Authors: Jane Porter
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women
Kit didn’t argue the point with him. What could she say? That she’d rather he marry her than make her come? That an orgasm didn’t necessarily make one feel loved? That frequent sex didn’t answer her need to have a family…to be a mom?
“Maybe,” Kit said, taking another quick sip of her cocktail. “But sex is strange. I think it’s weird.”
“Don’t you think so? I do. And maybe it’s just me, but when it’s right, it’s so right, and yet when it’s wrong…” Her voice drifted off. She wrinkled her nose. “It’s just yuck. Horrid.”
“I agree with you. Bad sex…ugh. There’s nothing worse.” Polly fell silent, mulling the thought over. “So, Meg and Jack are good now? They’ve worked everything out?”
“I think so,” Kit answered, knowing only that the two of them put on a united front for the family. Kit wasn’t sure what was really happening at home but hoped her sister and brother-in-law were doing well. She liked Jack. He was an architect and historian and, best of all, a book person like her. “I hope so. They seem okay now.”
“I guess they’d have to do the unified front for the kids.”
Kit was protective of all her sisters, but of Meg in particular.
Meg had a lot of responsibility growing up, probably too much, while Kit acknowledged now that she herself had probably had too little. “That’s a good thing, though, because they’re awesome kids, and they love their parents. They want them together.
“Do you still see the kids a lot?”
“Not as much as I did over the summer, but I try to get up to Santa Rosa at least once a month. They’re only an hour or so north of me, so it’s not a long drive, the problem is finding the time. It’s harder now that I’m spending every other weekend with Mom, but I expect when baseball starts up again, I’ll drive up more often. I love going to JJ’s games. He’s good. He reminds me a lot of my brother, Tommy, at that age.”
“Tommy played baseball, too?”
“All the way through college. Got drafted by the Brewers but after a couple seasons in minor-league ball, gave it up, got a ‘real job.’”
“As a firefighter,” Polly said knowingly.
“The family business,” Kit agreed, knowing that her father could trace his genealogy straight back to County Clare, when his great-great-great-grandfather Seamus Brennan headed to America to find his fortune in the gold and silver rushes of California and Nevada. Seamus panned for gold and worked the mines for six dirty, dusty, backbreaking years before accepting that he wasn’t going to strike it rich, and ended up in the beautiful new city of San Francisco, where he worked in a hotel and part-time as a volunteer fireman. Within five years the volunteer job turned into a permanent job and every generation of Brennans since had at least one son follow in Seamus’s footsteps. “Six generations of San Francisco firefighters, and before that, God knows what they were doing in Ireland.”
“Hopefully not. Although I don’t really know a lot about the Brennans in Ireland. We knew my great-great-great-great-grandfather
emigrated from County Clare, but that’s about it. Meg was going to do some genealogy research but I don’t know how far she got, or if she discovered anything relevant.”
Polly gave her margarita glass a swirl, mixing the slush. “You’re lucky to know that much. I’m a mutt. A little bit of everything and not enough of anything—”
“Except beautiful,” Kit reminded her.
“Yeah, whatever.” Polly swirled her cocktail. “Did you like having a dad who was a firefighter?”
“I did. My friends always had a crush on my dad—”
“He is hot.”
“And still hot.”
“Hands off. My mom’s crazy about him,” Kit teased, but as soon as the words left her mouth she pictured her mom, frail and fragile, little more than skin and bones, and she didn’t like it, didn’t want to think of her that way.
“And now he’s finally retired.”
“After forty years.”
“That’s a serious accomplishment.”
“Couldn’t happen now. Younger guys have to retire earlier. Dad was grandfathered in on the old charter. He could have worked until seventy, if he could have passed his physical, and that was never a problem for him. At sixty-three, he was still stronger and faster than most of the probies last year.”
“You are proud of him.”
“I loved it when he worked. I always liked calling the firehouse and asking for Firefighter Brennan, and then they’d say, which one? Tom, Pat, or Joe? Because my dad worked in the same house with his brothers. Talk about stories. They had so much fun working together. It was a guys’ world.”
“Would you want one of your sons or daughters to follow in his footsteps?”
