The sky was full of fire. Great clouds caught light from the red sun below and streaked oranges and pinks against the smoke-grey of their unlit selves. The deepening darkness beyond would soon let faint starlight shine.
The sea was calm along the shore. The waves that rolled and splayed gently barely made any noise. Little black birds, swift on their legs, ran back and forth, digging their beaks into wet sand.
The mountains laid low, gently dipping their arms in the water between the sandy flats. Their peaks, rounded with age, lined with light their Westward edges, but hid the rest of their faces.
Standing near the car, Veronica looked at the sea. In flat sandals, tight indigo jeans and heavy coarse-knit sweater of natural wool that came to hug her neck to her earlobes, she stood very still, oblivious to the occasional gust of wind that played with her black hair and brought it, unknowing, across her face, across her nose and mouth, to wipe the tears that pooled at the corner or her eyes.
Across time, across the sea, her memories took her, and she relished the time of sorrow. So few now were the moments when, alone, she was free to reminisce, free to disappear into melancholy, free to unbottle the sad genie and let the pain of lost opportunities and people long gone come welling to her eyes and streak her cheeks with salt.
In the car, Jake waited. His book was engrossing, something by Amanda Palmer’s husband, and the overhead light detached the dark lettering from the creamy page. He knew not to disturb Veronica, that she was fine, that she would soon be her cheery self and that they would drive away, singing along radio songs, and she would laugh and fling her hair about and show her teeth and tongue and the white of her eyes, and with luck, play air guitar like a carefree teen.
He looked up for a moment. The sun’s red disk hid in horizontal parts and stars appeared between cloud masses. Veronica turned at that very moment and reached the car, then the front seat.
As she closed the door, Jake pushed the ignition. The panels lit up and the low rumble felt familiar. She turned her face to his, and, seeing his face, smiled.
“Thank you for waiting.”
Jake tossed the novel to the back seat. Then he leaned to her and kissed her.
“Thank you for getting into my car.”
And with this tired old joke, the ritual ended. It would be begun again next month, or the next, along the same lines.
She laughed, punched a button on the radio, and as he began to drive, she sang, flinging her hair.
Written at Thai Chaba in Calabasas, on April 24, 2015, along with some food and a tall Thai iced tea.
© 2015 Christopher Mahan