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She'd been coming to this beach town for years. Everything was as familiar as home. Everything was as monotonous as home: the wind-and-sand-worn pastel houses scrubbed to bare wood around the edges, the nautical theming of every cottage garden, the sour smell of sea on the air. Every summer for two weeks, Imelda would take her deck chair, carry it past the tall sea grass, and plant its feet in the sand. She'd bring a book and a lunch and a hat, and bronze herself while she read, after she read, before afternoon coffee. Then she'd go back to her own little house, open all the windows for the breeze, and shower off the salt and sun screen under sheets of hot water. A nap and a cuddle with her cat would complete the day before a light dinner, a stroll--always the same route, one way or the other--and bed.

When she told him about it in the bored tone that replaced her original enthusiasm, Anthony said he thought it sounded idyllic. "Come and see it," she told him. "It's an idyllic seaside cliche."

She repositioned the Adirondack chairs on the little deck out back. She vacuumed sand and grass off the rag rug in the little living room. She sank a new multicolored pinwheel into the soil near the steps up to her front door. She noticed--for the first time in years--the picture frame made of seashells filled with a photograph of her niece from a visit years ago. The girl had graduated college last year.

It all had to look perfect. It looked bright and fresh, especially after a brief afternoon rain. And Anthony's smile when he saw it made it better, made it different, made it new.


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Parlay
verb tr.: 1. To use an initial asset into something more valuable.

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