Carrie sat against the seawall, her knees drawn up tightly to her chest, looking across the bay waters to the Island. The foam of the first waves of high tide tickled her bare toes. She loved the feel of the water as it came to shore and then retreated into itself again as if teasing her to follow it to places unknown. It felt like being at the edge of the world.
On days like this, the sun shining low across the water, the water twinkling blue, a light wind blowing the sails of boats gliding across the water’s surface, she felt haunted by Stan’s disappearance. It didn’t come as often, but this spot on the beach called out those feelings.
Her thoughts slipped back to a day very much like this one a little over ten years ago. He had walked up and sat beside her at a fresh fruit stand, his white Navy uniform shining in the sun. He was on the Island for a week of R&R. Carrie was only eighteen and had just graduated high school. There really was something irresistible about a guy in uniform. They spent their days in the sun, evenings sitting on the beach in the moonlight, sharing their hearts. They went for walks around the Island and just before he was due back on ship, he asked her to marry him. They went to the JP that night, the most beautiful night of her life. It didn’t matter that he would be going away for another few months; he would be back for the rest of her life. Letters crossed the waters daily, declaring their love for each other over and over. When his discharge finally came and he returned to the Island, life was beautiful.
For six months.
She came home one day, planning to celebrate with Stan the sale of her first house as a real estate agent. But Stan was gone. She hadn’t seen or heard a word from him since. He had disappeared without a trace, leaving everything behind, her included. Six months was just not enough time to spend with one you loved so deeply. Not enough time to do the things they’d planned to do. Not enough time for him to become an established artist of all things blue. Not enough time to discuss when they would start their family or… well there just hadn’t been enough time. Even now, ten years later, she didn’t know any more than she did the day she walked into their loft apartment over the Surf Shop.
“No,” she said, gathering her things from the beach. “That was then, this is now.” She reminded herself that she had found happiness again, actually more than happiness. She had contentment and joy. She had found her place in life as one of the most successful real estate brokers on the Island. And she had found Brandon, a man who understood a totally different level of love. It had taken awhile, but she had a peace even she didn’t understand.
She got up and climbed the steps to the street and continued on to the cottage she now shared with her husband, Brandon. Before they were married, the two of them had sat for hours discussing Stan’s disappearance, and how that might affect their relationship. He understood her sense of loss. “Finding closure is important, even to our relationship,” he had told her. As soon as Carrie walked across the cobblestone patio, Brandon looked up and went to meet her. Noticing the tears in her eyes, he wrapped his arms around her, holding her. “It’s okay, honey,” he whispered into her ear. He knew immediately where she had been. “Do you want to talk about it? I’m here to listen.” He had told her how much he hated it when she came home like this, haunted by the past, but he knew sometimes it was inevitable.
She sat down on the blue and white wicker love seat, her hands folded in her lap. “I would, you know I would if there was anything new to talk about.” She stopped for a second, taking a deep breath, frustration building. “That’s the whole problem, there isn’t anything, nothing! How could a grown man have just disappeared into thin air?” She shrugged, Brandon sitting silently, watching her. “The same questions over and over,” she said. “Never getting any closer to finding out what happened.” She leaned into Brandon. “I’m through sitting on the beach and dreaming of finding answers. If he wanted to be found, he would’ve been. Besides, I have you now.”
“Carrie Taylor, you are the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I love you more deeply every day. I would go to the ends of the earth to help get the answers you need, anytime.”
She smiled at him and said, “Thanks, honey, I know you would.”
He tugged on the strands of her long, dark brown hair and said, “Hey, grab your sandals and bag, let’s go in search of the best seafood the Island has to offer. My treat.” She laughed and lifted her cheek for his kiss.
“Okay, just remember, it’s your idea.” Sliding on her sandals, she said, “Suppose I feel like Surf-N-Turf, a salad, and molten lava cake for dessert?” He flipped on the night light, still smiling as they went out the door.
She elbowed him and said, “Oh, and I’ve been craving one of those coconut drinks, you know the ones they serve only on the Island?” Like her, she knew he loved the Island, with the moon shining on the water.
