Ann and Julie approached William looking timid and apologetic. He laughed wryly—at least that was the effect he was trying for.
"Don't bother to explain." He said. "You've changed your mind again."
Ann gave him a sad smile.
"Julie wants to run the restaurant herself."
* * * * *
I stopped at the waterline to pull off my shoes and slacks. The water was freezing, in spite of the heat, and the salt wind cooled my face and chest.
I glanced back at the party. I couldn't hear the music anymore, just the breakers. A group of sand pipers retreated as a wave washed over the sand, then followed as it flowed out again.
I stood still—letting it wash over my feet.
I thought of Charlie. I couldn't blame him, I'd known him—and his intentions—too well. But I couldn't understand him, anymore, either. I could no longer fathom how he could prefer a fantasy of wings and a halo to the cold, deep reality of the sea, to smooth gleaming skin, to the solid ripples of muscle underneath, to the rush of water past my ears.
I couldn't imagine trading reality for fantasy, love for benevolence, self-knowledge for self-importance. Maybe it wouldn't have been that way for him, but that was how it had been for me. And I couldn't wait to leave it behind.
The sea beyond was alive with dolphins, now, thousands of them, calling over the roar of the surf.
And before I hit the water, I knew.
I knew it was going to happen.
* * * * *
Before William could say anything, Julie stepped forward.
"I'm going to run the restaurant," she said, "But I'd like to offer you a job."
He almost laughed.
But she was serious.
"Now Clarence is gone I'm going to need a chef."
William was astonished.
"A chef? Hmm. A chef. Well, that's very… I'd have to…"
He paused for a moment to consider, then raised an eyebrow.
"How much does it pay?"
* * * * *
I waded out to my waist and slipped out of my shorts. This time I could feel it. This time I had it right.
I let the air out of my lungs.
I dropped under the waves.
The sounds turned to light the instant I hit the water.
I didn't have to do a thing.
It took me over. It turned me inside out. It filled me with hope and with life and with pain.
It ran through my body like magic.
Like the color of the sea.