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A Timeless Love
Cheryl Ann Guido
September 8, 1999
Five-year-old Billy Barton put down his blue plastic shovel and stared at the partially unearthed gleaming gold object. Without another thought, he stuck his finger into the sand and fished it out. Beaming, he brushed off the sand and held his treasure up to the sunlight. The round-faced watch hung from a still shiny gold chain. Satisfied it was indeed a treasure, he held it to his ear while his nose wrinkled into a curious grimace. Hearing nothing, he shook it and placed it up against his ear again with the same result. Apparently, the watch no longer worked but for Billy, it was still a wonderful prize.
“Mommy, Mommy, look what I found!”
His short little legs kicked up swirls of sand as he dashed over to his mother who was comfortably seated in a beach chair underneath a huge umbrella. She put down the book she had been reading, removed her sunglasses and took the watch from her son.
“Where did you get this?”
“It was buried in the sand, over there.” Billy pointed to his half-built sand castle near the shoreline. “It’s broken though. It doesn’t tick anymore.”
“Well let’s see.” Billy’s mom turned the crown clockwise while holding onto the knob at the top. After a few rotations, she held the watch up to her ear and listened. A huge grin spread across her lips and she gestured to Billy to listen too. The little boy’s eyes lit up and he jumped up and down clapping his hands.
“It’s ticking! It’s ticking!” As Billy took back his prize, something etched on the back of the watch caught his eye. “What does it say, Mom?”
The sunlight bounced off of the surface making the etching difficult to read. She squinted and rubbed some ground-in sand off of the inscription.
“It says, My darling Edward, our love is timeless. Anna. There’s a date too, August 25, 1949.”
“Wow, cool! Can I keep it?”
Billy’s mother scratched her head while she thought for a moment. Ordinarily, she would have told her son that they should try to find the owner but since this watch had been beneath the sand for an unknown amount of time, there was little chance of that happening. Still, feeling she must try, she glanced up and down the beachline. Except for herself and her son, the beach was empty. Not surprising as the Labor Day holiday crowd had departed several days earlier. Since the beach closed at six pm and it was nearly that time, they should be leaving as well. Sighing, she patted the top of Billy’s head.
“Sure, keep it. But take good care of it, ok? This watch is special. Obviously, it once meant a lot to someone. Now get your things together. It’s late and we need to get back to our hotel so we can shower and have some dinner.”
“Okay, Mom, and thanks.” Billy tossed the watch into his sand pail but then thought better of it and handed it to his mother. “Can you put it in your purse? I don’t want to lose it because, you know, it’s special.”
“Of course.” She giggled slightly as she tucked it inside of her beach bag then proceeded to take down the big umbrella while Billy gathered up his toys.
From underneath the boardwalk, a lone figure silently watched the pair as they left the beach. After mother and son exited up the old wooden stairs, he stepped out of the shadows and stared absentmindedly at the incoming ocean waves. The sun had already begun to set and hung like a big red ball over the horizon, casting horizontal fiery plumes across the sky. Soon darkness would arrive and along with it, his memories.
He wandered down to the water, removed his shoes and held them by their laces as he started his nightly trek south along the shoreline. When he reached the first rock jetty, he found a smooth boulder, sat down and let his feet dangle over the side and into the cool water below.
“Oh Edward, what a wonderful night to go for a walk on the beach.”
The corners of his mouth turned up revealing an impish grin. “Yes indeed, my love, and such a special night at that.”
“Special? In what way, darling?”
Edward took a deep breath and knelt down on one knee. “It’s special because tonight I am asking you to spend the rest of your life with me.” He opened a small black velvet box revealing a large sparkling diamond surrounded by a crown of tiny diamond chips. “Anna Waters, will you marry me?”
The young woman gasped, clutching her hands to her chest. Eyes wide, she stared at him open mouthed, unable to speak. He focused his own eyes on hers expectantly while he held his breath. Finally, she nodded and grinned. “Yes, yes my love! I will marry you!”
Edward slipped the ring onto the third finger of her left hand. Touching the diamond tenderly, she lowered her head. “I thought you would never ask.” He tilted her head upward and kissed her. They remained locked in their embrace for a few moments, then Edward slipped his hands under her arms, lifted her up and twirled her around as they both squealed with joy.
Only half of the sun could be seen above sea level. He had been sitting there for quite some time. After sliding off of the rock he continued his walk.
“Edward, my hat! The wind’s taken it.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it.”
Without a thought, he raced out into the ocean fully clothed. As the hat dipped slightly above his head, he jumped up in an attempt to snatch it, but the wind was quicker and away it sailed. On the shore, Anna giggled at his valiant attempt to rescue her chapeau. Edward remained undaunted. He ducked through a wave and swam out farther into the sea. The wind, however, had other plans and once again the hat eluded his efforts. Dismayed, he watched the chiffon-draped straw bonnet dance along the breeze, then disappear farther out into the ocean in the growing darkness. He turned around and shrugged, feeling sheepish and defeated while the love of his life simply laughed and shook her head.
