STORM

by Carla King

It is late afternoon and storm clouds gather over the sea on the other side of the bay. Squinting, Eva pulls the wide-brimmed straw hat lower over her eyes. The ice cream vendor walks by pulling his faded red plastic cooler full of ice and cardboard tasting ice cream cones, flinging bits of sand behind him with each flip of his blue plastic thongs. It is the last time he will pass today. Most people are packing up their things, folding their towels, and gathering up their children who want to stay at the edge of the sea. The children don’t want to go. They are jumping excitedly at the flash of lightening, laughing at the thunder and counting the seconds. It is still so far away. “Another glass of rose?” asks John. His voice seems far away. Eva hands her glass to him without answering. She’s had too much already and the sun has made her head ache. Another glass will bring back the oblivion. He pours and the crystal immediately frosts. It feels nice on her fingers, on her throat. She takes several short sips. It is good wine from the region, sweet with fruit, bitter with grape skins. She holds the half empty glass up to him, and he fills her glass again. Eva leans back, her elbows on the yellow beach towel. The air is still warm and hangs thickly around her body that is sticky, salty from sweat and the blue green sea water. She thinks of getting up to rinse herself in the fresh water shower by the edge of the beach but the

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effort seems to great and anyway, there is the storm that is coming toward them. They must go soon. Her arms feel heavy. Suddenly she notices the silence. Everyone has gone, and so quickly. There are no more screaming splashing children, no lovers embracing in the sea, no married couples quarreling. They have it to themselves now, the entire Riviera. How often does that happen? Another rumble of thunder. Oh, the light is exquisite now on the sea. The clouds are heavy and white with gray and black edging. It’s lovely. They should wait and risk its arrival. Wait until the last minute and then rush to the car in the midst of it, letting the raindrops pelt their backs, soak their clothes. But John will want to leave soon. She can feel his struggle with impatience and his unwillingness to express his desire to leave. He has these fights inside, she always knows it. He can’t insist. Well, she doesn’t want to care about his discomfort. It isn’t hers and he can learn, or not, to express his desires. She sits up to look at the clouds and to take another sip of wine and doesn’t look at him. She tilts her head back to let the sun tease her eyes, then dips her head again. She falls back on her arms and wills the sun to stay visible under the clouds. She likes the golden warmth on her skin. It feels good to stretch her neck back so far. Maybe he will kiss her. She closes her eyes. No.

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Without speaking he stands and starts to pack their things into the bag. He is ready to go whenever she says so, but he should lie down. Lie down and enjoy the storm. It will be a warm storm. “Lie down and wait for the storm with me,” she says. He laughs and stands there, waiting for her. The air will be warm and the cold raindrops will tumble on their bodies, soaking their towels, their hair. She loves the Riviera rain. She could love him if, right now, he would lie down and wait for the storm with her. If he could put his arms around her in the thunder and lightening to watch the sea together, watch the raindrops pounding the sand, feel them on their skin, to be like the sea and let it stream into them, over them. “I need a shower anyway,” she adds, laughing. He doesn’t move, he doesn’t laugh. Fresh, warm water to wash the sweat and the sea salt from her body. She won’t have to move, she will lie very still letting the drops fall on her skin, on her eyelids, on her lips. If she wants she can open her mouth and drink it. The sun will be completely hidden soon with the clouds, now almost nearly all black and moving swiftly toward them from across the bay. She feels a movement beside her. Him. Oh, him. What will he do? She could love him, she thinks, if he would make her leave right now. If he would say something, if he would say we’re leaving and take

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her arms and lead her to the car without any fuss. On second thought, a fuss would be just fine. Maybe a little tousle and then a kiss, then driving, smoldering, in the car. A shiver goes up her spine as she spins her little fantasy. She could love him if he could do that. The storm clouds hide the sun completely but the air is still warm. He expects her to read him, to be sensitive to his needs without him having to make demands. A short while ago Eva thought that she wanted a man like him but now she knows she’s not the kind of woman who can bother. Far back in her mind she lies there like a child testing the patience of a doting parent. Is he doting? Is the passion rising in him or will he just stand there all fucking evening waiting for her? She really does want to feel the raindrops on her body. Or maybe it’s only the idea of raindrops. Maybe he should tell her what she wants. It should be obvious by now. “What if we took another swim?” she teases. “A swim?” “The storm won’t be here for another half an hour.” “It’s closer than that.” “Even so, let’s swim.” She could love him after all, maybe, if he would do just that. Take off those creased khaki shorts of his and run naked into the sea.

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“It will be like swimming at night,” she murmurs, “we could take all our clothes off and swim. There’s no one else here.” She rises but he stays where he is as she walks to the edge of the sea and stands there watching the little waves turn from sparkling blue to gray, then go flat. Her hat dangles in her long fingers by her side, her hair is sticky and wet down her back. With a quick flick of the wrist she flings the hat down onto the sand, steps out of her bathing suit, and walks into the water. Has he followed? She wonders vaguely what he’s doing as her arms stretch out in front of her, reaching further and further out toward the center of the bay. Her limbs are not quite hers but moving automatically with grace and long practice. The sea clears her head. The water is thick but the salt makes her buoyant. She moves quickly despite having drunk too much wine until she is out in the kelp and a small panic rises. Has she swum too far now? She treads water, refusing to look around to the beach. The sky is dark now and with her head out of the sea she hears the sky rumbling. There is a flash and the goose flesh rises on her skin as a the electric shock of the lightening travels through the water to her, dispersed but still, a warning. Her heart beats a caution that her head does not hear. And then there is the rain falling suddenly, so pleasantly just like she imagined, the coldness of it coming from so high up inside the

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clouds and beating on her head. She turns on her back and floats, buoyant in the salty water, savoring the drops that sharply strike her bare skin. Another flash of lightening, then the rumble of thunder again, still several seconds behind it. It is time to start back, thinks Eva. It would be foolish not to. Her arms move, taking her slowly back to land. If he is still there when she reaches the shore, if the beach is not empty except for her bathing suit and her hat, she will hate him. That will be the end of it. Another bolt of lightening flashes across the sky. Thunder follows quickly, too quickly. She scans the beach but cannot see in the faded light. It will be his fault if she dies in this storm. Long strokes, legs straight, she kicks toward shore. §

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