Feels Like Falling - Kristy Woodson Harvey
gray: perfect island blonde
I had always been a planner. My calendar was filled a year in advance, vacations chosen from a well-curated spreadsheet of bucket list destinations ranked in order of interest, and my son’s potential summer camp options were mapped out for the rest of his childhood, categorized by activity and color-coded by region. My company’s succession plan should I (a) die, (b) retire, or (c) never return from one of the aforementioned bucket list vacations had been detailed since the day I filed for my first LLC.
Needless to say, when my startup took off, and I got married, had my son, and bought my dream house all in very short order, I thought my hard work had been worth it. The hours spent goal setting, evaluating, strategizing, and visualizing had come to fruition, bloomed into the beautiful garden that I had been seeding, sowing, and watering for the past several years. I thought I had this adulting thing in the bag. I thought I was set.
Life had other plans.
I put the car in park, took a deep breath, and stepped out. The heat rose from the asphalt of the parking lot as I hoisted my rattan beach bag onto my shoulder. Cicadas sang in the tall sea oats, and the dunes in front of the beach club rolled like hills, their valleys revealing a spectacular view of the ocean. The hazy sky went pink, yellow, or orange depending on where I looked, blending to a seamless blue over the ocean at the horizon line.
I gave my outfit a final once-over in the car’s reflection. Large floppy hat, huge Jackie O sunglasses, vintage pareo tied around my neck, and plain but chic flip-flops. I stood up straighter and cleared my throat. It was going to be okay. On a day as spectacular as this, it couldn’t help but be. I had gone over the plan at least a hundred times in my head: Park car on the far side of the lot, directly opposite the pool. Exit car and veer left of the octagonal patch of grass visible from the terrace and outdoor dining area. Walk briskly but nonchalantly straight into the protective watch of my best friend, Marcy, who would be waiting for me poolside.
My flip-flops traveled in measured steps across the concrete pavers as Step on a line, and you’ll break your mama’s spine came to mind, reminding me that, always and forever, we are children at heart.
No matter our age, first days back are never easy. I was a grown-up now. I could have avoided this first day. But I refused to hide out in the shadows as though I had something to be ashamed of; I refused to sacrifice a summer at one of my favorite places in the world because of a little scandal. On this opening day at the beach club, members from near and far who called Cape Carolina—this little slice of sandy paradise—home each summer would gather together again for three glorious months by the shore. They would be chattering excitedly, catching up on everything that had happened over the past nine months while they were apart. Suffice it to say, I would be a hot topic.
As I turned the corner, I gave my friendliest wave to the brunchers on the terrace who called out greetings. But I passed by quickly. For every person who would give me a hug in true concern, there were four who would try to gather dirt and then whisper about it behind my back later.
My plan didn’t account for the fact that the teak lounge chairs between the terrace and the pool deck were teeming with sunbathers, mimosa sippers, and bridge players.
I had almost passed through unnoticed when Mrs. Jenkins, a remarkably agile octogenarian whom I hadn’t seen since the previous summer, jumped up from her chair and stopped me in my tracks. “Gray, darling,” she said dramatically, her bright abstract-print caftan blowing in the breeze. “I am so sorry…”
Here it was. I nodded in polite recognition and braced myself for the blow. I knew it was inevitable, but I wasn’t ready to hear how sorry everyone was about my impending divorce. I knew they were, in their way, even the ones who weren’t as charitable about their delivery. But they were also relishing a new scandal to discuss this summer.
But then she continued, “I am so sorry I didn’t make it to your mother’s funeral, sweetheart. Burl was in the hospital, and I simply