He was blond-haired, dark-eyed with a straight nose, square jaw and broad chest. She was a redhead with blue eyes and pale skin he loved to touch.
They had met eight years earlier on that same beach. She was passing through hard times, and he had recently purchased the small hotel on the sand.
Their romance was fast and ferocious, and they wed. Unlike many marriages that calm with time, theirs only grew wilder and more wonderful.
The hotel had just eight rooms, and he was the sole handyman. She handled work requiring a feminine touch. Business was steady, and days were full.
But they always made time to ride horses through the surf, often in moonlight but under the noon sun when possible, when the hotel freed them.
Late nights were spent within cotton sheets and atop pillows illuminated by candlelight and with wine, cheese and grapes. They kissed and giggled, laughing out loud, wondering what the guests were making of the constant commotion.
Sometimes they cried together, but not from sadness. They were tears of endless bewilderment, shock and happiness.
He would bring her flowers from the blooming cacti between the dunes. Sometimes by surprise she would leap upon his back to bite his neck.
They played Backgammon, threw darts and tossed horseshoes in the sand. There were picnics on the patch of grass behind the hotel. But there was no television and no car, by choice.
For provisions, they would hitch a wood wagon he bought from a farmer to one of the horses and ride slowly, holding hands, into town ten miles away.
He grew vegetables and berries in a garden, and she served them all on the table with china, silver and cloth napkins.
The weeks became months, and the months became years . . .
* * * *
He was 78 years old and lay upon the cotton sheets and pillows, but it was different now because he was very weak and thin. His fine hair was white, and he could not walk. A sickness was upon him, something that would not go away.
There was an oxygen tank, bottles and pans, and dead air hovered in the bedroom.
Their love had not diminished, and she cared for him. She fed him and washed him and combed back his hair. She looked into his eyes and mentioned her love like a mantra.
One night near the end — and they both knew it — he whispered something in the darkness. There was neither wine, nor cheese, nor grapes, no commotion at all, just a soothing calm.
The whisper was too faint, so she leaned near his face as he repeated:
Remember me as I once was.