Another beautiful day in paradise, the same as yesterday. Sunny skies, mid-eighties, breezy. A perfect day.
God, how I hate it.
Purple skirt, white shirt, colorful apron. The same as yesterday.
I wish it would rain. God, please send me rain. I ache for a thunderstorm.
It never comes when she asks. She’s come to accept disappointment as her fate. Besides, wishing for rain on a desert island is a waste of her time.
If it rained I’d run around outside in my underwear. I’d go swimming and drive around with the top down on my rusted jeep. But it won’t rain today.
She arrives at the Pelican Nest Bar and Seafood Grill on the Pelican Pier ten minutes before it opens, and half an hour before Krista. Same as yesterday. She nods to the cook, Charlie, and begins to prepare the tables. She takes a moment to look down the beach, tinted blue from her sunglasses. She sighs.
I used to love the beach, the beautiful sunny weather, the crystal clear water… everything. I long for a season other than summer. How long has it been since I saw snow? I guess it doesn’t matter.
She learned early to wear sunglasses to work and to tie her hair in a bun. The wind and sun make it impossible to function otherwise. She had found a shiny, silver, slightly gaudy pair of blue-tinted sunglasses. That was back when she cared about her image. Back when she had gotten the tattoo on her neck. It is in Chinese and she no longer remembers or cares what it says. She doesn’t care about the bracelets, the two sets of earrings, the watch…
I need a new watch. But this one was so expensive and it works so well. But the memories… Well, it’s lasted longer than… it’s lasted a long time.
A long time… three years. He gave it to her when they moved to paradise. Timing was so critical to his live and he insisted that it be to her too. She had shrugged and accepted it. It wasn’t expensive as watches go, but it was more than she would have paid. It was ironic that a man with no concept of time insisted on giving a watch to a woman who now understands time more than he ever could.
Charlie, the cook, unhooks the chain across the door and lets in the few couples and families who are waiting for the restaurant to open.
It’s funny that there’s always someone who chooses a table in the sun. They know how scorching it is. Well, they’ll regret it tomorrow when their skin is red and peeling.
Tourists… If it weren’t for tourists this place wouldn’t exist and I couldn’t get what I need. But dealing with them…
She always marvels that there are people waiting for them to open.
They probably have tickets for the glass-bottomed boat tour in an hour.
Some do, some don’t. Three couples, two families. She passes out menus and takes drink orders. She never writes orders down and never gets an order wrong. She tests herself that way. Charlie smiles as he watches her. She’s pretty without trying to be and without caring about it. He doesn’t know her age but he and Krista have decided that she’s in her mid-twenties. He’d asked her out a few weeks after she’d started working. She did the polite thing and said yes. They’d had a good time and Charlie woke up the next morning with a scrap of paper beside him with a star on it. He knew that there’d never be more to them than friendship and stars on scraps of paper, but he felt honored to have those. She smiles back at him.
Good old Charlie. I already miss him. Him and Krista. Where is she?
Krista breezes through the entrance, lowers her sunglasses to wink at her, hands menus to a couple sitting in the same chair, running their hands over each other’s bodies with no regard for the other customers.
Great timing. Thanks Krista. I don’t know how well I would have handled them.
There have been others besides Charlie, but he is the only one who’s lasted. They understand each other, and that’s how they maintain their relationship. There is trust and compassion, friendship and the love that friends share, but mainly understanding.
What a strange look that kid gave me. His eyes were so piercing. He looked worried.
She gives the latest batch of orders to Charlie.
Worried about me.
She scans the tables, refills a few drinks, and sits at the bar. She closes her eyes to the world and listens to the music coming from a speaker overhead. “You know I’d walk a thousand miles just to see you tonight,” a girl sings.
A thousand miles… That would be such a short distance to walk to get away. Or to drive… Damn this island. I can’t swim away or sprout wings.
A whistle from Charlie opens her eyes. He winks and gestures to the food. She delivers the burgers and the salads and the seafood to the tourists.
I was a tourist once. We went on tours and lounged on the beach and swam in the ocean. We watched the sunset and woke for the sunrise. The daiquiris on the beach at night were like the nectar of the gods.
She drinks rarely these days because it’s expensive. She only drives when she needs to. She’s cut out most luxuries to save money. He had provided whatever she wanted and more. But those days are gone.
The family with the kid with the piercing eyes asks for the bill. He gives her the worried look with a bit of wonder mixed in.
He’s not really a kid. Early college, probably.
She signs the bill “Heather” with a star and underlines the included gratuity.
I want money but I’m not going to cheat anyone out of it.
The family leaves an additional two dollar tip. The kid watches from the stern as the glass-bottomed boat pulls away.
Two dollars extra… Two dollars closer. Five thousand more and I’m out. Five thousand more and I can start over.
They met in New York. He was a stockbroker and she was on vacation. He used his worn out lines and won her for a night. By the third night she was his.
She’d spent a month living in his apartment when he came home with roses and plane tickets to paradise. She’d said yes emphatically and they were off the next day.
His newfound money lasted four months. Those months were carefree and reckless. They bought a house and a car and were blissfully unconcerned about the future.
Then one night, they made love without the fire she normally felt. Afterwards she asked him why. He avoided it. She pressed him and he struck her.
In thirty-five years of life he’d never hit anyone. They both cried as he walked silently out of the room. He was full of apologies the next morning. He’d lost his money and had to leave. He sold their expensive car to afford a plane ticket home and a place to stay in the states for a little while. He left her the house and what little money he could.
She’d bought the blue-tinted sunglasses to hide the black eye, and they became part of her image. The earrings, the tattoo, the bracelets, and the sunglasses are all people see, and that is how she likes it.
Damn. That’s the fourth fork I’ve dropped today and the day’s just started.
The chink of silverware on the floor brings her back to the present. She pauses and is too frustrated to move. She gets a gentle look from Krista and suddenly she laughs. The laugh is convincing the first time you hear it. To Krista and Charlie it is old and sad, an echo of better times. They know how forced it is.
The boat’s back. Is that kid looking for me?
The first drop falls into a piña colada as she hands it to the waiting customer.
Was that a tear? No, it can’t be, my eyes are dry.
The second drop lands on the back of her neck, on the tattoo whose meaning she’s forgotten.
Lord, no please. Oh please, Lord, don’t let it rain.
The bottom falls out and all along the beach the tourists pack up and head inside.
The few customers move under the roof and are soon gone. The rain falls steadily throughout the afternoon and into the evening. A few brave souls show up for dinner, complain through their meals, and leave lousy tips.
Damn the weather. Twenty-three dollars in tips. I’d hoped for much more. I always hope for more. I’ve been here too long and it’s going to take too much time to get away. But I’m out of options.
She cleans the tables, changes clothes, and spends the evening with Krista and Charlie. They talk and she laughs her laugh without having to force it as much as normal. All the while the rain falls on her heart.
Out of options…
Charlie puts the piece of paper with the star on it in a box when he awakes. He saves all of them without knowing why. But he wonders, how many more will there be? How much more rain will God send?