The memory evoked a soft chortle as he continued to the next set of rocks where the scent of Lavender began to waft up his nostrils. It was her scent. He closed his eyes and imagined the soft tinkle of her voice and another beautiful evening’s walk along the boardwalk.
“Happy Anniversary, darling! I cannot believe it’s been a year already and what a wonderful year it has been. I think I am the happiest woman alive.”
Edward blushed as Anna handed him a small white-papered package wrapped with a dark blue ribbon. “Oh Anna, you did not have to get me anything.”
“Ahh, but I did my love. Open it before I burst with excitement.”
With slightly trembling fingers, he pulled on the tail of the bow to untie it, then removed the paper wrapping revealing a small black box. After opening it, he grinned. “Is this a subtle way of telling me I’m always late?”
Anna frowned a bit as she snatched the watch away, clipped the chain to his vest pocket then placed the crown back into his hand. “Read the inscription on the back.”
“My darling Edward, our love is timeless. Anna. What a beautiful sentiment.”
“It is true, my love. No matter what happens, our love will never die.”
“I—I don’t know what to say.”
Her lips brushed the edge of his ear as she whispered, “Say nothing.”
The sound of a wave crashing near the shoreline jarred away the happy memory. Exhaling, Edward continued his walk. The sand felt cool and soothed his bare toes. Directly in front of him, a large white conch shell reflected the brilliant light of the full moon. He scooped it up, held it to his ear and smiled as the roar of the ocean flooded his auditory senses triggering yet another reminiscence.
Gazing upward, Edward shaded his eyes from the blinding glare. Although the air was warm, the sun had not yet reached its zenith. He felt a sharp tug on his fingers.
“Papa, can we go swimming now?”
Edward squatted down until he was eye to eye with the little girl. She was only three but already an exceptionally intelligent child. Her tanned skin glistened in the sun while her short brown pigtails swung in the breeze. Both of her hands were firmly gripping her little hips and her lips were tightly set in a straight thin line. He swallowed a chuckle. Being a parent was not as easy as he had thought it would be. He cleared his throat and set his own lips into what he hoped was a firm expression.
“You see that, Mandy?” He pointed to the sun still trying to rise into the heavens. “When that great big yellow ball gets all the way to the top of the sky, you can go swimming.”
The little girl stamped her bare foot into the sand. “Why do I have to wait?”
“Because right now the water is freezing. Your toes will turn blue because they’ll be so cold you won’t be able to feel them. Then, you’ll walk like this.” He began to trot around in a circle, wobbling and half falling down, then picking himself up while his daughter screamed with laughter.
“Oh Papa, you’re so funny. I don’t want blue toes so I’ll wait. But is it alright if I collect some seashells?”
Edward stood upright again. “Only if I can help you.”
“Yay, let’s go!”
She wrapped her fingers in his and they skipped along the sand in search of pretty treasures from the sea. Soon her bucket was overflowing. Edward looked up and checked the sun’s position then turned to his daughter with a wry grin.
“Guess what time it is.”
“Time to go swimming?”
“Yes indeed. Let’s walk back and get your mama so she can join us.”
“Just one more shell first.” As she raced over to collect her last prize, a large conch shell, her little feet accidentally kicked some sand onto a man and woman sunbathing on a blanket. The woman grunted and the man beside her, a big burly fellow, scowled.
“Hey you, you just kicked sand all over us!”
Mandy froze, eyes wide.
“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you little girl! Come over here and apologize.”
Edward, who had waited close to the water line, jogged over to the couple. “What’s the trouble?”
“She yours?” The big man snarled as he spit the words out.
“She’s my daughter.”
“Well, your daughter just kicked sand on my wife and me. It’s all over both of us. She needs to apologize.”
“I’m terribly sorry. She didn’t do it on purpose. She’s just a small child and didn’t realize …”
“You need to teach her some manners,” the large man growled cutting Edward off. Frowning, he chomped down on his stogie and began to brush the sand away. “She shouldn’t be running on the beach anyway.”
Embarrassed, Edward gestured to his daughter to join him. “Mandy, apologize.”
“I’m sorry I kicked sand on you lady, and I’m sorry I kicked sand on you too Mister. But I don’t think it all came from me.”
Arching his brow, the big man glared at her over the top of his sunglasses. “Oh no?”
“Nope. Your blanket is too small. Your big butt is halfway off of it, see?” Mandy pointed at the man’s derriere. Rage began to color his face beet red. He rose to a standing position as he yanked his cigar out of his mouth. Edward pulled Mandy close and wrapped his arms around her protectively then nervously cleared his throat.
“I believe you have gotten your apology. We’ll be on our way now.” Edward grabbed Mandy’s hand, turned and the two exchanged amused looks and giggles as they jogged away as fast as they could, leaving the big man to stew in his anger.
