“Wake up darling. Wake up Brian. It’s a beautiful day outside!”
I groggily open my eyes and note that indeed, there is a golden sliver of sunlight splicing through the heavy black curtains of my bedroom. Lucy is wide awake, prodding me with one bare naked big toe, the nail painted perfect scarlet, as always. She is sitting up in bed, her blonde hair tousled, eyes slightly puffy with sleep. Her pretty, round face is morning fresh, just the way I’ve always loved it. It’s hard not to find her irresistibly cute. She puts me in mind of a modern Marilyn Monroe. All curves and lips and hair…
“Come on then, get up! We have things to do today!”
Ugh. I obey, throwing back the covers and pulling on some boardshorts, before flinging the curtains wide. Outside, the sun is shining on a pristine white beach, the sand dappled by the shadows of palms planted uniformly along the boundary of the property. Not my property, the Anderson’s property. The Andersons of South Miami, a filthy rich and surprisingly eccentric (for Americans) family, who let me live in their garden hut (a fully self contained one bedroom apartment that would let for a fortune in Dublin, where I’m from) in exchange for maintaining the water features in their vast garden. Yes, that’s my job. Water features. There’s a pool, but there’s a pool boy for that, who comes in twice a week. And they have a huge team of gardeners, mostly swarthy Mexican men, who tend to plants and lawns and the like. I’m the only lucky sucker who gets to live on site.
Mrs Anderson took to me while I was working the last legal job on my temporary visa a few summers ago, waiting tables in a trendy bar/bistro on the shore. She would come in for cocktails with her girlfriends and show off my Irish accent to them, as if she had personally created me. Lucy hated her. She still does, in fact, despite all the Andersons have done for us.
So Mrs Anderson was devastated when I mentioned that my visa was nearly up, that I had to leave Bruno’s @ the Beach. She arrived the next day with her husband – all business, no flirting anymore – and I was installed in this hut at the beach end of their palatial grounds. They pay me alright, seeing as I don’t have to spend on rent or bills and the work is generally minimal. Yes, I have a cushy number for an illegal, unqualified, Irish guy in his mid thirties.
“So, you need to look at the fountain beside the imitation ‘David’ round the front – it’s been making that strange high pitched whiney noise again. And you’re meeting Josh for lunch at twelve…”
Lucy is in efficient mode now. She’s sitting at her desk, surrounded by pink post-its and pencils, her lipstick the same bright shade of pink as the paper, and her glasses perched prettily on her nose. Her white blonde hair is swept up into some kind of roll that looks like it would come loose at the slightest tweak, which distracts me from the long list of tasks she is reading out to me. I crunch on a bowl of cereal as I regard her, affectionately.
She looks up briefly from her paperwork and scowls at me playfully.
“Pay attention Brain!”
Brain was always her pet name for me. A ‘witty wordplay’ on Brian. Witty, because I’m hardly Mensa material, having dropped out of college well before completing my diploma in agricultural studies and taking off on a gap year instead. A gap year which turned into nearly fourteen years, now.
I snort, and return my attention to my cereal. I think I’ll go for a surf before I do anything. Should set me up for a nice, chilled day, just the way I like it.
Lucy is skipping about in her bikini, excited as a little girl. She has a pink longboard under her arm, and she’s ready to go.
“Come on, come on, the waves are sweet and there’s nobody else out yet!”
Lucy is right, and we have a blissful surf. I come out feeling refreshed, ready to face the world. By the time I get showered and changed, it’s close to twelve, so I hit the road to meet Josh for lunch, on my skateboard. I can look at the water feature later, there’s no rush. “We’re on Miami time now, baby!” Lucy tells me, in her cute, Texan drawl.
Josh is a bit edgy, mutters something about me being late. He’s right, I guess. When I look at my watch, it’s somehow half past twelve.
“Sorry man,” I shake my head, to indicate my bemusement. “I probably shouldn’t have taken the scenic route, eh?”
“I’ve only got twenty minutes left of my lunch break, dude.”
Lucy makes a face. “Grumpy pants. What’s his problem?”
I silence her with a look. She rolls her eyes and hops into a hammock, so that all I can see of her is one smooth, brown leg, hanging over the side. It’s a nice view.
I return my attention to Josh, as an attractive brunette waitress sets a healthy-looking quinoa salad before him.
“I had to order, wouldn’t have got to eat otherwise.”
She smiles; a flashy white smile, full wattage. “And what can I get for you, sir?”
I can’t help noticing her sensational cleavage as she leans down to take my order.
“Oi!” Lucy lifts her head momentarily and gives me a comical evil eye. She’s the cutest.
“Just the house burger and fries, sweetcakes, thanks.”
“Coming right up!”
She sashays away, leaving me to watch Josh wolfing down his miniscule, health-conscious lunch. He pauses after a swallow, to address me.
“So, what’s the progress report on my stag night, Brian?”
Lucy’s head pops up again, only this time her expression is apologetic. She was supposed to remind me to get on the case with this last week. But she didn’t and I can guess why. She hates the idea of me even attending a beer-soaked stag party, let alone organising one to my own lecherous specifications. I glare at her accusingly.
“I’m working on it…”
I must not sound very convincing, as Josh slams down his fork, wiping his mouth angrily, unable to meet my gaze. He’s pretty aggrieved.
