Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TRAVELER (01/28/16)
TITLE: Bea's Bed & Breakfast
By Leola Ogle
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His voice was lyrical, with warmth that could sooth ruffled feathers and wounded hearts. Handsome – in a rugged, earthy way. Wavy blonde hair to his shoulders. Or was his hair brown? Blue eyes that sometimes looked green. Maybe dark brown. The stranger seemed familiar. The word ethereal popped into Bea’s thoughts.
Bea told him she had a room, and he followed her upstairs.
“What is it you do, Joseph? And what brings you to our small community?”
“I’m a traveler. I go wherever I’m supposed to be.”
Not really an answer, but Bea felt comforted by his words. Opening the door, she prattled about the room – decorated in a western motif. Bea had a thing for cowboys.
“Breakfast is served from eight until nine in the morning. Come down whenever you’d like. Tomorrow’s specialty is blueberry-pecan waffles. And of course, eggs with all the trimmings.”
Bea opened curtains and stepped through French doors. Ocean air filled her nostrils and caressed her cheeks. The breeze felt like a lover’s embrace. Memories of Paul assaulted her, peeling back layers of defense she had built to keep the sadness away. Her shoulders slumped as tears pricked her eyes.
“He loved you deeply.”
Bea jerked and spun around just as Joseph sat his duffel bag on the bed. She was sure someone had spoken. Joseph glanced at her and smiled. “You run this lovely establishment all alone now? It must be difficult.”
Had she told him Paul died six months ago? She was sure she hadn’t. Paul – her handsome cowboy, plucked from the Texas range and plopped down on the Atlantic shore. It was Paul’s idea to turn the rundown estate left to him by an uncle into a bed and breakfast. Their children – gone from home now – were born here.
Flustered, Bea didn’t answer. “I’ll leave you to settle in. There’s several restaurants in town for lunch and dinner. Feel free to ask me for directions.”
As she walked past Joseph, he touched her hand. Ripples of well-being warmed her body. A soft gasp escaped her lips. She turned to say something, but Joseph was pulling items from his duffel bag.
The newlyweds, Dylan and Lindsey, clad in swimsuits, followed Bea downstairs. Playful giggles floated in the air as they raced to the beach. Young love. The only other occupants, John and Sarah, celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary, had gone into town after breakfast to shop.
Bea checked on Carl, the handyman she’s hired to do repairs – things Paul always took care of. Paul. The loss was as raw as the day it happened.
Bea sighed. She noticed Joseph on the beach talking with Dylan and Lindsey. Curiosity made her stare. They looked serious, but then the three burst into laughter.
“Something different about that guy. Not bad. Just different. Spends all of his time travelling from what I gather.”
Bea hadn’t heard Carl walk up. Sudden loneliness engulfed her. “Would you like to have lunch on the veranda with me?”
Carl scratched his head. “Well, sure. Marge packed my lunch, but I can eat with you. Marge said thanks for the cookies you sent home for her and the kids.”
Having lunch with Carl didn’t keep the anguish from crashing over the wall she had erected to keep her emotions in check. She walked to the beach and sank to her knees in the sand. She shoved a fist against her mouth to stifle her wails.
Paul, forgive me. It was my fault. I can’t go on like this.
A hand touched her shoulder. “Paul wouldn’t want you to blame yourself. It was an accident.” Joseph’s eyes were full of compassion. How did he know?
“He wasn’t feeling well, but took me out on the sailboat anyway. He was an excellent sailor. I dozed off. His body washed up on shore two days later. Apparently he had a heart attack and fell overboard. If I hadn’t begged to go out on the boat. If I hadn’t fallen asleep.”
“It wasn’t your fault. Sell this place like you’ve been advised. Go live with your children. It’s what they want. It’s what you need. Forgive yourself. You punish yourself by staying here.”
“I can’t. It would be deserting Paul.”
Joseph took her hands. “What would Paul want? What does your heart say?”
She knew, then. She would sell. Peace pushed against the sorrow.
“Are you an angel?”
“Some say so. I’m a traveler sent to help you.”
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