledged the death of your Gran.”
If there was ever anyone who loved to organise other people and their lives, it was Mel. She meant no harm. In fact, I can hear myself now. Let Mel sort it out. You won’t regret having her support. That was all good and well when it wasn’t your life, she thought, needed a makeover.
Mel closed the moleskin notebook, clasped it to her chest, and tapped the cover with her middle finger.
“What are you planning? Show me.” I waggled my finger for her to give me the book.
Mel shook her head. “No, you’re not ready yet. Too fragile.”
“Too right. I’m fragile and unpredictable, so spill.”
Mel took two steps away from me.
Heat rose under my skin and I was unsure of whether it was from the sun or if my anger bubbled under the surface. “Don’t be a tease, Mel. We always said we’d never keep secrets from one another. You’re my truth bearer, remember.”
My appeal to childhood Mel seemed to work. She fiddled with the notepad and opened to a specific page, inhaled and looked me in the eye.
“How about we compromise?”
I studied her green eyes for the telltale tick she struggled to control when she had something to hide—and there it was, giving her away as usual.
“Why don’t I share three items a day from my list? That way we don’t jump ahead of ourselves and panic too soon? You’ve been through so my already.”
I thought for a moment, and studied her poker face, knowing she was probably right. Life had thrown enough rubbish at me recently to fill a small dump and I wasn’t far from rock bottom, emotionally, anyway.
“On one condition. If on a particular day, I can handle over three, you give me that option?”
“And if I think you can’t handle all three? It goes both ways, Lala, or not at all.”
The smile that always lit up my face at the sound of her nickname for me was difficult to hide. “You do that on purpose, you know how I feel about that name.”
“Yeah, do you feel mushy and nostalgic enough yet?”
We’d known each other since we were knee high and she couldn’t get her tongue round Lola, so Lala it was, and when I heard that name, the world was a better place. Mel, on the other hand, hated the nickname I gave her, Melon, which grew into Melons through adolescence once the pubescent boys caught on. I have a feeling Tate, her husband, still teases her with the name even now.
I slouched and shared an exaggerated pout. “I suppose you win.”
Mel stared at the page as if for the first time and cleared her throat. “So are you ready for the first three steps to finding you?”
A nod of agreement was the only encouragement she needed to begin.
“Right, #1 Get her mojo back with gratitude and a ‘proper promise’ is ticked. Now give me a high five.” She held up her palm until I reluctantly gave it a slap.
“Get used to this, Lala. High fives are a sign of respect for yourself. If I’m not around, you’re too high five whoever you’re with or yourself in the mirror.”
A giggle escaped my mouth, “you’re one crazy Melon.” I saw, shaking my head in disbelief.
“I’ll ignore that slip of the tongue because you’re grieving. #2 unpack and pamper, meaning we’re going to sort out your meagre belongings.” Mel strolled towards the house and returned with my well-worn weekend bag and battered suitcase. “I’m still amazed that this is the only luggage you have after an absence of ten years. All your worldly belongings, apart from a quaint sort after cottage by the sea.”
“I know, sad, isn’t it?”
Mel was the only one I’d confided in about the mess I’d made of my marriage and let’s just say I withheld some of the truth.
“The pamper part sounds good. What does it involve?”
Mel dug around in her bag and brought out several beauty products one by one, explaining her plan to ensure I felt my best.
“Shall we start?” She held the weekend bag to me, picked the case up, and ushered me into the living room.
At the bottom of the stairs, I stopped. “wouldn’t this be a better plan to pursue this evening? We’re missing a beautiful sunny day.”
“Now listen to me, Lala, we have to begin with the pamper so that we can complete go on to #3 and believe me, I can’t see #3 happening as easily if we leave the pamper until later.”
“Okay, so tell me #3. Is it curl up in bed with a raunchy novel? That would be just like you, but I’m here to tell you that those books you worship are a fallacy. No way does romance happen in real life like it does on the page—if it happens at all.”
“Have you finished Miss anti-climax?” Mel fisted her hand and blew lightly on her fingernails. “For your information, you’re way off. #3 is compulsory: no negotiation, no arguing, no tantrums.” She watched my face intently, but I gave nothing away. “Once we’ve pampered you completely, we’re going for a meal and a drink at Traveller’s Rest.”
I dropped my bag at our feet and opened my mouth to protest. Mel lifted her hand. “now what did I just say? There is no way in hell I’m leaving you here alone on your first night. Anyway, I promised Tate I’d do a late shift so he can play in a darts tournament in the Sailor’s bar.”
“So, you’ll be with me until—?”
“All evening. I thought we could eat, have a few drinks, then serve behind the bar. Don’t tell me tending bar doesn’t appeal to you. Think of it as I do you a favour. You do a favour in exchange. You don’t have to thank me. It’s a pleasure.”
Her smile was contagious. “Oh, and did I mention Lacey Grace and her band are playing tonight? You might be able to catch up with her and perhaps some others?”
“Okay, okay. How can I refuse?” I said as she thrust her bag at me and shoved me towards the stairs.
A few hours later, after unpacking and moving some furniture around in Gran’s room, I laid back in a rose petal bubble bath and sipped on the last of the wine. Mel had kept me so busy, it had kept my thoughts at bay. Now, my head was filled with the past, with leaving Sea Glass Bay for a new life and the failure of coming home empty-handed. Mel was right. The last decade of my life was in a bag and case.
In an attempt to lighten up, my mind drifted to tonight. A shiver ran under my skin and I turned the hot tap on again to rewarm the bath water. Sea Glass Bay had been my home for a majority of my life and yet a ripple of anxiety joined my shiver when I thought of returning to The Traveller’s Rest.
The last time I was there, I was in my early twenties. Mel and Lacey had taken me out to celebrate. Publishers had picked up my first romance manuscript, and I was on my way to London for six months to enjoy city life and get started on the second book in the deal. Lacey was joining me, she’d been asked back after a successful audition with a group looking for a singer with a country music vibe. It was Mel who shined that night in my eyes, Tate had taken the knee, two days before, in the cosy cove restaurant that all the locals loved, and she’d said yes. Yes to marrying Tate. Yes to sharing the responsibility of The Traveller’s Rest and yes to living the rest of her life in Sea Glass Bay.
I remember being secretly so jealous of Mel. Then all I wanted was to meet Mr Right, get married, have children, and live in Sea Glass Bay forever.
I leant forward and pulled the plug out, then sat and watched the water and suds swirl around the plughole. It was only a year later that my first wish came true, yet it brought me nothing but loneliness and devastation.
Photo by MOHANN on Pixabay.com
Read chapter 2 part 1 here: https://simily.co/all-stories/fiction/berley/wait-forever-chapter-2-part-1charlie/
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