Kit paused to think. “If he or she could work with someone like my dad, or Uncle Pat or Uncle Joe, definitely. Because my dad and his brothers were physically strong. Incredibly strong. But even more important, they were mentally tough. And that’s the part you can’t teach someone.”
it had a hard time sleeping her first night back in Capitola. She wasn’t sure if it was the two and a half margaritas she’d drunk at Margaritaville, or talking about her father retiring, or her mother’s cancer, but she woke repeatedly in the night, anxious and uneasy, and each time the same question returned: what would she do when Mom was gone?
She’d have so much more free time. She’d need to fill that time. Adopting a child would be a good thing.
Would the rest of the family agree?
What would Tommy and Cass think? Would Cass mind?
Of course she’d mind. Cass wanted to be a mom, too.
At seven, Kit gave up trying to sleep and headed down the house’s steep staircase to the small kitchen to make coffee.
Plopping down on the sole kitchen stool, she waited for the coffee to brew. Her head hurt and the worried, uneasy feeling lingered.
She shouldn’t have had the rest of the second margarita, much
less the first half of the third. She wasn’t much of a drinker and should have known her limits, but after talking about Meg and Jack, then Mom and Dad, she had gotten a little too serious, and Polly had made it her personal mission to make her laugh. And she had. So Kit had drunk what was placed in front of her and was regretting it this morning.
Liquor never solved anything and sometimes just made everything worse.
Coffee in hand, she grabbed her long fuzzy sweater the color of Irish oats from the hook by the front door and stepped outside to the cottage’s front porch. The morning was cool and misty and she pulled her sweater closer as she leaned on the white-painted railing and stared off across the street to the beach, where the dark green surf crashed on pale, damp sand.
Not all the beach cottages on Esplanade had an amazing view of the bay, but theirs did, and this morning the fog clung to the craggy bluffs and evergreens. Capitola lay ten miles south of Santa Cruz, and in the summer tourists and beach bunnies swarmed the town, but as it was mid-January, the motels, streets, and stores were nearly deserted except for the odd coffeehouse and surf shop.
Some people hated the low gray soupy fog but Kit liked it. She’d always found it romantic. Mysterious. The fog made her think of Byron and Venice in winter and love. Foggy days made her want to curl up with a book. But then, she curled up with a book any chance she could. She loved books. Loved reading. Loved it so much she’d studied English literature at St. Mary’s and then had gone on to teach it.
She’d imagined that as an English teacher she’d be sharing her passion for great literature—opening doors to the world, lighting a fire in young people’s minds. She’d pictured her students with rapt expressions as she read aloud from
or recited her favorite William Butler Yeats poem, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.” It was naive of her. She should have known better.
She didn’t. Probably because she lived in her head more often than in the real world.
But seventeen years of teaching had set her straight. Most students preferred Facebook, online chats, texting—oh, and losing their virginity—to reading great literature.
Smiling ruefully, Kit smoothed a thick strand of auburn hair behind her ear and listened to the wind snap the flags flying across the street at the beach park. It was a rather wild morning. Gray, foggy, breezy, and the fog made her hair wild, turning loose waves into fat curls. Years ago she’d given up trying to straighten her hair at the beach. It didn’t work. Inevitably it proved to be a waste of time.
A half hour later the cottage door opened and Polly joined Kit on the small wooden porch. “You got up early,” Polly said.
“It felt like
The Princess and the Pea
last night. Couldn’t get comfortable.”
“I slept like a baby,” Polly said, lifting her slim arms over her head, stretching the fleece sweatshirt she wore over her thin aqua-blue running shirt. She was dressed for a run, in nylon shorts and white-and-neon-yellow running shoes. “Feel great.”
Kit made a face at her. “I hate you. You know that?”
“I do. That’s why I’m here with you.” Polly scooped her hair back into a ponytail and secured it with a rubber band. She glanced up at the sky as she put her foot on the railing to stretch her hamstring. “The fog will burn off, won’t it? I’m craving some sun.”
“It will. By ten or eleven, the sky will be blue.” Kit momentarily wished for Polly’s legs. As well as Polly’s butt. And stomach. And face. No, not Polly’s face. Kit liked her own face. But the body, she’d definitely swap. “Since you had a comfy bed, and slept like a baby, why are you up early?”
