Sent: Saturday, July 08, 2000
AUTHOR: Michelle Kiefer
E-MAIL ADDRESS: MSK1024@AOL.COM
DISTRIBUTION: Just let me know. Spooky archive
DISCLAIMER: Some of them are mine and
some of them belong to 1013, Chris Carter,
and to the X-Files.
SPOILER WARNING: none specifically
CONTENT: Third party POV
COMMENTS: Author's notes at end. Please visit my
other stories at my website, maintained by the
By Michelle Kiefer
"Max Decker, don't you dare put sand down your sister's
Too late. Max has dumped a cupful of sand
down the neck of Lucy's suit, and she is howling like a
cat with a scorched tail.
"One of these days, Max, I'm going to bury you up to your
neck in sand," I say. Five-year-old Max laughs as if that
is the funniest thing he has ever heard. The Deckers think
Max is spirited and brilliant. I think he's a brat, but I'm only
the replacement nanny.
This is the second summer that I've filled in for Delphine,
the children's regular nanny, when she went home to France
for a family visit. She probably needed a break from Max. I
certainly cross off the days with a big red marker until I can
flip the calendar to September and go back to school.
I grab a little plastic pail and take Lucy down to the water's
edge. Stripping the suit down her chubby torso, I rinse the
sand off with pail after pail of water. Lucy giggles as she
watches the last of the sand flow through the legs of the suit.
"Here comes Gracie!" Max shouts as he spies our neighbor,
Nathan walking down from Seaspray cottage, his little daughter
racing ahead of him. Nathan walks with a slight limp, but
that doesn't take away from the fact that he is absolutely
Gracie and Lucy greet each other like long lost sisters, and
you would never guess that they have played together every
day this summer. Three-year-old Lucy is a few months older
than Gracie, but they get along like a house afire.
"Good morning, Kate," Nathan calls out, and my heart
does a little flip-flop at the deep, rich sound of his voice.
His skin is golden brown from weeks on the beach, and
his expressive mouth curves in a smile. I may just
drop dead here on the spot.
Nathan looks like he could be a college professor, but
his wife told me he was a writer. Oh yeah, he's married.
Very married. Oh well, he was too old for me anyway.
He's probably over forty.
Nathan unfurls a blanket on the sand and stretches his
long, tanned legs out before him. I notice a nasty scar
on his thigh, and wonder if that's why he limps. He
calls Gracie over to him, and she drops onto the blanket
while Nathan applies sunscreen to her fair skin.
"Daddy, hurry up! I want to go play." Gracie squirms,
and Nathan laughs as he tries to hold onto a slippery
arm. Finally, he deems her well-coated, and she tears
down the beach to crouch with Lucy and Max at the
ocean's fringe and pack sand into plastic buckets. The
children's voices ring out in giggles and chatter as they
upend the buckets, and the wet sand collapses into
Nathan and his family share this stretch of private beach
with us. For reasons that have gotten lost over the
years, the locals call this sandy crescent Pennywhistle
Beach. There are three Victorian style cottages that
overlook the shore like gaudy dowagers.
Pam, Max and Lucy's mother, said that the houses
were owned by the same family at the turn of the
century. The various generations summered together
here, and I can picture the men in their tennis whites
and the women with their long skirts sweeping
along the sand.
Like last summer, we have the largest of the cottages,
Scrimshaw, where I imagine the head of the family
stayed. Personally, I think it's an ugly old monstrosity,
but my room has a separate entrance, so it does have some
charm. I frequently make use of that exit when I go into town
at night, usually to a townie bar called the Sand Dollar.
Driftwood cottage had a flood last winter when its pipes
froze, so it isn't being rented. Nathan and his family
are in Seaspray, the smallest and prettiest of the cottages.
Seaspray reminds me of a child's dollhouse, with its
yellow and red gingerbread trim.
As I glance up to the cottages perched on the dunes, I
see Kelly, Nathan's wife, pick her way down the beach.
She smiles at me as she lowers herself onto the blanket
and hands Nathan his sunglasses.
"You forgot these. I didn't want you to get a headache,"
she says. Nathan looks at her with naked adoration as
he nudges her calf with his foot. He has that same look in
his eyes every time he sees her, and I find myself consumed
I'll admit that I'm jealous of Kelly and her curvy little
figure and her glorious hair and her magnificent husband.
But I guess what I really want is for some man to look at
me the way Nathan looks at Kelly.
For reasons that I'd rather not think about, the
men I seem attracted to are usually the ones I should
stay away from. College boys with good prospects are
boring. The bricklayers and housepainters I meet at
the Sand Dollar are more my speed, with their strong,
tanned backs and callused hands. Unlike the college
boys, the townies don't talk too much.
I find myself fascinated with Nathan and Kelly in a way that
borders on obsession. Maybe it's because I'm a psych major
and love observing people, or maybe I'm just bored looking
after little children all day. Maybe I'd rather think about
Nathan and Kelly than think about my own life.
