In Gifts by the Shore (Part 1), I introduced you to my main character, Marianna Greggor, a 39-year-old divorced mom of a college-aged daughter. Her older sister Ellen owns a bungalow in Sarasota, Florida, which Marianna is staying at for the summer. In Part 2, Marianna meets Gil Canton, a local businessman and artist, but they don’t exchange names…yet! More of their relationship is still to come but, as I’ve mentioned before, one of my inspirations for this story came from the very different sisters in Sense and Sensibility. In Part 3, we went north to Connecticut, where Ellen and her husband live, and found out that Ellen was experiencing some physical symptoms that she couldn’t explain. And now we’re back to Florida for Part 4… This is not an S&S retelling, but it is a tale about siblings, mothers and daughters, good friends, and getting a second chance at love.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments — about the story and/or your own related experiences! — so please don’t hesitate to share. Hope you’ll enjoy this next segment of Gifts by the Shore, as well as the ALL ABOUT US release info below!! Many thanks for reading. 😀
GIFTS BY THE SHORE
Turned out Marianna was half right in her prediction about running into beach people. While she didn’t see that guy who looked like The King again, she’d crossed paths with Vivian every day like clockwork, and that day was no exception. As usual, the older woman was dressed from head to toe in white, which made her easy to spot.
Marianna waved to her, and the two chatted for a few minutes about Vivian’s exercise routine (“Been speed walkin’ on the sand for a half hour already,” she told Marianna with pride) and the unrelenting summer heat and humidity.
As they were talking, Marianna tried to keep pace with Vivian, who wasn’t kidding about the speed walking thing. However, when the older woman saw a pelican alight on the beach, she stopped abruptly and Marianna immediately halted, too, managing, of course, to step hard on another shell.
“Ow!” she said.
“Girlie, if you’re not gonna watch where you walk, you need to get yourself some water shoes.” Vivian took the tone of scolding camp director Miss Garwood, but it didn’t suit her. She was way too Earth Mother to pull it off.
Marianna laughed, despite the pain in the soft arch of her bare foot, and said, “Yeah, yeah. I know.”
The older woman scowled at her.
She rubbed her foot then scooped up the new shell and handed it to Vivian. “Here. Take a look at this one. I know you’ll be able to identify it, and I have no idea.”
“Lace murex,” Vivian said as instinctively as if Marianna were asked to differentiate between dark, milk or white chocolate. The other lady bounced the shell in her palm then ran her thumb along the perfect architecture of the shell’s dome. It was spiked on the side in a way that reminded her of the head of a triceratops. “You wanna add it to your collection?” she asked.
Marianna shook her head and watched as Vivian shrugged and pitched it deep into the Gulf. The woman had a good arm.
“I’m trying to leave most of what I find here on the beach,” Marianna told her, “but I really love that lightning whelk, and I’m sure I’ll want to keep a special shell every now and then.” Maybe one for every week she was here. The very best shells of the summer.
Vivian nodded approvingly, all trace of the scolding camp director having already dissipated. She walked along the shore with crane-like steps, careful and angular, yet—similar to the bird—was still very much at one with Nature. She and Mr. Niihau both seemed to be descendents of the beach life. It was as if their human bodies had been formed, like Adam and Eve, from sand, mud and water…built on the shore as a sand sculpture and, then, touched by the divine.
“So, you’re stayin’ the summer?” the older woman asked, tilting her big sunhat to block out the most direct rays.
“Yes. Until mid-August, anyway.”
“What d’ya do up North before you came here?” She studied Marianna silently for a second and drew a surprising conclusion. “Salesgirl?”
Vivian squinted at her. “Really? Typing and filing stuff? Did’ya answer phones, too?”
“Lots of typing. Lots of filing. Not so many calls. I was with a jam-and-jelly company for sixteen years, but the man that hired me—my real boss, Mr. Garvey—was let go around Christmas. The new management—” The evil fiends! “They, uh, started bringing in their own people after that, and the few of us who remained were seen as expendable. So, I, um, lost my job last month.”
Marianna tried to gulp down the bitterness that rose at those words. Sixteen years of her life spent working at the Cherries Jubilee offices, and only two weeks’ severance pay and ten minutes’ notice that she was being laid off this past spring. She remembered that horrible early May day. Cleaning out her desk with the new secretary posted at her door, arms crossed, assigned to “watch her” so she didn’t steal or destroy anything as she packed up.
“Huh,” Vivian said. “I’m real sorry to hear that, girlie.” She cocked her head and scrutinized Marianna again. “But you don’t look like someone who’d be happy just typin’ and not talkin’ much. You’re too…interested in people.”
Marianna didn’t know how to respond to this. “I—I did get to talk to people,” she explained, “just not constantly. It was more of a break-time thing.” And, although she didn’t say this aloud, she had to admit to herself that those were by far her favorite times. The interacting with others. The laughter and even the tasteless jokes. The funny expressions her coworkers would make while small-talking. It gave her a sense of family while at work.
“Huh,” Vivian said again. “Well, what’cha gonna do now?”
“Look for another secretarial position in Michigan when I get back,” Marianna explained, hearing the conviction in her voice and the steely determination. Knowing she’d forced it there. “I’m sure some company or firm will want me somewhere in the Ann Arbor area,” she stated optimistically. And, though she didn’t verbalize this, she also added to herself: I’m reliable, personable, a really fast typist. I have a solid associate’s degree and an unblemished work record. Just because I didn’t find a job right away in those first six weeks of looking doesn’t mean I won’t when I start searching again in September. Her well-rehearsed internal monologue, bordering on becoming a mantra.
Vivian smiled kindly. “Well, then, it won’t kill ya to get yourself some decent Beachwalkers while you’re here, so you can relax good and proper without getting yourself cut and scraped. Don’t want you settlin’ down to your new job with bandages on your feet. Right, girlie?”
In spite of herself, Marianna had to laugh. “Fine, Vivian. You win. I’ll go shopping for some water shoes tomorrow.” And because she was certain she’d see Vivian soon and would face a stern lecture from the Earth Mother if she didn’t follow through, this was a promise Marianna knew she’d need to keep.
(End of Part 4) Are you getting a better sense of Marianna’s life before her visit to Sarasota? What do you think of Vivian’s advice to her? I have a collection of seashells from different beaches I’ve visited… Do any of you collect them, too? Have a favorite?
Look for Part 5 – coming November 24th. 🙂