Finding love While Building a House in American Paradise
Widow, Gwendolyn Stevens learns to live and love again, this time in the Virgin Islands
By Jamie Kimmel
Love, Sun and Lizard Poop is a real love story set in the Caribbean. Author Gwendolyn Stevens writes about finding new love after being widowed and building a new life in a new terrain. The story is mostly about a woman’s hesitation, conflict, hope and restored faith in life and love after experiencing the death of a loved one.
Although this book is about building a home in the Virgin Islands with a new life-partner, this book is more about falling in love again, despite unfortunate circumstances. The lovely Virgin Islands mainly provide a backdrop for these life-changes and symbolize building not only a new house in paradise, but a new life in a new world, period.
Stevens takes the time to describe the history of how the Virgin Islands were purchased by the US, how concrete is more durable against hurricanes of the Caribbean, and how retired men seem to flock to this part of the world.
Excerpt from the Book
“What do you mean you can’t watch Tahshi?” I asked Annabel.
“My neighbors complain,” she said. “They say she doesn’t stop barking.”
Damn. Tahshi’s been fired.
If I couldn’t find someone to watch her, Nils and I couldn’t go to Virgin Gorda. It’s in the British Virgin Islands. And if we couldn’t go to Virgin Gorda, we’d have to celebrate our first anniversary in our intimate garden apartment. And I didn’t want to do that. Like Eve in that first garden, I wanted an adventure.
“If you don’t mind taking her off island,” Annabel said, “there’s room at Imperial.” Anabel’s a vet tech at Imperial Animal Hospital. I called and booked Tahshi, but first she had to be vetted by the vet.
The next morning, Tahshi and I were on the eight fifteen ferry to Crown Bay. Imperial Animal Hospital sits mid-way up AltonaWelgunst Street. But since taxis charge an extra $25 for a pet, Tahshi and I walked. It’s not long. About a mile and a half each way. The only problem is that the last half mile is up a steep hill.
Since Tahshi’s shots are current and her last fecal test negative, I knew she’d pass inspection. So in addition to Tahshi, I toted her bed, a toy and her food.
Nils was waiting for me when I returned. “I take it she passed.”
“Yes,” I said. “And since everyone we know takes their dogs there, I feel comfortable leaving her. But I all ready miss her.”
Nils rubbed my cheek with his knuckles. “She’ll be fine.”\
“I know. I worried about the children, too. Even when I left them with my mother.”
Looking Back, and Ahead
Thursday morning, at the International Ferry Terminal in Charlotte Amalie, Nils and I showed our passports, checked our bags, bought tickets, and boarded the ferry for Virgin Gorda. An hour and a half later, we disembarked at a somewhat disheveled ferry dock. After passing through customs, we gathered our luggage and took the shuttle to Speedy’s Car Rental.
Six pages of paperwork later, Nils out a small KIA SUV in gear, and we headed to the North Sound and Leverick Bay Resort.
“You’re fun to travel with,” Nils said.
“That’s sweet. And I’m glad. But,” I said distractedly, “does Leverick have hot water?”
Nils chuckled. “Of course. It’s a resort. They even have maid service.”
The room was ready when we arrived, so we unpacked and lay on the bed.
“Listen,” Nils said. “Quiet.”
I snuggled up close, my head on his shoulder. “And no one’s yelling ‘Inside!’”
“I deal with less than half of what you do, and it drives me crazy. How do you manage?”
“I breathe. Think about what a lovely house it’ll be.”
“Don’t you ever get frustrated? Just want to chuck the entire project?”
“Remember when I told you that when I told my first husband I wanted a divorce, he threatened t kill me?”
“Well, that’s when I learned to stay calm. And to keep focused. I couldn’t afford to let emotions get in the way of what I wanted.”
Nils arms tightened; he kissed my shoulder. “I’m sure glad he didn’t.”
Nils kissed my hair. “You must’ve been terrified.”