The little family is a puzzle that I can't quite unravel.
There is a wariness about them that is out of place in this
lazy beach town. Their eyes seem to scan the horizon as if
they expect to see a threat among the sailboats bobbing on
the water or at the ice cream stand in town. I don't think
I've ever seen them completely relax.
Nathan and Kelly never let Gracie out of their sight. When I
first met them, I wondered if they were ensnared in a
custody battle over Gracie, if perhaps Kelly was fleeing from
an ex-husband. I dismissed this idea pretty quickly, though.
Gracie is a miniature version of Kelly, with copper curls hugging
her head and milky skin, but her eyes and her smile are Nathan's.
I've offered to watch Gracie in the evening so they can go into
town for dinner, but they always politely turn me down. The
Deckers had a cookout a few weeks ago, and Nathan and
Kelly lost sight of Gracie for a few minutes. Kelly's voice, as
she called out Gracie's name, had just the slightest quaver, but
it was the look of terror flashing across Kelly's face that chilled
me. Even after Gracie turned up playing with the other children,
Kelly's hands continued to tremble.
Nathan has a subtle air of sadness that never seems to dissipate.
I've seen him gaze out at the ocean with an expression that
pierced my soul with its poignancy. He brightens when Kelly
or Gracie come into view, but his quiet grief hangs on.
Sometimes, Nathan looks at his family as if he fears they could
vanish in a puff of smoke.
I asked him, once, what he was thinking as he sat on the
rocks and watched the waves break on the shore. An
emotion flickered over his face so quickly that I wasn't
sure if I imagined it. He didn't talk for a few seconds as
he pushed the sand in a circle with his toes.
"I grew up by the ocean. I guess I wanted Gracie to have
this. You know, there is a certain comfort in knowing the
sea never changes, that the tide goes out and comes back in.
That no matter what men do, some things are constant."
Though he seems strong and healthy, I think Nathan
might not be well. He gets terrible headaches and I've
seen him have to go back to the house, leaving Kelly to
watch with concerned eyes as he walks up the beach. I
think she worries about him a lot. There are a lot of
prescription bottles on the kitchen counter at Seaspray.
Squeals from the girls break me out of my musings, and
I realize it's time to earn my wages and see what Max
is up to now. I walk down to the water's edge in time
to extricate a horseshoe crab from Max's clutches. In
spite of myself, I feel a wave of affection as the child
smiles up at me from under a fringe of silken flax.
Unfortunately, Max spoils the moment when he turns
and thwacks his sister with a plastic shovel.
I sneak a glance up the beach and see that Nathan has
his arms around Kelly, and her head rests against his
shoulder. She turns to brush a gentle kiss against
his full lips, and I force my eyes away from them.
Soon the children are clamoring for lunch, and Nathan
offers to drive us into town. Everything with little children
takes longer than you think it will, and it is no small feat
when we get everyone cleaned up and into the car. It is
exactly twelve choruses of "The People In the Bus" from
Pennywhistle Beach to town.
We eat on the patio of the kids' favorite restaurant, a shack
specializing in greasy fast food. Lucy smears ketchup
all over her face while I try to keep Max from tossing
french fries at passersby. Nathan encourages Gracie to eat
her chicken nuggets, yet his eyes never rest as they survey
the afternoon crowd in this seaside town.
Nathan and Kelly both stiffen as a somber dark car
drives slowly past the patio. The windows are tinted,
and the car seems so out of place among the Beemers and
SUVs in this upscale vacation spot. An unreadable
look passes from Kelly to Nathan, and I'm not surprised
when the two of them start hurrying the children through
the rest of their lunch. The ride back to the cottages is
silent and tense. No one sings.
Later that evening, I pass by Seaspray cottage as I come
back from town. Through the open window, I can
hear voices, and I know I should mind my own business
and move along. But I'm bold with several beers in me,
and I stop in my tracks and shamelessly listen.
"Gracie loves it here," Kelly says, sounding wistful.
"I know. I love it here, too, but we can't take the chance."
Nathan's voice is deep and low.
"I'm just so tired of running." Tears roughen her voice.
Nathan says something that I can't catch, his voice
muffled by her embrace. When he murmurs her name,
it doesn't sound like "Kelly." I'm ashamed at myself for
invading their privacy and force myself to move away
from the window.
I stumble the rest of the way to Scrimshaw and try not to
wake the family as tears sting my eyes. Morning will come
too soon, and I know that when the children wake me out of
my hung over sleep, Seaspray cottage will be empty.
End Seaspray (01 of 01)
Author's Notes: I suppose that this is technically a Requiem post
ep. It represents my attempt to find a middle ground between the
happily ever-after stories and the how-depressing-can-I-possibly-
make-this-story contingent. Thanks go to Kestabrook for support
and beta help. Her generosity is matched only by her kindness.