As soon as Lydia sets up the beach umbrella and towel and picnic basket, she firmly sits herself down in the shade and pulls out her book. The beach provides a sort of-- as stress management sites put it, 'calming ambiance' that should lower her heart rate and give her a chance to take her mind off work. She's not sure what's necessarily so calming or pleasant about wearing a swimsuit in public, surrounded by loud people in similar states of undress, until Kim returns with ice cream and a smile.
"This pistachio flavor is actually really good." She takes a small lick from the ice cream cone. Lydia watches the cream on her tongue disappear into her mouth. "Are you sure you don't want your own cone? I'll go back and get you one."
"No, I'm... fine." Ice cream has exceptionally high sugar content, but she's not about to say that out loud. She's perfectly happy to watch Kim enjoy it.
"You're worrying about the sugar, aren't you?" Kim says. The problems of dating a lawyer-- they read all your tells. "Just one lick won't hurt. I got this for us to share it."
And Kim did get a flavor that, if Lydia were interested in sugar-filled ice cream, she would probably enjoy. Lydia relents, putting down her book and taking the cone. She's grateful for the napkins; otherwise, her hands would be stickied with melted ice cream. She licks a little bit of ice cream from the half that Kim didn't touch.
"Afraid of my germs getting in your mouth?" Kim chuckles. "We're dating."
"It's the principle of the thing." She licks her lips. "Oh, wow. That is actually quite good."
"Told you so." Kim sits down next to Lydia, kicking off her sandals. Lydia admittedly stares a little, almost as if they were schoolgirls instead of adult women in a committed relationship. It isn't her fault that Kim is so strikingly beautiful. Lydia went for a black one-piece, complete with a floppy sun hat and sunglasses, but Kim went for a navy blue bikini. Kim catches Lydia staring and winks.
Embarrassed, Lydia hands back the ice cream. Kim plants a kiss on her cheek with her cold lips.
"I'm glad I could convince you to come out here." Kim leans back a little. "I've been so tied up with work, I almost feel like I forgot what sunshine feels like."
"I know exactly what you mean," Lydia says. It's a miracle the two are able to find time together at all with their busy schedules.
But, Gus had been willing to watch Kiira in order to give Kim and Lydia a much-needed break. He's never said it, but Lydia thinks he always wanted children of his own. Even though Lydia is always anxious to leave her, Kiira had been delighted to see 'Uncle Gus', and Lydia trusts her friend completely. She hasn't even checked her phone in the past eight minutes.
The waves gently lap at the shore. The shade from their umbrella offers a nice reprieve from the beating sunlight, but Kim seems to have other plans. As soon as she finishes her ice cream, she pulls out the sunscreen. "It's about time to apply some more."
"It's been a while since we parked. I'd rather be on the safe side if I'm going to tan." Kim pours sunscreen into her hands and begins to rub some on her arms and legs. "Can you get my back?"
Kim's laying on her chest, exposing her back for the second time that day. When they applied sunscreen just out of the car, it was a quick process, no formality to it. But now feels different, staring at Kim's back glistening with sweat, the taste of their shared ice cream lingering on her tongue. Lydia picks up the bottle of sunscreen and squirts some into her hand.
Kim shivers when Lydia first touches her back. The sunscreen must be cold, Lydia thinks. She starts near the shoulders, watching the hairs on the back of Kim's neck stand on end. She's especially tense. Lydia leans forward just a bit, applying pressure to her palms. Sometime, it would be nice to properly work out all the knots in her muscles. But not now-- Lydia is a rather private woman, and she's not going to let herself get carried away.
But she will admire the moment while it lasts. Kim's skin is warmed by the sun-- although she is a naturally warm person, always taking Lydia’s cold hands into her own. Your personal heater, Kim’s joked. She can feel the rise and fall of Kim’s back with her breath. A few grains of coarse sand stick to Lydia's palm-- other bits of sand are flecked across her exposed skin, glistening in that strange iridescent way. The ocean's gentle roar numbs all the worries that fly around in Lydia’s mind.
Once she's sure she's gotten every possible exposed spot, Lydia sits back. Kim stirs. "Mm. I'm so relaxed, I almost don't want to get up."
"If you stay where you are, you could start tanning your back. I could adjust the beach umbrella."
"Yeah, but I need to get your back first."
Lydia wants to protest that she doesn't plan on leaving the shade anytime soon, but she knows the safety statistics-- and she knows that Kim knows, and she knows that Kim would bring out her lawyer voice and tell her about the dangers of sunburn. It’s from a place of love, she knows. A part of her just thinks that Kim wants to touch her back, though.
And so she changes positions with Kim. She can't help but feel a little anxious, laying down on the towel. She can't see anything but the few inches of sand in front of her. What if someone came along and grabbed her bag while nobody was looking?
She imagines Kim chasing some purse-snatcher across the beach and tackling him into the sand. She's safe with Kim-- a feeling synonymous with love, to Lydia.
The sunscreen isn't cold in Kim's hands. Her hands glide across Lydia's skin, once or twice letting her fingertips trail across it. Whereas Lydia had only pressed with her palms, Kim squeezes the tight muscles near the base of her neck. Tension melts out of Lydia's body like ice.
