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Thursday, June 5, day 5
And I cried, by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
Monica knocked on my door at what seemed like six o’clock in the morning. “Mary, I know you’re mad at me, but Steven and I are going to the beach, and if you want to come you’re more than welcome.”
I rolled over and looked up at the ceiling. Why was she asking me this now? I didn’t want to go to the beach, not with her. not now, not ever. It was going to be exactly like Carol’s party. I thought of the news last night and shuddered.
I was about to say no when I remembered Blair, the little boy under the bridge. There was something odd about him. He obviously wasn’t very educated, but he seemed smarter than most adults I knew. I wasn’t quite sure if it would be okay to see him again just a day after he told me to leave; I didn’t know if he wanted to see me again. But I had to see if he was okay. There was a paternal edge to my feelings for him. nobody said I had to stick around.
“Fine.” I called out to Monica. “I’ll go.”
“We’re leaving in half an hour.”
My bright green cover-up and sea blue bikini added colour to the grey and dreary day. It didn’t seem like beach weather, but if you know Dan Cae it probably won’t be that way for long. I almost slammed the door to limo. Half of me wanted to get out right now and leave.
“Glad to see you sober,” I said mockingly to my sister. actually, I wasn’t glad to see her at all. Monica ignored my jibe. But I saw her bite her lip.
“I’m very sorry, Mary.” She didn’t look at me.
“A friend of mine.” And that was all the conversation we had. The drive to the beach was a silent affair even necropolis workers would find disturbing. But I got more excited as we passed over First Bridge. I tried to see if I could spot Blair, but we were at the completely wrong angle.
Evela drove us through the sand to get to the beach parking lot. There were people everywhere, mostly sunning or reading under umbrellas. Little kids were building sand castles, couple’s were making out. I grabbed my beach bag and my big hat from the back. that, and my super-tinted black sunglasses were the most disguise I could tolerate. I piled my long hair under the hat and adjusted the sunglasses in the rear-view mirror. “How do I look?” I turned to Monica.
“Like a common tourist.”
It took us a while to find “Steven”. He had picked the most crowded place, right on the foot of an outcropping of trees. the trees provided shade, but that was about it. unlike the trees next to the bridge, these ones were short and scrubby and not very pretty to look at. A couple of them were missing all their leaves.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hey.” Monica sat down on the chair he indicated. I set my beach bag on the other chair, pulling out my wallet.
Steven was a strange-looking man, with curly dark hair, a moustache, and a goatee. He looked much too old for Monica, but you can’t choose ‘em. I knew they were more than friends.
“Steven, this is my sister Mary. Or Hanuara, as you probably know her.” Steven smiled at me.
“Pleased to me you.”
I held back my snappy remarks. “Pleased to meet you,” I repeated. Then I turned and started walking back the way we’d come.
“Where are you going?” Monica called.
“To the bathroom,” I lied. “Wanna come?”
When I couldn’t see them anymore, I walked to the water’s edge and stared out at the slowly churning waves. Little kids ran close and then darted away when the water splashed their legs. The air was a little cooler by the water, but my skin still felt like it was cooking. The little bikini was pretty and accentuated my curves, but it wasn’t doing much to protect me from the sun. I glanced into the water at my feet. I could see little bits of seaweed and coral at the bottom, and the sun danced in pretty patterns. I dipped a toe in. it was shockingly cold, but it sill felt good. I was suddenly reminded of how Adam and I would always dream about going to the ocean someday. I don’t know why, but we never did go. we were always too busy. The memory was so potent I could almost hear him beside me, talking about how we could visit the tidal pools and dig for clams. I leapt out of the water like it was poisoned and started toward First Bridge.
Nobody liked to hang out near there, because the passing vehicles made to much noise when they rattled it. I was glad for the privacy. “Blair?” I called out nervously. Then I stopped. Who says he was even there? He probably went home. Why would he stay under a bridge for two days in a row? But he had asked me if I was going to come back. I was pretty sure that meant he was sort of expecting me. except that he probably wasn’t expecting me. he was the one who had told me to leave yesterday. My heart sank. Yeah right. he was a little kid. I knew from personal experience that parents wanted complete control of your life at that age. if he hadn’t made the plans with his mother or father, there was no telling if he would be there or not.
Except he didn’t seem to be concerned about what his mother thought.
My head swirled and I decided to just look for him in the caves. If I were a seven-year-old boy that would be a pretty cool place to hide. He wasn’t under the bridge, but his fishing rod was in its place between the rocks.
“Blair?” I called out again, moving carefully toward the caves on the slippery rocks. The wind picked up, sending my hat in a wild flutter.
