“Let Nothing Ye Dismay” is fictional holiday tale. It tells the story of a group of Millenial 20-somethings trying to celebrate Christmas together, for the first time away from their parents, in a rented beach house. Various adventures, romantic and otherwise, ensue.
When Belinda got back from the Myrtle Beach airport, having sent Steffi off with hugs, tears and a jumbo latte, she spied her rented bike leaning on its stand next to Dan’s car.
She hopped on, swung on her helmet, and eased onto the street. Within a hundred yards, legs pumping, lungs filling, she had her rhythm. To the far end of the island and back. Sweat out the toxins from last night. Let the wind cleanse.
She made it to the condo towers at the island’s opposite end in about 20 minutes, her mind clear of all sensation except sun, wind, the hard feel of the seat beneath her, and a good ache in her calves. Walking her bike across the wooden dune pathway, she reached the beach and headed back on the sand. The wind was in her face now and she had to work to slice through it. Here and there, older couples holding hands, sunglasses perched on their heads, waved at her as she chugged by.
A few blocks short of their house, she pulled to a stop, near a lone boy maneuvering a kite that whirled, dipped and danced in the breeze. Goldsboro Road, a green sign next to the stairs of the dune walkway said. Goldsboro Road.
“Well, Beebs,” she said to herself. “This isn’t the first time you’ve lost love on OIB.” What a fight that had been on this spot, three years before. Chaz asking for the ring back, Belinda refusing at first, then ripping it off her finger, hurling into the dark, foaming ocean as he stood stock still in amazement.
“Drama, drama, drama,” she said and hopped back on, resolved to ride to the other end of the island.
Minutes later, she stopped again, in shock at what she beheld. At the far east end, recent hurricanes had chewed into the beach so fiercely that the ocean now lapped right against a row of oceanfront homes, the supporting timbers half submerged Billowy sand bags – each the size of a small moon-bounce at the school fair – had been arrayed in layers along the five houses.
The surf pounded against the bags in foaming eddies. In a front yard, the sandbags would look imposing; here, they looked puny before the implacable, restless ocean.
Something soft, wet and lively grazed against Belinda’s leg. She looked down. A sweet-faced terrier, its wet, matted hair nearly the same color as the dunes, was nuzzling her leg.
“Seamus, Seamus, mind your manners now,” a tiny, tanned woman with silver hair and bright eyes called out as she chugged across the sliver of beach in a blue tracksuit, a leash in hand.
Belinda hopped off her bike to pet the dog. It jumped up, paws on her thighs and licked her bent face.
“Don’t worry, he’s very friendly,” the woman said, gasping a little for breath. “That’s just the Wheaten jump; it’s instinct, can’t train it out of them.”
“The wha-ha jump?”
“Wheaten. Seamus is a soft-coated wheaten terrier. Irish dog, so Irish name. My name is Katharine by the way. Katharine Hunter.”
Belinda shook the extended hand, mirrored the warm smile, introduced herself. The woman’s gorgeous hair was held back by a headband of the same brilliant blue as her tracksuit.
“Belinda. What a beautiful, old-fashioned name.” The woman glanced over to the most-threatened house at the end of the row. “Looking at my poor little refuge, are you?”
“That house is yours?”
“Yes, sadly. Bernie and I bought it 30 years ago as our retreat from the rat race. Then last year we retired and decided to move down here to live year-round. Not here two months we were, when the big hurricane hit and washed away most of our beach. It turned our ocean view into an ocean address, literally.”
“That must have been so stressful,” Belinda said. Seamus’ head tilted back in canine bliss as Belinda stroked the nape of his neck.
“Well, dear, I think you’re exactly right. I think the stress of the whole thing, having to do all that work to buttress up our poor home, I think that’s what triggered Bernie’s attack.”
“Is he OK?” Seamus had rolled over, paws in the air, as Belinda scratched his tummy.
“He died, dear. Six months ago tomorrow.”
“Oh, God, Mrs. Hunter, I’m so sorry. Stupid me.”
“Katharine, dear. Life’s too short for formalities, if they get in the way of friendship. That’s something Bernard always said.”
“My goodness, so Christmas Day is six months to the day since… since that happened, and here you are with your poor house hanging on for dear life against the Atlantic. Do you have some family in for Christmas?”
“Just Seamus, dear. Just Seamus.”
Belinda straightened up: “Well, then you must celebrate tonight with us. I’m here with my cousin, my brother; we’re sort of lonely waifs, too. My aunt and uncle just died; my parents just divorced and it’s… well, it’s ugly, so we just came down here for the holiday because this is where we used to get together as a family when life was… better, less complicated.”
“Misery loves company, is the theory, eh?” the woman said.
“More like: Friends are the family you choose,” Belinda said, with more feeling than she’d intended.
Katharine knelt down, joined in rubbing the dog’s tummy. “What do you say, Seamus, shall we bring in the Yule with these Generation X-ers, or whatever it is you’re called.”
“Millenials, I think the word is. Anyway, we’re at 479 East First. We’re making chili.”
“Nonsense, dear. I’ll make the feast. I’ve plenty of time to get to the Food Lion and buy a nice Christmas ham. I cook a mean ham, you know.”
“Oh, no, we couldn’t possibly impose.” Belinda caught the look of dismay on the woman’s face. “You’re sure? OK, then. We’ll do it. There’s four of us, me, my brother Jeff, or Scoot we all call him, my cousin Dan, our friend Jeremy.”
“Hear that, Seamie? I’ll be surrounded by handsome young men at Christmas. Just like back in high school. 5 p.m. then, dear? Does that work?”
“Absolutely. What can we bring?”
“Just yourselves. Though, if you want anything alcoholic to drink, better bring that. I don’t indulge.”
“Great, Missus… Katharine. See you then.”
Belinda’s bike flew back toward their house, her heart uncommonly light given the reversals of the last 24 hours, a Christmas carol playing in her brain…
“God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing ye dismay….” ? ? ?
Next scene: Seamus imitates Ulysses.
Posting Thursday morning.