It's just sunscreen, and yet, Lydia thinks in the back of her mind that only a scarce few people are this gentle to her. Her job keeps her on edge, and she spends her little free time watching out for Kiira. She takes medicine to help her sleep at night; if she doesn't, she stares at the ceiling regardless of how sleepy she is, feeling like a toy soldier that had been wound up as far as possible.
But then there's Kim, a woman who fights aggressively for her clients in court and never turns that same aggression against her. Lydia loves a lot of things about Kim: her sharp mind, her quick wit, her soft hands. Even when Kim has all the right in the world to get fed up with Lydia's anxiety and walk away, she doesn't. She approaches Lydia with a tenderness she's never known. These days, the main reason Lydia can find it hard to sleep is that, when Kim isn't there, Lydia can’t relax to the sound of her breathing deeply.
"All done," Kim says, pulling back.
"Did you study to be a masseuse before you went to law school?" Lydia asks, letting out a sigh.
"No, just a passion of mine." Kim smirks.
"You mean, ah, giving massage?"
Kim shakes her head. "Making you feel good."
Lydia honest-to-god feels her face heating up. She takes back her seat under the umbrella. "U-unbelievable."
"You love me for it."
"I do, in fact." She lets Kim give her a quick kiss. Kim then angles the umbrella so she has a sunny spot while Lydia can remain in the shade; she stretches out in the sun like a cat, settling in to relax for a while.
"I'll set a notification on my phone. For when you should flip over. That way you can avoid risk of skin cancer by overexposure," Lydia says, already rummaging through her bag.
"Thanks. I honestly think I might fall asleep if I'm not careful."
Humming, Lydia pulls out her cell phone. Her heart jumps when she sees a text message from Gus. It's instinct for her mind to always assume the worst- an instinct that has given her what she calls a lot of proactive safety tips and what the doctors call an anxiety disorder- but it's always so cathartic to find out, in fact, things are fine. Gus has sent a picture of him and Kiira working through a coloring book, along with a message saying, 'I hope you are having a pleasant time. -G'
Lydia smiles widely. 'We are both having a nice experience. Thank you again for watching Kiira.'
Her phone dings. 'It is my pleasure. She's a delightful and bright child- bright enough, in fact, to try to convince me that her usual nanny usually lets her have cookies before dinner. -G'
She sighs. 'I'm sure you don't need to be told that's not true. She can have two cookies after dinner if she eats all her greens. Speaking of: if you get her Los Pollos Hermanos for dinner, please ensure she receives the apple slices with the kids meal rather than the french fries.'
'I'll see what I can do. :-) -G'
Finally setting the notification, she puts down her phone with a smile. It's such a relief to have a friend.
After about five chapters of Lydia's novel, Kim finishes sunning. She sits up and stretches- again, reminding Lydia of a cat. "Want to join me in for a swim?"
Lydia crinkles her nose. "Wouldn't, um, it be better to be careful and wait before swimming? You ate earlier."
"It was one ice cream cone, far more than thirty minutes ago." Kim has a playful lilt to her voice. "Is that your excuse too? The one lick of ice cream you had was too much?"
If they both went swimming, their beach bag would be unguarded. If it was unguarded, anyone could steal from them. Worse, if they were in the ocean, they could fall prey to riptides, or sharks, or--
Kim strokes her fingers down Lydia's cheek. "Please? Just a little swimming, for me?"
Well, the worst-case scenario, clearly, is Kim's disappointment if she doesn't swim. Lydia places a bookmark in her novel (she would never dog-ear a page) and then places that in her bag.
Kim takes her hand and leads her to the water.
As far as swimming goes, Lydia has always been the 'slowly adjust to the temperature of the water' type. Meanwhile, Kim turns her walk into a run and throws herself into the water, dragging Lydia along with her.
She's submerged for a second, squeezing her eyes tightly shut. The coldness washes over her all at once. She breaks the water's surface and sputters. "Kim--"
Kim emerges right afterward and laughs. She shakes out her blonde hair behind her, spraying droplets of water everywhere. Her smile is contagious; Lydia wants to be mad over that stunt, but Kim makes it so difficult.
"Sorry, I should've asked," Kim says. She brushes a wet lock of hair out of Lydia's face. "I was so excited to cool off."
"It must be quite the temperature adjustment for you." At least Lydia had been in the shade.
"Yeah, but that's the fun part. There's nothing like tanning and cooling off with a swim." Kim wades deeper into the water. As Lydia adjusts to the temperature, she does find it to be very refreshing. "I remember one time as a kid, I was sunning on the deck for a while before I jumped in the pool. I felt like there was steam coming off me."
Lydia nods, imagining Kim as a young girl with a little blonde ponytail. She looks down at the water, inspecting for sharks. "I admit, I never went to a beach until I was well into my twenties."
"I'm sorry to hear that. At least we can make up for lost time."
"Trust me, experiencing this with you is my preferred way to visit the beach."
Kim swims back over, stopping face-to-face with Lydia. She leans in and gives her a brief, slightly salty kiss. "Mine, too."