Author: L.E. Lamkin PM
There are three things I have recently learned about the island of Luna Pier. It's where my grandfather lived and died. I am now forced to move there. And it's completely inhabited by werewolves.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 11,421 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 09-17-08 - Published: 09-15-08 - id: 2572159
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A normal activity most ferry-riders usually take part in is people watching. Seeing as my Dad and I were the only passengers aboard the Ann-Marie, that was out of the question, and so I became fixated on spending half my time watching Captain Longhorn steer the boat across the sea and thinking about our ultimate destination.
After spending nearly six hours on the boat, drifting back and forth between the small indoor quarters that consisted of nothing more than a couple of couch-like benches, a table and chairs and a little kitchenette, and outside to the rim of the boat, I had started to become more comfortable with my surroundings.
From the vantage point I had chosen outside, I could keep the Captain in my sights without appearing to be staring. He wasn't paying attention to me, anyway. The waves had begun to swell soon after taking to the open sea, the storm that was brewing growing in size and strength. I gazed out at the gathering clouds, dark and billowing, swollen with rain and moisture.
The drizzle that annoyed me on the dock hours before had turned into a pelting rainstorm, quarantining me and Dad into the passenger quarters for the first few hours of the trip. It had died down to a smattering of drops here and there over the past thirty minutes or so, so I quietly excused myself from the room, leaving Dad to his thoughts. I clutched my jacket closer to my body, quickly zipping the nylon fabric up around me, wishing I had decided to bring something a little heavier.
We were on the brink of fall, and summer was quickly coming to a close, the bitter coldness of September now a nagging whisper of wind against my cheeks, further empowered by the tumultuous waves of the Atlantic. After a couple of moments, I regretted leaving the warmth and coziness of the indoors, despite its utter bleak utilitarian vibe. But I was here now, and my legs needed stretching.
I began unconsciously moving my way across the deck, drawing near to the Captain's room. I could see him now, steering the ship, eyes pointed straight ahead, peering through a low fog that had begun to creep out across the waves, as if attempting to create a mirror image of the tumbling sky overhead, a silent competition that nature was waging against itself.
The boat swayed back and forth against the waves, chugging alongside their lullaby-like rhythm. If I closed my eyes, I almost felt like an infant cradled inside its basinet, gently moving back and forth, slowly but surely being put to sleep. The smell of the rain was growing strong again, and another rainfall was imminent.
Yet I still continued to move forward, one foot in front of the other, getting closer and closer to Longhorn's station. Questions that had been tumbling around in my head began bobbing back to the surface, yearning to be answered.
I wanted to know more about the island.
Longhorn barely noticed the first time I knocked lightly on the door to the Captain's quarters. Perhaps I'd been too meek and polite. I truly didn't want to disturb him, and I knew he was focusing on the storm, but my quest for knowledge won out, and I rapped more loudly on the plexi-glass window set into the door.
He glanced over, and without so much as a word, nodded his head, granting me permission to enter. I slid the door into its hide-away compartment, admitting myself into the station. As I closed it behind me, the rain began again in earnest, pelting down on the deck with relentless vigor. I was pleased with my timing and glad that I didn't get absolutely soaking wet in my mission.
"I see you've found your sea legs," Longhorn observed, taking his eyes back to the sea and away from me. I took in the control room, noting the relatively simple design of the boat's controls. I always figured that driving a boat like this would be difficult, but modern technology probably had a hand in helping with that. "I guess your father was right about you."
I nodded, even though he wasn't looking at me.
"My mom and I used to go sailing," I told him, suddenly finding myself slightly more at ease with the man. Sure, he cut an imposing figure and seemed like the type of man who only spoke when he really had to, but there was a quiet serenity about him that I was starting to understand. "We'd go out to the Jersey Shore, rent a little boat. We loved it. That was years ago, though."
I paused, surprised at my willingness to share. Maybe I was getting more comfortable around the Captain than I thought. I was relieved, knowing that would make the next part of my little mission that much easier.
"Your mother must miss you," he said, trying to make conversation.
A flash of pain shot through me. Obviously he meant no harm by the comment, there was no way he could have known that my mother had been dead for five years. But all the same, it was never fun to be reminded.
"She's…not around anymore," I responded heavily.
"Ah," the Captain said, and I noted the regret in his tone. "I understand. Well, we always have the sea, right?"
I nodded again, curling into myself.
"Are we almost there?" I tried to keep my voice light and conversational. I was in a rush to get rid of the feelings that had been brought up with my memories. The Captain nodded, still watching the waves before us, crashing against the bow of the Ann-Marie, unhindered by our progress.
"Another half hour or so, I would guess," he said.
"What do you know about the island?" I asked hesitantly, knowing that once the subject was broached, there would be no going back. I waited for his response, bouncing slightly on the balls of my feet, partly to get the warmth circulating back through my body, partly due to my intense anxiety.
"Not much," he admitted with a sigh. I mentally sighed as well. I had been hoping for something, a morsel, anything that I could latch onto. I felt like the fog that was brewing outside was creeping its way into my mind, pervading every corner of it, and I was completely unprepared for what was to come. "This is my first time actually chartering anyone out there. I've heard rumors, of course. Talked to some of my other buddies at the docks. No one knows much."
