Nova Scotia Renewal
Russell exited the ferry and turned into the tiny parking lot a few meters from the waters edge. He grabbed his iPad and a beer out of his cooler, then sat down on the bench directly in front of the river. There had only been his pickup plus another car on the small ferry, a boat that looked as if it would only carry six or seven cars total. As it started to pull away he stood and took some photos of it with his iPhone.
He opened his iPad and started checking E-mail. Service wasn't great so it was taking forever. He sat the iPad down on his lap, closed the case, he really didn’t want to check email. Maybe music.
As he searched on his phone for a Playlist he wanted to hear, one that would get his attention, a woman walked up and sat next to him on the bench. A little startled he looked over at her and also at the parking lot. He realized that she was in the Volkswagen bug that had accompanied him across the river. He hadn't even heard her park because of the noise of the ferry.
As she sat on the bench she smiled at him and asked "do you mind?”
“Absolutely. I can’t have good looking women milling around all willy nilly, its certainly the path to distraction. And, eh, other things much more serious. Ya know?”
She laughed, thankfully, Russel thought. He was in no mood for a slap across the face at that moment.
She stuck out her hand and said, “Well, I’ll be going, soon. I’m Dora.”
“I’m Russ. and happy to have you here. I was, uh, well, glad you’re here.”
“Well, Russ obviously from another country. I was going to ask if you’re from around here. But I’m thinking USA, some Southern state?”
“No, eh, just visiting”, he replied. “And, you think, I’m, I’m from . . .”. Jeez, what the hell are you doing? This isn’t you, WAKE UP!, he yelled at himself inside his currently disturbed consciousness.
Looking at him, the side of his face as he turned from her, she said, "I’m really sorry, I’ll -“
“No, no, its me. I’ve been really distracted today, and I’m really happy you sat down here. Are you from around here?"
“Well, not far. South of Lunenburg, a little area called Blue Rocks."
“Oh yea, I know that place, I spent most of a day roaming around that area. I really liked it. Do you live near the harbor?”
"My house is two blocks West of the Harbor, near the little church."
"I remember that church. I took photos of it."
They were quiet for a few minutes and he spent that time just looking at her. He realized how really pretty she was. He figured she was about 15 - 20 years younger than him, he was 39 so he was figuring she was 21 - 22. And a very gorgeous 21 or 22.
She asked him, ”So how long have you been here, and what do you think of Nova Scotia?"
“About 6 weeks, and I love Nova Scotia. This will not be my last time here. It reminds me of Maine, my favorite Eastern State. Have you ever been in the US?"
"No. One day. But I had a boyfriend in high school who was from Georgia.”
“So you thought I sounded like him? Well, no matter what I do I can’t seem to leave the South completely. I was born and raised there, but we moved to California after I graduated High School. You’d have thought I would have erased any sign of the accent by now."
Then the ferry was returning from the other side of the river. They both stood up to watch it over the tall plants in front of them. He realized she was very tall, he thought maybe taller than him. Beautiful legs.
When they sat down he asked her "are you a model?”
"Why do you ask that? Do I act like a model, all snobby and stuff?"
"No, not at all. But when you stood up, I just looked at you and thought, with those long legs, you look like a model."
She laughed. "I have modeled some, but mostly I'm a server."
When she told him the name of the restaurant she waited tables at, he realized he had been there.
"I ate there, a couple times. It was the only restaurant I went to when I was in Lunenburg. But there's no way you were there those nights, I would've definitely noticed and remembered that!", he said with a smile on his face.
"I've been off for a few weeks. Just kinda wandering. I needed to spread out for awhile. I'm heading back now. Just hoping I'm ready. Funny how I'm feeling nervous to return to the life I know so well. Or thought I did."
"What do you mean? Your life was phony somehow?"
"Since I was 19 I've had the same boyfriend. Completely committed to him. I couldn't even imagine us not being together."
She paused and leaned her head back on to the bench, looking up into a blue sky full of clouds turning yellow in the setting sun.