The first one was empty. Water dripped from the walls, and it was damp. I walked out, keeping my back to the entrance so I could watch in case something jumped on me.
The second was a homey, nice cave with primal drawings on the wall made by dragging stones across the surface. I couldn’t stand up in it, so I stood in the large mouth. He was swimming in a river that ran across the middle. His clothes were piled on the ground. His back was to me, and dark bruises now patterned the tanned skin. He moved with obvious stiffness as he swam up the current of the river.
“What happened to you, Blair?” My whisper echoed around the stone walls.
The boy whipped around, making a loud splash that reverberated many times. “What are you doing here?” he shouted, keeping his body turned away from me.
“I came to visit you,”.
He sighed a very adult sigh. “Let me get dressed. I’ll meet you outside.”
Eyes wide, I stepped outside. He was out again in two minutes. “Hi.”
“What happened to your back?” I pulled off my sunglasses so I could look at him better.
“I slipped on the rocks.” He pointed. “I’m alright. It didn’t even hurt. Are you sure it’s bruised?”
“Oh yeah. Are you sure you’re okay?” I touched his shoulder and turned him around.
“You tell me.” he crossed his arms and sighed, waiting for me to be done with my examination. All I could do was shake my head. I wasn’t a doctor, but the bruises looked a little too severe to come from just landing on rocks. But what did I know.
“You shouldn’t play on the rocks, Blair. You’re lucky you didn’t hit your head or something.”
He looked up at me with liquid blue eyes. He had very long lashes. I felt a little guilty for chastising him. I felt like a bully. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
“Hey, it’s fine Blair. Just be careful, okay?” He nodded dejectedly, like I had hurt his feelings in a terrible way. “Tell you what. I’ll take you for ice cream.” I smiled at him, wanting him to be pleased. Kids liked ice cream, right?.
“You’re going to get me ice cream if I do what?”
“Nothing,” I said in confusion. “Why would I make you do something for ice cream?”
He looked at me in confusion, and then shrugged. He reached up to take my hand, and I helped him over the rocks to get back to the beach. When we were beside the bridge again, I put on my sunglasses. He put his hands in his pockets. “Hanuara?”
“Why did you come back today?”
Here it comes. “I wanted to see you. I wanted to see if you were all right.” I raised an eyebrow.
“Did you not want me to come back, Blair?” I asked him, more gently.
He didn’t say anything for a minute. “No. I mean, I’m glad you came.”
“Really?” relief flowed through me.
“Uh-huh.” His smile was shy.
When it was our turn in line, I asked Blair what he wanted. “Uhhh…” he glanced at me uncertainly. Right. he couldn’t read the menu. “Whatever you’re having.”
“Four banana splits and a cheesecake cone, please,” I told the counter boy. I was sure he could eat four banana splits. He was so thin.
The boy behind the counter set the ice cream in front of me and I stared at it in horror. The banana splits were huge. how the heck were we going to carry everything? Blair gazed at me in distress. “Why’d you order so much?”
The counter boy looked at me a little smugly. “Do you need help with that?” he asked. Like he would actually help me.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it,” said a voice from behind us.
He was the classic tall, dark, and handsome, with tanned skin and straight black hair that fell in his coffee-coloured eyes. I stared at him in shock as he reached for more than half of my order and waited for me and Blair to take the rest. I fumbled around until I had it. “Thanks,” I mumbled.
“No problem. My name’s Julius, by the way. Julius Lorenzo.” He smiled in a way that made my stomach flip.
“Have a nice day!” called the boy behind the counter sweetly.
“So where do you want this?” asked Julius.
The picnic area wasn’t very far from the ice cream shack. Julius walked far enough away that we wouldn’t accidentally brush, to my disappoint. “The picnic tables over there, thanks.”
“Are you from around here?” He set everything down and took a seat. So he planned on staying. My heart flipped again. at first I didn’t realize he was talking to me.
“Um, no. Wedding Island. In Yalshe. I’m here visiting my sister.” my lips scrambled to form the words. Stupid, stupid, stupid. “What about you?”
“Me? I practically live at the beach.” He laughed. “Dolphins are my main form of transportation.”
“They have dolphins here?” I squinted out at the ocean.
“You can’t see them now; they only come out about sunset when the tourists are gone. But yes, there are dolphins.”
“You never told me your name.”
Oh. the minor detail hadn’t crossed my mind. “Hanuara Maria. And this is Blair,” I added as a guilty after thought. He ate his second sundae so quietly I had almost forgotten about him.
“Hi, Blair. Hey, aren’t you that m—”
“Shhhh! Could you keep it down?” I glanced around nervously.
