Torrey Pines, a short story by StevenHunley. Date added: 2010-03-25. Times viewed: 1980.
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- Intro: couple declare love on the beach
Then came a day of magic. It wasn't planned to be that way, few often are. It was planned to be an afternoon at the beach. They left too late, forgot half of what they intended to pack, and were totally unprepared for what weather would greet them there. On the way out she said,
‘Where exactly are we going anyway?"
"To Torrey Pines," he said, "it's nice there now."
And when they got there, so it was.
They parked the car and got out. The wind was up as it is there at times, coming in clean from the Pacific. It smelled of salt and seaweed. The sun was low and over the water just a bit. Cumulus clouds welled up along the horizon and promised a sunset of incomparable beauty, a sunset beyond comprehension.
"Looks good to me," he said.
She smiled in agreement.
The beach was long and stretched its arm beneath tall sandstone cliffs. When you walked down a way you were surrounded on both sides.
"It's surrounded and cut off," he thought, "It's a good place for thinking."
"It's cut off and surrounded," she thought, "It's a good place for loving."
They were both right. It was a place for and thinking about love. That's what caused the later words.
The wind swelled up again so he gave her his coat.
She took it with a smile, ‘cause she knew, as a girl always does, that it would require them to sit close later if she were to be quite the lady he obviously thought she was.
The sun got lower, the sky pink and gold. The only sound was the scream of plummeting gulls, and the wind kissing the waves' white-laced necks like in Tales of Brave Ulysses. So that's who was there; just them, the sky, the waves, and sand.
"Let's sit awhile," she whispered, so's not to break his thoughts, for he hadn't said a word.
They picked a place at the base of the cliff to give themselves a view. He pulled a joint out of his pocket and tried to light it. This the wind would not allow.
"It's OK," she said, "try this instead," and gave him a kiss. The kiss was softwarm and wet, and carefully delivered. So much better it was.
"You must be cold," she said and snuggled up close. It was only too obvious to her he had something on his mind. Women know such things because they can cook. She knew he had a thought baking. She could tell by the smell of him.
He looked at her face. He knew she knew what was coming. He knew they'd come to the point between them where it might be said with impunity. He was guilty of the thought, so it was time to confess.
The sun dipped lower, setting flame to the clouds. Cumulus rims turned gold. The heat spread, setting the night on fire. Jim Morrison roared his roar. He felt it was time. He'd entered the confessional of sand wave and cliff. He said to her ear, so afraid of seeing her face,
"I love you, you know?"
"It's OK ," she said, "Don't worry. I love you too."
The words were out. If they meant exactly the same thing to each of them it would have been a miracle. But they were out, and right now that was good enough. It was what they both needed to hear.
He let out a breath and looked into her eyes. When he was satisfied she wasn't lying or saying it just for form he squeezed her tight to protect her from the wind. But one thing he needn't do now was protect her. His coat did that. What he really needed to do was protect her from himself. He didn't know what was within himself, or what he was capable of. But it was too late. He'd already said the words. Then something unexpected happened. He suddenly seemed to feel a chill, dropped his arms from around her and clasped them to himself as if for warmth. There was no going back. She took off the coat and blanketed him with it as if he were an autumn leaf trembling with the sudden awareness of its own mortality. She fell over him, covering him with herself. She heard him say, though it was more to himself than her,
"This isn't going to be easy."
"I know," she answered calmly, her breath close to his ear.
"I know," she repeated even softer to herself.
When they left the beach at dusk the sky had turned to ink and gold. Their tracks in the wet sand, with each stepping step, glowed with the sparkle of florescent diatoms disturbed by the pressure of their feet. Those caught by the ebb tide were busy dying.
Their relationship freely entered would be caught there too, trapped by the words of love they uttered, captured in their own poison red tide of love, tangled by the love-knot she'd plaited in her hair with her own delicate fingers and placed around his neck.
When they got in the car and drove away, the sand, the cliffs, the sky and waves, faded off into the distance, where they'd been all the time, and were as forgotten as easily as sentences spoken in dreams.
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