Polly switched legs and tugged on her toes to flex her hamstrings further. “I got a text from Jean-Marc…the guy we met last night.”
“The French model?”
“He only models part-time. The rest of the time he’s a salesman in suiting at the men’s Macy’s in San Francisco.”
Kit gurgled with laughter. Polly was not easily impressed. “And what did he want?”
“He was hoping I’d meet him for breakfast at Zelda’s.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. No, I don’t think so. I’d rather just hang out with you.”
“I thought you liked him.”
“Oh, I did, I do, a little bit. I think. Or maybe it was the margaritas talking…hard to say. But I don’t think he was exactly the brightest lightbulb, was he?”
“Last night I don’t think that’s what you were interested in.”
Polly laughed and peeled off her sweatshirt before adjusting the mini iPod already attached to her sleek biceps. “Want to join me for a run?”
Kit glanced toward the tranquil beach, which seemed far more appealing than a vigorous run. “How far are you going?”
“Not far. Three. Maybe four miles.”
Kit shuddered. She used to try to keep up with Polly, had even entered 5Ks with her last summer, but she had hated it, and she continued to run now only because it kept her butt from taking over the rest of her teacher’s chair. “No, thank you. I think I’ll just go for a walk around the village.”
“I thought you wanted to start training for some 5Ks again.”
“Changed my mind. So go. Get.” Kit made a shooing motion, gesturing for Polly to scram. “Good-bye.”
“Yes. You’re exhausting me with all your stretching.”
Polly laughed and wiggled her fingers before skipping down the front steps and taking off across the lawn.
Kit watched her for a moment, a smile playing at her lips. Polly
Powers was awesome. Truly the best friend she had outside of her sisters.
Grabbing her cup, Kit entered the house, left the empty mug in the kitchen, and headed upstairs to change, retrieve her camera, and head back out. She had always enjoyed photography but had gotten more serious about it this past fall after finding a living social deal for an Oakland Walking Tour class from Katrina Davis Photography. She loved the class so much she signed up for several more nature photography classes, and with each one became more adept at using her camera, loving how one could frame or change the world through a camera’s lens.
With her camera slung around her neck, Kit walked along the misty beach, looking for that which was intriguing or unusual. For angles, textures, colors. Perspectives.
Sea foam bubbling on sand. The break of a wave. Weathered wood.
Founded back in the 1870s, Capitola was originally just a summer camp filled with makeshift tents. Later stables and a wooden stage had been added for dancing. Eventually the tents were replaced with cabins and the dance floor became a dance hall. For Bay Area residents, Capitola-by-the-Sea was a camp rather than a place, a spot where folks craving sun and sea could be close to nature and have some fun while they were at it. Once summer ended, camp closed until the following June.
Kit snapped away as she moved from the beach up onto Stockton toward Capitola Avenue and back down, making a loop, happier than she’d been all morning.
Whenever something caught her eye, she lifted her camera, focused, zoomed in or out, and snapped.
Pausing, she focused on the rusted curve of a blue bicycle fender, a red cotton dress on a mannequin in a storefront window, an older woman in a pink fuzzy sweater walking two little dogs wearing matching sweaters.
Coming to Capitola was always bittersweet. Familiar. Layered with memories. First swim in the ocean. First kiss. First break she’d attempted surfing. First time she’d had sex.
Kit cringed as she crossed the street and stepped onto the opposite curb. She didn’t want to remember that one. So bad. Totally humiliating. He hadn’t even liked her. Just wanted to do it to say he’d nailed one of the Brennan sisters.
And then brother Tommy heard the rumor and went after Joe Di Sosa and beat the hell out of him.
The Brennan sisters still got nailed but no one bragged about it afterward.
Crouching on the curb, Kit raised her camera to capture the burnt-orange bike parked in front of Bluewater Steakhouse, the big bike’s huge ape hangers reflected in the restaurant’s frosted glass window as fog swirled around the body and wheels.
Working swiftly, she snapped another half-dozen shots. First of the front tire, and then a close-up of the stark handlebars, and then another of the dark brown leather seat with its image of a sexy half-naked woman wrapped in the embrace of one scary snake.