I saw this on Kristian’s amazing blog, Life Lessons Around The Dinner Table!
Here’s the link to Kristian’s post:
This is the photo Kristian chose for others who wanted to participate:
As the sun set behind the shoreline of Nags Head, North Carolina, Brett sighed, lost in thought. Seeing his lone shadow on the sand made him misty. His mind was filled with thoughts and memories of her – Lisa.
Brett was transported back to 1993. That summer was glorious. Fresh off his sophomore year of college, he’d landed a job at one of the Nags Head hotels for the summer. Brett was giddy – He loved the beach, and what better place to earn some money and gain some hospitality and tourism management skills for his degree? Plus, he was turning 21 that summer. Even better. He couldn’t wait to work a little, party hard, and possibly meet a girl or two along the way.
Five weeks passed quickly, and Brett was surprisingly miserable. That summer was not typical – Tons of rain, and several nasty hurricanes had barely missed the Outer Banks. He was grateful to still have his job at The Carolinian. The staff got along great, but the crazy weather was not helping anyone’s mood. Even the tourists were uncharacteristically rude, curt, and horrible tippers.
Finally, the weather improved after the 4th of July. The fireworks spectacular was canceled, and everyone was ready to let off some pent-up steam. Brett, Connor, Andrew, and Rhea were not only co-workers, but became fast friends. Brett shared a house with Andrew, a fellow college student working for the summer, and Connor and Rhea were locals. They’d passed around the idea of having a huge bonfire on the beach for weeks, and the weather was finally right for it.
Connor and Rhea left The Carolinian early to gather supplies. They were a few years older, and the manager had some sympathy. Brett and Andrew’s moods were lighter, and so were the tourists’, for once. It felt like the first time all summer anyone was making decent money.
Fifteen minutes before their shift ended, Andrew whistled loudly as he cleared a vacant table. Brett nearly dropped the clean glass he was polishing, but knew Andrew was signaling something important.
Brett carefully set the glass on the bar and looked in the direction of the lounge entrance. Two girls, with a third slightly behind them, traipsed in. Brett fought back the urge to stare – Everything was in slow motion. One, a brunette with blonde highlights, was tan, and sporting a gingham bikini top and white shorts. The other two were blonde, and looked like sisters with their matching tans, tube tops, and overall shorts.
Andrew opened his mouth, but quickly shut it.
Brett swallowed as the girls headed in his general direction.
“Hey, buddy, where can we get some drinks around here?”
Brett tried to not roll his eyes. “Hey, ladies. Drinks can be found here, as long as you’re the proper age, that is. I’ll need to check your IDs, please.”
The brunette, identified as Jennifer, kept smacking her gum and making eyes at Andrew. The sisters, who weren’t actually sisters, were Kimberly and Lisa. All three were giggling madly. Brett doubted, briefly, their IDs were real.
“What’ll it be, ladies?” Brett gingerly, but confidently, flipped a glass in his hand, end over end, and caught it deftly. All six eyes widened as the girls gasped. Brett grinned, and Andrew shook his head. He’d already paid for six glasses that way. But, he was improving. Even Andrew had to admit that.
Kimberly and Jennifer, in unison, said, “I’ll have a Long Island Iced Tea, please.” More giggling.
Lisa looked at Brett straight, and smiled. “I’ll have a Shirley Temple, please.”
Brett smiled back, happy to find at least one girl visiting Nags Head who didn’t want to get drunk right away. Andrew popped over to ask them about food. Kimberly and Jennifer declined. Although it was obvious the other two were pressuring Lisa to go along with them, she asked for a menu. After studying it for a few minutes, Lisa ordered a cheeseburger and asked for piping hot fries. Andrew mock saluted and headed toward the kitchen.
“Hey, Lisa, you’re gonna get fat.”
Lisa rolled her eyes. “Who cares? I’m hungry. And I’m not drinking. Not yet, anyway. Did you hear about the bonfire on the beach tonight?”
Brett’s ears perked up, but just smiled to himself and listened. The girls chattered away, excited. He could feel Kimberly eyeing him as she stirred her straw round and round.
“Hey – Kimberly? You’re making me uncomfortable.” The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop.
“Who, me? No way. As if!”
“No, seriously. Stop staring at me. I tend to drop glasses if someone keeps staring like that. It gives me the creeps.”
