Summertime Lovers

A quick kiss, yet tender with a touch of promise and he was off. Monday. The kids were still asleep. Sunrise had declared itself and Jeff was off to the city. Melissa ran a slender almost delicate hand through tousled hair and wandered slowly back to bed. It was a very nice weekend she thought to herself and contemplated Wednesday with a smile.

“And so it goes”, said Jean that afternoon over the Monday bridge game. “Now you see em, now you don’t. I wonder what they do without us all week. In fact I really don’t think I want to know. If I enjoy my freedom here why shouldn’t George enjoy his in the city. I like the beach, my kids like the beach, my girl likes the beach, even George likes the beach when he’s here, so why should I mind whatever George does to relieve himself, so to speak.”

Melissa, Chessa and Annie all smiled a little to themselves. Melissa wondered what she might have said instead; and wondered if she should wonder what exactly Jeff was doing about the same problem.

Every summer for the past four summers Melissa experienced the same momentary panics. What if…what if Jeff was… well balling some other woman for instance, keeping a mistress, visiting those massage places… well any of those unpleasant alternatives. Every time she added up all the possibilities she decided that it really was too heavy to think about just then. Later maybe. When the kids were asleep exhausted from the Monday night ritual of bowling and baths. If only they liked tennis, she mused, but seeing the sidetrack she put herself back in the game.

” Jeff’s sure been away a lot lately eh Lissa”, said Chessa laying her cards slowly and methodically on the table. “Urn huh” said Melissa nodding her head equally as slowly as she thought, damn her anyway. I mean she knew that Chessa’s Harold was no damn saint. In fact, she wondered if Chessa even suspected Harold. Harold was quite a guy, tall, shaggy, curly hair and a truly fabulous body. She really wondered if Chessa knew of Harold’s happening last summer. She saw Jean look around, taking in the heavy slience. Jean lowered her head and quickly played the Jack of Spades. In spite of herself, Melissa smiled at the irony.

” Mrs. Sandpiper said she’d meet you at the beach. She took lunch”, Claire told her as she traced peculiar noises into the porch. Melissa, still struggling to keep her eyes open to the morning light, nodded at Claire and glanced toward the porch. She had to laugh. Who could help but laugh at the unpredictable ways of children. All children of course, but hers especially. Especially right now. Nick and Nolle grinned at her. “Where did you ever dig those up? They must have belonged to our ghosts.” She fingered the maj tiles the kids were tossing into an old chamber pot Victorian by design but probably early World War II reject she figured.

Nick and Nolle had been up since seven. Although it was Tuesday it might have been any Tuesday. She and Annie had planned on Chinese and a movie with the kids at Plimpton about fifteen miles inland. Claire was off, Tuesday and Sunday, same as Annie’s girl. They’d planned it so and it was understood they’d at least do dinner together.

Josh Sandpiper had almost always been away at camp or fancy schools or on exotic trips with his parents so no one was surprised to hear he’d married a girl while away. No one was even really surprised that he’d met her in Hong Kong of all places. But the fact that she was half Burmese that really surprised a lot of people.

Annie’s father was a British pilot, shot down just like in the movies. Annie’s mother a nurse. She nursed him, they fell in love, just like in the movies. Annie’s mother died quickly when Annie was just two and Annie grew up in Hong Kong where her father worked as a test pilot. Annie had told her all this over coffee one Monday morning after Jeff and George and Harold had left for the city. Josh was away for two months. Annie was pregnant once again, not allowed into Malaysia where Josh was building planes. So she’d come to spend the summer at his family’s summer home. And as she further confided to Melissa that day, she spent a lot of time regretting it.

Melissa and Annie became friends over the next two months, developing a liking and respect of the other’s individuality. Annie listened thoughtfully as Melissa unloosed fears of life and love, marriage and divorce. Annie spoke of her life without a mother, of her gentle father and of her distinct distaste for most of Melissa’s friends. She did not like the life of a beach wife, particularly amongst Josh’s friends. Poor Annie Melissa said to herself as she rinsed her mug and went about giving Tuesday its chance to happen.

Chessa seemed particularly quiet this Tuesday. She let her kids eat too much junk, a distinct oddity for Chessa and she even agreed to a Wednesday night sleepover for all the kids at her place. Nice but heavy. Melissa knew then that something was wrong. It wasn’t like Harold to miss a Wednesday. Unless of course. Too late she saw the trap and as she glanced up she felt Chessa watching her as she watched Chessa, trying to figure the whole thing out.

The guys usually arrived around seven, Melissa like the others would have fed her kids and sent up a prayer for an early bedtime. It was nice to be alone during the week. But Wednesday nights were nice too.

She’d spent the afternoon doing her hair, her toes, her nails, her face and anything else she could think of. Jeff had taken to bringing down wine when he came. In fact, she remembered smiling – last weekend he’d brought down champagne. Just felt like it he’d said.

So it was no wonder Chessa was looking upset. Melissa figured she’d be upset too; wondering yet not really wanting to know. Thoughts like that could she give a girl the downers.

Even Annie who didn’t much like Chessa was rather sympathetic. It was later Tuesday as they sat by a fire sipping brandied coffees that Melissa told Annie of how she and Jean stayed in the city over night last summer and how she’d walked in on Jean and Harold. She hadn’t thought that Chessa knew, Jean had pleaded for her silence, but now she really wasn’t sure. Perhaps she’d sound out Jeff tomorrow watching his eyes to see the truth behind them.

She loved Jeff’s eyes. They were deep and blue with long lashes which she dearly envied. She liked most things about Jeff. Inspite of all the hassles, they seemed to get along. Summers at the beach gave Melissa time to catch up with herself from frantic over crowded winters. She liked the lazy days, the gossip, the magic moments with her kids and especially she liked Jeff’s comings and goings. It was romantic. Almost like being young again – single – spending hours getting ready for dates, time enough to be together but not to bounce off each others nerves.

As the Wednesday parade began she saw Jeff’s Mercedes stop down the road. George got out. How he was alone. As she turned her head she caught a glimpse of Chessa ducking her head quickly inside. She felt a momentary twinge of compassion but as Jeff stopped the car, wine in one hand, mail in the other, she felt her lips go dry and her heart go faster. Welcome back lover, she said softly as he bent to kiss her.