Beautiful Girl, by Lucy McKee

Springtime reminds me of carnivals and fairs . . .

. . . of a world ready to play again after the dark winter.  In this piece, I wanted to show the hope and brightness that spring brings, along with unspoken sorrows that often hide in shadows.  Here, coming out isn’t like a battle cry, but rather a subtle admission of unfulfilled love in the springtime.

Beautiful Girl

“Hello, beautiful.”

I watched her turn and smile at the passing man, his eyes fixed on the perfect swell of her breasts peeking from the pink strapless gown.  Wisps of blonde hair fell from her French knot and drifted across her face.  She flashed a radiant smile as the rented photographer stole moments in time from her, locked away forever in the void of his camera.

The cloudless blue skies and warm air came early that year and the Ocean City midway roared with life.  Hundreds of people milled about: barefoot kids with melting ice cream cones, young women clutching stuffed animals and shirtless men swaggering with bravado.  An organ piped away around the corner from the Ferris wheel that spun leisurely above our heads.

She stood in the middle of the sidewalk as if encased in a bubble, the passersby keeping their distance.  She looked fragile and enchanting, innocent and unknowing.  Perfect.

“You’re the picture of loveliness, darling,” the photographer said.

She ran over and pulled me toward the boardwalk, her smile full of mischief.  We posed together, bride and bridesmaid.

When the session ended, we hovered over the photographer and her hand squeezed mine as we watched the images slide back and forth on the camera.  A shot of her alone on the boardwalk appeared and my heart fluttered.  The photographer had caught her in a quiet moment, her hand raised in a shy wave, no smile except the one alight in her eyes.  I leaned in to examine the image closer when the screen went black and all I could see in my reflection was the longing in my eyes.

“They’re great, aren’t they?” She jumped up on the toes of her ballet flats.

“Perfect.” I smiled.

“Come with me.” Together we walked to the beach, out past the ski and umbrella rentals to the shoreline where the black water crashed furiously on the sand.  We stopped at an outcropping of rocks where one of the pier supports was buried deep beneath the sand.  She sat down, her dress whipping in the strong breeze from the Atlantic.  I settled next to her.

“You are coming, aren’t you? To the wedding? You’ll come, right?” Her long black lashes fluttered.

“What do you mean? I thought I was the maid-of-honor.”

“You are.  But, I don’t know, you’ve just been acting a little strange.  You do like him, don’t you?”

“Of course.” I cringed.

“You can bring a date, you know.”

We were quiet.  Plus one.  I looked down at my feet, sandy and stained with beach tar.  A seagull dive-bombed into the water before us.  I shook my head.  “That’s okay.  I was just gonna go alone.  It’s your day anyhow.”

She put her hand on her cheek, her nails shiny and red.  “I’d really like for you to go with someone…anyone.  I was thinking maybe you could go with John’s cousin.  He’s a sweetheart.” She laughed uneasily.  “I mean, when was the last time you went out with a guy anyway?”

How carelessly she now stepped on those emotional landmines.

I couldn’t look at her as my heart burned.  I desperately wanted to disappear in the churning water behind us.

“Really, though, how long has it been? Don’t you think it’s weird that you’ve been single for so long?”

The wind blew a beach ball into the surf.  I rested my chin on my knees and said nothing.

“Well, just think about it, okay?” She stood, back to the sun, the light casting her like a saint while her hair whipped in the wind.  “I mean, who else would you want to take?” She turned and started back to the boardwalk, the imprints of her feet in the sand leading away from me.

“You,” I whispered when she was far enough away not to hear.

Lucy McKee

is a part-time writer and full-time nurse living on the coast of southwest Florida with her Border Collie Harvey.  ‘Beautiful Girl’ originally appeared in Eunoia Review in December 2011 (link).

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3 thoughts on “Beautiful Girl, by Lucy McKee”

  1. lucy, haven’t seen/read you since our old days on Scrib…nice to see you’re still working and doing so well!!

  2. Beautiful story. Beautiful details. I loved carelessly stepping on those emotional landmines

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