Brett’s eyes met Kimberly’s, now full of anger and disgust. “You just lost your tip, whatever your name is. Besides, you’re just a bartender. Come on, Jennifer. Come on, Lisa. Let’s go. He’s a loser.”
Jennifer started to stand, but hesitated. “I want to finish my drink, Kim. Please?”
Kimberly wasn’t having any of it. Brett knew a mean girl when he saw it. “No, Jen. Come on. I want to get ready for the bonfire. Now.”
Jen looked at Lisa, but Lisa turned away. Instead of staring at Brett, she stared at the shoreline.
Kimberly slapped some crumpled, wet bills on the bar, and several coins rolled in different directions. “Here, barkeep, that’s a mess for you to clean up.”
Jen smiled sympathetically as she held out her credit card. Without a word, Brett ran it through. He just nodded as Jen gave a tip for her drink, as well as Kim’s. She left the lounge without a word, but then started calling Kim’s name about ten steps down the hall.
Lisa sighed. She sounded exhausted. Neither of them wanted to speak. Brett silently thanked Jen, and carefully collected Kim’s bills and coins.
“They’re not my true friends, you know. We’re sorority sisters. Ugh. I can’t wait to be done with college.”
Brett smiled slightly. “I can’t wait to be done, too. Sort of. I’ve had fun this summer.”
Lisa focused on him. “Here? At The Carolinian?”
Brett nodded, smiling wider. “It’s rained, sure, but it’s been nice to earn some money and have a little fun. I’ll be sad to head back to the mountains.”
Lisa glanced around, and then leaned in closer. “Who’s idea was the bonfire?”
Brett raised his hand. “Mine. And – Some others. We’ve been planning it for weeks. You’re coming, right?”
Lisa smiled, her green eyes sparkling. “You bet. I’m excited to get away from Kim and Jen. They’ll be there, but I think they’ll be plenty distracted.” She tilted her head in Andrew’s direction, and Brett smiled.
“Yeah, he’s been pretty popular here. He looks like a surfer.”
“Does he? Surf?”
Brett laughed. “No. I don’t think he’s ever been on a board. He takes great pride in his hair.”
Both Brett and Lisa laughed harder as they pictured Andrew on a surfboard, trying to avoid getting wet.
“Do you surf?”
Brett chuckled. “I’ve learned a few things here. But – I love something else.”
Lisa leaned in. “What’s that?”
“Yep. There’s a ballroom dance club at school. I could – show you some moves later. If you want.”
Lisa’s eyes danced. “I’m a bit clumsy.”
“No worries. That’s my job – To catch you if you fall.”
The bonfire was roaring and huge. Brett’s stomach was flipping and flopping. He hadn’t spotted any of the three girls yet. His watch read 10:52. Still early, but not if someone was already drunk.
The squeals of delight from the southwest corner of the fire made everyone’s heads swivel. Kim and Jen were holding on to each other, and Lisa was holding their shoes. Brett smiled sadly and shook his head. Lisa looked miserable.
Kim, clearly drunk and possibly high, was struggling to stay upright. “Jen! Look at this! The fire – It’s so big!”
Jen wasn’t much better. “Ooooh! I bet it’s really, really hot!”
Andrew had been strumming his guitar, but quickly set it aside to make sure Kim and Jen were settled, and, moreover, safe. Someone else offered them beers, and they gratefully accepted them after plopping into lawn chairs. They bobbed their heads to Andrew’s soft music. Rhea rolled her eyes, then waved Lisa over.
“Hi! You must be Lisa. I’m Rhea. Welcome!”
Lisa smiled, grateful for the opportunity to drop Kim and Jen’s shoes in a heap. “Thanks. I’m happy to be here.”
Brett let Lisa and Rhea talk for a bit as Rhea nursed a beer. Brett had a bottle of water, and offered one to Lisa.
“Sure. Thanks! I’m parched.”
She took a few swigs and eyes Kim and Jen. “I already told Brett – We’re sorority sisters. Not necessarily friends.”
Rhea raised her beer and touched Lisa’s water bottle. “Here, here.”
About twenty minutes later, Rhea offered to go check on Kim and Jen, and see if anybody else needed something. Lisa dug her bare feet in the sand. Brett carefully moved his chair over, with just enough space in between.
