Back to my weekly posting of draft chapters from part one of The Road to Environmental Armageddon.
The Souring Seas
Monday, August 17, 2020
As Tony rushed by Cuppa Java on his way to the university Monday morning, he spied Beth hunched over a large mug. He jerked to a stop, hurried inside, and approached the table where she sat dabbing at puffy red eyes. “Have you been crying?”
“And you could start again anytime.”
“Can I help?”
The floodgates opened and tears streamed down her cheeks. “Jeremy left me. He emailed Friday from Paris saying he had another job in Europe and wouldn’t be coming back—the modern cliché, dumped by email. I’m abandoned, pregnant with his baby, and no idea what to do. I must talk to Mr. Brockleman, the Smugglers Cove director, but I don’t have the energy to call him.”
“Pregnant! Does he know you’re pregnant?”
She sniffed, wiping away tears with a fresh Kleenex. “We were making plans together. Now he says he isn’t coming back and didn’t even mention the baby.”
Tony blinked, eyes bright with incipient tears. He skidded his chair against hers and pulled her close. This was really awkward because he hadn’t resolved his uncertainty about their relationship. His initial reaction was to offer her his undying support. But that wasn’t realistic. It was too soon for long-term commitments, but he couldn’t abandon her. “Tell me.”
“I’ve no choice,” she whispered. “I love babies and children, and I’ve wanted so much to have this baby. It’s a boy. I couldn’t possibly abort him.”
“So, you’ll become a mother.”
She straightened her back while dabbing tears. “You make it sound simple. But you’re right, it’s what I must do. But I feel so alone.”
“You have family, I know you do.”
“Parents and a sister. They’ll be supportive once they get used to the idea, but I need it sorted out before I talk to them. Otherwise, they’ll decide for me.”
“The other women in the acting business aren’t real friends. We hang out together, but we fight for jobs. It’s not conducive to real friendship. We were living in our little bubble, and I let my other friends drift away.” She stared out the window, tears welling. “My bubble’s burst. I’m on my own.”
“They’ll be there, your neighbour, Bernadette, for one.”
Her head and shoulders remained slumped as she gazed through her eyelashes. “And you?”
He wanted to help, but they’d been friends for such a short time. “You need a diversion, and I’ve never seen the tourist sights outside metro. How about visiting Peggy’s Cove or Lunenburg? Sound good to you?”
“It’ll be hot. Could we take a picnic to Crystal Crescent Beach?”
Tony’s eyes widened. “Isn’t it a nudist beach? I’m not sure we should go to a nudist beach.”
She looked up, a tiny smile creeping across her face. “Maybe that’s what I need.” She stopped as the little smile became a frown. “Don’t panic, I’m teasing and anyway, only the farthest part of Crystal Crescent is clothing optional. The rest is a normal beach.”
He looked toward the door. “Okay, if you want a picnic, that’s what we’ll do. Let’s go.”
Two hours later, they set beach towels on the second of Crystal Crescent’s three beaches, one with families and kids but no nudity. After fussing with the basket she’d spent thirty minutes packing, Beth removed her shorts and T-shirt to reveal her still trim body in a bikini.
Tony stared. “You don’t look pregnant.”
“No,” she said rubbing her stomach, “but I’m developing a baby bump.” She leaned back. “My doctor says it will soon show, so this might be your last chance.”
“You’ll be just as beautiful in a few months.”
She smiled, lowering her eyes. “Oh, you are a charmer. You’ve improved my spirits such a lot. I’ll have a little wine with lunch. But don’t give me a second glass.”
“I thought women weren’t supposed to drink when they’re pregnant.”
“My doctor said an occasional glass was okay, but she stressed the occasional part. One glass will be okay. And we have something to celebrate. Pour the wine so I can propose a toast to Tony, my knight who’s not in shining armour.”
But fortunately, not completely naked, Tony thought as he raised his glass. It’s crazy, her pregnancy should send me running for cover, but it’s the complete opposite.
His science self recommended caution, but his emotional self, one he usually kept under better control, wanted him to go all in.
After several minutes watching traffic on the water, Beth placed her hand on Tony’s. “It’s time my knight told me about himself. You’ve described your work at Dal, never anything about yourself.”
