The sea was cold that night.
He knew how she could never get warm, like how it was seventy degrees out and she still wanted his sweater. At least that was one thing he knew that she wanted. The rest was a mystery, a puzzle with the corner piece forgotten under the side of the bed.
So he didn’t know whether or not this was a good idea. It seemed romantic to him. A little stretch of beach that no one knew about, with only the seals for company and the other people who had grown up around here. The people that knew you had to get there by taking steep winding steps bordering other people’s backyards, spiraling down into the sand.
Since she was always cold, he bought them two bowls of tomato basil soup. Her favorite. She said that she was always searching for the perfect bowl of tomato basil soup. He got the impression that she was always searching for the perfect bowl of everything but never found it.
“I forgot socks,” she said as he lay down the blankets. She had brought them along at his request. One was blue zebra stripes and the other a checkered red picnic blanket.
“How? Wait, seriously how did you forget socks?”
She raised up her foot. Sandals. He wanted to roll his eyes. He didn’t roll his eyes.
“Anna, you knew we were going to the beach.”
“Yah,” she confessed. “Guess I didn’t plan too well. Oh well. Soup?”
She plopped down on the blanket and wisps of wayward sand sprayed the air. Their knees touch as he reached into the paper bag to produce the two styrofoam containers.
“One for you, one for me,” he said. He handed her the cup and a plastic spoon and she scooped a bite into her mouth. The ocean lapped up at them like it wanted some, too.
“I give it…” She crinkled up her nose and face, tasting a mouthful. “A seven out of ten. A very commendable effort on the chef’s part, but could use a bit more cream.”
He looked over at her slender legs crossed together and her windswept hair and sandals on her feet and didn’t know what to say.
“You’re a dork, you know.”
She smiled at him and it reached all the way to her eyebrows. He wanted to kiss her, then, but he thought she might want to finish her soup first so he looked at the sky, wondering why she liked to look at the sky so much. Maybe because there was mystery in it and that’s what she was.
Darkness sat on both sides of them, the only two people crazy enough to be out this late when it’s this dark and this cold. She scooted closer to him and she could feel the warmth from her soup rising into the air.
“What does it make you think about?” he asked, looking at the sky.
She took a little time to answer. “How small we are,” she said, but he heard a lot more hiding in her voice. He let it hide. There would be more time to seek it later, he hoped, but he never really knew for certain.
He kissed her, and she tasted like herbs and warmth. She melted into him like the butter that had melted into her now empty cup.
“My feet are cold,” she said when they came up for air.
He ran his hand through his hair, wondering why she always did things like this. She did them, and her feet were cold, but she somehow didn’t care. Her feet could be frozen into bricks but there were more important things in the world to care about. He just couldn’t figure out what they were, so he started to take off his shoes.
“What are you doing?” Her eyes were fixed on the dark horizon line.
“Just put them on,” he said, and handed her his socks.
“Ew,” she joked, putting them on. Then she stopped for a moment. “Hey, you don’t have to do that.”
“I don’t want you to be cold,” he said.
Her mouth turned down at the corners. “You’re really nice, you know.” She sounded shy but with both socks only halfway on her feet she kissed him and he didn’t care his feet were starting to freeze.
A light flashed across his closed eyelids.
“Hide!” She giggled and dropped down to her stomach on the blanket.
He dropped down next to her even though he knew she was being ridiculous.
“You know, I knew this would be a perfect place for zombie apocalypse to happen,” she said, muffled into his left ear squished down on the blue blanket.
Three teenagers were walking down the cliff face, holding flashlights.
“I think these guys thought it would be a perfect place to smoke weed.”
“Shh, they’ll hear you!”
“They can see us too, you know.”
They were walking away from them now, going toward the other end of the beach. “Well, can they see this?” She wrapped her legs around his waist and kissed him. The socks had fallen off her feet now. The beams had faded up the steps and the waves washed long in their ears.
“I hope not,” he said in the small space between their lips, then they both sat back and looked at the stars.
She looked at the stars, really, but he mostly looked at her as he told her stories. She liked it when he told her stories and she could be still and listen to his life. That was one thing for sure he knew. He told her about the old man he used to visit on the beach in his college town because the man was lonely and he felt bad for him. He’d never know it, but she could feel his heart, then. His simplicity and the way he cared for others. There was no one else like it.
The sea was cold and it was late. The lights on the cliff-face were dim, or gone. He had to get up early and she had some sleeping in to do, so as the waves lapped at their barefoot toes, they decided it was time to leave.
Silence as they ascended the steps, pressed close and holding empty cups and blankets. For a moment before they got into the warm bubble of the car, they looked over the cliff and to the sea below.
“We’ll come back here,” he said, taking her hand.
“Yeah,” she said, lacing her fingers into his. “We will.”
They never did.
The sea was cold that night.