This is a work of fiction.
Well, I had been thinking about the beach, so that was where I was going. I supposed it wasn’t the nicest thing to do, considering Jason was probably having to comfort Ruth and listen to Tracey crying (could little babies grieve?), but it was too hot and too nice to stay cooped up inside.
I grabbed a bag and tossed in two towels and a tube of sun screen. Then I added the plastic shovel and pail that my mother had given to me at the age of three, and that I always took to the beach, even though I was now supposedly an adult. I put on my favorite yellow bikini and a blue T-shirt, found my flipflops, grabbed the vinyl purse I used for outdoor things, tossed in my phone, a book, keys, and wallet, and jumped into my car.
I drove as fast as traffic and the law would allow.
I was dying for some sand and water.
The twenty-minute drive seemed like hours.
As I was pulling into the parking lot, I realized I’d forgotten food. Oops. Oh well, I could always buy something at the over-priced little restaurant with the wonderful view.
Unsurprisingly, the place was packed. I got lucky and found a spot. I laid out my towel, put on my sun screen, and made a running leap into the cool, blue Pacific.
The water was so nice, I stayed in it for an hour.
I was just getting out to go and get some lunch, when I heard a woman’s voice say, “That’s not your towel!”
I looked around, and saw a little girl sitting on my towel.
A woman, presumably her mother, stood beside her, holding onto a stroller with a baby in it.
They had dark skin, and the woman was tall, beautiful, and wearing cream-colored shorts and a sky-blue T-shirt. The baby was very cute, wearing a pink outfit, and sleeping. The girl was pretty, wearing a turquoise summer dress, and showed no sign of getting off my towel.
“It’s pink,” she said.
“I know it is, but it’s not yours. Come on, it’s not nice to use other people’s things without asking.”
“I’m not using it. I’m tired, and I’m sitting on it.”
She patted my towel affectionately.
“Such a soft, fluffy, pretty pink towel you are, aren’t you?”
I went over to my bag and took out my extra towel, which was white.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said.
“It’s just a towel. I’m Roberta. What are your names?”
“I’m Kathleen.” She indicated the little girl. “This is Tracey.”
Tracey? Oh well, at least that wasn’t the baby’s name. Knowing two babies with the same name would be sort of strange.
“This is Anna. She’s eight months old.”
Tracey looked my way, but didn’t make eye contact.
“What is your surname?” she asked in a confident, serious voice.
“So your name is Roberta Vasquez?”
“Yes. It’s very nice to meet you.”
“Are you married, Roberta Vasquez?”
“Yes. My husband’s name is Jason. His surname is York. We didn’t bother with name changing when we got married.”
“Do you have any children, Mrs. Vasquez?”
What a polite child she was! Maybe too polite. Certainly more formal than I was used to, and I was starting to find the conversation a bit of a strain. What if I offended her?!
“No, we don’t have any children. If you prefer, you can call me Roberta.”
Anna woke up and started to cry.
“I guess we’d better go somewhere so I can feed her,” Kathleen said.
“I was just going to grab some lunch. You just got here so I guess you aren’t hungry yet.”
She smiled at me.
Gosh, was she beautiful!
“We’ve been walking along the beach for an hour, so it’s definitely time to eat. I heard there was a restaurant around here. Is it any good?”
“All I know is that it’s expensive.”
The sound was musical and made me want to take her home with me.
Give it a rest, I told myself. You’re happily married.
“Well, let’s give it a try.”
TRacey got up off my towel, and I said I’d meet them once I’d dried myself off a bit more.
When I got there, Katheleen was just sitting down with her children. There was an empty seat, so I asked if I could join them.
As I moved to sit down beside her, I noticed that Tracey looked a little nervous.
“Would you like me to move?”
“It’s okay,” Kathleen said. “The trouble is if people accidentally bump her with their purses or bags.”
“I’ll be careful not to,” I said. I moved away, unslung my purse, and put it down on the floor on my other side.
“Thank you,” Kathleen said.
Tracey opened her menu.
“First, there is salad. Garden salad. Small: $7. Medium: $10. Large: $13. Caesar salad. Small: $7. Medium: $10. Large: $13. House salad. Small: $8. Medium: $11. Large: $14. If you would like to add chicken to any salad, that costs $6 extra. Mother, may I have a large garden salad, please?”
I would have suggested a small instead, but I decided not to say anything. Maybe she liked a lot of salad.
Tracey looked at me, but didn’t make eye contact, same as before.
“Roberta, what salad will you have?”
“I think I might have a Caesar salad.”
“I’m not sure yet.”
“I’m not having salad,” Kathleen said, and I could have sworn that Traacey frowned at her mother.
“They have soup,” I told her.
