Julia trickled the warm sand through her fingers while the sun glinted off the lagoon.
To her left, the lifeguard perched on his lookout platform, bronzed and muscled. He was looking at her again, Julia noticed, and that was nice. She lay back on her towel, smiling.
Yes, this island holiday was just what a brand new divorcee needed. She was not going to play the role of Nick’s rejected wife – no – she was going to celebrate her freedom!
Adrian and Cheryl had tried to talk her out of going. They were such a conservative, straight-laced pair!
“Why go gallivanting all alone?” Adrian had asked indignantly. “You know you can stay with us as long as you want to.”
Cheryl, Adrian’s wife, had nodded vigorously. “You need time to heal.”
It was the kind of thing Cheryl normally came out with.
Their daughter, little Tracy, tottered across the carpet, holding out her chubby arms.
However, Julia was adamant.
“I’m off to buy some beach-wear. Expensive beach-wear,” she told them.
At least her settlement had been generous – proof of Nick’s guilty conscience!
Adrian and Cheryl, of course, refused to hear a bad word spoken about Nick.
“You know how much we care for both of you,” Adrian had insisted.
Cheryl had nodded vigorously about that too. “There’s good in the worst of us,” she’d pronounced.
Julia wouldn’t budge though. She bought her expensive beach-wear. She renewed her passport and booked her ticket to this island paradise – where a gorgeous hunk of a lifeguard gazed down on her day after day.
The only problem was, she and the lifeguard hadn’t yet got round to exchanging more than a daily smile.
Julia slipped her sunglasses down onto the tip of her nose now, so that he could appreciate her lovely eyes.
Everyone had always remarked about her eyes. Even Nick – in the early days of their marriage at least.
Nevertheless, the sight of her lovely eyes didn’t unglue the lifeguard from his perch. Perhaps he was shy, thought Julia. Perhaps he was foreign? He certainly had a Scandinavian look about him with his white-blond hair.
Not that it mattered whether he could speak English or not. It wasn’t conversation she was after, thought Julia, giggling to herself.
Her ex-husband Nick had always been a great one for talking.
“Let’s get to the bottom of this,” he would often say.
Basically he’d discussed their marriage to death.
Well, she was free of all that endless discussion. Free as a bird! A dose of strong silence would go down well.
Why oh why didn’t the lifeguard make a move?
Time was short. Only three days of this holiday remained.
Perhaps it was time for Plan B? Drastic times called for drastic measures, Julie told herself, sounding rather like Cheryl.
Plan B involved leaving her brand new bag behind on the beach. Sooner or later, the blond hulk would notice it – surely he would? – and then he’d have to bring it to her chalet and they could be alone together at last.
It was a little risky, Plan B. After all, her bag contained all her money, her ticket home…
But that’s what her new-found freedom was all about: the freedom to take risks!
“Plan B or bust,” Julia told herself now as she got up, dusted the sand from her legs and headed for her chalet.
Her bag still lay in the sand. Hopefully the hunk on the platform would notice it soon – before someone else did!
Julia’s chalet was set some distance from the beach with a glorious view of the volcanic mountain. Julia closed the curtains. She sat down on the generous bed with its turquoise coverlet and waited…
Surely he’d seen her bag by now? But what if he’d just handed it in at Reception?
Even worse – what if he noticed all the money inside and decided that piles of banknotes held more allure than she did?
At last she heard footsteps outside. Julia smiled. If things went well, perhaps she would extend her holiday for another week. Why not?
She opened the door at the lifeguard’s first knock.
“Come in!” she intoned in her huskiest voice.
He was wearing a T-shirt now with the hotel’s logo across his chest. He clutched her bag under his arm.
“Excuse please, ma’am. This is yours, yes?” He had a definite German accent. Very Teutonic!
As Julia took the bag, their fingers touched. She rested a hand lightly on his muscular bicep.
“Thanks,” she whispered, looking up at him with her lovely eyes.
The lifeguard seemed anxious.
“And your passport, ma’am. Excuse, but I look there for your name. To tell Reception for your chalet number.”
He placed her passport carefully on the bedside table.
“Would you like something to drink?” offered Julia, but the lifeguard was backing towards the door now.
He muttered something about duty-hours. And then he was gone.
“Damn!” said Julia. She felt let down, even slightly ridiculous.
She glared at her passport. That was where the blame lay. Why oh why had she left it in her bag?
“Damn!” she said, a second time.
She opened the passport up and glared at the photograph inside. It was the photograph of a pretty woman with lovely eyes, yes – but it was a woman most definitely on the other side of middle-age.
Julia couldn’t bear to look at her date of birth, typed there in bold black numbers for all to see.
Then she began to giggle, because it truly was funny.
“You silly old thing!” she told her photograph. “Aren’t you a little past the bronzed-lifeguard stage?”
Soon she was laughing out loud, rolling on the turquoise coverlet and holding her stomach – which, it had to be admitted, was not as flat as it had once been!
“Three more days,” Julia told herself.
This freedom business wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – not for her anyway. She needed the ties that bound her to her beloved son Adrian – who, she had to admit with some embarrassment, was probably a couple of years older than the bronzed lifeguard.
No wonder the poor kid had backed away in panic!
Yes, and she needed the ties that bound her to her solid, uncomplicated daughter-in-law, Cheryl, who had a pronouncement for every occasion.
Most of all, she needed to be close to little Tracy, her very first grandchild.
It was time to head home!
Enjoy a new holiday-themed short story from our archives every Monday and Thursday during August