Zack and Serendipity

Zack and Serendipity

A Story by Beregond


     Zack sat in the sand and watched the sunset.  
 It was a little chilly, but Zack didn’t mind. The winding, rocky beaches that ran up and down the eastern side of the sound were infamous for a slight chill; the breeze flitted across Zack’s brow. The waves drifted back and forth in their ubiquitous pattern, moving closer and closer to his feet. Zack had planted his rear end against the rough grayish sand almost five hours ago, when the brazen sun had been beating and pummeling with intensity. Now it dipped toward its inevitable demise behind the cascading peaks at the edge of his range of vision. He thought to himself (briefly, as always) of the beauty of the expanse before him, of the surreal quality of the sky at this time, and the way it was streaked with fading igneous layers of color. He saw this beauty like a math problem. It could probably be understood, and made sense of, if he had the taste for that sort of thing. Zack could still feel his skin reddening, eventually to become a crisp and leathery version of itself, no doubt a delayed effect of the afternoon sun.
     The beach was mostly deserted, except for a couple that had settled about forty feet down the shore. The man’s hair was longer than the woman’s, and he was in much better shape. They leaned on one another for hours, watching the sunset and doing what looked like a crossword puzzle, the kind that come in a big book with a whole bunch of them. After that, he’d removed a guitar from its mangy cloth case and played her a soothing folk song. The flatter notes had wafted over into Zack’s ears, but he didn’t notice the error in the tune. The man had finally stopped, and put the guitar down, and the woman had laid her head against his chest and gazed out at the sunset with what looked like total completeness. The old guitar, as decrepit as its case and worn through the woodwork with pick strokes, lay face down in the sand. Zack thought to himself that he’d never treat anything he owned that way. He furrowed his brow a little when he thought this. Then he went back to staring at the sea.
     As the sun took its course, the softest bottom edge just barely touching the mountain peaks, Serendipity came up behind Zack, and sat down on the beach next to him. In her hand she held a brown paper bag. She was wearing a long, flowing dress that hadn’t been bought with anyone’s high-limit credit card, but had most likely been well worn, and well-loved, and finally abandoned in a donation lot behind a thrift store. Her hair carried streaks of a much brighter sun, streaks that were slightly more pronounced than Zack’s. She removed what she held in the paper bag, revealing it to be a pint of cheap whiskey. She cracked the lid and took a long drink before handing it to Zack.
     “What’s this?” he asked before taking a sip.
     She shrugged. “It should take the edge off.”
     “You always did have an unhealthy way of dealing with things.”
     She stuck out her tongue at him, and then looked towards the horizon. The lovers down the beach were playing with each other’s fingers. This turned into what looked to Zack like a haphazard game of patty-cake. He tried to ignore them, turning back to Serendipity.
     “I tried calling last week.”
     She smiled, and ran her fingers slowly across the sand, making it look a little like a Zen Garden.
     “I know you did,” she replied. “I wasn’t ready. Thought you might not be done.”
     “Done what?”
     “Done being a whine.”
     Zack handed her the bottle, from which she drank much more deeply than he, and sighed.
     “I don’t think I am being one.”
     The waves rolled off the sand, back and forth, the nearest one coming within inches of their toes. “Don’t ruin it,” she said. “This is nice.”
     “I’m going to be sunburned, you know.”
     She grinned, and her eyes lit up the tiniest bit. The sunset glinted across her irises like fool’s gold. “No you’re not. You tan like a Mexican.”
     “I just need to know the real reason, Sare.”
     Her sigh was subtle. “There is no real reason. It just is. Why can’t you let it go?”
     “Because I don’t do that.” He snatched the bottle of whiskey and took a big drink.
     “Why can’t you learn?”
     “I don’t wanna learn.”
     “Would you learn for me?”
     He made a face that looked a bit indignant to her, and took the whiskey from her outstretched hand. He remembered dancing with her on this beach, and on the river only a few miles away, dancing like nothing mattered, the songs and the frogs and the mud staining the carpets. When you walk around barefoot, you get mud on just about everything. Always with the mud, and always with the cheap dime store dresses. And the whiskey. To take the edge off. Times had been so much better.
