Holly sat on a log on the beach and watched the sun rise from the ocean into a quickly brightening sky of reds, oranges, yellows, and soft blues. The water of the ocean lapped at her feet, and a gentle breeze blew her hair around her bare shoulders.
Bradley was sitting at a campfire, trying to stay warm. He was watching the sunrise up between two mountain peaks. The air was cold, and the fire was warm. But he still had on a jacket, long pants, boots, and wool socks. The snow around the fire circle had slowly melted away from the rocks, but not enough to provide any kind of feeling of comfort or warmth.
Randolph stood on the balcony and looked out at the beach, scanning the scene, looking for the woman he had just insulted, probably for the last time. At least he hoped it wasn't for the last time. It was something he tended to do without even thinking about it. He blurted out the words, good, bad, or otherwise, and let the chips fall where they may. This time, though, where they fell was not in his lap. It was with his wife sitting on the beach, alone with her thoughts, watching the sunrise without him. He had a bad feeling about it this time.
He could have walked out there and apologized. He could have run out there and given her a hug, a kiss, and apologized. Did he? No. He turned around, packed his things into his suitcase, and left the hotel, alone. He left Holly the car, and he took a taxi.
"Where to," the taxi driver asked.
"I don't care, anywhere but here."
"Sure. North? South? East? West? Give some kind of idea."
"How about south, to the border."
"The border? You know how far that is?"
"No, how far?" asked Randolph with about as much interest as he had in knowing the distance from Earth to Venus.
"It's about 500 miles."
"Well, I'm up for it if you are."
The taxi driver smiled, reset the meter, and started the long drive to the border and Tijuana, Mexico.
Randolph looked at the hotel shrink in the distance as they drove away. No frown, no smile, only indifference. He thought he should have left a note of some kind, but what would it have said? Sorry, dear, goodbye. That would have summed it up.
Bradley was cold to his bones. But that didn't bother him. He loved being in the great outdoors, whether it was freezing, raining, or hot as a furnace. That's where he excelled, in the wilderness, away from people.
He tried life in the city, working in an office, 9 to 5. That lasted less than two years. He gave it a try, he told his father, and it wasn't the kind of work he was born to do. The office just happened to belong to his father, as well as 23 others across the country.
He then tried his hand at blue-collar work. He took a gig with a construction company. At first he worked as a grunt doing clean-up but eventually he worked his way up the ladder to assistant to the foreman. He hated it.
He tried contract work doing odd jobs, but that didn't work out well, either. But one thing he did learn - the fewer people that were around him, the better he felt. Each time he changed jobs, he also had fewer people to work with. He liked that.
Then he set up a blog on a website and went wilderness camping. He wrote about his experience. It wasn't an instant hit, but within a few months, and many posts, it was becoming popular among the hiking and camping groups.
Bradley decided to make it his full-time job - wilderness camping, writing about it, and selling advertising space on his blog. What could be better? He was alone, as he liked, and doing what he loved.
After the sun had risen above the sea, Holly decided she should go inside and face the man she called her husband. She hoped he would be civil and actually have a proper conversation with her.
She entered the hotel, and the front-desk woman looked at her with a strange look, thought Holly. What was that about? She wondered.
She arrived at their room and found the door open. She went inside expecting to find her husband or at least the cleaning person. Instead, she found nobody. She looked around the room and did not see her husband's suitcase. Then she saw that all his clothes and personal things were also gone. She walked back down to the reception desk.
"Have you seen my husband? The man with the crew cut? A tattoo on each forearm."
"Um, yeah, he was here about 30 or 40 minutes ago."
"He was carrying his suitcase, and he went out the door," and the woman nodded to the front door of the hotel.
"Yeah, with his suitcase." Holly walked to the front of the hotel, went outside, and saw she still had the car.
The doorman noticed her and said, "Can I help you, miss?"
"Yeah, did you see my husband? He has a crew-cut and tattoos on his forearms."
"Yes, ma'am. He got into a taxi and left. I don't know where he went."
"Okay, thank you."
Holly went back to her room, sat on the bed, and almost cried. She wasn't sure what she was feeling - sadness that he left, happiness that he left, indifference? Whatever it was at this moment, she didn't cry about his leaving.
"He didn't even leave a note, what a bastard," Holly said to nobody.
She packed her things and checked out of the hotel. During the drive home, she decided to stop at a salon and get her hair done, as well as her nails, and a massage. She didn't think about why she was doing those things, she simply did them because they made her feel a little better.
