Wading through the knee high water, Melody came to the cabana’s window. She jolted back when Todd’s hand dropped down and waggled.
“Grab on, hon’.”
His hand vanished, replaced by the rain and his audible sigh.
“I made a mistake,” said Todd. “Would you rather I not have told you?”
Standing at the windowsill, Melody debated whether ignorance might have been better than the truth, and whether she could believe he’d told the whole story in any case. Their fight had seemed innocent enough, a simple disagreement about what to do with themselves once their vacation ended, but when he’d left she didn’t think he’d end up lip locked with the raven haired bartender who’d been eyeing him all week.
Stella, he’d said, had kissed him.
He didn’t have to come back, Melody reflected, and he didn’t have to explain. But he had, and then the weather had turned.
Todd’s hand reappeared, his palm open, fingers tense. “Mel?”
She peered passed his limb, through the torrent blurring the surrounding beachfront and sought the neighboring cabanas. Hints of thatch emerged through the low slung clouds and the downpour’s sheets. The slap of waves against walls and the pounding on the roof filled her ears while brackish water numbed her legs.
She refocused on Todd’s hand. “Are you sure about this?”
“We stay inside and we’re going to end up swimming.” He leaned down until his pale blue eyes were level with hers. “We’ll be okay.”
She wondered if he meant today or in the days to come. Regardless, she reasoned, the water wouldn’t be subsiding any time soon.
Firming her nerves, she dragged one barefoot out of the swell and set it on the windowsill. She grabbed Todd’s forearm and balanced herself on the frame when the view caused her knees to wobble.
Water stretched out before her, drifting to the horizon where it blended seamlessly into the sky. In between, the tops of palm trees swayed from side to side, each seeming on the verge of snapping.
“Grab the ledge,” said Todd.
His tug on her arm drew Melody from the expanse. She gripped the thatched edge and sprang off the window. Out in the elements, the downpour soaked her tank top and plastered her braided plaits to her skull. Clambering with Todd’s help, she crawled to the sloped roof’s peak and perched upon the main timber. She gathered her knees to her chest, the straw poking her soles and through her shorts, biting like the flies at dusk.
The reeds squelched under Todd’s weight when he sat at her side. While the raindrops poured down, he wrapped an arm around her, coming short of touching by resting his palm at the straw by her hip.
Giving into his cautious embrace, Melody laid her head on his shoulder.
She stared down at the water where the tethered boats bounced and listed in the cloud cover. White caps crashed, the sight a brief flash among the gray. The wind and current ripped palm fronds free, the debris floating on the surface before swirling past their cabana and making their way toward the resort’s main compound. There the flooding came up to the third story, and Melody spotted figures in tropical colors up at the rooftop and clustered on the balconies.
Puttering diverted her from their concrete roosts and she peered past the beach’s other cabanas to where a small power boat plowed through the waves. A dozen folks crammed into the vessel, the choppy water threatening to swamp over the sides.
“Hey look,” said Melody and tipped her chin to indicate the blob on the rough waves.
Todd swiveled, and shaded his eyes from the rain. “That can’t be a boat.”
“I think it is,” said Melody.
“But who’s crazy enough to come out here?”
“I’m not sure.” She squinted and spotted a waving hand. The gesture made the sopped raven braid and curls framing an oval face rock from side to side. “I…I think it’s her.”
She met his eyes and Todd shook his head, his mouth hanging open, this time void of explanation.
“You must have made quite an impression,” said Melody.
Withdrawing his arm, Todd raked the rain from his face. “Are you going to keep bringing this up every other minute?”
“Just when she risks her life to come to your rescue.”
“Do you think I asked her to?”
“I don’t know what you did. You were gone all night.”
“Mel—” Todd cast his fingers through his sandy hair. “I’m sorry. I’ll say it as many times as you want.”
“I don’t want your apologies.”
“Then what do you want?” He looked into her eyes, his own beseeching. “I can’t take it back. I can’t make it so it didn’t happen. I thought being honest would count for something.”
Melody pulled her legs closer and rested her chin on her knees. Sending her gaze over open water, she fought against an image of Stella’s smooth features as she powered her boat near.
“Why did you tell me?” she whispered.
She felt Todd’s eyes on her profile but didn’t turn to meet them.
“You’re my wife,” said Todd his voice barely cresting the pummeling rain and wave’s constant surge.
The tremble in his tone tripped up her heart. Melody turned her head, her kneecaps pressing against her cheek. Streams of rain traipsed over Todd’s furrowed brow.
“I couldn’t not tell you,” he whispered.
“You couldn’t not kiss her either?”
He hung his head, his disheveled bangs a curtain obscuring his face.
Stella’s shout ripped across the water and crashed upon the silence strangling their island. When the bartender repeated the call, Todd looked up.
Melody’s stomach clenched with the name.
With a victorious grin, Stella handed over the rudder to the lobster red man seated beside her. On curved legs sprouting from too-short shorts, she maneuvered to the bow where she collected a coiled rope.
“Catch this,” she said, and flung the line.
Todd caught the end and stood to put his muscle behind towing the boat to the ledge. The passengers cringed and an elderly couple clung to the sides when a swath of waves struck.
“Thanks,” said Todd, “but I don’t think there’s room for us.”
“Sure there is,” said Stella.
Melody fought against slapping the other woman to clear the pleading stare she latched upon Todd. Whether he saw or not, his tone didn’t change.
“Maybe you should come back,” said Todd.
“I’m not sure we’d be able to.” Stella gestured at the boat’s cramped quarters. “I bet we could take one.”
Melody bowed her head, not wanting to tip Todd’s reply with a glare or the acerbic “Why don’t you go ahead?” burning her tongue.
“Mel and I are leaving together,” said Todd.
The crash of rope on water made Melody lift her gaze. She watched Stella shake off a sudden stupor and begin coiling up the line. When she finished the bundling, Melody spied a flash of envy lighting the black depths when Stella looked her way. Clenching her jaw tight, Melody lifted her chin.
“I’ll try and come back for you…for both of you,” said Stella.
“You know where to find us,” said Todd.
He sat back down with another squish of straw.
Stella bit her lower lip before making her way to the boat’s engine. She seized the rudder and thrust it around, pointing the prow back toward the hotel. The little boat rocked on the waves but the passengers gave a weak cheer. They shrank amid the span of water, thatched rooftops, and palms standing between their lone outpost and the safety of the multistory concrete structure.
From the corner of her eye, Melody spied Todd looking out to sea. He didn’t reach for her this time, and the lack of his arm sent a chill along her spine. Gulping her anxiety, she inched closer, hoping he wouldn’t flinch away. He didn’t, and she found his shoulder once more, rigid but welcoming as ever. Keeping her eyes downcast, she avoided thinking of anything more than the droplets crashing on her scalp and watched her toes begin to prune.
“Look at that,” said Todd after an interminable silence.
She followed the arm he pointed at the horizon.
Where ominous gunmetal clouds had once created a flawless wall with the waves, blue skies peeked out and as heavily as it had descended, the rain began to ebb.
Melody threaded her arm through Todd’s and clasped his hand.
“We’ll be okay,” she whispered and savored the gentle pressure he returned to her soaked and sun-kissed fingers.