We had been outdoors all morning, collecting shells in the sand, while Mother sat watching us from beneath the wide brim of her straw hat. Finally, some time around noon, she’d called out “that’s enough sun for today, children,” and dragged us reluctantly indoors. Sonja, as usual, ignored her completely.
The radio was blasting out “Satisfaction”. I’ll always associate the song with that day. Mother was standing by the stove, stirring up a rich, creamy fish chowder for our lunch. As she stirred, her hips undulated sensuously in time to the music, and those shorts crept precariously up her buttocks. The screen door slammed.
“Ready for lunch, Sonja darling?” Mother asked.
“I’ve brought your fish, Mrs. Whitman.” We all looked up. A man was standing in the doorway, unabashedly watching our mother dancing in those shorts.
“Oh!” Mother gave a quick little gasp and snapped the radio off. Her face was red. It was one of the only times we’d ever seen her blush.
“Where did you come from?” she asked with a smile. The fellow smiled back, and that was when it happened. Mother blinked her green eyes quickly, in a startled, bird-like way, and something changed in her face. She actually looked flustered, and she tugged discreetly on the bottom of her shorts. “Fish,” she said. It came out in a hoarse whisper. “You said something about fish?”
“Sorry if I startled you some, Mrs. Whitman. I’m Evan Stewart. I met your husband watchin’ gulls on the docks when I was bringin’ in today’s catch. He said you’d be interested in some fresh fish.” Evan stepped forward and shook Mother’s hand firmly. He looked straight into her eyes.
“Yes…well…fish.” She was having trouble tearing her eyes away from him. Peter and I looked at one another and shrugged. But just then the screen door slammed again, and there was Sonja, standing in the doorway staring at Evan Stewart in the same spellbound way.
His shoulders filled the doorway. A headful of tangled black hair framed his sun-browned face, and his eyes were the exact colour of the sea. There was a scar on his upper lip that looked like a permanent snarl, but there was one on his cheek as well, right in the dimple spot, so he was always smiling, too. A thought flashed through my eleven-year-old mind as we sat there watching this stranger who had just stepped through the door without being invited. Maybe he isn’t a fisherman at all, I thought with pounding heart. Maybe he’s really a pirate. Maybe that’s why Mother and Sonja have that look on their faces.
That was just how he looked, with his tight, black T-shirt and snug cut-off jeans, and those dangerous, sinewy muscles beneath his taut, tanned skin. But he wasn’t wearing pirate boots. I checked. Only a harmless pair of tattered sneakers, missing their laces. It was a comforting sight. Perhaps we wouldn’t be robbed and murdered after all. But why were Mother and Sonja staring at him like that?
“He talks funny, Laura,” Peter whispered to me. He was staring at him with the same unrestrained fascination.
“Be quiet, Peter,” I said, nudging him. “And quit staring!” Then I realized that I was staring too.
Mother fetched her purse and paid him for the fish. “Thank you, Evan,” she said. “This haddock will be wonderful for dinner.”
“My pleasure, Mrs. Whitman,” Evan said. “I’ll be glad to bring some for you again.” He was still looking into her eyes.
“Yes, well, certainly Evan. I’d like that. Later this week, maybe?”
“Okay then. I’ll be back in a couple of days.” He turned to leave, but stopped in the doorway and flashed a smile at Mother again. “You like the Rolling Stones, do you Mrs. Whitman?”
“Yes, I do, Evan,” Mother said. Her eyes never left his face. “Do you?”
“My own personal favourites,” said Evan. Then he gave her a long look of approval, his aqua eyes sweeping over her lean, tanned form without the slightest hint of embarrassment.
“You’re a good dancer, Mrs. Whitman. Some good.” The screen door slammed, and he was gone. Mother was still standing there, gazing at the doorway, when the fish chowder boiled over.
At dinner that evening, as Father cleaned the last morsels of haddock off his plate, he said “Nothing compares to the taste of fresh fish. It’s good, isn’t it June?” Mother just stared at the doorway again and said “some good.”
…to be concluded…