Return Of Cabo San Lucas
Fiction by Kathy L. Price
“Ow,” Courtney cringed and lifted the strap over her shoulder. This was the worst sunburn, ever. She always used sunscreen, but had not done so that day. After checking into the hotel, they’d hit the bar. Nothing after that was clear but she must have had way too much tequila, then fallen asleep on the sand. She was now toasted beyond belief. Her head throbbed and she felt queasy.
“What was in those drinks, anyway?” she wondered, “and where’s Phillip?” He hadn’t been beside her on the beach when she finally woke.
It had been his idea to fly to Cabo San Lucas for their seventh wedding anniversary. Courtney had not been thrilled, but Phillip had promised it’d be fun. On the flight down he had been so enthusiastic. It had been years since he had expressed interest in anything so Courtney had high hopes this trip might renew the spark in their increasingly stale marriage.
Tomorrow they were supposed to go fishing. They’d have to cancel. Phillip would be disappointed but there was no way she’d be able to sit in a boat, rocking on the waves.
She began to worry. Where was Phillip? Initially, she thought he might have come back to the room, although she couldn’t understand why he’d leave her passed out on the beach. Why had he just left her there to burn? Where was he?
Twenty-three years later, sitting at the back of a dark, smoke-laden blues bar in Chicago, she saw him. It had to be her imagination, but that “I know you” pull was strong. She continued to watch and recognized Phillip’s mannerisms. He was chatting up a blond with long legs, although it didn’t look like he was making much progress. He had a bit of a paunch, now, and his hair had thinned, but there was no mistaking those eyes or the shape of his nose, the dimple in his chin.
Life had certainly been a challenge since he disappeared so long ago. She had managed to raise their two young children by herself. Her parents had been supportive and had stepped in to help on many occasions. Phillip’s parents, too, had stayed involved in their lives, though Courtney suspected they blamed her for his disappearance. There had, of course, been police inquiries. Was it a case of a jealous wife murdering her husband? A drug-related kidnapping? A suicide? In the end, Phillip’s disappearance went into the cold case files.
His mother had been heart-broken. Courtney shook her head, “You bastard. How could you do that to your own mother?” The not-knowing what happened had killed them all.
So, Phillip hadn’t been man enough to tell her he wanted out, that he’d screwed up his life or found another woman. No, Phillip had taken the coward’s way out and simply disappeared, leaving his children to grow up without a father. Maybe that had been for the best.
Courtney wanted a closer look. Ignoring the appreciative stares as she crossed the room, she focused on the man at the bar. Should she say hello or simply walk past? Closer now, she glanced over. He didn’t even look up, focused as he was on landing the blond. Should she confront him, make a scene, or leave it alone?
After a short stint outside, Courtney returned to her seat to listen to the featured performer, their daughter Chelsea. Was that why he was here? He wanted to hear her sing? Doubtful. Chelsea used a stage name, so maybe Phillip didn’t even know it was her. So much had happened in the years leading up to this night, so many things Phillip had missed: Chelsea learning to ride a horse; the delight on her face after her first cartwheels on the balance beam; how beautiful she looked for Senior Prom; her graduation, with honors, from a prestigious performing arts college. What would Chelsea think if she were told her dad, who had walked out of her life when she was three, was in the audience? And Brad? He’d taken it particularly hard, growing up without a father. Should she tell them he was alive?
No, she wouldn’t hurt them again. She would, however, let Phillip know she found him. She looked over to see him encouraging the blond to leave. The blond indicated she wanted to stay until the singer had finished. Courtney, too, waited for the end of Chelsea’s set, then slipped out to follow them. She quickened her pace to catch up but pulled back when she heard the squeal of tires. She watched as a car ran the light at the intersection, was broadsided by a truck and careened down the sidewalk, smashing Phillip and the blond into the brick wall of the building.
Two weeks later, on what would have been their thirtieth wedding anniversary, Courtney was back in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. From the deck of a chartered fishing boat, she scattered his ashes into the sea.
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