“I don’t know why we have to come to the beach when we just built a beautiful deck in our backyard.”
“No waves in a kiddy pool, babe,” said Jason, zipping up his wet suit and eyeing the parking lot.
“I hate the beach. There is all this SAND. I don’t know why you still surf, anyway. You’re a grownup.” Jessica carefully spread out her Love Pink beach blanket. On top of that she would lay her Roxy beach towel, all to keep sand from touching her skin.
“I’ve surfed since I was a kid in Huntington Beach. You know that. My dad still surfs.”
“Well, it’s not like he’s a grownup.”
“What’s in the cooler?”
“Really? No sodas?”
“You could have packed it yourself if you wanted something. I didn’t see you near the kitchen when I was getting ready. Spray me, babe?”
Jason looked at his wife in her coral colored Victoria’s Secret strapless bikini with the thong bottoms. Hot. No question. Fucking hot. Yep. He took the spray sunscreen and sprayed then smoothed it over her skin.
“God, don’t touch me!” she shrieked.
“How’s it supposed to get spread around?”
“In the sun, stupid.”
Jason looked up toward the parking lot again. Finally. He watched his mom and dad cross the space of sand. As always, his dad carried a board and his mom carried beach chairs and a basket. “Over here!” he yelled. “Dad! Mom! We’re over here!”
“Oh god, not them,” thought Jessica. “What a LUMP that woman is!”
“Hi kids,” said Margaret, eyeing the girl on the blanket who didn’t even look up from her book. Jason kissed his mom and shook hands with his dad.
“How’s the surf?”
“Clean. Chest high, regular sets. Looks like fun. Rip tides over by the cliffs, that’s it.”
“Nice. You ready?” The two men walked toward the breakers, their boards strapped to their ankles and carried under their arms.
Margaret watched them from behind, remembering when Mike was a young man much like Jason. “Time flies,” she thought, and not for the first time. And here was Jessica. Jason had brought her home to meet the family. Margaret and Mike made a backyard cookout, ribs, potato salad and asparagus. Smelling the smoke, Jessica had said, “Grilling causes cancer,” and went inside. When supper was served, she asked for two cups of boiling water in a bowl, and, when Margaret set it in front of her, she took a packet of dry organic miso soup from her purse and sprinkled it on the hot water.
“I could have made you soup, Jessica,” said Margaret, embarrassed and somewhat sad.
“No you couldn’t,” Jessica had replied, “I doubt you know anything about my diet or my needs.”
The next morning, Margaret had called Jason and invited him for lunch. “If you marry her,” she said, “you’ll be very unhappy. There will be only one person in that marriage; her.”
Only a month later, Margaret was being told what to wear to the wedding as mother of the groom. Jessica was pregnant, though whether the absence of ensuing events was the result of a miscarriage or a lie remained an open question.
“Whatcha’ reading, Jessica?”
Jessica let out a huge sigh of exasperation and held up her book.
“Really? You’re reading that? I can’t believe it.” Margaret caught herself.
“Yeah? Well look at you. You and Mike? You still drive the car you drove when you got married. You still live in the house you’ve lived in since Jason was a kid. I mean, what do you have to show for your life? Nothing. That’s not me. I NEVER think negative thoughts. NEVER. Only positive thoughts and look what I have. A handsome husband, a beautiful brand new six bedroom house, a Jaguar.”
“Your dad bought you the Jag and we co-signed your mortgage.”
“Like that matters, HOW? I have it and all because I think ONLY positive thoughts.”
“No. You have it because you’re a self-centered, greedy, egocentric, superficial and ruthless little touat. That’s why you have it. That’s how you trapped my son. You didn’t even think…” Margaret stopped. Now SHE wasn’t thinking. She’d sworn NEVER to engage this girl. She knew her opinion didn’t matter at all to Jessica. Not a bit.
“WhatEVER,” said Jessica, unfazed, turning back to her book.
Margaret sat in silence for a while, watching the surfers, trying to pick out her son and husband from the small crowd bobbing, waiting and riding. Finally she stood and folded her chair. She stuffed her book in the bag and put on the long shirt she wore to the beach. She turned and walked to the 1968 VW camper van in which she, Mike and the kids had traveled the world and that Mike kept running out of love and nostalgia. “I hope that little bitch doesn’t mind Jason dropping Mike off at home,” she thought as she turned the key in the ignition.