     He looked at the couple down the beach. They had taken their shirts off quite shamelessly, her brassiere apparently never having existed, and were now staring like fascinated children at the stars overhead that were fading into existence with the dying light. Zack furrowed his brow at this, always in the way that indicated the slightest curiosity. Serendipity tried not to notice, tried not to be so interested in his interest. She gave up rather quickly.
     “What’s so fascinating?” she wondered.
     “The way people have no shame. They live in the world as they want to live, like they’re the only people using it. Like it’s their own big private island flying through space.”
     “They look pretty happy to me.”
     “Me too. Tell me the real reason.”
     “I can’t. I already told you. It just is.”
     “I can’t accept that. Why do you lie?”
     She sighed, one of her big attention-lover sighs, and staked the whiskey bottle into the sand.
     “Why don’t we join them? We could take off all our clothes, too. You’re already down to just those shorts.”
     “Sare, please.”
     She leaned forward, sitting on her knees and staring at Zack intensely.
     “I’m serious. I’ll take off this dress right now. You know it’s the only piece of clothing I have on.”
     She sounded very serious now, and sincere, like a person who’s either telling you the most important thing you’ll ever hear, or being a complete phony. Zack pursed his lips, and stared back at her, stubborn, unrelenting. Serendipity finally gave up, and sat back down.
     “Some hippie’s son you are.”
     “I thought you liked that about me.”
     “I do. My name’s strange too.”
     “But not misspelled. Just misused.”
     Serendipity flipped her wild, dark hair out of her face, not to be sexy, but merely in order to see Zack and the beach better. “It’s what I like about us. Nothing turned out quite how the regular world might make it. It’s what I like about you.”
     “What don’t you like about me, then?”
     “Nothing. I like everything about you.”
     He leaned forward himself, and put his hands on his hips.
     She smirked a bit, as she always did at these little word games.
     “Every. Thing.”
    His grin became incredulous. “Liar.”
     She closed her eyes and grimaced, like someone experiencing a wave of nausea. “Zee, I’m tired of this. Can’t we just be like before?”
     “Sure we can.”
     “But before…before, you would tell me something like this. You’d tell me what someone did wrong.”
     He made his inflection firm and unrelenting, but not angry. This was how these things were done with her. He knew these things only from tired, ragged experience.
     “You’d tell me if I wasn’t me.”
     She raked the sand. “But you are you.”
     “So what?”
     “So I can’t!”
     He laughed. “So you admit you’re hiding something! Don’t you see this is a circle?”
     “Of course it is! But I don’t see how to stop it. I tried to give you some space, but I can’t stop it. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to make you feel better, or if I should make up a reason that doesn’t exist.”
     She took a few beep breaths, trying to calm down, like her therapist taught her. Like Zack taught her. They were lying on this very beach, in fact. Take a breath. Hold it in, and count to four. 1-2-3-4. Then let it out. 5-6-7-8-9-10. Now doesn’t that just feel perfect? Then they had kissed. Times had been so much better.
     “Zee, things happen as they happen. I can’t predict it any better than you can. You know me, Zee. Waves, remember?” She gently touched his hand.
He scowled and removed it with his other hand.
     “Just because I know it, doesn’t mean I have to like it. Doesn’t mean I believed it anymore.”
Serendipity looked sad. She knew this would happen, but she didn’t do anything to stop it, which was exactly the kind of thing she was angry that he didn’t understand. She noticed the couple down the beach, really seeing them for the first time, taking in a big deep heartful of their energy, their life, the invisible little warm bubbles that danced from them, across the beach. The man lit a cigarette he’d fished from his pocket, and moved it from his lips to his lover’s before putting another in his own mouth. Serendipity smiled.
     “They’re quite beautiful, you know. And happy.”
     Zack looked on with her. “Yes, it’s very nice. They can get cancer together.”
     “You would get that out of what just happened,” she quipped playfully, dumping a handful of sand on the cuff of his pants. He looked at her, feigning an angry scowl, one that was too overdone to fool her. And then, hoping to momentarily douse her playfulness, he narrowed his eyes into a compassionate, piercing gaze. She loved and hated when he looked at her like that- it made her want to tell him the truth about anything, whether it would hurt him or not.
     He whispered quietly as the nearest wave ran across the tip of his longest toe. 