“Whoa, woman, I didn’t say break the bank!” He took her arm and started walking toward the dock. “Are your cravings influenced by the fact that you know I love the Island at night?” He wrapped her light sweater around her shoulders. “The Island is the way to my heart. I’m captivated by the way the moon shines on your hair, it makes you look mysterious.” She put an arm around him, laughing. Something he hadn’t heard for awhile. They walked, arm in arm, toward the ferry.
When their turn came to walk off the ferry onto the dock, Carrie watched people on the other side boarding for the trip to the Bay. There…that guy looked like…NO. She turned, tripped, her mind reeling, determined not to think about him again. Why was her mind doing this to her? Brandon took her hand, making sure she was steady, that her sandals didn’t slip between the boat and the dock.
After dinner, they walked leisurely along the beach, a cool sea breeze blowing her hair. She stopped, slipped off her sandals to feel the water lap over her toes, deep in thought.
Brandon asked, “Are you okay?”
“Honey,” she said with a distracted look. “As we were leaving the ferry, I thought I saw him. I guess it was just one of those deja vu moments.” She smiled and took his hand. “Never mind, we’re breaking the bank tonight.”
They walked quietly, aimlessly, stopping to pick up a shell or look out toward the ocean. Suddenly she asked, “Have you ever wondered what lies on the other side of our ocean?” He looked at her with an amused smile. “Have you ever thought maybe there might be another couple, just like us, walking hand in hand looking back at us?”
He laughed, “Yeah, I suppose there could be if they’re taking an early morning stroll watching the sunrise.”
She feigned insult, “You think I’m nuts, don’t you?”
“Not really, but sometimes I swear you were originally a blond.”
Carrie smiled contented. Life was good. She thought of how much she loved this man. She needed nothing from the past. Didn’t even want to think about it anymore.
Monday morning came early. Brandon walked her to her office, leaning down to give her his customary kiss on the forehead and said, “Have a great day. Love you.”
She stood on the sidewalk, waiting for him to turn and wave again. It was a habit; always say goodbye. She watched as a man walked up and started talking to him. She noticed a look of surprise on Brandon’s face. They shook hands and she heard the man say, “It’s been awhile, Brandon, why don’t we meet for lunch and catch up?” He waved at her over the man’s shoulder, and she turned to go into the building. A snatch of conversation floated back on the wind. Something about…entrepreneur…needs help.
That evening at dinner, he told Carrie, “I haven’t seen Porter in years, and he shows up now?” He shrugged, “Maybe I’m over critical, but I have a bad feeling about it.”
“He came to see me today, too,” she said.
“He wanted information on the old D’shazo Warehouse on the dock.” She asked him to pass the salt then continued, “I told him it’s been scheduled to be demolished for months now.” She took her plate to the sofa and turned on the TV.
“That is strange,” he said, joining her on the sofa. “Most everyone living here has known about it being demolished. I wonder why someone would be interested in it now. Did you show him other sites?”
“Several.” She shook her head. “He wasn’t interested, and offered a ridiculous price for D’shazo.”
“Does that raise any red flags for you?” He asked.
“Yep,” she said, looking at him. “There seems to be mystery on our beautiful island.” She grinned, “As if anyone mysterious would come here.” Carrie propped her feet on the coffee table and said, “Thanks for having dinner ready, honey, I’m beat.” As soon as she put her plate down, she leaned back on him and was asleep before the title lines ran through.
When she walked into her office a couple of days later, Porter was already there, waiting. He had a cup of coffee for both of them and was comfortably scanning the morning paper. “Good morning,” he said, “Hope I didn’t inconvenience you by waiting in here. It’s always so impersonal in the waiting room.”
She slowly put her things away, trying to compose herself before she turned and looked at him. “Mr. Porter,” she said, “You should have made an appointment with my assistant. I have another appointment right now.”
He smiled at her, but turned to leave as her friend and assistant, Cathy, came in the door. She watched Porter’s back as he went to the elevator, wondering what he had in mind? There was something about him that gave her chills.
“Hey, girl,” Cathy said, looking closely at Carrie, “What’s wrong? Did he make a pass at you or something? I’ll get security to stop him before he leaves the building!”
She sat down hard in her chair. “No.” She shook her head slowly, “No, it’s just a strange coincidence.” She thought about what she should do for a moment, and then asked, “Cathy, will you please call Brandon and see if he’s free for lunch?”
