The prompt for this month is to use all of the following five words in a story: sand, sea, cartwheels, tequila, sunburn.
Today’s post comes from Val Muller, author of Faulkner’s Apprentice, Corgi Capers, and The Scarred Letter.
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By Val Muller
Since she was a girl, Maureen wanted to live by the sea. She always pictured it: a Gothic Revival with a wrap-around porch. It would be mostly wooden, so it would require much care, being near the sea. She’d paint the trim some stand-out color like sea foam or turquoise or coral. Depending how close it was to the ocean, it might even be on stilts, allowing for parking beneath. When she was a kid, she even drew pictures of it. She named it the way all the important beach houses were named: Tequila Breeze. She picked the name as a kid, before she even knew what tequila was, to her parents’ chagrin.
Her parents laughed at the name after a while, and they laughed when they asked her if she had any idea how much a house like that would cost, especially so close to the beach. For a girl, a million dollars is just as much as a thousand, and just as possible as finding a house named Tequila Breeze. Her parents shook their heads and thought about how cute she was, like wanting to be an astronaut or a princess. They didn’t take her seriously.
Neither did her husband, when he decided to take the job far from the ocean.
“West Virginia?” she had repeated, stunned. “That state doesn’t even have a coast.”
“No, but it’s a great job for great pay. Besides, housing there is much cheaper than housing at the beach. You could get a mansion for the price of a seaside bungalow.”
Maureen frowned. True, if they lived near the ocean, all they could afford would be a bungalow. The one they had rented last summer fell far short of her grand vision for a Gothic Revival.
“Anyway, all the beach offers is sand and sunburns, and do you know how much higher the insurance is for a place that prone to flooding?”
“But sand is perfect for cartwheels and tanning, and—Tequila Breeze is supposed to be on stilts,” she whispered.
“Tequila what?” He shook his head. “Anyway, pack your bags, we’re going house hunting this weekend.”
That was six months ago. They’d chosen a large house—a Gothic Revival with a wrap-around porch. Maureen tried not to smile too much when she realized it was almost exactly what had been in her mind since childhood, only instead of a sprawling ocean, the house looked out over a wide meadow, with mountains in place of an endless horizon. When James left that morning, at sunrise, she tried not to admit how stunning she found the mountain view.
Now, they’d owned the house for all of four days, and they’d slept in it only once. James was already away at work, getting acclimated to his new position. The movers were scheduled to come this weekend, the delay intentional to allow Maureen to paint some of the rooms. The house’s palate was muted crèmes, tan and beige and white and eggshell. It was nothing like what a seaside retreat would look like.
But it also wasn’t a seaside retreat.
The selling point of the house for Maureen had been the loft in the attic. The previous owners had used it as a dance studio for their daughter, and now it was wide open, the hardwood floors finished and stained, the walls covered on one side with mirrors. Maureen now she sat on the floor of the dance studio, peering up at the sky through one of the windows. That high, almost at the roofline, Maureen felt like a bird inspecting her domain. From where she sat, only the fields and mountains were visible, and not another body or house could be seen.
The paints spread before her—she’d bought them entirely herself and wanted to surprise James. She’d dabbled in painting through high school and even some in college. Life hadn’t allowed her to spend much time pursuing it as a career, only now, with James’ salary and the affordable mortgage…
She shook her head. Her dream was the ocean, she reminded herself.
But maybe she’d gotten it wrong.
She opened the first can, a deep aqua. Then she popped open the second, a greenish-blue. She smiled at the name. Sea foam.
The ability to paint came back to her as if she had never stopped practicing. The waves of the ocean reflected behind her in the mirrors as she painted, created infinite peaks around her. On the short wall, she used Gobi Desert and Toasted Pine to create sand dunes and dune grass. She even added the bright pink cart of an ice cream vendor she remembered from childhood.
As the sun sunk low beneath the mountains, Maureen had nearly finished. James would be home soon, and she couldn’t wait to show him her retreat, her new hideaway, her new painting studio. But first, one finishing touch.
She used an ebony-brown to create the sign that would serve as the entrance to her dream home, and she painted it right at the doorway leading out of the attic. In crème-colored font across the dark sign, she wrote, just as she always envisioned it sparkling in the sun:
A Paradise on Earth
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The Spot Writers – our members:
Catherine A. MacKenzie
Kathy L. Price
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