“They made quite a scene earlier, didn’t they?”
Lisa shrugged. “Can we not talk about it?”
Brett dropped it. “Happy to talk about anything else. What do you like to do in school?”
Lisa liked Brett. She wasn’t necessarily attracted to him, but liked how thoughtful he was. He’d called out Kim because she’d made him uncomfortable – A clear first for a guy.
Brett felt attracted to Lisa, but wanted it to feel like a slow burn. Taking its time, soaking up all the energy. He was becoming captivated by her – Her passions for writing and the environment. She was not your typical blonde.
As the fire started to wind down, Rhea and Andrew ended up taking care of Kim and Jen. They had to fireman-carry Kim back to The Carolinian, and Brett and Lisa both cringed as they heard the unmistakable sound of vomit splashing on concrete.
Lisa sighed, turning back to enjoy the moment. “Oh! You told me about ballroom dancing. I’m still clumsy, but I’d love it if you’d have me a partner.”
Brett smiled, and took her hand. The fire slowly died away as something inside of them sparked. Lisa took in every sense, wanting to hold on to this moment forever.
For the rest of her week-long vacation, Lisa and Brett met up every night. Bonfire or not, they danced in the sand. Lisa became less and less clumsy, and Brett learned a few things, too.
The last day came quickly. Brett was forlorn. He hastily wrote his parents’ number on the back of her last receipt, where she’d ordered a Shirley Temple, a cheeseburger, and piping hot fries.
Two weeks later, Brett’s mom called the beach house. She left a message on the state-of-the-art answering machine, “Hi, Brett. I know you’re wrapping up work and all, but I wanted to let you know – Lisa called. More than once.”
Daily phone calls turned into making plans to visit each other every month or so at their schools. Brett was at Virginia Tech, and Lisa was at Washington & Lee.
The day before Lisa’s college graduation in 1995, Brett proposed in front of her entire family. She gleefully accepted. They knew immediately where they wanted to marry – The Carolinian. Complete with a bonfire on the beach.
In 1998, Lisa became pregnant with their first child. At 27 weeks, Lisa went into premature labor. Their baby boy came into the world a fighter.
Two years later, Bradley’s sister arrived. Slightly premature at 34 weeks, the doctors cautioned against another pregnancy.
During Memorial Day Weekend 2002, while on vacation at The Carolinian, Lisa took another pregnancy test. It was positive. Brett was worried, but also thrilled. They danced again on the beach.
On Halloween, Lisa woke up screaming from an afternoon nap. She frantically called Brett at work. “I think I’m in labor!”
They knew it was twins, very likely a boy and a girl. Brett squeezed her hand as she headed for the operating room. “Think of us dancing, sweetheart.”
Just before midnight, two cries arose from the room. “Congratulations, it’s a boy and a girl!”
Lisa looked up at Brett, with tears in their eyes. “We were dancing on the beach, sweetheart. We are dancing.”
Six weeks after Brandon and Lauren came home from the NICU, Brett found Lisa on the bathroom floor. He held Lisa close as the ambulance rushed to their home, just ten miles from The Carolinian.
Lisa was the definition of a miracle. She’d made it through three difficult pregnancies, three premature births, and watched four children fight for their lives. But, a pulmonary embolism was the ultimate match, and winner.
Brett struggled with being alone. He had tons of help and support with the kids, but Lisa was his dance partner. Partner in life.
Still, he came to The Carolinian to remember and reflect.
As he watched his shadow dance in the breeze with the setting sun, four other shadows appeared, two on either side. Brett was grateful he’d taught Bradley, Lilly, Brandon, and Lauren to dance. Bradley was becoming quite the ballroom dancer, and Lilly had a passion for ballet. Brandon and Lauren were just starting dance classes, but they loved it as much as their older brother and sister.
As Brett sighed and wiped away a tear, three-year-old Lauren tugged on his shorts.
“Yes, baby girl?”
“Are you thinking of Mommy?”
“Yes, Lauren. Mommy loved this place. She loved to dance. Just like you.”
“Do you still like dancing, Daddy?”
Brett nodded. “Yes, Lauren. I do. May I have this dance?”
Anyone who got this far – I nominate you!
Here is your photo, should you decide to participate:
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