Sunsets at Seaside(7)

By: Addison Cole

“Sure.” She listened as he took the phone upstairs and said something to her mother.

“Hi, Jessica. How are you?”

“Fine, Mom. And you?” She forced a smile, but even she could hear the tension that had taken residence in her voice.

“How’s your vacation? Are you practicing? You don’t want to let that slip, not after all your hard work.” Cecilia Ayers had always micromanaged her daughter’s life, and Jessica was working on taking control of that, too. She didn’t give Jessica a chance to respond. “I spoke to your—”

“Mom, please. I’m on vacation, remember? Aside from stressing out over my career, how are things with you?” She closed her eyes, envisioning her mother’s thin lips pursed together, her eyes shifting upward as she blinked away her irritation in that proper, pull-herself-together-without-embarrassment way she had.

“I’m well, thank you,” her mother finally managed.

“Good. I’m glad to hear it.” Being the people pleaser that she was, she added, “Don’t worry. I’ll practice. I just need a few days away from it. You know I’ll miss it and have to play.”

“Okay. Well, good.”

Jessica knew her mother only pushed her to help her be the best darn cellist she could possibly be, and as thankful as she was for that, Jessica always felt a pang of longing for all of the normal mother-daughter things she’d missed out on over the years.

She sat up on the lounge chair as an older woman wearing a big floppy hat came through the pool gate. “Mom, I’ve got to go, but it was good talking to you.”

“Okay, honey. Enjoy yourself. Not too much, of course.”

She ended the call and stuffed her phone back into her bag, unsure what enjoying herself too much even meant. Her life in Boston consisted of practicing, playing concerts, and an occasional evening out with her musician friends—whose idea of a wild night was spontaneously playing “Rum and Tequila” by the Tom Fun Orchestra.

The pool looked too inviting to pass up, and as she passed the older woman, she said hello.

“Good afternoon.” The woman’s gray hair was cut in a pixie style similar to Judi Dench’s hairdo. She had a kind, familiar smile, although Jessica couldn’t place where she’d seen her before.

She felt the woman’s eyes on her as she walked into the pool and sank beneath the water. When she broke the surface, she saw three more women, wearing sundresses, coming through the gate, carrying colorful plastic wineglasses and towels. They were holding on to one another and laughing like best friends. They looked like they knew how to have a good time.

A skinny blonde looked over and waved.

“Hi,” Jessica said as the blonde walked past.

The brunette couldn’t have been five feet tall. She flashed a friendly smile as she peered around the skinny blonde’s back.

“Hi. I’m Jenna.”

“Hi. I’m Jessica. I’m renting up there.” She pointed to the apartment she was renting on the second floor of the only large house in the community.

“We know,” the skinny blonde said. “I’m Amy, and this is Bella.” She pointed to the tall blonde who was laying a towel out on a lounge chair by Jessica’s.

Bella waved over her head without turning around.

Jessica got out of the pool, feeling the eyes of all three girls on her.

“Darn it. I forgot my thong,” Bella said.

“Bella,” Amy hissed. “Well, I remembered mine.” She pulled her sundress over her head, and sure enough, she was wearing a pink thong bikini. She turned and wiggled her butt at Bella.

“I cannot believe you wore that. Who are you, and what have you done with my Amy?” Bella waved to the older woman. “Hi, Vera. Did you wear your thong?”

“Bella Abbascia, why, you know I always wear my thong.” Vera winked at Jessica, then returned her attention to the novel she was reading.

Jenna took off her sundress. She could have stopped traffic in her red bikini. She had the largest breasts Jessica had ever seen on such a petite woman, trapped beneath the tiniest bathing suit top. Jessica was sure the wrong move would send the top flying across the pool as if launched by a slingshot.

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