“Yuck. I’m gonna start with coffee. Then I think I might have a bacon double cheeseburger.”
Tracey turned the page and said, “The soups of the day are $7 for a small bowl, $10 for a medium bowl, and $13 for a large bowl. There are instructions to ask your server what kind of soups are being offered.”
As if the servers had heard they were being mentioned, one came to our table.
“Good morning,” she said. “Are you ready to order?”
Tracey said, “I am not ready to order yet, but could you please tell me, what are the soups of the day?”
“Tomato with basil or chicken and rice.”
She looked at me.
“I’m not ready to order yet either.”
Kathleen said, “I am. I’d like a pot of coffee, a bacon double cheeseburger, and a large order of fries please.”
“Sounds good. Anything else?”
Once the server had left, Tracey continued to read the menu out loud.
When she had finished, Kathleen said, “What are you having?”
“May I have tomato with basil soup, a sandwich with vegetables on wholewheat bread, and a glass of water please?”
“Yes, but are you sure you don’t want some meat?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Tracey said.
Kathleen said, “You really need to eat more protein. Would you have a glass of milk?”
“No thank you.”
“The house salad has nuts in it,” I said. “Those have some protein.”
“I am not sure if I could eat two salads, and food must not be wasted.”
“I know,” I said. “Let’s order a garden salad, a Caesar salad, and a house salad, and ask for extra empty bowls so we can serve ourselves whatever kind of salad we want. If there’s any left we can take it home.”
“That’s a good idea,” Kathleen said. “So Tracey’s having a garden salad, and which one are you having?”
“Caesar with chicken, but I’ll order a house salad too.”
She looked at the menu and made a face.
“Thanks. I can’t imagine how anybody could actually eat this stuff.”
Before I could comment, our server came.
She smiled at Tracey and said, “I’m sorry. I forgot to tell you about our third soup of the day. We also have fish chowder.”
Kathleen made a that-is-so-gross face, I smiled, and Tracey looked uncertain.
“Thank you,” Tracey said.
I don’t think she had a clue what fish chowder was, but she did a good job of schooling her expression.
“No problem. Are you ready to order?”
“Yes. I would like a larger garden salad, a large bowl of tomato with basil soup, a vegetable sandwich on wholewheat bread, and a glass of water please.”
The server asked her what veggies she’d like on her sandwich, and Tracey listed a whole garden’s worth of them.
“Thank you,” the server said. “You’re very good at ordering.” She turned to Kathleen and said, “Your coffee will be ready by the time I get back to the kitchen. Your food will be just a little longer. Would you like to wait and have everything at the same time?”
“I’d like the coffee first, please.”
“Sure.” She looked at me questioningly.
“Yep, I’m ready. I’d like a large Caesar salad with chicken added, a large house salad with extra nuts, a large bowl of chicken and rice soup, a large bowl of fish chowder, a pot of Earl Grey, and do you have almond or maybe soy milk?”
“We have both in chocolate, vanilla, or plain. We also have oat and coconut milk.”
“Does almond milk have lots of protein?”
“Um, I think it might have a small amount, but soy has more.”
I ordered a small pitcher each of chocolate and vanilla soy milk, deciding not to bother trying the plain. I also asked for three empty bowls, three empty plates, and three empty glasses.
Once the server had left, Kathleen said, “I hope you aren’t thinking what I’m afraid you are.”
I smiled innocently.
This was so much more fun than staying at home, thinking about how great a guy Jason was for leaving me all by myself with nothing to do on a Sunday, while he helped a grief-stricken family.
I said to Kathleen, “I’m not sure what you’re afraid of. What are you thinking?”
“That you expect me to taste threee kinds of soup, three salads, and some kind of milk.”
I neither confirmed nor denied it, but just kept smiling at her.
Coffee, tea, water, and soy milk arrived.
Tracey sipped her water.
Kathleen poured herself a cup of coffee and added three creams and four sugars.
I poured vanilla soy milk into three glasses and passed them around.
Kathleen said, “I’m not drinking that hippie milk.”
Tracey looked at her mother.
“Mother, may I drink this?”
“Yes, if you really want to.”
Tracey took a sip.
I took a sip.
“Is it gross?” Kathleen asked.
“No,” Tracey and I said at the same time.
We smiled at each other.
We finished the rest of what was in our glasses, and then Tracey asked Kathleen if she could try the chocolate.
Kathleen agreed, and I poured.
Tracey and I both agreed the vanilla was better.
“May I have more?”
There was enough left for her to have a small glass, and for me to have some in my tea, which tasted great.
A minute later, our food arrived.
Kathleen’s burger looked huge, and there was also a large mountain of fries.
“Can I get anybody anything else?”
We all shook our heads, and she smiled and left.