“Right. Sorry.” He gazed at me excitedly, though. I smiled at him in a Yeah, its me kind of way.
To change the subject, I pushed one of the sundaes to him. “Here, you deserve this.”
“No thanks. I’m on the St Marcus Swim Team. Can’t afford the unnecessary calories.” I very openly raked my eyes over his sculpted body. He smiled. “After you guys are done do you want to see something cool?”
“See what?” I peered at him.
“The tidal pools of Crimson Island Beach. Have you been?” when I shook my head he asked if I was game. He leaned toward me, gazing at me imploringly with his dark eyes. He was hot.
“Um, sure,” I said, not really paying attention to what I was saying. I snapped to attention, though, when I caught sight of Blair looking at me. “Do you want to come too, Blair?”
“No. I’ve already seen them.” he pushed himself up from the table. He was done all his sundaes. “Thanks for the ice cream, Hanuara. I’ll see you later.” he offered me a half smile.
He looked at me. “You will come back, won’t you?”
“If you really want me to.”
He waved his hand. His name was still there. Guiltily, I raised my blank one.
“Cute kid,” Julius commented, as we watched Blair get swallowed in the crowd. “Were you babysitting him or something?”
I cringed. “No. we’re just friends.” I never thought I’d say that about a seven-year-old, but it was the truth, and I was pleased about it.
Finishing off the last of my cone I tossed the empty sundae dishes. Julius and I walked to the tidal pools. Or rather, he walked and I floated. He had a smooth, easy gait that was typical of athletes. He kept up easily with my long stride. I loved the feeling of sand under my feet and the sun on my back and the breeze in my hair (through the tiny holes of my sunhat), but mostly I loved his presence next to me. He didn’t talk much, but when he asked me about Monica, I didn’t volunteer a lot and he let it go. I sneaked glances every now and then when I didn’t think he was looking. was he a better kisser than David Whatever’s-his-last-name? Probably. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would kiss a girl and leave.
“And here we are.”
I had to halt my ridiculous obsession when I saw the tidal pools teeming with life. The sun was silver and shimmering on the floor and little fish and things darted in and out of tiny caves. There were sleek eels and rainbow flowers. The seaweed waved in a hypnotic dance. I even saw starfish. The coral and seashells looked like things out of a fairytale; they were such bright colours they hardly seemed real. Oh, Adam, I thought. I wish you were here with me, now.
It was moments like these that I hated most, when I was torn between sadness and joy over what I was doing at the moment. I tried to concentrate on the good most of the time, but I always felt guilty afterwards for putting my brother aside so I could enjoy myself. This time, though, I had no choice but to be happy, because I didn’t want Julius to know how deeply broken I was before he could actually know me. I would probably scare him away.
“They’re beautiful,” I said. I hoped he would mistake the hitch in my voice as wonder. I wanted to reach and touch the star fish and run the eel through my fingers.
“I know,” he said. I glanced at him for a minute. His face was the mirror image of what I was feeling. He smiled at me when he caught me looking at him. His breath was in my ear. I liked it. A lot.
“But you know what’s really amazing? The view.”
I looked at him in half dazed confusion. “What?”
He pointed up, toward the cliffs swathed in dark greenery. “The view. It’s awesome. Come on, I’ll show you.”
I hesitated, looking nervously at the cliffs. “Oh, I don’t think I could—”
“We don’t have to go all the way up. But it’s really…well, I can’t explain it. It would be better if you just saw for yourself.” He held out his hand to me.
Doubtfully, I let him help me up. “Okay…”
The trek up the mountainside was easier than I thought. Julius knew his way around the greenery. He held branches out of the way for me and helped me over fallen logs and stuff. Before I knew it, we were at the top.
My reaction was much the same as the tidal pools, but what I saw was way different. Way down below, I could just make out the shapes of Monica and Steven sprawled on the chairs. The height was exhilarating rather than scary. I felt like I could see forever out onto the churning ocean; we were on top of the entire world. I let the wind whip my hair back and I spread my arms and closed my eyes, letting it caress me. Even if Webster and Oxford brainstormed their entire lives, they would not think of a word to describe this. It was like trickling water over parched dry lips or watching a bird soar across the sky. There had been a piece missing inside of me that could only be filled by that moment. Beside me, Julius laughed. I peeked at him. He was watching me. “Nice, isn’t it?” he yelled over the wind. A sailboat floated on the horizon. It was so tiny! I could have stayed there for the rest of my life, but Julius had more things to show me. With each new wonder, I missed Adam more than ever, but I was at least a little bit distracted. I consoled myself with the conviction that I was doing what Adam couldn’t do. I was living for the dead.
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