It was late when she got home. She didn't bother to unpack her suitcase, she just laid down and went right to sleep.
After a week in the cold mountains freezing his butt off, Bradley decided it was time to head down and back home.
At home, he settled into the comfort of his sofa, grabbed a beer and his laptop, and started writing a new blog about the previous week.
"You know, at the end of all these trips, I find myself wanting more; Not so much more time in the wilderness freezing my butt off, or under the desert sun frying like an egg. No, I find myself wanting another person to share these times with.
"Yes, I have written over and over again about how wonderful it is to be away from people, alone with my thoughts, stress-free, care-free. But I also find myself feeling like something is missing. Not just in the camping trips, but in the whole of my life. Yes, I'm talking about a partner, a life partner, a, dare I say it? A girlfriend or possibly even a wife. Wow! Well, there it is. It's out now, and there's no taking it back.
"So, the question now is, who is she? Who is the mystery woman that I have no idea of? Where is she? How will I ever know her?"
Bradley finished writing his blog with that last question and immediately posted it. That would make it final. He wouldn't go back and edit it, remove all that stuff about a potential second person in his life. It was his secret that was no longer a secret. It was up to the world to respond, send him the person that would be right for him. So he hoped.
Holly woke up late in the morning. She laid on her bed and stared at the ceiling for several minutes. Her thoughts were slowly coming back to the reality that Randolph ran away from her and would probably not return.
Her phone rang, "Hello?"
"Hi, Holly sweetie, how was your week at the beach?" her sister, Suzie, asked.
"Well, honestly, it sucked."
"Oh, what happened? Did he start insulting you again? How many times have I told you to leave him?"
"You'll be glad to know that that has been taken care of."
"What? You mean you did leave him?"
"No. He left me."
"Seriously? He walked out on you? What happened?"
"The week started fine, but each day seemed to progress downward until Saturday. He said some shit that just blew me away, and I let loose on him. I mean, I even hit him."
"No way! You hit him? You mean, like, with your hand?"
"Yes, and it wasn't just a slap like I did a couple of months ago. This time I let loose and slugged him straight in his mouth. His lips swelled, and blood was pouring out."
"Oh my god! That's crazy! I can't believe you actually did that! You know I've secretly hoped you would do that to him."
"Suzie, really? Well, right after I hit him, I just about ran out of the hotel and out to the beach. I sat on a log and just stared out at the ocean. I don't know how long I was out there. I know it was a while. When I came inside, he was gone. I asked at the front desk, and the woman told me he had left in a taxi. Where he went, nobody knows."
"Wow! I hope he never comes back. Now you can get a divorce from that asshole and move on with your life. Find a good man who will treat you properly."
"I'm in no hurry for that, no, no hurry at all."
Over the next couple of months, Bradley received hundreds, if not thousands, of messages from women all over the world wanting to meet him. "I'm the woman you're looking for!" "Here I am, come and get me!" "I'm available, just tell me where to come." and so on. The messages were pouring in through the blog contact page.
"Look at all these messages, Roger," Bradley said to his brother. They were sharing a couple of beers and watching the basketball game on TV.
"Can you believe this? This woman even included a link to a porn site that she is featured in. And this one, she looks like she's 13 or 14 years old. And then there's all the women older than my mother. It's crazy. What did I do when I wrote all that stuff?"
"I think it's too funny, bro. You opened a can of worms, that's for sure. Now you can't close it without removing the entire contact page from your blog."
"I can't do that, there are legit messages from people interested in camping and hiking in the places I've been to."
"Well, then you'll just have to wade through all the flotsam and jetsam to get to the legit messages. Besides, maybe one of those women will be the one you're looking for. You just have to read every one of those messages, look at lots of websites, and then try to figure out which ones are worth a second look. Good luck with that."
"Yeah, thanks for the support."
"Hey, that's what brothers are for, right?"
"You know what, next weekend I'm going to go to, hmm, where should I go? Maybe Mexico?"
"Sure, why not? I think you've explored just about every mountain and hiking trail in this state. You might as well start in another county."
"Okay, then, that's what I'll do. I'm going to drive down to Rocky Point and check out the beaches and hiking in the area."
The next week Bradley loaded his camping equipment into his Jeep and headed south.
Suzie said, "Holly, maybe you need a vacation. You should go away, somewhere that's not around here, somewhere different."
"Okay, but where?" asked Holly.
"First, another cup of coffee, this is really good. What is it?"
"Oh, I found this at that new specialist store, you know the one that has all the exotic imports. This coffee is from Colombia. I love it, too."