"We broke up 4 months ago. After 7 years. I was devastated. I knew I'd never get over him. But now, after being away for a few weeks, I'm not even thinking about Glen. I don't really get it, but I don't want to be stuck like that again."
The Ferry was back and they didn't try to talk over it. Russ was feeling a little bit uncomfortable. He'd known this woman like just seconds and it was like suddenly now he was her Priest. Was she expecting some wise words from him? "I have none", he thought. And anyway, if anyone needed a Priest. And he realized she was more like 26.
She stood up. "Sorry, didn't mean to horn in to your spot here. But Glen and I got engaged on that bench. I just wanted to know how I'd feel if I was back here."
"Nothing", she said with a shrug. "Looks like I'm free!"
She got back in her VW and started to head off. She yelled to him through her window, "You coming back to town?"
"Look me up. I’m Sara. I’m working at the restaurant starting tomorrow night, 6 straight nights. I'll take you out on my boat."
Sara? She has a boat?
He went to her restaurant late the next night, after he finished photographing the Lunnenburg cityscape reflected in the still water of the Bay. The entry was a level above the small main section of the place, and he stood there for a few minutes watching Dora/Sara working the floor. No hostess was in sight, but he was enjoying watching her work. Two things kept bouncing around in his head. How much he had enjoyed his years waiting tables while going to school. And why did this woman have two names?
Finally, her hands full of dirty plates, she spotted him and gave him a big smile. She mouthed to him, “I’ll be right back”.
She gave him a big hug, and he was thinking while she was squeezing, "this feels really good". He hugged back. She sat him in the back at a booth by the side window. He told her what beer he wanted and she ran off to get one.
He watched the people passing the window in both directions. Mostly they looked like they had someplace to be. How long had it been since he felt that way, he thought.
She sat across from him in the booth and said, “I can’t believe you are actually here.”
“Really, how come?”
“I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t think you would want to see me again. I didn’t think our first meeting went very well.”
He started to reply, but then someone called for her. She said, “Look, why don’t you figure out what you want to eat. By the time your food is ready, this place will be empty, we’ll be closed, and I can sit here undisturbed. I’ve already done most of my side work.”
With that she stood, found his hand on the table, squeezed it and ran to a table across the room.
One of his favorite songs was playing:
We are coming home,
We are coming home,
WE ARE COMING HO-O-OME!
He leaned back against the cushy back of the booth, closing his eyes. When would he be going home. Ever? 3600 miles away, and it seemed even further. He left California almost 9 months ago, and hadn’t even considered turning around yet. A few texts with his sister, some communication on Facebook, that was about it. He could think about it now without risking a break down, so there was progress. But still, maybe he was discovering something here. Maybe facing the West Coast right now wasn’t so important.
“Atlantic Salmon. Grilled.”
She pointed to a fishing boat out beyond the wide sidewalk, “It was probably caught on that boat!” Smiling at him, she headed back to the kitchen.
He put his earplugs in and punched up his latest playlist. He thought about the oh so awful end of her life. The man on the TV that they say did it. The continuous crying in her house. His inability to sleep without her coming to him, blaming him. The confirmation over and over that there was no relief.
But now, he smiled. She put his plate down in front of him and sat down. “I covered my shift for tomorrow. We’re sailing out to that island, the one with the white lighthouse on it. It will be like nothing is bad, wonderfulness will surround us. I really need that.”
He chewed the first bite of Salmon, nodded to everything she was saying, and said, “me too”.
She smiled at him. Sweet smile. Well, aren't all smiles sweet? Maybe not, but I bet her's are, he thought.
"So" he said. "Shall we limit our conversation to happy things and times, or shall we talk the truth?"
Another smile, a little more wry. "We just met. Lets let is all come out, gives us a solid foundation in case, maybe, we are starting more than a casual friendship?"
"Really good idea. You start. Might take me a little longer to open up. Just keep smiling!"