Beach Trip

Beach Trip by Cathy Holton Read Free Book Online

Book: Beach Trip by Cathy Holton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cathy Holton
asked, pouring herself a cup of coffee. J.T. was in the shower and she could hear water running behind the wall.
    “She went somewhere with Briggs.” Annie stuck the toilet brush in its plastic pail and sat back on her heels. “To the library, I think.” She stood up and cleaned the mirror, then the window.
    Mel made herself a piece of toast. She leaned against the counter and ate her breakfast, watching Annie thoughtfully. When she had finished she brushed the palms of her hands together and said, “Okay, Mommy Dearest. What are my chores for the day?”
    Annie flushed a dull red and gave her a
drop-dead
look. “Don’t call me that,” she said flatly. “You don’t have to help me clean unless you want to.”
    “Of course I want to,” Mel said. “I love to clean on my day off. Really.”
    “Fine,” Annie said. “You can dust the front room. And mop the kitchen floor.”
    “I’ll get J.T. right on it.” Mel gave her a snappy, two-finger salute and turning, took her coffee with her out into the yard, the screen door slamming loudly on her heels. A slight breeze stirred the leaves at her feet. The neighbor’s dog, a fawn-colored pug, stood at the fence watching her. “What’re you reading?” she called to Sara.
    Sara put her hand over her eyes and looked up.
“Middlemarch,”
she said.
    “Oh, God.”
    “Not really,” Sara said, spreading the book on her lap. “I find the secularized morality of George Eliot’s novels comforting.”
    “That’s because you’re an atheist,” Mel said, arranging herself in the other tattered lawn chair. She crossed her feet at the ankles and rested her elbows on the chair arms, holding the steaming coffee up to her face.
    “No, I’m not. I’m an agnostic.”
    Mel thoughtfully sipped her coffee. A jet passed slowly overhead, leaving a faint vapor trail. “The irony, of course, is that Dorothea is a deeply religious woman. Which is one of the problems I have with the novel. Eliot seems to imply that humanitarian change can be brought about by compassion and not by social anarchy.”
    “Now you sound like a communist.” They were both English majors, although Mel had ventured off onto the dangerous and uncharted waters of the creative writing track, while Sara had stuck with literature.
    Mel thought about it a moment, then said, “Eliot’s characters are all a bunch of cleverly drawn poseurs. They walk around spouting all these highbrow ideas, all this philosophical hyperbole, but no one actually
does
anything. I mean, come on, Dorothea! Have a fling with Ladislaw, leave Casaubon, run off with Lydgate, do
something.”
    “You’ve just admitted that she’s a very religious woman. She couldn’t do any of those things. Besides, you have to read the novel within its historical context.”
    “Of course you do. But it’s still boring.”
    “Maybe to someone who likes Raymond Chandler and Cormac McCarthy.”
    “Hey, at least something happens in their novels. At least the plot
moves.”
Mel stretched her legs along the length of the lounger, letting the warmth of the sun envelop her. It was late September and they were enjoying a long, hazy period of Indian summer. The days had been warm and breezy, and in the afternoons the temperature rose into the seventies. Mel could not remember a prettier fall in the four years she had been at Bedford. “I’ll miss this place,” she said, looking around at the tall trees and the distant rim of mountains rising against the pale blue sky.
    “We all will.”
    Bedford University was one of the oldest and most prestigious liberal arts schools in the Southeast. It was an Episcopal school and the tuition was steep, but Mel came from money and there’d been no doubt, once she was accepted, that she would attend Bedford. Sara’s dad was a high school history teacher, and her admission had been a bit more uncertain. She was a good student and she’d managed to win a scholarship that paid for most of her tuition, but she’d

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