Zeth came into the cottage by the sea with the two mismatched bags and looked around for Zuzu. He imagined she would want her things in one of the bedrooms so he headed that way. The larger of the two would suit her well, he thought, the other for the baby…whenever she got here.
He idly wondered how far along Zuzu was and when the baby was due when she burst out of the bathroom on the left and nearly ran into him.
“Sorry,” she said, smiling so brightly it was infectious. “That is the most beautiful bathroom I’ve ever seen. And there’s towels already in there. Do I get to use them?”
He smiled at her enthusiasm and nodded. “Everything here is for your use. The linen closet is fully stocked and there is a washer and dryer next to the pantry.”
“A pantry…awesome!” she squealed, then looked down at her bags still in his hands.
“I assume you’ll want the bigger room?” he said as he went down the narrow hall, into the room and deposited her bags on the bed.
He stood back as she lept forward, opened one bag and furiously rummaged through it, completely unabashed that he was seeing her most intimate garments flying about. He supposed he ought to leave, but he simply didn’t want to. This woman intrigued him to no end. But how to prolong his visit with her without seeming…what? Needy? Well, he was the last person to deny he was that.
When she pulled out what she had been looking for she gave a triumphant shout. It was a pair of sandals. She promptly sat on the bed and kicked off her low heeled shoes, then stepped into the sandal and wiggled her toes. “Hmm,” she said watching her toes. “I guess I should take off my stockings or I’ll get sand in them.”
“Sand?” Zeth said, frowning slightly. “I’m pretty sure the housekeeper we always hire after a tenant leaves removed most of the sand in the cottage. Although, when the wind blows…sand does get inside.”
She stared at him as if not understanding what he was talking about. “I mean the sand on the beach. I’m going for a walk.”
He gaped at her, then stared at her wiggling toes. “You can’t go in those! You’ll trip on the rocks and…no, I will not allow you to get hurt out there on your own. You need sneakers and…well, you don’t know the way down to the beach. It’s tricky, especially in your condition…no, I have to go with you,” he said all this fast and adamantly.
She merely gaped at him. “Um…I wouldn’t want to bother you. I’m sure you have better things to do than babysit a pregnant girl who just wants to catch the first glimpse of the sea.”
He smiled and shrugged. “Can’t say I have anything better to do at present.”
“Okay,” she said, kicking the sandals off and going back into her bag until she found sneakers. She held them up to show them. “Will these do?”
He laughed and nodded. His heart skipped a beat when she smiled back. She bent over and slipped them on, but before she could tie the laces he was on his knees doing it for her. he then stood and held his hand to her.
“Let’s go,” he said. “Your first visit to the beach. We should document it or something.”
“I know you must think I’m silly to be so excited about the beach, but…”
“No, not silly. Water is our life source. We would do well to remember that. We should never live very far from it. Come,” he said.
They left through the backdoor and went through a tiny space between two tall evergreen bushes, their needles splayed with a salty residue. Once past those, they came upon a sand dune sparsely covered with dried up wild oat grass, a prickly tangle of vines and a few brown and dead plants Zuzu had never seen before. She imagined it all looking nice and green any other time of the year. For now, it looked a bit forlorn and lonely. Perhaps to match her own mood?
As if reading her thoughts, Zeth said, “This is all much prettier in spring and summer. Green and vibrant, but he sea always makes up for it. It stays the same, except for the temperature.”
He showed her the way up the dunes where a well-worn path led down to the rocky beach. They stopped at the top of the dune and looked out to sea as they had done on the ferry. The sea was wilder and angrier now and the first flurries had started floating down to earth. The whitecaps were bigger now and the wind fiercer still. The waves crashing onto shore nearly covered the entire beach, leaving a tiny five foot strip to walk on with some possibility of remaining untouched by the water.
High tide, she supposed, but that wasn’t going to stop her from walking out there. she moved forward and Zeth took her arm helping her around some of the jagged rocks at the base of the dunes.
This was not the sort of beach you’d find in a resort, manicured, pristine and lifeless. Broken seashells, rounded pebbles, tangled clumps of seaweed and the occasional dead horseshoe crab and driftwood lay on the sand, sand smoothed over by ions of water.
Zuzu inhaled deeply, her eyes closed for a moment, the brutal wind whipping at her hair and loosening it from the ribbon Zeth had used to make her ponytail.
“Zuzu, are you warm enough? It’s much colder here and the wind much rougher than inland,” Zeth said, pulling up her hood.
“I’m fine,” she said, serenely smiling, as she walked forward. “I’m going to love it here.”
“I know I do. Can’t imagine another place I’d rather live,” Zeth said.
“You said you lived near here?”
He pointed behind them, but all she saw was her own cottage, just slightly rising above the sand dunes and juniper shrubs. Then her eyes moved higher and to the left and she gasped. She didn’t know how she missed seeing this place, but she imagined it was her eagerness to see the sea and nothing else.
It was a beautiful beach house, painted a pretty, pale blue and built on stilts, several stories high with a rooftop platform, perfect for those who wish for sea viewing without sand getting between the toes. It had a wide deck all the way around and the railing painted white. It was something out of Zuzu’s dreams. She smiled. Just living this close to it was good.
“What a beautiful place!” she gushed, but she swiftly turned back to look at the water.
“I like it,” he said sheepishly.
They walked on down the beach in pleasant silence. Well, as silent as a roaring ocean could be anyway. They would have to shout to be heard now. A few times they had to scramble away to higher ground, very nearly getting wet with the rushing water rising up to devour more of the sand. The sky grew darker and the temperature dipped before they went too far. Zeth gestured that they should turn back and had to laugh at her pouting face.
Zuzu would never say it, but it was nice to share this little time on the beach with someone, even a stranger. “I want to walk here every day. Is it possible? I mean if we get much snow would I still be able to come down here?”
He frowned slightly. “I walk down here every day, sometimes several times a day, rain or shine, but I’m not a pregnant girl and I’ve lived here all my life, so I know every rock and stone out here.”
“You’re saying you think it would be a bit dangerous for me?” she said, and the sadness in her voice was clear.
“I wouldn’t want you falling and…”
“I’m not a child, you know,” she snapped.
“No, but you have to think of your child. What would happen if you should slip and fall onto a rock, possibly knocking yourself unconscious and the tide rose and swept your lifeless body out to sea never to be seen again?”
He stopped talking at the horrified expression on her face. “Sorry, it’s the writer in me. Too much of an imagination, my mother used to say. I could imagine all sorts of horrors and…well, did mean to scare you but…”
“But I don’t want to hurt my baby…or me,” Zuzu said with a sigh as she stood at the top of the dune again looking out to sea. “I suppose I could come this far and just…look. Better than nothing, better than what I had all these years. Dirty city streets and ugly building.”
He watched her for a minute, hating the wistful look. He felt as if he’d just told her there would never be another Christmas. He did not like being the one responsible for killing Santa Claus! “Zuzu, would you mind having company on these strolls on the beach?”
“Company? Do you mean you?”
He smiled. “And Frodo. He refuses to stay home when I go out here. He figures it’s his job to protect the shoreline from… oh I don’t know…German U-boats or something.”
She laughed. “I’d like that if you promise that I’m not intruding on your solitude.”
He smiled and shook his head. Little did she know, nor would he ever tell her, that intruding on his so-called solitude was precisely what he hoped she would do.