Home > Beyond the Moonlit Sea

Beyond the Moonlit Sea
Author: Julianne MacLean




Miami, 1990

I should have known better. I shouldn’t have said the things I did.

That’s what I told myself when I learned what happened to my husband on his return flight from the US Virgin Islands. But isn’t that what we all say after something goes terribly wrong and we look back and wish we had behaved differently?

At least I was not directly to blame for what happened to Dean. I’m not sure whose fault it was, exactly. It’s a mystery that will probably remain unsolved until the end of time. My own regret involves something of a more personal nature, a series of events that began on a Sunday morning when my mother called. Dean and I were still sleeping, and he groaned as he sat up to answer the telephone.

“Hello?” He ran a hand down his face to rouse himself. “Good morning, Liz. No, it’s not too early. No, you didn’t wake us. How are you?”

Dean gave me a look, and I responded by pulling the feather duvet up over my head.

“Yes, the weather’s been great.” He nudged me with his knee. “Olivia’s right here. Hold on a sec . . .”

I poked my head out, crinkled my nose, and shook my head. He pushed the phone at me with a look that said, Don’t make me talk to her.

I couldn’t possibly torture him like that, because he and my mother weren’t exactly close—which was a tactful way to say that they disliked each other immensely but remained civil for my sake.

None of that was Dean’s fault, of course. It was entirely my mother’s.

I sat up and took the phone from him. “Hi, Mom.”

Dean kissed me on the cheek, slid out of bed, and padded toward the bathroom. Mom said something to me, but I was distracted by the image of my handsome husband as he stripped off his T-shirt before closing the door behind him.

“Olivia, are you listening?”

I sat up straighter against the thick pile of feather pillows. “Yes, Mom, I’m here.”

“Did you hear what I said?”

“No. I’m still half-asleep. Say it again?”

“Can you come over for dinner tonight?” she repeated. “Sarah and Leon are in town until Wednesday, and Sarah was so sweet to call me yesterday. I haven’t spoken to her in such a long time, probably not since your father’s funeral, so I invited them.”

I scratched the back of my head because I was surprised that Sarah had called my mother. Sarah was my half sister, almost twenty years older than me, and a product of my father’s first marriage to a woman named Barbara who died before I was born.

“As I’m sure you know,” my mother continued, “tomorrow is the second anniversary of your father’s passing. Maybe that’s why she called. I don’t know. At any rate, you should be here too.”

I was ashamed of myself for forgetting what day it was, but I’d had a lot on my mind lately. I’d been making a conscious effort to not look at a calendar.

Hearing the sound of the shower running in the bathroom, I slipped out of bed and pulled on my robe. “It’ll be nice for us to get together. We’d be delighted to come. Assuming the invitation includes Dean as well?”

“Of course it includes Dean,” she replied with a note of sassiness that confessed everything—that she didn’t approve of him, we both knew it, but she didn’t want to cause any more rifts.

“Just checking,” I said, having decided long ago that it was pointless to try and convince her that she’d always been wrong about my husband—that he wasn’t “beneath me,” as she had once put it, simply because he didn’t come from money.

Thank goodness Dean was a good sport about my mother’s flagrant snobbery. Mostly we made fun of her, and he laughed it off. There was plenty of eye-rolling when she showed off a flashy new handbag that cost a thousand dollars or made a not-so-subtle dig about his financial situation growing up.

As I stood at the window watching a wispy cloud float lightly across the morning sky, I asked her if I could bring anything to the dinner.

“Just yourselves,” she replied. Then we chatted for a minute or two before we hung up.

Dean was still in the shower, so I went to put some coffee on and grab the Sunday paper from outside the door. A short while later, I was seated at the kitchen table, reading the arts and entertainment pages. Dean appeared in shorts and a light-blue cotton T-shirt, his hair still wet.

“That’s a nice clean shave,” I said to him with a flirtatious grin, having commented about his rough stubble the night before when we were in bed.

He moved behind me and massaged my shoulders. “I’ll try to be smoother next time.” He kissed the top of my head and poured himself a cup of coffee. “What did your mother want?”

“She invited us to dinner tonight.”

Dean faced me, his head drawing back slightly. “Both of us? Me included?”

“Yes, I know. I was surprised too,” I said. “But Sarah is in town, and tomorrow is the second anniversary of Dad’s passing, so Mom decided to do something, I guess. It’s really last minute, nothing too elaborate. It’ll just be us, a four-course meal, and a few bottles of Dad’s favorite wine while Mom gets sentimental and tells romantic stories about him.”

Dean was quiet while he sipped his coffee.

I sat in silence for a moment, knowing he wasn’t going to enjoy any of that because he and my father had not been on speaking terms—not a word since Dad cut me off for marrying Dean. But nothing could have stopped me from walking down that aisle.

I rose from the chair and carried my empty cup to the dishwasher. “Do you still want to take Sarah’s boat out today?” I asked. “Now that we have the dinner party to go to, we’ll have to head back early.”

Dean looked out the window and thought about it. “It’s a gorgeous day. We should still go.”

“Agreed. Life’s too short. Let me grab a quick shower.”

I was pleased we were on the same page because I wanted to talk to him about something important, and I wasn’t sure how Dean would feel about it. I was banking on the gorgeous sailing conditions to help me present my case.


As I stood on the foredeck of Daydreamer—Sarah’s thirty-nine-foot cruising yacht that she let us borrow from time to time—I felt revitalized and optimistic about the future. Dean was at the helm, breathing in the fragrance of the sea and enjoying the salty spray on his face, while I hung on to the shrouds, my ponytail whipping in the wind. The hiss of the waves beneath the leeward bow was music to my ears.

“Ready to come about!” Dean shouted, and I prepared to release the jib.

He turned the wheel hard over, hand over hand, and swung Daydreamer around. “Boom coming across!”

I ducked as it passed over my head, and within seconds, we were on a new tack, the sails snapping taut. The wind became still, and all was quiet as I hopped down to the cockpit.

“Want me to take over?” I asked.

“Sure.” He stepped aside as I moved into position.

The return trip to the marina was a more relaxing affair with gentle but steady winds to take us home. I gripped the wheel while Dean reclined on the bench beside me, his face turned toward the sun.

“Can we talk about something?” I asked, gazing at him contentedly and feeling quite blessed.

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