They threaded their way to the restaurant through puddles, in their flipflops. Mandy thought to lose the damn things. Their cabin on stilts at the resort here stood just behind the dunes. It had offered the dawn surprise of a close view of the gray-green, moving ocean — sometimes lighted through the fog. As did breakfast now under this large tent outside the Sugar Mill restaurant. Rain in these islands lasted for less than half an hour, Ian said. Mandy hoped it would indeed clear for this crucial weekend.
After a brief scan of the menu, Ian asked, brushing her wrist gently, “So, Amanda, what’s your pleasure?”
Mandy persevered with her menu, aware that Ian’s slight sigh meant that she ought to learn to choose quickly.
“Waal, I’d like the blueberry pancakes . . . and roast beef hash, sinfully enough.” she allowed.
“Be bold. Take both, and I’ll help you out.”
She felt Ian was so much more savvy, sensitive, finally — he spoke more softly — than the younger, relatively crass, suits whom she’d been seeing. She was a goner for him. And now, though they’d tried to prevent it, and unknown as yet to Ian, she was pregnant.
He ordered eggs, sausage, and croissants for himself. He was civil, but courteous, to the waitress, though he eyed her figure.
Mandy nodded warmly to her, and said, “Thanks so much,” as their coffee was poured.
Here Mandy tried to lose herself in a diving pelican, a sailboat she half hoped would tip over, the slow waves coiling, the thin light, the misted hills loping down to the sea on the far horizon.
Suddenly, the sun came out. The whole shore lit up; the water turned emerald. And Ian nodded his pleasure at this, since he had ordained it.
Their flight from New York yesterday, Friday, running into air traffic, had taken off over an hour late. Then, after reaching the island, they watched their ferry leave the harbor here with all their luggage on it.
Ian, financial partner as he was of his small New York PR company, had asked various local authorities to trace the bags from the ferry terminal. He’d waited, at first rather patiently, then said sotto voce, to Mandy, “If Wall Street slowed to this pace, brokers would trip over each other.” Mandy had whispered back, “We might hope some of them would fall?”
At the hotel reception desk, he had finally exploded, after a series of vague reports on the local baggage possibilities, “God damn it to hell!”
The native assistant manager had said, “Please. We don’t use that kind of language here, sir. There’s no cause to become hysterical.”
Ian had put forward, with clear control and pride, “There is a difference between hysteria and justified anger, Madame. . . . And profanity often affords a relief not always granted to prayer. But do forgive me.”
Mandy disapproved of his arrogance, but she had to smile. She had given him that last, a Mark Twain quote, not long ago.
He had then spent a hefty chunk of the afternoon in their cabin, in a wearying pursuit of the bags by phone. While Mandy got her bathing suit out of her carry-on, she discovered a single cot in a closet, for a kid, she supposed. She next tried in vain to get into her new Anne Tyler novel.
Mandy had fallen, hard, for Ian a few years ago. And not wavered. Beneath his apparent assurance lay an appealing vulnerability. He could be tender, and he held mystery. She loved the part of him that was sometimes shy, that was sometimes a little stupid; she almost loved his innocence of his capacity for severity. He was the oldest of four; a favored younger brother had joined the family investment firm. She loved his deep-set, green eyes, his crop of blond-red Scottish hair, his vast eyebrows. He looked like a Viking, or a swan.
Finally, in the late afternoon, he had learned that the bags would come from Customs in Road Town, by taxi, in time for dinner. He had quietly deplored the inconvenience, the taxi cost on top of it all. “However, thank you,” he’d managed.
Mandy had said, “Ian. Come on. Let’s get a swim.”
They had played in the blue-green surf for some time. Then she had sat, and he had lain, still warm, on the slightly shadowed beach. When the other bathers had gone, Ian had shifted his long body, and placed his head in her lap, for the first time. She had been too moved to touch him as she’d wanted to, and he had sat up too soon. Too late, she had said, “E,” her intimate nickname for him, which he usually liked.
The bags were still missing later, when they had headed up to the restaurant on the hill for dinner - in their traveling clothes. Mandy had wanted to give over to the balmy air, the lights on the island’s hills, the strange, familiar, forest sounds around. But Ian, though cordial, was clearly still annoyed with the ludicrously slow natives, the possibility of even more delay, or total loss, of their things. They did okay with their slightly overdone steaks. Mandy declined a drink, maintaining that she wanted to savor it all here fully.