When they arrived at their own blanket, Edward squatted down so he was eye to eye with his daughter. “Mandy, what you said to that man was unkind.”
“But it’s true!”
He bit his lip then continued. “It is true that he is a large man and that he was not all the way on his blanket, but pointing out his largeness as the reason for that was rude. Just because his blanket was not big enough to adequately accommodate both of them, does not mean that he was full of sand because he has a big butt. The reason is because that blanket was too small. In the future, please be more respectful, okay?” The little girl began to protest, but Edward held his finger to his lips. “Okay, Amanda?”
He used her given name. Mandy knew her father meant business. “Yes Papa.”
“Good. Now run along. Your mother is already in the water waiting for you.”
Edward had been so immersed in that particular memory he did not realize he had reached the second jetty until he stumbled over a small rock protruding up from the slimy seaweed-covered sand. The sun had fully disappeared below the horizon and darkness had descended. Time to turn around and head back.
This was the part of the walk that he dreaded. The part he did not want to remember, the part that caused so much pain. With a heavy sigh he spun around and began to trudge back across the moonlit beach as he struggled to keep the heartbreaking thought from his mind. Wading through the cold water, he forced himself to remember the happy times celebrating birthdays and Christmas trees, teaching his daughter to ride a bike and eventually, to drive a car. He had been determined to give Mandy as much of a good life as possible. He watched his daughter grow from a precocious child to a college graduate with a bright future on the horizon. Every time he gazed upon her face, his heart swelled with love and pride, but also with sadness for she looked exactly like his beloved Anna.
He squeezed his eyes shut in an effort to keep the wretched memory away. However, it was of no use. He had arrived at the spot, the place that he never wanted to visit again, yet was compelled to visit every night. Exhausted, his knees buckled. He placed his hands over his eyes and fell back onto the sand.
“What a beautiful sunrise. I think it is the most spectacular we have ever seen together.” Anna rested her head against her husband’s shoulders. “This place,” she brought her handkerchief up to her mouth covering it as the violent cough escaped her throat, “is so special, Edward. Thank you for bringing me here.”
A tear slid down his cheek as Edward took the handkerchief from her trembling hand. Seeing the blood spots that dotted the white cotton was devastating and he struggled to keep his voice from breaking. He wanted this moment to be filled with happiness not sorrow. “Yes, my love. We have spent many happy days on this beach and have so many wonderful memories.”
Anna’s breaths became raspy as she gasped for air. Edward wrapped his arms around her frail shoulders. Maybe this had not been such a good idea. “Are you ready to go back now?”
Anna shook her head violently. “No. I want to be here.”
Edward nodded as he swallowed the lump in his throat. He kissed the top of her head and rocked her gently as she struggled to speak.
“Darling, promise me you will always do what is best for Mandy.”
“Of course, I …”
“No. Hear me out, Edward. She needs to go to college. Please promise me that will happen.”
“I promise.” This time he could not stop his voice from breaking.
“Promise me that you will always be there for her, no matter what happens. I want her to grow up to be a good person.”
“She will. She already is thanks to you.” His voice became a mere whisper.
“Thank you. You’re a good father.” Anna was wheezing loudly. “I love you, Edward.” As her head trembled, she tilted it upward and kissed him. Tears streamed down both of Edward’s cheeks and he hugged his wife tighter than he had ever hugged her before. A few moments later he loosened his arms a bit as he realized the wheezing had stopped.
“Oh God, Anna, no!”
In a fit of rage, he ripped the watch chain from his pocket and threw it as hard as he could. Love was not timeless, it was dead.
A loud sob shattered the quiet of the nearly deserted beach. Apparently, he had been sitting there for hours since the sun had already started its journey upward. A young boy bounded past him and dove into a wave. After splashing about for a bit, the laughing boy sprinted out of the ocean and accidentally bumped into Edward.
Still overcome with emotion, Edward was unable to speak and continued to stare out across the water. The boy tugged at his pant leg. “Hey Mister, are you okay?”
Slowly lowering his gaze, Edward managed a weak smile. “I—yes, thank you for asking.”
The little boy brightened as he pointed toward his mother reclining in a beach chair. “That’s my mom. I’m Billy. We’re here on vacation. What’s your name?”
“Edward, really? Wait here, I got something for you.” Billy ran back to his Mom who rummaged through her beach bag then handed a shiny object to her son. She waved as Billy jogged back to Edward. “Is this yours?” He placed the watch in Edward’s hands.
The old man’s heart skipped a beat as he turned the watch over and read the inscription. Smiling, he put the watch back into Billy’s hand. “It was, but you can keep it.”
“I can? Gee, thanks!”
Billy returned to his mother, leaving Edward alone at the water’s edge. Seeing that watch had reminded him that his memories should not cause pain. They were precious and he needed to hang on tight, to never forget. Because the good times and bad, the joys and tragedies were indeed what made theirs a timeless love.
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