"Why is that?" I wondered aloud.
"Well, there's a reason they call it a private island, Gabby," he retorted with a slight chuckle. I had forgotten that I had mentioned my name to him shortly after getting everything settled on the boat. It surprised me that he would use it. I took it as an olive branch extended to me, hopefully to make me feel more at ease. "Luna Pier is a very mysterious place to us sea-farers. None of us have ever even set foot on it. I don't think we're allowed to. I received pretty detailed instructions when I finally managed to get the coordinates of the island."
"You spoke to someone on the island?" My curiosity was piqued. Perhaps I'd finally get the inside angle I was so desperately searching for. If Longhorn had actually talked with a resident of the island, he might have more information than anyone else who had traversed these seas.
"It was extremely brief, and I was told the number I called would be disconnected and changed," he said, sounding as perplexed as I felt. "Don't know what all the secrecy is for, but sometimes these types of communities can become very closed off. They don't want to be influenced by the outside world and all of that. In some ways, I can't say I blame them. The world's a pretty messed up place, don't you think?"
I was suddenly dizzy from all of this new information. Why would the mystery phone person be so insistent on secrecy? Why was it so important to preserve the identity of the people on the island? Why did they refuse to be contacted outside of anything that was absolutely necessary?
The questions continued to come, one after another, and I wasn't sure what to vocalize first, if any of it.
"How do they survive out there?" Admittedly, it wasn't the first question that popped into my head, but with all of the talk of keeping so much to themselves, it suddenly became the most prevalent one, especially given that I was about to be forced to live there. A girl does have to eat, after all.
"Got a couple buddies who've done supply shipments for the island," Longhorn replied, glancing over at me for the first time since I'd entered the room. His hands never left the controls. "They told me the same story. Highly secretive, no excess information, and it's always quick, cut and dry, and to the point."
"Supply shipments?" I asked.
"Yeah, you know, food, toiletries, books, toys," Longhorn explained, shrugging one of his massive shoulders. "Things a community needs. No one knows where the orders come from or when they will be, but they usually come around about once a month or so. Bulk stuff, obviously."
"How do they pay for it?" I was on a roll, now.
"Your guess is as good as mine, honey," he replied, that slight chuckle ringing from deep within his belly once again. I didn't mind it as much that he called me honey this time. I was starting to like the old guy a little. "Maybe some super rich billionaire runs the island? Who knows. All I know is that I'm getting way more than my normal fair to bring the two of you to this island."
A rush of new questions flooded my mind. It seemed like with every statement the Captain made, a new plague of thoughts would overtake the previous ones, becoming more and more twisted with confusion. I wished that I could have more time to spend with him, more time to ask questions, but I knew my time was growing short.
In the distance, I could already make out the rough outline of the island, enshrouded in fog. It looked like a jagged shard of limestone glass, slicing through the icy northern waters of the Atlantic like so many pieces an ancient mirror, fused together and covered with lichens and sealed with an icy sheen by the crashing waves.
"Wow," Longhorn breathed. He let out a low whistle as we both took in the dark elegance of the island. Sharp and soft at the same time, a hidden fortress amongst the unrelenting scope of the ocean.
"It's nothing like I pictured," I commented honestly. The truth of the matter was that I really had no idea what to expect, but this was definitely not one of the possibilities I would have entertained. I wouldn't necessarily call it beautiful, not in the conventional sense. More in the way that a hunter would appreciate a finely crafted Bowie knife, sleek and serrated, gleaming under the early morning sun as it rips into the flesh of a kill.
"You might want to go back to your father, kiddo," Captain Longhorn advised. "We'll be docking very soon, so you'll want to be ready."
I nodded quickly, shooting one last glance out the front window of the captain's room, entranced by the sight of Luna Pier.
As we continued our approach, I left to collect my things.
Amazingly the rain had come to an almost complete stop by the time the Ann-Marie pulled into the dock on the backside of the island. The boat swished back and forth upon the waves as Longhorn anchored us to the dock while Dad and I watched, holding most of our things close to our bodies, as if fearful we may have to jump ship before we even had a chance to properly dock.
Despite the rain's absence, the fog had yet to lift, and it coiled around the dock, covering the entire base of the island, giving it the illusion that it was floating above the water rather than stretching deep into the ocean for miles. From out of the wispy clouds arrived two slim, lanky figures, similar in height, walking shoulder to shoulder alongside the dock to meet us.
Longhorn unlatched the ladder door on the side of the boat, allowing it to fall loose against the wooden dock, forming a sort of staircase leading down. He pulled a plank out from the back of the boat, laying it across the steps of the ladder so that Dad could use it as a ramp. He helped him down while I carried the remaining bags on my shoulders, straining under their weight, and also being careful to maintain my balance on the plank.