Though the bags had been there when they got back to their cabin, Ian had thrown himself onto the bed early. CNN’s experts were speculating on the long distance shooting of a celebrity.
“I couldn’t stand the egomaniacal ass, myself,” Ian had asserted. “I’m glad the perp was a good shot.” Ian couldn’t stand most celebrities.
Mandy had agreed. Dropping her bathrobe, she’d said, at her most unfeeling, “I would have applauded if he’d been a bad shot, if he’d only hit the so-and-so at first.”
“Well, maybe if it only took two bullets. . . .” She had slipped into bed close beside him.
Even then, she had soon slept.
Now, when Ian had left their breakfast to take a phone call, Mandy saw a sign that advised against feeding the chickens. She gave a hen and her three chicks some bits of pancake with satisfaction. She tried to assess where she was, over the last of her coffee. She could give herself a pat on the back for having made associate editor on the psychology magazine for which she worked. And for Carrie, her best friend, with a job at the U.N. As well as a few other good friends. But she had wanted to live with, or marry, Ian for over a year. As it was, she only saw him a few times a week; they spent nights together less than that. He pleaded business.
If he didn’t at least opt to live with her when she told him — this weekend — about the baby, she had vowed to quit him.
Ian had been married, had an 8-year-old son, Blair, who lived in Massachusetts with his mother, Maggie. Ian always took Blair for a month’s summer vacation, and saw him a bit otherwise, mostly on holidays. Sometimes with Maggie. Mandy herself had fun with Blair.
Ian was 41 now, older than Mandy by a decade, balding on his high forehead, not traditionally handsome, but striking. He came from a prominent New York family. His mother was an active socialite; his father, an active alcoholic. Mandy had only briefly met his correct, perfect mother, his flirtatious, handsome father, at a cocktail party.
Mandy fluffed up her new feather cut. She was shorter than Ian, who seemed to her a foot taller. She was a good-looking young woman, with large brown eyes, beige hair. Her parents both taught at Connecticut College. Her much-loved younger sister, Ellie, had drowned in a pool at age 4. Mandy’s parents had never given her to believe that she was other than gratifying, delightful to them, but she certainly hadn’t been able to take Ellie’s place. Her parents didn’t quite know whether they liked Ian or not, having had drinks with him only once.
Here, Ian slid back into his chair, pleased with some business arrangement or other. “What would you like, little Mandala? An all-day sail to another island, a ferry just to Jost van Dyke, back to bed for one of our wee naps?” He smiled now, became tender, became “E.”
“Wow. A veritable cornucopia.” Mandy stole the last half of his last croissant.
He had been to this island before; she, only to Puerto Rico, but she had read a brochure. “What say we take the ferry to Jost? We can swim and snorkel there, right? And they have an OK lunch at the Soggy Dollar Bar? Where you jump off the boat and wade in to shore? That way I could get a bit of the lay of the land around these parts. And we could beach here all day tomorrow, our last day?”
“We can’t have a wee nap on that ferry, or even on Jost’s beach, methinks.” he said, buffing her cheek lightly.
“Hmmm . . . we could have one under water there? Or . . . we could go out into the jungle a bit?” They could see Jost from their table, across a stretch of turquoise sea. “We could take a wee nap there.”
They almost did. On Jost, they found a clearing way behind the Soggy Dollar Bar that was well out of sight. But some big-bosomed, religious-seeming woman, exploring, discovered them. Ian suspected that she had followed them.
He had a pina colada and they both chose chicken rotis for lunch at the bar, and laid on the far west part of the beach afterward. They speculated about several “Love Boat” people, who spilled out from the Soggy Dollar to their end of the shore. Mandy pondered which couples were most fed up with each other, which would make love soon. Was the stocky guy with glasses in hedge funds, was he called Jock? Ian wanted to know. They swam across the calm, clear-through water to a rocky point along their curving beach, then wandered back, Mandy practicing her pitch with the occasional large stone. They let the sun bake into them on the sand. It was so calm. Sailboats kept gliding in and out of the long cove. People went on exploring near them.
When would be the best time to tell him? Would he kiss her, embrace her hard?
TO BE CONTINUED
Kay Kidde, a former teacher, was a senior editor at the New American Library and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and founded the Kidde, Hoyt, & Picard Literary Agency in New York City. Her stories and poems have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, and in several collections. A resident of Quiogue, she is a co-founder of the Maureen’s Haven organization, which helps the homeless.