Now see what you’ve done? I communicate silently with Lucy.
“Dude, this is the third time I’ve met up with you to get things pinned down. My stag is set for the weekend after next. This is just not cool.”
“I’ll get on it, Josh. Today, I swear it.”
“No, forget it Brian. My brother has offered to take it on, as well as everything else he’s doing with regards the wedding. He’s just been promoted, you know, which means an extra fifteen to twenty hours a week on the road. And Julia has had the baby. But he’s still willing and able to organise a simple damn stag!”
My burger arrives. It smells great. Surfing always gives me a good appetite. I pick it up and admire it for a moment, before savouring that first, delicious bite. Mmmm, that is good.
Josh stands up, his chair screeching against the tiled floor. He drops a twenty on the table, and regards me with a cold stare.
“We’ll be in touch with details, Brian. See you later.”
He’ll get over it. I never asked to be in charge of his dumb stag in the first place. I don’t even like his fiancée, Jenni. She’s all hard edges and brittle, tight smiles.
Lucy’s sitting on a yoga mat, all serene and zen, in her tight fitting work-out gear. She watches me finish my burger, then comments, in a dead-pan tone.
“I think he was over-reacting somewhat, don’t you?”
This makes me chuckle. She always brightens up my mood.
It’s busy in here and the air con is pleasant. I decide to order another beer when Sexy Brunette takes my plate away. I’m just fiddling on my smart phone, passing some time, when Lucy gasps. She has one hand over her mouth and she’s gone very pale all of a sudden. I scan the room to see what has jolted her so.
And there she is. She hasn’t spotted me yet, has only just entered the room. Her hair is darker, several shades darker, bordering on brown. It suits her, though. She is fit and slim, her shape has changed considerably; a large percentage of the sensual curves I loved so much have turned to lean muscle.
She has a baby on her hip. Can’t be more than a year old at most. There’s a tall, salt and pepper haired man at her side, one hand hovering protectively around the base of her spine. He speaks to a waitress – my waitress in fact – who is all smiles, of course. She gestures in my direction, and as they start to cross the room, Lucy’s eyes finally meet mine. She registers shock, but she hides it well, doesn’t falter in her confident stride.
The Lucy in my brain; beautiful, soft, blonde Lucy, the Lucy who I cherish and love, the Lucy I can’t function without, is really upset now. She is naked, vulnerable, her head buried in her hands where she still sits on her yoga mat, rocking back and forth. She is crying and mumbling incoherently. This is a shock to her.
Real life Lucy stops at my table. She hands the infant to its father and whispers a few brief words to him. He nods and rubs her shoulder reassuringly, before moving off to take his seat at the table they are being ushered towards. The best table in the room, I can’t help noticing, right by the oceanside floor-to-ceiling windows at the front.
“Hi, Brian.” Her voice is warm, mature. Different than it sounds in my head.
I’m somewhat lost for words; this is all a little bit too weird, like I’m watching it from a distance. And I’m quite concerned about the Lucy in my brain, the one who is now quietly repeating this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening over and over again. It’s a little distracting.
“How’s life treating you these days?”
Lucy is making polite conversation. She was always very polite. She has a few lines forming around her eyes, but she is still breathtaking. Not so much Marilyn Monroe anymore, with the soft edges gone.
“Fine.” I respond, my mouth dry. “What are you doing in Miami?”
She seems to have dried up, too. She gives me a slightly sad half-smile, and inclines her head towards her little family unit.
“I’d best go order…”
I just nod. After a drawn out beat, as she is about to walk away, I get to my feet and awkwardly shake her hand.
“Nice to see you.” I manage, lamely.
And she’s gone.
I pay at the counter and head outside. Once there’s a reasonable distance between me and the restaurant, I sit down heavily on the beach wall.
Lucy is throwing things around now, in a complete frenzy. Clothes, makeup, post-it notes, her glasses, her surfboard, she’s smashing and crashing them all against the walls of my mind.
She stops. Turns accusing red eyes on me.
“What the hell is going on, Brian? How am I stuck in here? Like… like this!”
Her disgusted gesture takes it all in. All her cute accessories, her sumptuous curves, her youthful face, her white blonde curls.
“This isn’t me! Clearly, this isn’t me. That was me. That happy, beautiful, settled, content mother!”
I regard the ocean for a few minutes while she continues along the same vein. It’s never pleasant running into your ex unexpectedly. But I feel only a vague ache, a slight sense of loss. We always wanted different things, after all. And I’m happy where I am.
I think I’ll go for another surf.
“Why are you doing this to me? Can’t you please just let me go? Let me out! Please, let me out!”
She’s pulling at her hair now, hiccoughing and weeping in earnest. I never liked to see her this upset. It happened a lot towards the end.
I take a few deep breaths and hop back on my skateboard, concentrating on clearing my mind as I ride home. Once I’m in my wetsuit, I cautiously check back in with Lucy.
All seems quiet enough.
She bounds into view, pink longboard tucked under her arm.
“What are you waiting for, Brain!?” She is giddy and happy, in her string bikini.
“Come on in, the water’s lovely!”
I smile, obligingly.
I knew she wouldn’t let me down.