She had never been one to enjoy the beach. Yet the dainty strip of sand on Battleship Bay was all Columbia offered in the way of relaxation. Rosalind moistened a finger, glibly turning the pages of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The heat marred her concentration. Oftentimes she yearned for the cool rains of England, the sweet smell of cut grass lingering above the tilled fields. As a child, rainstorms would transform lazy summer afternoons into spelunking expeditions in the Lutece Estate. The cavernous halls led to forbidden heirlooms, concealed doors and untold treasures.
Robert, however, seemed to take quite well to the heat. He splashed about with the vigor of a boy half his age, taking long strokes in the short pool. A small spurt of jealousy rose in her bosom. Where Robert had acquired such a carefree spirit, she was unsure. But perhaps it was because his life had not been marked with the same obstacles as hers. Fighting her way into the male-dominant world of scientific research had left her with a large helping of cynicism. She curled her toes, turning luxurious circles in the sand. It was best to put it out of mind.
“Tired of poetry yet?” Robert’s figure towered above hers, reclining on the sand. He thumped down at her side.
“I was waiting for you to tire out first.” Her glass of sweet tea perspired in the July heat. “Thirsty?”
“How kind.” Water from his hair mingled with the sweat forming on his brow as he raised the glass to his lips. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Comstock anywhere?” From behind, a chorus of children tittered at a Duke and Dimwit stage play.
Rosalind snapped her book shut. She had in fact had an unfortunate run-in, not with Comstock, but with his wife. The angelic figure of Lady Comstock cast in bronze and marble lost much of her sweet demeanor in the flesh.
“No,” she sighed. “Afraid not.” Robert frowned at a wrinkle in his bathing costume. She thought he looked a bit foolish in it, but the confidence with which he wore it was undeniably charming. Robert lay back on the sand. The children’s laughter swelled as Dimwit tripped over a scooter. “Tell me, Rosa, how on Earth have you not fainted of heatstroke?” If Rosalind were to have told the truth, even her lightest of chemises was not effective today. Her corset proved maddening, pinching her hips repeatedly. Instead she simply shrugged. “I know somewhere we can escape the heat.” Robert stopped mid-gulp, his interest piqued. She pulled him closer, whispering now. “Come back with me, Robert.”
“Back to where, precisely?” he sputtered.
“Not where. When. Our estate, Robert. It used to rain all the time there when we were children.”
“A ridiculous proposition.” A stiff breeze re-opened Ovid’s pages with a flutter.
“Just for a minute, just to breathe that same air again.”
“Goodness, the heat really must be getting to you. You’re normally far too sensible for such nonsense,” he breathed. Rosalind held her tongue, instead sifting sand through her porcelain fingers. She felt childish, her cheeks no longer burning with the heat, but in embarrassment. Robert sighed, the wind sighing in unison. “It’s my fault we’re bound to Comstock. Bound to Columbia. But it’s as Father used to say – “
“ – Duty above all,” Rosalind finished. She cupped her chin in her hands, contemplating the vast expanse of sky before them. His hand weighed on her shoulder, a slight, affectionate squeeze. Behind, the show came to a close with a robust cry – “Remember boys and girls, don’t be a Dimwit!”