“I think we should try garden salad and tomato basil soup first,” I said.
Tracey agreed, and then asked her mother for permission.
“Sure,” Kathleen said. She began to eat her fries. “These are good. Want some?”
I accepted a handful, which were pretty good, but Tracey declined her mom’s offer.
The garden salad and the tomato basil soup were great, but since they were the ones Tracey had ordered, I didn’t eat much.
Next, it was time for chicken and rice soup and house salad.
Tracey said the salad tasted good, but the nuts were too crunchy. She said that the soup was gross.
I liked the salad, and I loved the soup.
Tracey looked worried.
“Mom, I didn’t finish my soup.”
Mom, not Mother. Interesting.
“It’s not the fish or the tomato, so I can help you there,” Kathleen said.
“You don’t like tomato?” I said.
“No, I hate it. I hate soup, but at least I like chicken and rice.”
After she’d finished the little that was left in Tracey’s bowl, I added a tiny spoonful of fish chowder, and put a bite’s worth of Caesar salad on her plate.
The salad was a thumbs up for me, and a massive thumbs down for Tracey, who could barely make herself choke it down.
“Are you okay?” Kathleen asked her.
She drank some water.
“Yes. Is your burger good?”
“It’s delicious. Oh darn. There’s no more cream.”
I looked. The little dish was devoid of tiny plastic containers of half-and-half.
“I’m sure they’ve got more,” I said.
“Yeah, but it’s getting so busy.”
“Well, you could try chocolate soy. There’s a fair bit left. Probably enough for the rest of your coffee.”
“Maybe I should just drink water while I’m waiting.”
Then she noticed that Tracey had the only water.
“Have what’s in the glass,” I said.
“Oh, right. Well, try it first then.”
Kathleen picked up the glass, made a face like she was about to go to the gallos, and took the tiniest sip I’ve ever seen.
“Oh, it’s not too bad.”
She liked the chocolate a lot.
“Tree-hugger mocha!” she cried, pouring chocolate soy into her coffee.
Tracey made a face.
“Coffee is disgusting.”
“Do you like tea?” I asked.
She tasted the fish chowder.
So did I.
“How bad is it?” Kathleen said.
“It’s the best soup ever!” Tracey said.
It was pretty darn good.
“There’s too much for me to finish,” Tracey said, looking very worried.
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’ll take the rest of the Caesar salad and the house salad home. Your mom can take the garden salad and your sandwich home. We can share the fish soup and the tomato and basil soup now. Your mom and me can share the chicken and rice soup or I can take it home.”
“Take it home please,” Kathleen said. “I don’t think I’ll have any room after all this, and I don’t like soup.”
“Mom?” Tracey said.
“Can you make this soup for us please?”
“Sorry, no. I don’t want to buy fish. Yuck.”
“Is the smell bothering you?” I asked.
“As long as I don’t have to touch fish, or have it in my kitchen, it’s okay.”
“I could make it,” I said. “Would you like to come over to my house one day?”
“Tracey and Anna are going back to their dad’s next Sunday,” Kathleen said.
Yay! She was single. I’d thought she might be, but hadn’t wanted to ask, and thought her husband might have preferred to stay home and tinker in the garage.
“How about Friday?”
Jason would be home by then, but I knew he wouldn’t mind.
Well, if he could read my thoughts about Kathleen he would, but thank goodness he wasn’t telepathic.
“Sounds good. Let’s exchange phone numbers, just in case.”
We did, and then I said, “Are you going back to the beach after lunch?”
“No, we’re going home. Anna needs floor time, and Tracey likes to read.”
“What are you reading?”
“Plants of North America,” Tracey said in her serious voice.
“Does it have a lot of pretty pictures?”
Kathleen said, “It’s a textbook. I took a botany course, forgot everything after the exam, and the poor book has been lonely up until last weekend when Tracey found it.”
“That sounds like a fun book,” I said. “Should we order dessert?”
“I’ll ask if there’s anything Tracey might like. I don’t feel right having dessert if there isn’t.”
“I understand. What kind of dessert do you both like?”
“We don’t like any the same,” Kathleen said. “I like cookies. Tracey likes pudding.”
There wasn’t anything Tracey would enjoy, so we all decided we didn’t want dessert.
Just as the server was bringing us some containers to pack up the leftovers in, Anna started to cry.
“I’ll pack up,” I said.
“Thanks. I need to change her.”
A few minutes later, we said goodbye, they got into their car for the ride home, and I went back into the water for another couple of hours.
As I splashed and kicked, I thought about Kathleen. I could argue with myself all I wanted, but there was no denying the fact that I wanted a relationship with her. There were just two things in the way: finding out if she was gay or bisexual, and of course, my ever-so-decent husband, Jason.