DW, an Army vet, has published 9 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.
Hello, Mother of Three
Mark was near the end of the second chapter of his book when he heard the mother on the blanket to his right say, "Watch your brothers for a few minutes. I'm going to take a walk." Then, she called out. "Boys," and when she had their attention added, "stay out of the water until I get back. I'm going for a walk."
She took a diagonal path from her blanket to the edge of the surf. It was a somewhat longer distance than it had been when she'd arrived due to the outgoing tide. When she reached the boundary between sea and sand, she turned north and walked in front of Mark in the direction of Iggie's and the pier.
While more modest than those of the college girls, Mark noted her bathing suit was still fashionably revealing. It revealed to Mark, though he felt guilty for thinking it, that keeping up with her three kids must go a long way toward helping the mom stay in shape.
I wonder if chasing after her kids keeps her so toned or if she works out.
Mark watched the woman walk until his head turned far enough for him to see one of the college girls watching him with a smirk on her face. When she realized she'd been caught watching Mark watch the mom, the girl buried her face in her blanket and tried to suppress a nervous laugh.
Mark rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the book on his Paperwhite. Another chapter passed under his eyes before a shadow fell across his chair.
"Uh, hi. You seem really intent on your Kindle. It must be an interesting book."
Mark looked up and noted the mother from the next blanket standing between him and the sun. The sunlight made her form-fitting blue one-piece bathing suit glitter, and it seemed to shimmer as she moved around to stand beside him rather than tower over him.
Mark rose from his chair and noted that his guess that she was nearly as tall as he proved to be correct. Five feet ten inches in her flip-flops, give or take half an inch.
"The story is an interesting one," he conceded to his unexpected guest. "It's based on a true story of the Wilmington Massacre in 1898."
The woman tilted her head and regarded Mark with a puzzled expression.
"I never knew there was a massacre in Wilmington back then, and I lived here until I went off to college. What happened?"
"I grew up over in Brunswick County, and I never heard of it either. What happened was that in November of 1898, a mob of about 400 angry white people marched through Wilmington attacking blacks, destroying businesses, burning down the newspaper, and overthrowing the elected black city leaders. In doing so, they killed 60 or more people. To this day, it is the only successful coup ever to occur in the United States."
"How could something like that have happened right here in Wilmington, and we never heard about it?"
Mark harrumphed. "The whites who wound up in charge did everything they could to make sure the story never got told."
Sadness, disappointment, and anger clouded the woman's gray eyes as Mark watched her digest the story he'd told.
"Now, I wish I never asked," the woman said.
Mark nodded and started to sit back down.
"My name's Cybil, by the way," the woman said, holding out her right hand to Mark.
He took her hand, noting her long, slender fingers. "I'm Mark. It's nice to meet you. Do you often introduce yourself to strange men at the beach?"
Cybil glanced over at the three children. The twins were still constructing their beach fortification, and the girl was now lying flat on the blanket and using a beach towel for a pillow.
"Honestly, and you may not believe me, but I've never walked up and introduced myself to someone like this on the beach or anywhere else for that matter."
"I believe you," Mark assured her. "Your husband probably wouldn't take it too well if you did."
Cybil lowered her eyes and blew out a ragged breath. "My ex-husband didn't take it too well that I had a better lawyer than he was. I got the beach house, full custody, and half of everything else he owned."
Mark swallowed hard. The bitterness in Cybil's voice evidenced a deep and abiding hurt.
"I'm terribly sorry for whatever it was he did to hurt you so badly."
"Yeah, thanks," Cybil said dully. "It hasn't been easy, as you can imagine. The kids still miss their dad. I've never told them what a low-down, lying, cretin he really is."
Mark shifted on his feet and tried to think of a way to steer the conversation back to a more neutral topic.
Cybil raised her eyes and met Mark's gaze. "You don't want to hear my sad story. I don't know what I was thinking. Go back to your book, and I'll leave you alone."
She turned to go.
"Wait," Mark said. "Why did you stop by my chair in the first place?"
He began to think she was going to ignore him and walk away. She didn't. Cybil turned around and offered him a weak smile.
"I spotted you when we first got here and thought to myself that you're a nice-looking guy, fit, and, when I got close enough to see, you aren't wearing a wedding ring. I worked up the courage to walk over and say hi."
Mark smiled and dropped his Paperwhite into his chair. "I'm glad you did. Listen, it's about lunchtime. Can I treat you and your kids to some burgers or something at Iggie's?"
Cybil smiled back but shook her head. "You don't have to do that."
"I know, but I'd like to."
"Tell me something first," Cybil said. "Why is a guy like you single?"
Mark grunted. "I just retired from twenty years in the Army. Because of my job, I was deployed so often to so many places, I never had time to get to know anyone well enough to consider marriage."
Cybil nodded. "I guess that makes sense. Still, I'm going to say no to your offer. If it were just me, I'd go. My kids, though, I'm not sure they're ready to have lunch with a guy their mother just met. I hope you understand?"
Mark understood her hesitancy. "Sure. No problem. Another time, another place, who knows."
"Right," Cybil said. She took a backward step toward the blanket where Mark could see over the woman's shoulder, her daughter was now watching them with a scowl on her face. "It was nice meeting you, anyway."
She turned and walked away. Mark turned and picked up his Paperwhite. He tucked the ereader into the zippered pocket on the side of his chair and then picked that up, too.
I think I'm done with the beach for today. It's time to cool off, clean up, and get something to eat.
Mark's story continues in Chapter 5
- This We Share (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 05
Mark has lunch among statues and paintings of pirates, real and fictional, at the Pirates' Cave. On his way home, he spots a stalker he thinks is eyeing Cybil and her daughter.
© 2020 DW Davis