"Yeah, it's really," continued Suzie, "Now, let's see. Oh, I know, you should go to Mexico!"
"Mexico? I think that's too expensive. And I really don't want to go to a resort with tons of people everywhere. I'd prefer someplace smaller and more, hmm, typical, I guess."
"Well, let's see," Suzie pulled the laptop across the table and opened the maps page to search for places that Holly might like to visit. "Hey, check this out! It's a small town on the northern Sea of Cortez. It's called Puerto Penasco."
"Oh, that does look nice. It's small, but it has nice beaches, and there are a few large hotels and resorts, but the town is small and cozy. I like that."
"Okay, it's settled. Now we'll find a small hotel on the beach."
"Yeah, not one of those towers."
"Here's one. It's only two floors, but it faces the beach. It looks nice."
"Let me see," Holly pulled the laptop across the table to herself, "Oh, yeah, I like that."
Suzie pulled the laptop back across the table and started quickly pressing keys.
"Okay, it's all set."
"What's all set?"
"You have reservations at that hotel for next week. All week. You arrive there on Saturday and leave the following Sunday."
"Seriously? A whole week? I think 3 or 4 days would be enough."
"Nope, a full week to give you time to relax, meet the men, relax, and meet more men. You'll have a blast."
"Why don't you come with me?"
"I have to work. I have a full-time job, remember?"
"Well, maybe you can take a few days off. Join me for the last three days, and then we return together."
"I like that idea. I'll ask at work tomorrow."
Bradley arrived in Rocky Point on Saturday afternoon; the drive was easy, 4 hours or so from Tucson. It was an easier drive than to the beach in San Diego, so why hadn't he done this before? He wondered. He found a hotel for the first night and expected to find someplace to go camping for the rest of his time there. That wasn't so easy. There was an RV park, but no place for real wilderness camping. At least no places that were considered safe.
He got himself set up in a hotel on the beach; a nice, smaller hotel. He didn't want to be in one of the resort towers. That first evening he walked around town, explored the shops and restaurants, took lots of photos, and tried to use his basic Spanish. He found it to be interesting browsing through the many shops.
He stopped in a restaurant for dinner. It wasn't crowded; this wasn't a holiday weekend, so there weren't a lot of tourists in town. He noticed a woman eating alone at another table, and while he was looking at her, she looked up and saw that he was looking at her. She smiled. He waved.
He waited for his food with his phone out, uploading photos to his blog, and writing about his first visit to Rocky Point. And then he heard, "Are you from the states?" He looked up from his phone, and it was the woman at the other table speaking to him.
"Um, yeah, I'm from Arizona. Where are you from?"
"I'm from California, we're neighbors," she laughed a little, and so did Bradley.
Bradly stood up from the chair and walked over to the woman, "Hi, my name is Bradley." He reached out his hand for a handshake.
"Hi," Holly took his hand for the handshake, "I'm Holly. I'm from San Bernardino."
"I'm from Tucson."
"You can sit down if you'd like. You could even have your dinner here at my table with me," Holly smiled and pointed to the empty chair across from her.
"Well, let's see, I have so many people with me, I don't know if I should leave them," Bradley gave her a wink then told the waitress to bring his meal to him at this other table.
"Yeah," Holly looked around the restaurant dining room, "this place is crowded with your friends."
They both laughed and Bradley said, "Well, actually, they're all on here," he held out his phone so she could see the blog he was writing. "I write a blog."
"Oh, cool, do you have many readers?"
"Actually, yes, there are a few thousand subscribers and many others who are not subscribed."
"Wow, that's good, I think. I really don't know," Holly laughed again. Bradley liked her laugh; it was soft and had a sweet tone to it.
"Well, it's enough so the advertising pays my way through life. I'm here this weekend so I can share the experience on the blog. I usually do wilderness camping in many different places. The readers love it."
"Oh, I've never been wilderness camping before. My only camping experiences have been in campgrounds in state parks."
"You need to try it someday. It's exciting, the great outdoors at its rawest, throwing at you whatever it can to try to get you back to your artificial shelter, the one we call home."
After dinner, they walked along the beach and talked, eventually settling down in the sand. The water was calm, the moon was full, and the reflection on the water was perfect.
Holly thought this might, just possibly, be the beginning of something new. Bradley was wondering if this was the one he wrote about on his blog. Bradley admired the moonlight reflection in her eyes. Holly thought his demeanor was the sweetest and most wholesome she'd ever met. And she liked the way he looked, as well.
What would come of it? Only time would tell.