A Sunset (Flash Fiction)

The cooler gave a harsh, plastic squeak as Bob opened the lid and reached for two beers. The ice-water dribbled on his toes as he popped the tops and handed one to his wife. Bob moved the bottle quickly passed her waiting hand and pressed the cold glass to her skin.

“Oh, that’s cold!” she said with a squeal.

Bob smiled and placed the beer in her hand. “This place is even better than the advertisements,” he said. The white sands of a quiet beach spread out in both directions. Calm waves of blue water lapped up against the flat shore. A sparse population of couples walking hand-in-hand occasionally strolled by. In the distance, the setting sun washed the storm clouds with burning oranges and purple-soaked reds. Bob took a small sip and rested his head against the wooden chair. “This is amazing,” he said.

“Yeah,” Catherine said with a reserved voice.

Bob turned to see her offer that subtle smile that always came about when she was sad. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she said. “I really do love this.”

“Then why the sadness?”

Catherine smiled again, the smile that confirmed to Bob that he could still read her like a book after 27 years of marriage. In all, it was the smile he cherished the most. “I just,” she said with a soft choke.

“Hey, come on.” Bob reached out with his hand and tangled his fingers in with hers. “Take a drink and just say it.”

Catherine smiled again, a beam of radiance that rivaled the cosmic beauty of the horizon. She took a long swallow of beer and set the bottle carefully on top of the white sand. “It’s hard, because I enjoy this so much. I never want it to end. And I get so scared that the moment is going to pass by before I enjoy. I work myself up into this frenzy of total concentration of the moment.” She paused and sighed, and Bob felt her fingers give a subtle squeeze. Bob watched her aging face as her mind raced, only to see that beautiful smile again. “And then I focus so hard on the moment and on not letting it slip by, I forget to enjoy it.”

Bob smiled wide and looked into her deep brown eyes. He sipped his beer and rolled the cold glass across his forehead. “You just enjoy it,” he said. He swept his arm across the horizon, across the white sands dancing over clear ocean waters, and over the burning clouds of the fading sky. “There’s no need to hold on to such moments so intensely. Just be here with me.”

She nodded slowly and bit her lip in a worried way. Several moments passed, and a sweet ocean breeze kissed their skin. “What if I forget?” she asked. “What if, years from now, I can’t remember this day?”

Bob gave her a quick wink and drank his beer down halfway. “You don’t have to look back and remember the moment,” he said. “You just have to know that you enjoyed it.”

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