The white-hot heat. The cloudless sky. The sharp rays of the sun against her shoulders. They had spent the whole day outside in the water, the chlorine seeping into her skin until she could taste it. The boys had loved it. They ran and shouted and splashed and begged her to jump in with them. They threw their toys into the water, arcing them out as far as they could before splashing down the steps to retrieve them, their life jackets keeping them afloat in the (shallow) water. They moved like fish, eager to feel the coolness against their skin. Her husband had spent most of the day in the pool with them: splashing, fetching toys that inevitably sank, dragging their small bodies back to the sides of the pool whenever they drifted off too far. She had watched the three of them, pretended to read, and eventually made her way to the water when her skin was so hot, she couldn’t stand the touch of the chair underneath her.
And then, the searing relief of nightfall. The sun dipping and dipping into the horizon, the excuse to go to their room and shower and change out of their dripping suits. Shuffling the boys into a quick bath, trying to scrub the sunscreen out of their hair, her and her husband flipping a coin for the first shower. The steam from the bathroom curling into the room, fogging against the mirrors on the walls. And now, the glass of red wine in her hand, deep and oaky. The way it filled her mouth and slid into her stomach. She knew her teeth would be stained purple, a bruise of it across her lips. They were sitting on the outside patio, the boys running around her, shouting and climbing on top of the extra-large cushions, bouncing and bouncing like they were trampolines. She hissed at them to stop, to behave, to please listen, but they ignored her. Instead, they wrapped their arms tightly around one another and rocked together until they toppled over, limbs entwined, elbows and knees meeting the tile underneath them hard.
They whimpered as she pulled them up and placed one on each side of her so that they could not touch. The youngest laid himself out and pounded his heels into her thigh over and over until she slipped off his shoes and did her best to ignore him. The oldest stood up on the couch and pressed his entire face against the floor to ceiling window behind them, eyes and mouth open to watch the adults at the hotel bar, talking and laughing and nibbling on bright red cherries or slices of grapefruit from the rims of their glasses. She knew she should tell him to take his face off the glass and sit down, but instead she stared ahead across the sloping lawn in front of them where dad’s were throwing footballs and kids were running to catch them (shoes kicked off and up into the air, hair sticking to temples), and moms were standing at the edges with drinks in their hands and heads thrown back in amusement.
The oldest licked the window beside her and her youngest continued to kick with small little exhales of indignation, his soft heels pushing and pushing. Her husband found them like that and gave a shrug of an apology as he sat next to her and placed an arm over her shoulder. The closeness of his body was so warm and the air around them so humid it made it hard for her to sit still. She could smell chlorine on their skin and in their hair, see the glow of sunburn creeping up the boys’ necks, snaking its way across their cheeks. They were waiting for s’ mores, waiting for the fire pit to be ready and the teenage staff in charge to finish setting up the folding tables with their arrays of graham crackers and chunks of chocolate and big fluffy marshmallows that reminded her of clouds.
Once they could smell the smoke and hear the pop of the fire, they made their way over. A staff member handed each boy a long metal stick with a marshmallow on the end and her and her husband helped them dip the thing into the flames: close enough to char, but not too close for the marshmallow to gather bits of log and ash and ember. Once they were drippy and gooey, they sandwiched the marshmallows between graham crackers and chocolate and the boys bit into their sticky deserts, eyes wide with delight and sugar. Afterward, their sticky fingers landed on her legs and the hem of her dress and got tangled in her hair. She found smudges of chocolate across the back of her calf.
She finished her wine and they let the boys ran across the lawn until their eyes grew heavy and sleepy and the sun had settled itself so low on the horizon that the light was grainy, and her hands looked fuzzy in front of her. In the morning, they would be leaving, stuffing their bags full of wet bathing suits and greasy bottles of sunscreen and half-eaten bags of snacks. Setting up portable DVD players and filling water cups and settling all their toys around them in just the right way. So, instead of rushing them upstairs to bed, they let them stay out until their feet shuffled and trudged in the grass as if they were catching on every blade. Then, she herded them up and the four of them made their way back to their room where the boys fell onto the air mattresses that her husband had blown up for them and their little bodies disappeared into the cocoons of their sleeping bags. She tumbled onto the extra-large King bed in the corner and finally, slept.