She asked him: "Do you come here often?"
"No. This is only the third time I've come since she drowned. Today is the third anniversary."
"And her body was never found?" asked Cara.
"No. Not a trace."
They stood silently, hearing the waves, the seagulls, the bounding, barking dog. A ratty garland of seaweed washed up and rested on the wet sand a few feet in front of them.
"That strikes me as very odd," said Cara. "If she drowned, it seems her body should have washed up to shore. At least, eventually, it should have floated to the surface. For it to entirely disappear is so improbable."
"I've thought the same thing."
"Did she have any reason you know of to fake her death?"
Jack turned to Cara, startled by her question. "I don't think so. It's never occurred to me. I don't know." He stammered. "What an odd idea," he added. He pondered it for a few minutes.
"Where would she have gone?" he asked. "I don't recall a boat near enough by that day, that she could have swum to. Surely I, or someone, would have noticed if she had swum to the right or the left and come up on shore."
"Maybe not. If the focus was on that spot out there where you last saw her, she could have returned to the beach and not been noticed. You said she liked the water. Was she a strong swimmer?"
"Yes. I mean, I think so," he said in a puzzled voice. He thought, if that IS what happened, what would she have been running from? Would it have been me? Was I something in her life that she felt so oppressed by that she had to fake her own death?
But, he thought further, why must I assume it was me? It could have been anyone, or anything. He tried to recall what had been going on in her life at the time. Their relationship had been OK, nothing seriously wrong, but no great passion. He didn't recall any complaints about her job, or issues with her parents, or anyone or anything else. It seemed that everything was on pretty much an even keel.
As if reading his thoughts, Cara said, "It doesn't have to have been something explicitly BAD that might have driven her to fake her death. Of course, I know nothing of her life. But it could have been sameness, predictability, boredom. It could have been general stress, or fear."
Jack stared at Cara. How had she managed to evoke this strange drawn out reflection on Anna's death and life? She's nobody, nobody I know, who doesn't know me, didn't know...
"Did you know her," he asked. "Anna, I mean. My friend, the woman... who drowned?"
"I may have read about her death," she said. A non-answer thought Jack suspiciously. He didn't pursue it.
"I don't know," he said aloud. "I think she DID drown, DID die, and for some unexplained reason, her body simply has not been found. Maybe the tide, in that specific spot, was weird, and it pulled her body out to sea. Maybe some animal... took it. Maybe any number of things we can't think of now."
"Perhaps," said Cara.
A moment later, she asked, "Why did you lie about your name?"
"What!?" he retorted, startled. His heart was pounding. How did she know?
Why HAD he done it?
He tried to calm himself. "I did it because I wanted to be left alone. I think. Giving a false name is sort of like hiding. To be anonymous, like keeping to a corner in a dark alley. I guess I was drawing a curtain between us."
The two stood in silence for a few minutes. She noted that even now, he was not giving his name, which she knew from having read on the internet about Anna's presumed drowning. His name was Andrew. Andrew something with a B.
The dog appeared suddenly off to the left, spraying sand against Andrew's legs, as it halted abruptly, then immediately launched back in the direction it had come from, barking joyfully all the while. He ignored the dog, but Cara turned, and watched it run with wild abandon to and fro behind them. That's freedom, she thought, pure joy in freedom. She felt a slight pang of envy.
"Do you still want to be left alone," she asked the man.
"Oh, it hardly matters. No, I guess not," he said in a flat tone.
Isn't that so like life, he thought. We're pulled here and there by forces beyond our strength, out of any real control. I read something the other day everything not being really real, at least not as we like to think of real. Even particles, the tiniest basic parts of the universe aren't real. So, what is our strength? What are our thoughts? Our ideas, our actions, our choices? How real are they? How much does any of it matter? Are we all just... figments, pretenses of reality? In the end, do we just disappear like froth on top of the waves? Like Anna did three years ago? He shook his head. It was hard to imagine that everything was... nothing...
He glanced at Cara. She had been watching him. Perhaps reading his thoughts. Her eyes were intent and curious... and... concerned. Her hands were joined behind her hips. Her hair was almost golden in the bright sun. And a moment later, she was subsumed by shadow as the sun again was draped by a heavy cloud.
At that moment, in the shadow, she seemed jarringly dangerous, menacing. Andrew felt fear rising in his chest, his heart pounding again, as if Cara WERE reading his thoughts, viewing his soul, able to penetrate his very being.
What ARE you, he thought?
Then Cara looked away as the dog voiced a high-pitched yelp behind them. She watched for a moment while the happy beast circled tightly around and around its master, who held a ball, or something, up in the air, just out of the dog's reach. Sand sprayed up all around dog and master.
Andrew ignored all this commotion, and kept his eyes on the woman.
Why are you here? he asked again in his thoughts.