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The Beach

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“John, hurry up!” the woman, Amy, called from where she stood atop the rise of sand, barefoot and clutching a pair of sandals in one hand as she shielded her eyes from the sun with the other. Her sundress billowed around her legs in the warm tropical breeze and she smiled contentedly, inhaling the familiar scent of the ocean.

The man, John, scrambled up the sandy incline, his sandaled feet sinking in with every step as he fought his way up to where his wife stood admiring the scenery.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Amy murmured, almost more to herself than to John. The sun was just beginning to dip low in the sky, casting a pink and orange glow across the shimmering ocean surface and the few late-afternoon clouds resting in the clear blue sky.

“Yeah, wow,” John replied in a breathless whisper, not wanting to speak too loud and ruin the moment. “Just look at that sunset.” He stepped towards his wife slightly and pulled her close with a well-tanned, muscular arm; she leaned into the embrace and rested her head against his side, closing her eyes to better enjoy the sensation of just being in this extraordinary place.

“Just like I remember,” she whispered.

John sighed happily. “It’s sure not a place you could forget real easily.”

“I told you this was the most beautiful place in the world,” Amy said, agreeing with just a subtle reminder that she had known the picturesque beach and its breathtaking views for quite some time, almost her whole life, in fact. Still close against her husband’s side, she thought back to years earlier, remembering the times she spent on this beach – first as a playful child, splashing in the waves and running back to the shore, shrieking upon discovering a sideways-walking ghost crab lurking in the shallows. Later, as a teenager, she recalled wandering this shore with the occasional boyfriend, each of whom promised they’d spend their lives together but inevitably left her to stroll the beach alone, temporarily heartbroken over the loss of who could have been ‘the one.’ Going away to college meant leaving vacations on this picturesque island, and now, years later, coming back with the man she knew for certain was ‘the one’ was both calming and exhilarating, a more powerful feeling than she ever could have anticipated.

Amy slipped away from John’s side, playfully pulling him along as she ran on tiptoes towards the water’s edge, her feet barely touching the sand as she floated along. John followed willingly, and ran ahead of her out to where the ocean was knee deep, sending up a spray of warm saltwater and prompting Amy to do the same.

After dropping their shoes on higher ground, the couple splashed their way through the water, chasing after one another and playing like young children until they, and the setting sun’s rosy light, were finally exhausted. Soaked in the sticky, salty water and breathing heavily from the physical exertion, they made their way back up and over the high mound of sand, holding hands as they wandered towards the nearby road, a short ways off through the palm trees.

“Well, now I’ve finally seen the famous beach,” John said with a smile as he pushed aside a palm frond that had been blocking their way.

“Famous?” Amy asked. “This beach isn’t famous and it never will be.”

“The way you talk about it, it sure sounds famous.”

Amy shook her head. “No, it’s just full of memories, that’s all. It’s nice to finally come back after... oh, gosh, almost ten years. Has it really been five years since college?”

John smiled. “Where did the time go?”

“I don’t know; everything seems to move so quickly now.” Amy paused, thinking for a moment before she added, “I can’t believe this place has stayed the same all these years.”

“Nothing else has.”

“Oh, just listen to us!” Amy exclaimed, “We’re getting old, talking about how everything’s all new and different.”

“Hardly,” replied John. He paused to brush a strand of dark hair out of Amy’s face. “And even if we are, at least you’re still beautiful.”
~
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~

Three days later, back in their air-conditioned beachside hotel room, John flipped through the local newspaper, scanning the pages for something of interest – mindless sports news from back in the states, or maybe something about another uprising in a third world country that he could read about without feeling the slightest need to care who won and lost, who lived and died. Not seeing anything, he continued to turn pages, avoiding both the local stories and pieces of real news; he was on vacation and did not want to have to think about anything relevant to his own life.

John reached the last page of the paper and dropped it onto the coffee table, but, looking again, the full-page advertisement on the back caught his eye – something about a new development of ‘affordable’ condominiums. “Hey Amy, come here a minute,” he called.

Amy walked up behind John and leaned over his shoulder to read. “Okay,” she said slowly, uncertain as to why he wanted her to see that yet another set of vacation homes was being built when it was hardly news.

