“No te preocupas,” Mara assured her husband as she eased the elaborately carved wooden door shut behind her, “I’m just going to take a walk. I need to think.”
Think. That’s all she’d done for six days and she still couldn’t make up her mind. Mara wandered towards the shore line. She wasn’t even tempted by the ocean today. Monsoon season had stirred the sea to a murky, bruised gray.
Last Monday Miguel had driven the Range Rover the 9 bumpy miles to Playa del Carmen for the first time in weeks to pick up the mail. Sometimes they wondered why they bothered. In the last decade, mail had become such a thing of the past. Sure there’d be the occasional Christmas card, usually sometime around mid-February. Once in a while a birth announcement from an old college friend or an outdated magazine. Anyone who really wanted to talk to her knew to text the satellite phone or send an email. The internet at El Paraiso Mayo worked just like everything else- intermittently and slowly- but she was usually able to check email a few times a week.
Mara kept her eyes fixed down the beach as she trudged along the water’s edge. The humidity was always fierce around here but usually there was at least a coastal breeze to stir things up. Today everything was still and poised. Even the beach held its breath.
Miguel had caught her up in his ropy armed embrace and burrowed his face into her neck as soon as he’d walked in the door Monday. Even then she had thought it odd. Affection was reserved for the bedroom with him. Anywhere else he was all business. But she understood when he handed her the pile, snatching glimpses of her face. Bill, advertisement, magazine, advertisement, advertisement, and there at the bottom of the sad little stack, a letter.
A letter with “Naomi Heathering” scrawled in the top left hand corner, followed by a Topeka address. Maya had dropped the thing on the counter immediately and marched off to the kitchen with determination. There was still so much to prepare for breakfast the next day. Four rooms were full, and in September. That meant breakfast for eight guests.
Now, Mara relished the ache of her legs as she walked further and further down the shore. Away from the hotel. Away from that damned letter. Away from her poor bewildered husband who couldn’t fully understand why a letter, a wedding invitation actually, could infuriate his wife so much.
Mara wasn’t even sure she understood herself.
Most women would be overjoyed to receive an invitation to their sister’s wedding. Mara knew she should be happy. An olive branch after ten years. Ten years is a long time. Plenty long enough to forgive and forget.
Mara had done neither. The little sunlight filtering through the thick clouds glowed eerily. Another monsoon was rolling in. Mara wondered if she should turn back, but anger bit at the back of her throat and her heels, urging her on.
Sister. Once upon a time she’d had three sisters. Three sisters and a promising job in Kansas as a systems analyst. Three sisters and a fiancé. Once upon a time, it had been Mara’s wedding that they were all planning. Mara would have lost her mind with all those details, appointments and decisions if it hadn’t been for Naomi, “Mimi” as all the sister’s lovingly addressed the youngest. Mimi had volunteered, what with her being between jobs, to be, “A sort of wedding coordinator, free you know! Just to help; you’re still the boss!”
And Mimi had helped. She had helped plan, helped organize, helped shop, and eventually she had helped herself to Mara’s fiancé, Brad.
Mara was crying now. Shaking with it. Tears coated her face, hot and wet like the very air itself. Breathing through her mouth felt like sucking oxygen through wet cotton.
Mara hadn’t spoken to any of them in 10 years. Not Mimi who had been so in love with Brad, she “just knew Mara would understand.” Not their two older sisters who tut-tutted and thanked goodness that at least Mara hadn’t married him before finding out he was in love with Mimi. Not her parents, who still thought their youngest could do no wrong, “Really, darling. They had to follow their hearts. What else could they do?”
And now there was an RSVP sitting on her kitchen counter and a decision to be made. Her parents formally inviting her to attend the wedding of their darling daughter, Naomi Heathering, to Mr. Jamal Porter. No mention of Brad anywhere. Apparently, Mimi hadn’t been so in love after all. Which box to check? Wouldn’t miss it for the world or unfortunately, we’ll be celebrating from afar.
At first she had wanted to destroy it. Tear it up. Burn it with a ceremony and cast out the demons. All night Monday she had sweated and tossed, dreamt of bonfires and fingernails. Woke up hissing her sister’s name. But somewhere midday Tuesday a tiny idea jiggled its way into her brain and started growing. You could go.
She could go.
Could she go?
And as Mara trudged across the sand rolling the idea round and round her mind, the sky opened and the rain finally began, warm and thick and heavy. Rain mixed with her tears and quickly drenched her clothes and still Mara kept walking. Rain enveloped her and suddenly she could breathe again. The monsoon, warm as a bath, poured down and Mara knew. She could go. She would go.
Mara turned back towards home, laughing. She was striding now, towards Miguel and towards the letter. The rain followed.