With no real agenda, and hardly a care for the day, they slathered on sun protection, gathered their swimming things and headed to the beach, where so many years ago, she had made a crucial decision that never came to pass. With only a large towel, the one with the colorful fish of Belize splashed all over, some water and a juice box, they headed out to find some sunshine and waves.
Trying hard to shake her mind of any thoughts that involved the man in the cowboy hat, she focused instead on the various items that her boy pointed out along the way. Their tiny apartment was just a street away from the beach, but along the way, they stopped at the fruit shop, picking up some watermelon to enjoy after a swim.
She watched him as he walked ahead of her, his own little person, with an intensely independent spirit that showed up more and more each day. As they neared the water, his flip flops suddenly got left behind for her to pick up, and he ran straight into the warm blue sea. Her heart skipped each time he took a dive, his head submerging completely, but as her breath would catch, and she felt herself ready to spring into action, he would surface again, curls flattened and a smile on his face. Carefree. Her son was a happy child, roaming free, a sweet-tempered gift she was glad she kept.
Rather than join him immediately, she chose to lay out the towel nearby, placing their goodies neatly on the side. She stretched out completely; face down and away from the sun, but feeling its powerful rays warming her back. Hands on her arms, she kept an eye on her boy, enjoying a bit of peace. It was so early that there were hardly any people about. Slow season was at its peak too, but often there were still a few tourists who took advantage of the lower prices. This morning however, she was alone on their stretch of sand, with only the occasional clanging of dive tanks from the dive shop a few docks away interrupting the utter peace of the morning.
Sufficiently relaxed, she got up and joined her child in the water, splashing and playing, picking him up and throwing him back into the water with a splash, something he seemed to enjoy immensely. They were completely into their little game, not a care in the world, alone as they’d been from the start. The peace was shattered when she happened to take a break from horsing around. She glanced towards their towel on the beach, keeping an eye on their things, when she saw him. He was walking with purpose where they were stationed. Stuck in the water while her son wriggled and swam happily, she wondered what to do.
He waved at her as he came to a stop near the water’s edge. The cowboy hat was gone, so she looked clearly into his face. Still the same, if a little weathered, but no aging showed. She tilted her head in acknowledgement, but never once indicated that she would step out for him. Instead, she turned back to her son, fully intending to start a new round of games in the hopes of showing her disinterest. Instead, her child had stopped swimming, looking out at the smiling stranger who stood at the shore. She decided it would be foolish to pretend he wasn’t around, and far more ridiculous to avoid the issue any further. She held her child’s hand and together they walked to meet the familiar stranger who waited to greet them both.
Right off the bat, he asked the question that must have lingered in his mind all these years. “Is this my son?”
“You don’t waste time,” she replied, wondering if she should lie and say no.
“Well, seems about right to me. He looks like you, but he’s not your color.”
vBlunt, that’s what he was. Seven years ago, she had found him fascinating, and his to-the-point comments had been intriguing. Now she realized that generally, that trait was considered rudeness in most parts of the world, and probably even on this tiny island.
“This is Michael. He is my son.” She felt the need to emphasize that Michael was her child. His birth certificate did not indicate a father, especially one who wanted nothing to do with him from the get-go. Why go about confusing the matter now.
Michael held her hand tightly, looking up at the two adults who seemed to know, but not like, each other. Jane looked at her son’s face, seeing his look of confusion and not for the first time since she had landed on the tiny, bumpy airstrip, she regretted the sheer idiocy of traveling back to where all her headaches began.
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