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Rated: E · Short Story · Relationship · #2320381
We were a late summer bliss, one of those moments that just slips…
Emma turned over in the budget hotel bed and tried in vain to adjust the flimsy pillow to a more supportive position. She didn't want to disturb Ryan, who she assumed was sleeping soundly. But when she gave up and rolled from the edge of the bed back to face the middle, her half-closed eyes met Ryan's wide open ones.

He flung the blankets away and sat up.

"Let's go for a walk on the beach," he said.

"Huh? Ryan, it's one in the morning."

"Look, we've been awake most of the night, haven't we?"

Emma puffed out her cheeks, sitting up in her turn.

"I don't know about you," she responded. "I think I slept, sort of. If the bed was more comfortable—!"

"I'm sorry, this was a miserable anniversary. You were feverish and nauseous for the whole three days. I wanted our trip to be special."

"It's okay." Emma patted his hand. "We're headed home this morning. I'll celebrate there."

"It's not too late for a walk on the beach. Please? We'll be all by ourselves in the moonlight…"

Emma yawned and raised her arms up over her head, nearly touching the low ceiling. The air conditioner was rattling and getting on her nerves, hardly blowing out more than a whisper of cool air. Now she was wide awake, she did a mental evaluation of her symptoms and decided she felt well enough to get up.

"Might as well get some fresh air. Can't let this beach vacation go to waste."

"Exactly." Ryan hopped out of bed and grabbed a tropical shirt hanging over a chair.

"Hey," Emma glanced at him in the mirror as she put her long hair up into a loose bun. "Didn't they forecast thunderstorms tonight?"

"Hasn't started yet. Plenty of time for a stroll."

"Hmm."

Their room opened directly to the outside. Emma held Ryan's hand as they tiptoed past other doors along the porch and headed for the boardwalk. It was warm, but a soft breeze rustled the palm fronds, alleviating the muggy feel of August.

She cringed as they passed a bar, still open, with glowing neon lights and a blast of raucous noise. Approaching the seashore, she felt a cool sense of relief as she ran her eyes over the sand dunes. No one was around, except for—

"Good grief!" Ryan laughed as a bare-bones dune buggy rolled towards them.

"Don't let them see us!" Emma giggled, tugging at Ryan and hiding behind a thicket of waving grasses as the vehicle's headlights swept the shore.

When it was gone she leaped up and took off running along the shoreline, skipping in and out of the waves as they crept back and forth, slowly advancing with the tide. She glanced up at the full moon high in the sky. Flickers of silent lightning intermittently lit up puffy lines of clouds on the horizon.

"Well, follow me! This was your idea…"

"You're going the wrong way," he called.

"What?"

"It's this way." He waved and started off in the opposite direction, slipping a little in the sand.

Emma chased after him, wondering why it was so important to head a certain way.

She found out when he stopped in front of a dune well away from the high tide line. There was a neat spread of beach blankets, a little old radio, a cooler, a bunch of roses, and a big heart scrawled in the sand with their initials and wedding date.

"Aww, Ryan—you're a sweetie!" She flung her arms around him.

They sat down with their backs against the dunes and snuggled together, watching the waves rolling in and the storm building in the distance.

"Remember our first date? It was just like this, wasn't it?" Now she understood. "We romped on the beach in the moonlight—we were so young and silly. Penniless."

"Who says we're not still young and silly? And broke, too," Ryan teased, his arm around her shoulder.

Silence enveloped them, save for a few crickets and the radio playing a late-night classical station. The breeze murmured strange things through the grasses as the cumulonimbus clouds mushroomed up into the sky, growing taller by the minute but still far away over the sea. Lightning made their insides glow like giant apocalyptic lanterns, hinting at the charged upheaval within.

Emma admired the shapes and textures and the way the moonlight played across the ever-changing surfaces of water and clouds. She yawned and laid her head down on Ryan's shoulder.

He sat still and watched her drift off to sleep.

Gradually the billowing thunderheads swallowed up the moon. The wind picked up, and the flashes of cloud to cloud lightning began syncing with bursts of static on the radio. Ryan leaned carefully over and switched it off. Then, as he settled back into place and fixed his eyes lovingly on Emma, a streak of lightning arced across the sky, lighting up the entire area with a split second of pure white light. It was as if he were looking at an angel.

A thrill of awe and love was cut short by a long roar of thunder that made Emma jump awake, her eyes wide.

“Let’s go!” She got to her feet. “Remember, if you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning.”

Ryan gathered up the cooler and radio, Emma took the armload of blankets, and they ran together back down the shoreline towards their hotel room, dodging rowdy waves which were getting out of hand as the wind increased. The first raindrops started pattering on the porch roof as they arrived at their door.

***

“You remember our late summer bliss, Ryan?”

“Ten anniversaries ago. I felt it from my heart to my fingertips…”

“So did I. Or was that the thunder that woke me up?”

“One of those moments that just slips…”


Word count: 977.

Lyrics to Fingertips

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