I squeezed his hand. “I must have been, but mostly what I remember is telling myself over and over again to stay calm, stay focused, and pretty soon this’ll all be over.”
I felt Nils smile. “You got that stay calm part down pat.”I turned over on my side. “You could choose to be calm too, you know.”
“Interesting idea…but I don’t think that’s likely.” He sat up. “What about lunch?”
“Um…that bowl of Cheerios was a long time ago.”
We didn’t want to drive back to town, so we ate at Leverick’s Restaurant.
“Here’s to you,” Nils said, holding up his glass of Pepsi. “It’s been a grand year. I found you–““We found each other.”
“We’re building a home,” he continued. “And I’ve got a whole new lease on life.”
My iced tea clinked his Pepsi. “Here’s to the next several years.”
“You’re not tired of me, yet?”
“Don’t think so.” I reached out and took his hand. I didn’t have to say it. I just looked deep into his eyes.
“Warts and all?”
“Of course warts and all. You wouldn’t be who you are, otherwise.”
Relaxing at Leverick Bay Resort
After lunch, we wandered around the resort. Nils paused in front of the dive shop window.
“Would you like to go to Anegada?” He pointed to a poster for a day trip with Dive BVI. “I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s great for snorkeling.” So we booked the trip for the next day.
Back in our room, we changed into bathing suits and spent the rest of the afternoon moving from the beach to the pool and back again.
We’d been thinking about adding a pool, so I sat on the steps of Leverick’s pool, pondering possibilities. “Did you swim laps in college?” I asked.
“I thought I would. But the class was at 8:00 a.m.—“
“You didn’t like getting up early even then?”
“Nope. But mostly, when I went to the first class, the guys were really good. Probably Olympic hopefuls.”
“So you dropped the class?”
“I swim for exercise. The only person I want to compete with is me.”
Um…interesting. Maybe explains why Nils is giving. “We could put in a lap pool.”
“I don’t like them. But we could have a designated lap lane in a pool.”
“How long would it need to be?”
“Chebeague’s pool is seventy-eight feet long.”
I shut my eyes, imagining a pool that long at the house. “That might look funny.”He walked to the middle of the pool. “How deep should our pool be?”
“I’m not a strong swimmer, so I like knowing I can stand up.” I imagined him swimming laps. “Is five feet deep enough for you to do a flip turn?” Nils sat beside me on the stairs. “Let me measure how high a bench would have to be so you could sit without getting water up your nose.”
“What are you thinking for dinner?” I asked while he measured.
“I haven’t thought about it.”
“If you did think about it,” I prodded, “would you want to drive to Spanish Town?”
He paused, measuring the stairs. “Probably not. What were you thinking of?”
“I don’t know if you noticed but I bought a bottle of champagne and caviar—“
“Well, aren’t you the clever girl?” His eyes twinkled as he caressed my arm. There was a father and two small girls in the pool, so romantic possibilities were limited.
“Water up my nose distracts sometimes.” I swam to the other side of the pool and returned. “We could stop at the little store—“
“What little store?”
“It’s across from registration. I saw it when we drove to our room.”
“Why didn’t I?” he asked, like the world had stopped spinning without his personal say so.Later, while Nils checked his iPhone, I bought crackers and cheese and individual ice creams. “Back in a sec,” I said, handing Nils the groceries.
“Where are you going?”
“To see about glasses.”
I dashed off to the bar, where I cajoled the bartender into loaning me two flutes. Champagne should not be drunk out of plastic glasses. Champagne is high end, like David Niven on New Year’s Eve. A suggestion for the management at Leverick—put real glasses in the rooms.
Gwendolyn Stevens married Sheldon Gardner, her professor at Cal State University, and earned a Ph.D. in psychology. When Sheldon died, she retired to a barrier island in Georgia. Needing a companion she adopted a Yorkie, then became a certified yoga teacher and Buddhist. Somehow she found time to write. She needed to make a sense of her loss. Currently Nils, Tahshi and Gwendolyn divide their time between three islands in the Virgins, Georgia and Maine.
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