Brandon didn’t bother taking his car. About eleven-thirty he walked from his office to hers. They went to the beach and got a couple hot dogs and sat at a picnic table. “Porter was in my office when I went in this morning.”
“You mean, in your office?”
“Sitting on the sofa — in my office — reading the paper and drinking coffee.” Taking a bite, she wiped mustard from her mouth and said, “I just think it’s odd he wants something from both of us. What do you think?”
“Well, it does sound odd. But you know, our jobs do cross over. You sell them the real estate, and I finance them. But something seems off.” She sensed stress in his voice.
“I want to have a friend of mine look into some things if you don’t mind. Porter wanted me to meet a friend of his who is looking into some investments on the Island. It’s strange that the man wouldn’t approach me himself, why have a friend do it for him?”
She stared at him for a few minutes, “Do you really think there’s anything to worry about? We lead very boring lives here.” She paused. “What makes you think there’s anything too out of the ordinary?”
“Just a hunch, I guess.” He looked at her thoughtfully. “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off, do some of the shopping you’ve wanted to do? I’ll be home early myself.” He gave her a rare look that meant it wasn’t just a request. Concern filled his eyes.
“I guess,” she said, looking at him nervously. “If you think it’s something I should do. I’ll catch the trolley home.” She blew him a kiss and said, “I love you, thanks for lunch.”
Coming into the office, she told Cathy. “Hey, will you clear my appointments, I’m taking the rest of the day off.” She couldn’t put her finger on it, but Brandon was making her nervous. “And if anyone wants to know where I am, tell them I had an appointment on the mainland.”
Cathy looked at her with a worried look, “Sure. Is there anything else?” Carrie smiled and said, “No, that’s it.”
She went to her favorite Town Center on the Mainland, just walking around. It took her longer than she’d thought to find just what she was looking for to dress up the guest room, but this was the perfect diversion from the tensions that had been building over the last few days. Shopping on the Mainland was always pleasant, but the mystery of Porter wouldn’t go away.
When she walked into the cottage, juggling the bags and her briefcase, she saw Porter standing in her small living room. Brandon, too, who immediately moved to stand beside her.
“It seems Mr. Porter has a strange way of showing up without an appointment or invitation, no matter where he is,” Brandon said, pulling her into the crook of his arm. He looked at her sympathetically. “Sorry, I thought I could handle this before you got home. They were here, in the living room, when I came home.”
A man stepped into her view then. She let out a cry, and blood drained from Carrie’s face. She walked past Porter and stood directly in front of Stan, glad Brandon was still beside her. “What happened to you, where did you go?” She whispered. “I waited for seven years, then had to have you declared legally dead.” Suddenly, she reached out and slapped him across the face. “And for what, why?!” Feeling weary, she leaned heavily on her husband, shaking.
Stan reached out as if to touch her, a look of sorrow and sympathy on his face. Brandon looked at him, held up a hand, shaking his head.
Stan dropped his hand and said, “Carrie, if I could have changed it, I would have. I let my feelings draw me in, but I truly loved you. How could I tell you I was married and had a baby on the way? You took my breath away and…” He stammered, “I wanted to stay. I’ve stood on our beach at home, behind our house so many times over the last ten years and watched across the water, wondering if…” His voice faded away.
She sat down and started to cry. “You could have divorced the other woman first. I would’ve understood. You should have not led me on in the first place. You could have not married me in the first place, and… you could have done so many things differently. I watched for you to show up on the beach for so long.” She looked at him steadily and said, “You lied to me, and I’ll just bet you’re still lying to your wife and your child.”
“Brandon,” she whispered, “Just get him out of here. Call the police if necessary. I never want to see his face or hear his voice again.” She looked at Porter and said, “And, No! You don’t have a deal. Just get out of my house.”
Later that night, she and Brandon walked out to the beach, sat on the sand, letting the water gently lap their bare feet. They were quiet, listening to the waves out in the ocean, the moon reflecting on them. She leaned over to him, and he wrapped his arm around her. Pulling her to him, he kissed her slowly and gently, and she returned his kiss, smiling, content, happy.
Posting a new story every two weeks seems to give me more time to build characters. Please comment here to let me know which format you prefer. Longer stories in one installment, or split into two installments? Please share so your friends can also join our journey!