Steph gazed through the wall of windows at the lashing waves and blowing sand. She snuggled deeper into her sweater and sipped her cocoa. Stuck inside in August.
She noted again the lights in the bungalow down the beach. He’d lost his wife last year and just returned to this quiet shore.
Steph left him to morn as she sat at her laptop. If she couldn’t go outside, she best write a few more chapters. Somehow her heart wasn’t in this story. It hadn’t been in her writing for a while.
* * *
The sun broke through in fingers of light. Steph slipped off her sandals and wiggled the warm sand between her toes.
She startled, and turned. T-shirt and khakis, short greying beard, wind-blown hair, such a departure from his normal polished image. She smiled. “Hello.”
He reached out his hand, “I’m—”
She took it. “I know who you are Mr. Weston. Who doesn’t? Didn’t Back Lash earn millions at the box office?”
He released her, head bowed, smile fading.
“My favorite has always been Rebel’s Cause. I’m Stephanie Jamerson.” She turned back to the waves. “My deepest condolences on your loss.”
He stood beside her, hands clasped behind him. “Doing everything in the spot light, surrounded by paparazzi, there’s never time to…”
“Morn and have a bad day?”
“Well, you have nothing to worry about. I’ll never breath a word, Mr …”
“Please, it’s just Rich, a man who needs to figure out what comes next.”
“It’s a good place to think. The waves have a cathartic effect on one’s batter soul.”
“You’ve been beat up too?”
“We live in such an angry world. I miss the times when we were young, neighbors knew one another, and there were summer block parties.”
He chuckled. “I think you and I might be fast friends, Stephanie Jamerson.”
* * *
“Hey, Steph?” Rich’s call floated to her balcony.
She laid her laptop aside and moved to the rail.
He was barbecuing. “I have entirely too much food here. Interested in helping?”
“I’ll be over in a minute.”
The small table on his deck overlooking the waves was laden with grilled corn on the cob and vegetables, sirloin, and baked potatoes. Still in her yoga pants and long-sleeve t-shirt, Steph took a seat across from him. “It looks and smells amazing. You’ve been making my mouth water all afternoon. But, how many were you planning on feeding? There’s tons of food.”
He shrugged. “I use to cook now and then on the set. It gave me a break from the in-front-of-the-camera work and I really enjoy it.” His eyes scanned the heaping platters. “I guess I’ve forgotten how to cook for one.”
“You must really miss her.”
“It’s weird really. There are times when I expect her to walk through the door in the next heartbeat, and others where it’s almost like I was never married.” His wistful gaze turned to the sun sinking into the horizon. “I never brought her here. Maggie, loved the hustle and excitement of the city. She would’ve hated it here.”
* * *
“Good morning,” Rich offered her a cocoa.
Steph burrowed into her coat. “Morning. I’m glad the weather cleared. I was getting cabin-fever.”
“Most of the year the weather is pleasant, but from December to March it can be bleak.”
“We still have two more months of this?”
He laughed. “Afraid so.”
“Well at least I’ll be forced to get some writing done.”
“So an author?”
“Not one of any renown. I’m no King or Rowling.”
“We’ll see.” He scanned his phone and turned to her with a raised brow.
“Try Stephie James.”
“Ten books! Recommendation on where to begin?”
“No.” She smiled and took another sip of her cocoa.
* * *
Steph glanced at Rich stretched out on the lounge chair. “You going to turn that tablet off?”
“If you wanted my attention, you really shouldn’t write books I can’t put down.” A few minutes later, the device dropped to his knees. “How do you come up with those impossible situations? My heart is pounding.”
“How do you become the unforgettable characters you’ve played?”
“Fair enough.” He took her hand across the small table between them. “Do you know what day it is?”
“A year ago, I came here to hide.” He kissed her knuckles. “Never imaged I’d find love again.”
“I love you too.”
“Have you thought about what to do with your bungalow after we elope next week?”
“Let’s stroll on the beach and see what comes to mind.”
He slid his arm around her as the sun painted the waves in a blaze of colors.
Everyone has moments of loneliness, but there is greater depth to those of us who feel we are never seen. But in that you are strong.