“We’ve been talking about wanting a place of our own – what about instead of something near home, we buy one of these units and move down here?” John asked, excitement building in his voice. “It’d be small, but look at these prices – expensive, but nothing compared to most of the properties around here. We could really afford one of these.”

“Do you think?” Amy asked, immediately skeptical of John’s latest wild idea. “What would either of us do living here full time? It’s not like we can bring our jobs with us, and it’s so far from home – so far from all our friends and family.”

“I guess, but it’s not like we couldn’t find some sort of work here, and it could be good for us to get away from home.” He sighed. “Come on, Ame, you love it here. Wouldn’t it be worth it to take a chance?”

She leaned in closer to read the rest of the ad. “I don’t know, John. It’s a big thing to consider. I just don’t know.”

“Well let’s at least think about it, alright? These condos won’t be built for another year anyway. Plenty of time to decide.”

“Alright,” she mumbled absently, continuing to skim the page. “Where are they going to be?”

“Um, not sure,” John replied, looking the page over once more. “Oh, here it is: the last mile of undeveloped coastline on the northeast side of the island.” He shrugged. “You’d think they’d be asking more if it’s the last land available there. I’m telling you, we should really think about buying one of these.”

But Amy wasn’t listening to the end of her husband’s musings on the opportunity. She straightened up stiffly and crossed her arms across her chest as irritation and concern crept into her mind. “Northeast side? But that’s where the beach is.”

“Huh? What beach?”

“My beach – the beach I went to every summer growing up. The one I took you to the other day.” She shook her head in disbelief. “They can’t be planning to build there. They can’t just destroy it like that.”

John turned in his seat to face Amy, whose expression had changed to one of severe disapproval. “It’s not going to be destroyed,” he said, trying to be comforting. “The beach is still going to be there; it’ll just have some condos on it.”

“That’s destroying it! That beach is perfect – quiet, secluded, away from all the tourists – and that’s the part they’re destroying. It won’t be the same to sit and watch the sunset with mobs of people standing around talking; it’ll be ruined!”

“Okay, so it might be more crowded, but the beach itself will still be the same. There are all sorts of laws about what they can and can’t do in terms of development, and I think there’s even something about how far buildings have to be from the water.”

Amy shook her head. “It’s not the same, John.”

“I’m not saying it is.” He thought for a moment, trying to come up with something reassuring to say. Finally he added, “But look at it this way – all those condos are going to be bought by somebody, and if we buy one, that’s fewer tourists to be hanging around messing up your view of the sunset.”

“No.”

“Amy...” He exhaled slowly, disappointed in the immediate failure of the argument he had been certain would convince her. It started as just an impulsive suggestion, but as he thought about it, John quickly got his heart set on owning one of those condos, but he knew it would never happen unless Amy was completely on board with the idea.

“Absolutely not!” she exclaimed, offended. “I’m not buying a little developed chunk of that beach; it seems wrong.”

John sighed. “I know you love that beach. If it has to be parceled up, shouldn’t we own a part of it? Not buying a condo doesn’t do anything to stop the development and you know that.”

Amy frowned and began to wander towards the window. “No,” she said quietly. “No, it doesn’t. There has to be something that can, right? They just can’t do that to that stretch of beach.”

“You’re kidding, right? You don’t want to get involved in that sort of thing; there’s no point. You don’t know where to even begin!”

“I’m serious, John. That beach is too important to just let go.”

John shook his head slowly, contemplatively. “I guess you can try to fight it, but the odds of getting anywhere with that are basically zero. I know how much you care about that beach, but…” he trailed off, not sure where he was going other than repeating himself. “I think you should just let it go, but it’s up to you what you do about it.”

Amy remained silent for a while, considering her options. She was so mad that anyone would even consider developing that beach; she felt rage building up within her until she thought she might snap right then and there, start yelling at John even though she knew it wasn’t his fault. She wanted to scream that nothing about that beach had ever been up to her – half of her anger stemmed from the fact that she had missed so many years of enjoyment on that beach, years she now would never have a chance to make up for. She had given up almost a decade of visits to that beach, assuming it would always be there and she could always go back, but suddenly that plan was impossible.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she finally said quietly. “I’ll have to think about it. Maybe there’s nothing I can do, but I know when not to let things go. That beach is worth fighting for.”





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