Kate watched from behind sunglasses as Jack strode purposefully towards the sea, his muscular body bronzed by the sun. She didn’t let on she was watching; she didn’t want him to get the wrong idea!
Friends, nothing more, nothing less – that had been agreed when they went for that first coffee alone a few short months ago, neither wanting to experience that awful pain of loss again.
She watched as he reached the water’s edge, his feet sinking into the fine wet sand, the freshness of the surf making him hop from foot to foot almost comically.
She smiled as happiness caressed her.
He was gorgeous. Why hadn’t she seen what was right there before her eyes?
As he strolled, his mind wrestled with what he knew was happening. Glancing towards where she sat, he recognised a strange feeling deep inside and it scared him more than anything that might be lurking beneath the waves.
Wiggling up a bit to get a better view over deckchairs and sandcastles, she watched while butterflies danced in her tummy reminding her of her youth.
This was crazy…
He turned, waving a strong muscular arm, a smile on his ruggedly handsome face.
Then he walked into the water until his ankles, then his sturdy knees, and finally his slim hips disappeared into the cool greeny-blueness of the sea.
With one graceful forward plunge he took to the water like a Greek god, she thought, her heart racing and her cheeks tingling – and not from the warmth of the sun…
In the water, he pondered.
OK, they were friends, part of a long standing group of friends, but surely things had moved on?
They were spending more time together – meals out, meals in, cinema. She’d even come to watch the last home match, a sign of true commitment!
Then insecurity and guilt engulfed him like a tsunami.
Back on the beach, she daydreamed. This wasn’t what she’d planned! She was settled, contented, in love…?
Was she asleep? Bored?
He’d never been much of a talker! He thought back to when he’d first met Annie.
She’d never seemed to mind his lack of witty banter, not like other girls, and he’d loved her, loved her more than he thought he could love – until now.
As he swam, thoughts flitted about the coral of his mind like little fish, with insecurity as the killer shark close by.
They were friends, but he wanted more…
She pulled her glasses from her face. The butterflies had suddenly turned into a deep ache.
Rob would have said, “Stop being silly.” He liked Jack, he’d said so many a time after a football match or a lads night out.
He’d want her to be happy, not guilty. He’d want them to go for it.
She sat up and reapplied suntan lotion, then a thin coat of coral lip tint. It was now or never. She’d been sending out mixed messages all week – she knew what she wanted, but did he?
He could feel his toes and fingers starting to wrinkle. He couldn’t stay submerged all day, but she’d made it clear that Rob was irreplaceable.
He turned away from the beach and looked out to sea.
She was beautiful, funny, kind, but could he really be this lucky twice in one lifetime? Was this his second chance?
In the distance, freighters headed away across the world and right at that moment he wished he were aboard one of them.
Her hand intertwining his made him jump as if a mermaid had surfaced to take him off to some romantic underwater hideaway.
But this was no mermaid – this heavenly creature was more beautiful than any mythical sea being. The green of her eyes outshone the azure sea.
He felt his hopes soar and his insecurities sink to the murky depths.
As they clung together like two young lovers she whispered softly, “You feel the same, don’t you?”
She kissed his sentence short.
“I tried not to, but it just sort of happened,” she said, finally.
Holding her tenderly, he whispered, “I love you, Kate.”
“Me too!” said Kate, tears visible in her eyes. “Just because we loved Rob and Annie, doesn’t mean we can’t love again.”
Taking her hand, they headed for shore.
“Anyway, seventy’s the new forty…” she cooed.
And she was right. He felt young, and so in love as they headed towards the beach – and towards a wonderful new chapter in their lives.
Enjoy a new holiday-themed short story from our archives every Monday and Thursday during August