Leaving Cameron Bay

This is a revised version of Cameron Bay, a short story that won some contest or another a year or so ago. I was generally satisfied with it when I wrote it, but I am not a fan of love stories, so I modified the original to more closely mimic the real world of emotional upheaval.

Casey climbed the dimly-lit staircase slowly, laboriously, deliberately, the way men do when they reach their mid-sixties. With each step, his feet found purchase in shallow footprint-shaped indentations in the hardwood treads, worn smooth over the course of the eighty-year life of the house. At the top of the steps, he unlocked the trap door and pushed it up and open to the deck above.

As he swung the hatch open, early-morning light and the aromas of the ocean-side morning flooded the staircase. The early morning brew of seaside scents—salt water and seaweed and sea oats and fish—filled his nostrils. He climbed onto the deck, gripping the creaky paint-chipped railing with this left hand, then reached back to close the trap door behind him.

He slowly made his way to the far end of the deck, the end closest to the water, by holding onto the railing and shuffling along gingerly. He winced as he bumped against the railing with his leg. God, it’s been five months and my knee still hasn’t fully recovered from the surgery. He had left his cane below, so he dared not try to walk across the broad expanse of wooden planks. Supporting himself with the balustrade, he edged himself out to one of only two pieces of furniture on the deck, a pair of old green Adirondack chairs, and sat down.

Squinting against the early morning sun, he watched as four brown pelicans crossed in front of him, gliding effortlessly a few inches above the mirror-like surface of Cameron Bay. The water would awaken soon with the heat of the sun and the attendant wind current soon, but for now it was like glass.

Casey squeezed the arm of the chair with his left hand, wiping away welling tears with the right sleeve of his tattered fleece sweatshirt.

This will be the last time I sit on this deck, the last time I’ll see those birds scanning the surf for a meal. I never realized how much this place meant to me; this is so much harder than I expected.

His wife of thirty-one years, Alicia, had died four years earlier. He kept their seaside getaway partly because it had been her idea to buy it. Her motive had been to get Casey a place to relax, a place to unwind from the stresses of a struggling business. That had worked, beautifully. Though business had been hard and money tight, the house on the water had been cheap enough and sufficiently therapeutic to warrant the expense. But now, he had decided, it was time to move on with his life, time for a new chapter without the baggage of the old one. Jim, a real estate agent friend, had agreed to put the place on the market for him.

“Honey, are you up here? Casey?” He hadn’t heard Lina open the hatch behind him.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Casey said, wiping his dripping nose with his shirtsleeve, trying to erase the evidence that he had been crying.

Lina looked ten years younger than her fifty-six years, her youthful appearance helped along by good genes, hair-coloring, and clothes that flattered her buxom figure.

“I brought you some coffee, sweetheart. Thought you might like to sit up here with a cuppa before we get going.”

“Thanks, hon, I appreciate that. Yeah, that’s just the ticket.”

Lina handed Casey a mug, then sat in the chair next to him, her hands wrapped around her own mug for warmth.

She looked over at him and studied his profile. “Are you okay, honey? It looks like you have tears in your eyes.”

“I guess it’s just hitting me, is all. I didn’t expect to get all emotional over leaving this place, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I mean, I’ve been coming here for a long time. It’s been the place I’ve really been able to unwind and decompress, you know? But don’t worry, I’ll be fine. It’s just a little nostalgia. It’ll pass.”

Despite his best efforts at stoicism, Casey’s eyes flooded with tears.

“Aw, honey.” Lina took Casey’s hand and held it tight. “Are you sure you want to leave this place? You love it here. I love it here. I guess I don’t understand why you decided you have to sell it.”

“My time here is filled with memories of Alicia. I don’t want you to be forever in her shadow. It’s time for me to move on, for us to move on.” Casey’s eyes again flooded with tears.

He had wrestled with whether he would keep the place ever since things got serious with Lina. They met while Casey was undergoing therapy for his knees, before the orthopedist finally recommended he have knee reconstruction surgery.

Lina had been his therapist. As he sat on the deck with her, he remembered his first therapy session with Lina.

“Mr. Traeger, we’re going to try to make that knee work for you,” Lina said, “and you need to know the therapy’s going to be a little painful from time to time. But don’t worry, the doctor will prescribe an analgesic if you’re in too much distress. Do you have any allergies?”


“Excuse me?”

“You asked if I have any allergies. I’m allergic to pain.”

His deadpan look did not appear to faze Lina. “Ah, I see, well we have ways of taking care of problems you might have with pain in your knee during therapy. If it hurts too much, just tell me and I’ll take care of it with a double negative.”

Casey took the bait. “What’s a double negative?”

“A double negative makes a positive. So if you’re in too much pain in your knee, let me know and I’ll punch you in the gut. Two negatives make a positive, right, like a double negative? That’ll make it all better, right?” Lina smiled.

“Hmmm,” Casey muttered, “I prefer a little morphine with my agony.”

“Honey, is that it? You think I’ll be forever in Alicia’s shadow?” Lina’s voice brought him back to the present.

“Well of course I’ll be in her shadow, and you’ll be in Ben’s shadow! I lived with him for twenty years and there’s no way that disappears. Look, if we love each other, and I think we do, we’ll adapt and adjust. I think you should wait on selling this place. You don’t need to prove you love me by erasing the memories of Alicia. I know Alicia is here. She’ll always be here. But as long as you’re here, I’ll be here, too.”

Casey turned toward Lina and saw that she, too, had tears in her eyes.

In the few minutes they had been sitting in the Adirondack chairs, the sun’s heat generated a slight breeze and the still waters of the bay had begun to respond.

Casey listened to the gentle sound of water lapping against piers, the call of gulls seeking their first meal of the day, and the growl of forklift engines in the marina across the bay. The far-off sound of a distant freighter blowing its horn as it headed for the open ocean added to the cacophony of noise, music to Casey’s ears.

“No, Lina. I’m afraid there’s too much baggage for both of us. Both of us say we’ll leave our spouses’ memories where they belong,  but neither of us is strong enough to do it. As much as I love this place, I have to leave it. Because I am afraid if I don’t leave Cameron Bay, I’ll leave you, or you’ll leave me.”

Lina’s eyes, suddenly wide open and dry, blinked.

“What the hell makes you say that? Why would either of us leave?”

“Lina, you’re not Alicia. And I’m not Ben. That’s why we’re leaving Cameron Bay. “

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Leaving Cameron Bay

  1. Great! I’m impressed! You can writ a love story fraught with life’s challenges! You do it so well!

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