Authors: Vivian Winslow
By Vivian Winslow
Text copyright © 2014 Vivian Winslow
“Hey, babe,” Dahlia says into the phone as she begins to unpack her small suitcase. “Thought you’d be home last night. You’re probably still just coming back from Cortes. Give me a call when you dock. I can’t wait to see you.”
A key jiggling in the lock startles her. She rushes downstairs and opens the door. “It’s about time, Shane,” Dahlia exclaims, catching her breath.
Her heart drops to her stomach when she sees Sebastian. The expression on his face says it all.
“Wha? What are you doing here?” She stammers.
He opens his mouth to speak, but she holds up her hand. “Wait, I don’t want to know.” Dahlia takes a step back and lets go of the door. Sebastian catches it and walks inside.
“Dahlia,” he says.
She shakes her head, agony filling her chest. “No! You can’t show up here and look at me that way. Don’t.”
The sound of his name opens the floodgates. “Please don’t say it,” she cries, collapsing to the floor.
Four days of crying haven’t numbed Dahlia’s pain. It feels as sharp and cold as the moment Sebastian told her Shane drowned at Cortes. And it cuts as deep as it did seven years ago when she learned their baby had died. That was the worst day of her life, or so she thought. Now, as she is forced to let go of the man she believed was hers
, she’s reliving the devastation all over again.
“D,” Lily says. “It’s time.”
With her sister’s arm around her and Sebastian to her left, she opens the small silver urn filled with Shane’s ashes and pours them into the Pacific. The ocean was his great love, he once said—after Dahlia, of course. It gave him life when Dahlia left, and took it back when she returned to him. She curses it silently as his ashes scatter in the wind.
Shane’s friends flew in from all over the world to pay their respects. For two days they held a life celebration on the beach as a tribute to him. To Dahlia, the bacchanalian revelry seemed to be less about honoring Shane’s life and more about them celebrating the fact they haven’t yet succumbed to his fate. Dahlia stood behind the sea of faces, wondering if any of them question whether their sport, the very thing they live and breathe for, is worth the risk.
“Shane was so happy to have you in his life again, Dahlia,” his mother, Pearl, says to her as they hug good-bye outside the house. Dahlia attempts a smile but falls short with each passing day. She’s grown weary of the soothing words and hugs that bring little comfort. And when Shane’s mom had cried in her arms, she felt only resentment. She wanted to be the one to cry, not comfort. Instead, she felt she had to be strong in the face of this “tragic accident”.
Tragic, so the surfing community had termed it, because it shouldn’t have happened to a pro like Shane. What was tragic to Dahlia was that it wouldn’t have happened if he kept his promise not to surf big waves again. But he didn’t. Once again, her world is completely shattered, and the one man who helped her rebuild her life the first time isn’t around to help her now.
Dahlia swallows her anger as she pulls away from Shane’s mom. The anger is just part of her grief, Lily had reassured her that morning. Dahlia knows that. She knows it better than anyone. She’s been through it before.
That’s tragedy for you
, she thinks bitterly.
She manages a weak smile for Shane’s older brother, Troy. A pro-surfer himself, he was Shane’s idol and the one who taught him how to surf.
“I know it’s no consolation, Dahlia, but he died doing what he loved. We’d all prefer to go that way.”
Dahlia looks down, fighting back the tears that are welling. “I have trouble believing that.”
“The ocean’s our home. It means more to us to be there than anywhere else.”
“But he had a home with me too.” Dahlia shakes her head.
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry,” Troy says, pulling her into his arms. “Shane wouldn’t want you to mourn him, Dahlia. Take care of yourself, alright?”
“You too,” she answers, squeezing him tight, tears falling down her face once again.
“Can I get you anything, D?” Vi asks, sitting next to her on the deck overlooking the beach.
Dahlia shakes her head, not bothering to take her eyes off the sunset. The eighth one since his death.
Lily, sitting across from Dahlia, looks at her sister helplessly. She wasn’t there for Dahlia when she returned from California all those years ago. She tried to be, but Dahlia didn’t want her or anyone else around. Instead Dahlia shut out the people close to her until she had lost all her friends and burned every bridge from New York to California.
“Is there anything I can do?” She asks.
Dahlia glances up, her eyes swollen from the endless crying. “I already told you. I’m fine.”
Lily sits down and takes her hand. “You’re not fine.”
“Okay, then I’m not. Is that what you want to hear?”
“Honesty is a start,” she replies. Lily bites her lip, instantly regretting opening her mouth. She’s a businesswoman, not a grief counselor. How could she possibly know what her sister needs in this moment? Ever since they were young, Dahlia was the protective twin, although she had a funny way of showing it. Like sleeping with Lily’s fiancé the night before her wedding to show Lily what a cheating bastard he was. Dahlia believed actions spoke louder than words.