“I grew up in London, a south-western Ontario city that’s somewhat bigger than Halifax. I’m an only child, and my parents died in a car crash when I was ten. Raising a young boy dealing with the loss of his parents wasn’t easy for the aunt who got stuck with me, but she did a good job. I was a normal kid, a good student and interested in sports, but never on school teams. I was lousy at art and music, and I would have been hopeless in a play. After high school, I studied engineering at the University of Western Ontario and came to Halifax for my master’s degree.”
Tony smiled. “Masses, but never anything enduring. My most recent girl graduated in May and moved to Toronto.”
Three young women appeared.
“Ah, there you are,” one said. “We saw your car and came looking for you. Who’s the new guy? He’s cuter than Jeremy.” The others giggled.
Beth scowled. She clearly didn’t welcome the interruption. “This is Tony. We’re neighbours enjoying a beach day. Tony, these three are Jennifer, Mandy, and Theresa. They share the misfortune of being actors.”
Jennifer scrutinized their lunch basket and then Beth in her bikini. “It looks like you’ve been on vacation scarfing too many fattening sweets.”
Beth turned her head and stared at the waves. “I had an assignment in central Canada so I visited my sister and her family.”
Theresa ignored Beth’s less than fulsome explanation. She nodded at Tony and winked. “You should bring him to our beach. He’d look good in the altogether.”
Beth shook her head. “Not today. We’re happy where we are.”
Theresa made a dismissive gesture, and the trio strutted away.
Beth glared at their swaying backsides. “See, they’re as bitchy as I said. Wait ’till they learn I’m pregnant and Jeremy’s left me. The claws will be flashing.”
Tony said nothing until the trio reached a rocky area separating the second and third beaches. One turned and waved her bikini top before disappearing behind an enormous boulder. “So, you normally go to the nude beach.”
“An all-over tan is important.”
“Do you get parts where it matters?”
“Of course! Imagine a fashion shoot for swimsuits. One can’t have ugly white bits. And I’ve had a few parts with nudity. It’s no big deal. I usually do my sunbathing on the deck beside my apartment.”
“I know! When I was watering your plants before you returned, I saw your neighbour sunbathing with nothing on. She explained your arrangement.”
“May I change the subject?” Beth asked after a slight pause.
“We’re here to boost your spirits, so your wish is my command.”
“I have a real cute story about my niece and nephew. Two days before I left, they came to the village to help me find you an apartment-minding present. They told me about their present jar at home, one with scraps of paper with things like cleaning up their rooms or emptying the dishwasher. We described things I would do to thank you for looking after my place. I had to veto ones like offering to bring you breakfast in bed, but I have the others.”
She reached into her beach tote and extracted a disorganized pile of paper. “This is your present jar. You should pick one now, and if you continue to be a good friend, you can choose another whenever you’re especially good.”
Beth fanned the pages like a deck of cards with one protruding. Tony took it. The multi-coloured crayon message said ‘take Tony to dinner at a fancy restaurant’.
Beth smiled disingenuously. “I hoped you’d take that one.”
That evening, they visited a restaurant, her treat. Beth was pensive after dinner showing none of the flirtatious behaviour she’d displayed earlier. Tony wondered if she was contemplating the ramifications of pregnancy on her career. Or was she once again brooding about Jeremy leaving her?
No, Tony thought as a Mona Lisa-like smile spread across her face during their stroll through the darkened streets. She’s contemplating something else, something that makes her happy. She stopped on her front porch and rewarded him with a warm hug and a long, lingering, lovers kiss, not one of those coffeeshop pecks on the cheek.
“Thank you, Tony. You’ve given me back the will to carry on. Tomorrow I’ll call Mr. Brockleman and see what he wants. And, Tony, I really appreciate what you did for me today. You were a true friend. You dumped whatever you were planning and looked after me when I needed looking after. I won’t forget.”
She gave him one last kiss and disappeared through her door before he could respond.
What a rollercoaster ride. She was beautiful and vivacious with an interesting theatrical career. And smart, too with an understanding and interest in his work that made everything perfect. But what about today’s stunning revelation? Was he ready for a lover pregnant with another man’s child?
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