Leah must have walked into the sea that night. Or to the end of the beach to lay her body down on the sands, for the waters to carry her out to the bay in her sleep. I will never know which, but no one ever saw her again.
Jake and I ran across each other the second time that evening when we exited the restrooms, on the blind side of one of the foyer’s massive Grecian marble columns. Hidden from view from the rest of the party on the hotel’s colonnaded verandah. Only the concierge, his head tactfully turned the other way, was watching. Jake drew me by the arm towards him, and he rested his chest against my breast and took a step forward, easing my back against the cold marble. Shivers shot down my spine.
Jake had promised Leah it was over between us. He caressed the nape of my neck and ran his hands down my shoulder blades. In a low strapless sequin, every caress of the shoulder threatened to expose me from the navel. I loved danger, back then. When Jake put his lips to mine, we fell into a kiss of rediscovery that felt would last the night.
I spotted Leah walking in from the verandah. Maybe having fallen out of conversation with anyone, or steered by a divination of something amiss unfolding under her nose. I’ll never know. Wrapped in each other’s arms, Jake parted my thighs with his knee and he rested himself against me. The taste of flesh and vodka travelled from his mouth past my lips. I let my arms drop dead behind his back. Light-headedness turned all around me bleary, but my eyes caught Leah’s in a momentary lock. My eyelids dropped, I’ll admit not out of guilt or shame but from the rapture of conquest. Because Leah had seen us. I hung weightless around Jake’s neck, his lips working their way up and down mine.
Leah treaded back the way she had come, ashen-white, her arms wrapped around herself, her chin down, bowed by the pain of lost love. The last I saw of Leah, she was descending the steps to the beach, strains of Slave to Love travelling in our direction from the band’s podium, distant, like they came from miles away across the bay. She set pacing the sands by the sea, holding her gown waist-high, ankle-deep in water. That was the last time I saw Leah.
The kiss couldn’t have lasted more than a minute or two. It felt a night-time. Jake walked off in search of Leah. They may have met and they may have not, before she walked down to the beach.
I took my shoes off and stepped off the promenade, treading my way down the steps to the beach too. The stone steps were rough and uneven. Beer glasses and bottles lay strewn across them.
Like Leah, I paced the sands in a straight line by the water, lost in thought on nothing. Not another soul strode the beach. The desolation was uplifting. Something pink stuck out of the sand meters away. A Gatorade bottle? The masses never fail to abuse a strip of sand without leaving evidence of their presence behind.
‘I’ll bin it myself for the bastards,’ I fumed aloud.
But it was a shoe. A pink shoe, its stiletto sunk into the sand to the heel, pointing skywards like a jetliner on take-off. But just one shoe? I lifted it out of the sand and held it in my hand from the heel. Pink stilettos. I adore shoes. I never miss the shoes around me. Only Leah was in pink stilettos that evening. The heel of the shoe had sunk into the wet sand and she must have stepped out of it and kicked off the other, the un-sunk shoe carried away by the undulating waves.
I still cry over Leah, and I now mostly keep to myself. I’ve never heard again from Jake, and I don’t want to. But it’s been some time now, and I’m not paying for this all my life. I tell myself it could have happened to anyone. I want this behind me. But I’m always needing more time.
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