Lily couldn’t hold it against Dahlia for long. It drove Lily to spend her honeymoon in Rio alone, where she met two men. First, it was Marcelo who opened her mind and her body to pleasures she never knew with Jack. The other, Gustavo, inspired Lily to follow her heart and her desires. It was her relationship with Gustavo that showed her a greater happiness than she had experienced with her former fiancé. The courage it took to be with him gave Lily a confidence she didn’t have before. Then, when Gustavo hurt and betrayed her, it was Dahlia who helped bring her out of her depression. Looking back to last fall, when she walked in on Dahlia and Jack, Lily can barely recognize the woman she was then. She has Dahlia to thank for that. Now, it’s Lily’s turn to help her sister find her own peace through this dark time.
Sighing, she says, “I’m here as long as you need. I can deal with the lawyers and the will.”
“I don’t care about any of that stuff,” Dahlia spits out.
“I know. It’s just that once that’s out of the way, you can decide what you want to do.”
“With what?” Dahlia’s voice gets louder. “My life?”
“Well, you don’t have to start planning out your life, but eventually . . .”
“Eventually, what, Lil?” Dahlia crosses her arms. “I’ll have to move on. Is that what you’re going to say?”
Lily casts down her eyes. “No, D. I mean . . . I don’t want to sound so clinical. It’s just . . .”
“Just what, Lil? Say what the fuck you mean!”
“Are you just going to spend the rest of your life crying out here in Santa Barbara?” Lily blurts out. “Mourn him. Fine. Be sad. Fine. Cry for him. Fine. But at some point you will have to decide to stop grieving and live your life.”
Dahlia lets out a sob, covering her mouth. She collapses onto the chaise and screams.
“How dare he do this to me!” She cries out. “He was supposed to be mine forever! We finally had our shit together, Lil. I mean it. I swear it couldn’t have been a more perfect time for us! How could he?” It feels so good to finally unleash some of her anger that she’s been keeping bottled up—anger at Shane for going out on the water when he promised her he wouldn’t.
Seeing her sister in such pain brings tears to Lily’s eyes. Vi wipes her own tears as she watches quietly. It merely affirms to Vi why she avoids relationships. The pain of losing someone you love is too great.
Lily rocks Dahlia in her arms as she cries into her chest. “It’s so unfair, Lil. Why? Why now? Why me?”
As the sun disappears behind the horizon, Lily breaks the silence and says, “Don’t worry, D. I’ll take care of everything,” realizing after a moment, she sounds exactly like their mother.
“You sure you don’t want to come with us?” Lily asks as she packs her suitcase. “I think a trip might help.” If she were Dahlia, she’d probably slip her something in a martini and kidnap her. But Lily isn’t
Dahlia lies back on her bed, still in her pajamas, and shakes her head. “I’m not ready to leave Santa Barbara yet.”
“If you want me to stay, I will,” Lily offers. “I have to go to Miami for a few days. There are some meetings I need to attend at the network, but then I can come back. I don’t have to go to Indonesia with Vi. She’ll understand.”
“No, it’s fine. You were supposed to move to Miami a couple of weeks ago instead of being here with me. I’m sure Alejandro misses you.” Dahlia swallows hard, trying to push down the self-pity that’s creeping up. Of course her sister deserves happiness. She’s just relieved that Lily hasn’t talked much about Alejandro. It’s hard to see anyone in love right now.
“You know, D,” Lily says, “Whatever you decide to do, I’ll support you. It’s alright if you want to stay in Santa Barbara. But at some point you have to get out of this house. It will suffocate you being surrounded by all of his things.”
Dahlia looks away. She knows this but isn’t quite ready to acknowledge it. Moving out of the house, letting go of Shane’s things, is still too hard for her to even contemplate.
“Listen,” Lily says, “Whenever you do feel you’re ready, Shane’s mom has offered to come and help. She lives down in Ventura, so she could be here whenever you want. There are a few things of his she’d like to have.”
Dahlia nods. “Fine. You can have her call me.”
“The lawyers contacted me again yesterday. You’ll need to sign a few papers since Shane left his estate to you.”
“I told you I’d rather not deal with that stuff right now.”
Lily sighs, sitting down on the bed next to Dahlia. “I know. It sucks. But there’s no moving forward until you do.”
“You said you’d stop talking about that,” Dahlia says angrily.
“D, you can be a zombie and grieve for Shane as long as you want, but he had a business. A pretty lucrative one as far as I can tell. There are employees to pay, athletes waiting on sponsorship checks, customers waiting for orders to be filled.”
“I thought Sebastian was taking care of that.”
Lily resists the urge to shake her sister. “He’s about as messed up as you are, D. Sebastian blames himself for Shane’s death. It’s completely rocked him.”
Dahlia runs her hands through her hair. This conversation is quickly growing tiring. She rolls over and closes her eyes.
“Sebastian is a surfer, not a business man. His share in the company was only thirty percent. He was just happy to have a way to keep surfing.”
“Don’t they all,” Dahlia mutters.
“Shane wouldn’t want you depressed like this. He would want you to be happy.”
“He’s not here to tell me that, Lil. That’s the problem.”
“No, he isn’t, D. You’re right. But you know he would want you to go on living, whatever that means to you. So the options as I see it are: stay here and act like the living dead; take on his business of making surfboards or . . .”
“That’s the unknown.”
“How reassuring,” Dahlia replies bitterly.
Lily shakes her head. “I’ve gotta go, but I’ll be back to check on you as soon as I can.”