Whoever this guy was, he’d just done a substantial face-plant in an expensive suit.
“You alright?” she asked.
The man on the sand didn’t respond. Not at first. Not out loud anyway. His lips moved but only in a silent conversation with someone. Himself?
Kak snapped her fingers. “Hey. Bill Gates. Elon Musk. Whoever you are. You hurt?”
“Twenty-five years,” the man said.
“You said that.” “It’s all gone.”
“Well. Time flies, I guess.” She didn’t know what else to say. “This is the beach, not the board room. All dressed up and no one to sue?”
Whatever fog the man had been in, it was clearing rapidly. He picked himself off the sand and drew himself up to his full height.
“What in the hell were you doing?” he asked.
“I might ask you the same.”
“What was I doing? You’ve got to be kidding. I was minding my own business.”
“By definition, so was I.”
“You were minding your own business?”
“I was damn sure minding mine.”
“So, two people, both minding their own business, just happen to crash into other.”
“I’m glad you can at least accept your part in it.”
“I don’t have a part in it.”
“Then what are you complaining about?”
This seemed to flummox him. He gaped at her, at his sand-covered phone and back at her.
“I wouldn’t use that until it dries,” she said.
“You ruined everything.”
“That’s a little extreme.”
“I was supposed to do that. Me. Not you.”
“You were supposed to do what?”
He gestured toward the water. “The thing.”
Whoever he was, language wasn’t his strong suit. “We’re going to have to work on your communication skills,” Kak said.
“What am I going to do now?”
“Hey, it’s just a suit. You can get it cleaned.”
“Do you actually think I’m talking to you?”
She looked around. Except for them, the beach was deserted. “I guess not,” she said.
“Do you have any idea what you did?”
Kak said nothing.
“Do you?” he asked.
“Are you talking to me now?”
“I’m sorry. This is very confusing.”
This was too much for him. “What were you DOING?” he yelled.
He was definitely talking to her now. “I was taking a last run on the beach,” she said.
“You didn’t see me?”
“I got a little off course.”
Kak wondered if he’d read the paper the next day and remember this conversation. If it would dawn on him that he just might have been the last person to see her alive.
“You couldn’t have waited seven seconds,” he said.
“Forget it. Go away. Leave me alone.”
Kak intended to leave him alone. Along with everyone else. She felt for the doxepin in her shorts pocket. Still there. As she wrapped her fingers around the small bottle a sharp pinch made her let go and pull back. A shard of amber glass stuck in the middle of her right palm. Blood oozed from around the shard, mingling with the saltwater and sand that still clung there. She squeezed the exposed glass between the thumb and forefinger of her opposite hand and pulled it free.
“Omigod,” she said, showing the man the bloody shard. “Look what you did.”
“What I did?”
“If you hadn’t been where you were this wouldn’t have happened.”
The man struggled to get words out and failed. The two of them stood with the wind tugging at their wet clothing.
“After all this time,” he said. “I don’t feel any different.”
“I do.” Her knee ached where it had struck him. “Jeepers, you’re solid.”
“That’s all you have to say? Jeepers, mister, you’re solid?”
“I’m sorry, okay? Is that good enough?”
The lid to his little bucket was on the sand at her feet. She picked it up to hand it to him. “You don’t have to make a federal—“
The words stuck in her throat. Goose bumps raised on her skin. It was no ordinary container. The shape and fine finish gave it away. It was an urn. The holy grail of grief. She heard Evelyn’s refrain in her head.
The gods leave treasures at some feet and trash at others.
This was no accidental encounter. This man had been delivered here by the gods and cast at her feet. There could be no doubt. The possibilities charged through Kak’s head faster than she could process them. She forgot the cut in her palm. Forgot the doxepin. Forgot it was time to find a warm spot to lie down in and stop thinking forever.
She had to know. “Are you grieving in the right direction?”
“Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Like that.”
No man had ever been more confused than the one standing in front of her, or more welcome.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.
“Everything,” she said. “And I need to buy you a cup of coffee.”
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