I closed my eyes and breathed deeply as I got out of the car. Nana laughed at me, and I heard her door slam shut. “Enjoying the salt air already?”
“Of course!” We laughed, then went into the restaurant, our favorite one at the beach. It was an Italian place, and we got our favorite pizza, along with some salad and iced tea. “How do you want the rest of the day to go, Char?”
“Drop our stuff at the apartment, change, and go down to the beach?”
Nana nodded. “Sounds perfect. I packed several good books, and I intend to read them all while sitting on the beach. Are you thinking you want to go up on the boardwalk tonight?”
“I don’t know … I think I just want to stay in after we get supper. We’re still going out for supper tonight, right? Before we go grocery shopping?”
“Of course, dear.” Nana smiled as we finished up our meal and left the restaurant.
She drove us to the small, beach-front apartment we always stayed in, and we unloaded the car. I grabbed my small suitcase, full backpack, and the beach bag we’d packed together and headed for the stairs, as our place was on the second floor. Nana knew the owners of the beach house, and we got a discount for the whole week we spent at the beach.
Anyway, she followed me up the stairs, carrying her own suitcase and bag. Taking a key out of her pocket, she unlocked the door and let us into the apartment. “Here we are!”
I made a beeline for the smaller of the two bedrooms off of the kitchen/dining/living room and dumped my backpack on the double bed. My suitcase I set on the nearby chair, then looked around the room. The walls were a seafoam green, the bedspread coral pink. The wooden furniture blended with the beach theme and the shells hanging on the wall, along with paintings of people enjoying the sand and water and sunshine. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, breathing in the beachy smell of the apartment.
Nana poked her head in. “Getting settled?”
I nodded as I began unpacking some of my bedside items. “This room always welcomes me.”
She smiled. “It does. This whole apartment always seems happy to see us.”
“Beach time?” I held up the bag.
“Beach time.” Nana took out her swim shirt and skort and took them to her room to change.
Fifteen minutes later, we were both changed and had slathered on sunscreen. She carried the bag while I grabbed the two chairs and umbrella out of the car, and we walked up to the beach. As soon as we hit the sand, I dropped everything I was carrying, spread my arms out wide, and cried, “Hello, ocean!”
Nana chuckled as I picked the chairs and umbrella up again. “You always have to greet the ocean. That’s my girl!”
We found a perfect spot on the sand, pitched the umbrella, and set up our chairs underneath. I ran down to the surf, straight into the water. Coldness seeped through my shorts and surf shirt, but I didn’t care; the ocean was my favorite kind of water, and nothing could replace it. I bobbed in the waves for awhile, letting it take me out past where I could stand, then body-surfed back to shore and hurried back to my grandmother. She handed me a towel, a smile still on her face. “It was wonderful,” I breathed, rubbing my face dry.
“I bet it was, the way you were enjoying yourself out there,” she responded, then let out a huge sigh. “Ah, to be young again!”
“Oh, come on, Nana, you could totally body surf with me!”
“Char, I’m not twenty-one anymore; I’m almost seventy. You just enjoy yourself out there, and I’ll watch and live vicariously through you. Deal?”
I sighed and sat down. “Deal.” My towel on my lap, I got out my book and opened it to the place I had marked.
A few hours later, we returned to the apartment. Nana let me shower first, then she jumped in while I was changing into dry clothes. My shoulder-length black hair was still wet when she emerged from the bathroom, but I was working on getting it dry. “Did you bring a hair dryer, Nana?”
She shook her head. “Sorry, dear. We’re not going to get another at CVS again, either; you have five hair dryers at home.”
“Crap.” I tugged down the skirt of the sundress I’d put on for supper. “Well … people will be able to tell that I’m clean, at least!” Nana just chuckled as she went into her room to dress. I hung my surf shirt, bikini top, and shorts out on the railing, along with my towel.
We were both wearing sundresses as we entered the nice restaurant we always went to our first night at the beach. The owners knew us, and Nana always took them cookies or brownies she’d made. We always ordered the same thing: Nana has crab, and I have lobster mac ‘n’ cheese with a side of shrimp. For desert, we shared a giant piece of chocolate cake.
After supper, we went to the local grocery store and picked up some things. We preferred eating in to going out, and that way we could take sandwiches up to the beach with us. It was a lot easier than packing all the food we’d need, because Nana’s car was only so big. We bought milk, coffee, creamer, honey, orange juice, cereal, ingredients for pancakes, syrup, butter, fruit, jelly, peanut butter, bread, lunch meat, cheese, mayonnaise, veggies (including salad), salad dressing, soy sauce, potatoes, ground beef and turkey, fried chicken, tuna salad, chicken salad, two frozen strombolis, Fritos and peanuts for up on the beach, and bottled drinks (water, Gatorade for me, iced tea, a pack of Pepsi).
We took everything back to the apartment and put it away. Nana always bought a little more than we needed so that the next people staying there could have some food. I admired her generous and kind heart and strove to be like her.
Following putting groceries away, Nana poured some iced tea into glasses while I changed into my sleeping shorts and T-shirt. We took the glasses out to the front porch and sat on the chairs out there, just gazing up at the stars and listening to the ocean roar on the beach several yards in front of us. “I love this,” I remarked, not blinking.
“What specifically do you love?” she asked me.
“The stars are so bright here,” I responded, “and the waves … they’re so loud, but it’s so calming. I love the peace and stability of the beach. Everything is routine. The water knows what to do, how to react to anything and everything. It cares for the creatures living in it.” I sighed happily. “If I could live here, Nana, I would move in a heartbeat. Do online classes from the comfort of my beach house, find a job on the boardwalk where I could see the ocean from my post. That’s my goal in life, to live out here.”
Nana smiled at me. “Well, the apartment is going on the market soon. I was asked if I wanted it, and Papa and I are still talking about it. Should I say yes?”
I turned to look at her, stunned. “Nana, do you even have the resources for that? I mean, this apartment has to be really expensive!”
“It’s not cheap, no, but Papa and I have enough set aside to make a down payment. If you help, I believe we can swing it.” She winked. “You could live here.”
My eyes widened, and I looked back up at the stars. “Wow … can I think about that a little? It’s an incredible offer!”
“Of course. Take you time.” We both returned to gazing at the stars.
After awhile, Nana stood up. “I’m going inside; it’s time for me to get to bed. Don’t be up too late Char, all right?”
I nodded. “OK, Nana. I’ll be in soon.” I heard the door open and close behind me. It wasn’t much later that I went inside, washed my glass, brushed my teeth, and headed into my room. I picked up my current book, one of seven I’d brought, got comfortable in my bed, and opened it up to read. Three hours later, I turned out the light and cozied up under the blankets. With the sound of the waves lapping at the shore in my head, I fell asleep easily.