     “Tell me why.”
     A single, reluctant tear dripped from her left eye, making it shine like a bioluminescent pearl- this could have been from resentment, anger, sadness, or just the fact that the ocean was so damn beautiful. Her mind was, as always, a mystery to him, an airtight compound of a mind, with the vulnerability and the truth stored in the same tightly locked room. This would, in all probability, lead him back again and again, to pound and scratch at its iron gates every so often for the rest of his life.
     “I can’t.”
     He closed his eyes and grimaced, like a child who’s afraid of being beaten.
     “Is it because I did too little?”
     “Too much?”
     “Because of my job? Or the size of my apartment?”
     He looked down at his belly, protruding timidly from his waistline. “Because of my weight?”
     She laughed with all the joy of a little child. “Of course not.”
     He ground his teeth in frustration.
     “Then why?”
     Serendipity leaned forward and watched as Zack’s curly blonde streaks waved at her in the gentle seaside wind. A lazy, delighted smile tiptoed across her face, and she thought to herself not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, God is he cute. She let her expression become empathetic, compassionate, and as always, a tad devious.
      “If you don’t know by now, you never will.” She held his stubbled chin with two fingers, and gently kissed his lips- and for kisses, this was the last time. As she pulled away, she noticed his gaze had intensified.
     “We’ll always be connected, Zee. You know that, don’t you?” She said it as if she were coaxing him into admitting it.
     “Yeah, of course. But you’ve gotta go home now.” He said it in a similar, mocking way.
     “You know me too well.”
     “Maybe that’s my downfall. Finish the bottle with me?”
     She stood up, and spread her arms a bit, the better to feel the breeze sweep across them.
     “You know a drink of whiskey’s the first thing you ever gave me?”
     He thought for a moment.
     “I guess it is.”
     She closed her eyes. The sun, now mere moments from disappearing, gave her slender figure every ounce of its remaining light and strength.
     “Well, I’m giving it back to you. Do what you like with it.”
     He looked at the bottle. There was just a drink left. He suspected she’d squeezed in multiple drinks without his knowledge- it would always be her style to trick him, and would always be his to enjoy it.
     “That’s very kind of you, Sare.”
     “Oh, don’t be melodramatic. Or sarcastic, either.”
     “I’m not!” But he was, and he knew it. And he knew that she knew it. Why do people play such games? Maybe, Zack thought to himself, that’s why they end up just the way they do.
     Serendipity bit the inside of her lip and looked at the ground.
     “Next time, can we talk about something else? The weather, maybe? Or the trees? I’d like that very much. It would be just like old times.”
     Zack laughed a quiet but very genuine laugh.
     “Maybe we can. Maybe.”
     Serendipity smiled, and rolled her eyes good naturedly, and shook her head. Then she walked slowly back towards the path that would lead her once again into the world of concrete.
     Zack held his knees and watched the waves as they rolled in back and forth in their incessant, perpetual rolling. The waves moved like music, or blizzard snow, or dandelion seeds on a sunny afternoon. Back and forth, back and forth, they swayed and danced along the shore. It was always, and never, possible to know exactly where they’d go or what they’d do. Zack figured that the waves could be understood, and analyzed, and made sense of, if he had the taste for that sort of thing, but he still wasn’t sure if he’d know, at any given moment, whether one would run across his toes after sunset. He looked down the beach at the couple who would seem so perfect to him, if he lived in a real dreamy kind of world. Their silhouettes were traced directly across the final wisp of the evening sun- they looked like a cheesy hallmark greeting card, or maybe just a genuine happy moment.
     As the last tiny glimmer of light slipped behind the mountains, Zack walked up to where the lovers down the beach were sitting, and set the bottle of whiskey at their feet.
     They did.

© 2009 Beregond

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A very good, descriptive read.
All around wonderful.
Good job.

Posted 11 Years Ago

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Added on October 27, 2009
Last Updated on October 27, 2009



Sacramento, CA

I'm an English major and aspiring writer out of Northern California. Besides writing, I like reading, learning, nature, fitness, drinking, and exploring the experiences in this world I've never had. .. more..

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