The two figures appeared from out of the fog, revealed to be a man and a woman, both appearing to be somewhere in their twenties. They both had incredibly rich-looking thick dark hair, long, flowing and curly. The man had his tied into a rather tight pony-tail which accentuated his high cheekbones and the chiseled features of his long, narrow face. The woman was extremely exotic looking and allowed her locks to overflow across her chest, tumbling from her scalp like so many offshoots of a raven-colored river. They were both dressed in fairly simple but sharp clothing made of crisp linen material in a soothing shade of off-white. There was no doubt they were brother and sister.
"Andrew Sheridan," the young man said, his voice stoic and sharp. "Welcome to Luna Pier. I am Franklin. This is my sister, Catherine."
Dad and I both looked over at the woman who simply stared us down, her wide set brown eyes boring holes into us from her supermodel-like stance before us. Apparently she was not going to greet us vocally, but I noticed an almost imperceptible nod of her head, which would be her only acknowledgement of our arrival.
"And who is this?" Franklin turned his eyes to me as he asked rather pointedly.
Dad cleared his throat nervously, obviously as intimidated by this striking pair as I was, and glanced over at me for some sort of help, and when I offered none, looked back at the siblings, tongue-tied.
"Can't you see the family resemblance?" Longhorn asked from his position behind us as he began readying the boat for the next leg of its voyage.
Franklin and Catherine cocked their heads towards Longhorn at almost the exact same time, glaring at him with narrowed eyes. They didn't appear to appreciate his interjection.
"You have a daughter?" Catherine asked, speaking for the first time. Her eyes flicked over me quickly, quite clearly sizing me up. Her voice was still as sharp as Franklin's but silkier, more breathy.
"Lucas never mentioned a granddaughter," Franklin said matter-of-factly. There was a long pause where no one said anything and I felt as if my breath were stuck in my chest. The conversation felt on the verge of something, but all the players were stuck in stasis, unable to move forward.
"This is Gabrielle," Dad offered.
"Gabby," I corrected, using my preferred shortened name.
Franklin nodded and Catherine's expression didn't change. I smiled slightly, trying to remain polite, waiting for some sort of reciprocation of the introduction, but nothing came. It was beginning to become rather tiresome talking to these two.
"You may leave," Catherine said, looking over my shoulder up at Captain Longhorn. "You will find your payment has been deposited into the account you gave us by the time you reach the mainland."
I half-turned to glance back at Longhorn and saw that he was already pulling the anchor back up from the depths of the ocean. He saw me looking at him and tipped his head at me in acknowledgement, winking. Without any words, he headed back to his station, preparing to leave the island behind, seemingly forever. I turned back to the strange pair before me, the sloshing of the Ann-Marie's engine churning up the water behind us filling my ears.
"So what do we do now?" Dad asked, tilting his head up at the siblings.
I didn't want to take my eyes off of Franklin and Catherine, hoping to catch a glimpse of the looks on their faces when the subject of my presence arose, but I wanted to take one last look at the departing boat, my last connection to the world my father and I had just left behind. Longhorn was already nearly a speck on the horizon, the fog that continued to roll in around the cliffs of the island partly obscuring the Ann-Marie from my view. In seconds, it would be like he was never there at all.
"Collect your things," Franklin commanded, staring directly into Andrew's eyes. "The funeral preparations are nearly complete. The entire community will be attending to witness the passage of your father."
"Everyone?" I asked.
Franklin turned his attention to me, reproachful, and I could tell that he felt I had spoken out of turn. Perhaps he found it unwarranted to address him without being spoken to first. Either that or he just didn't like me. I couldn't understand it. I always tried to be a likeable person, and I often found myself feeling a heaviness in my stomach whenever someone showed a problem towards me.
His succinct reply sent a tremor through my body and I was suddenly acutely aware of the chill seeping through my nylon jacket from the spray coming off the waves slashing against the dock.
"We'll escort you to the Sheridan residence," Catherine informed us coolly, maintaining that same brusque, businesslike tone she'd used with the Captain. "You'll find everything you need waiting for you there. I'd suggest changing into something more appropriate for the ceremony."
The not-so-subtle barb was not lost on me, but Dad seemed to be trying to make the best out of an awkward situation by rolling forward, ready to follow them wherever they may lead.
"Come this way," Franklin said.
I followed along behind Andrew, clutching my large duffel bag close to my body to dispel some of the cold and struggled with the rest of the belongings that weren't stacked and strapped on Dad's chair. We followed a trail of sorts that led away from the dock on a slight incline. I was instantly a bit winded, despite my training for track, due to the heavy bags weighing me down against the dirt trail. It wound around to the right just the slightest and for a short time we were surrounded by tall walls of stone, and I realized we were walking through a natural channel created in the island itself, probably over thousands of years of erosion.
Finally, the trail evened out and we reached the end of the channel, appearing on the edge of an expansive field of high grass. A hard-packed dirt road had been fashioned, wending itself around the outer rim of the field, bending into the distance, leading further inland. I wondered just how large this island was.
A Ford pickup truck that looked like it was from the sixties or seventies sat in the middle of the makeshift road. Despite its age, it appeared to have been kept in very good condition, with not even a hint of rust on its slate-colored body. Dad wheeled over to the truck and I slogged along behind him, desperate to unload all of the belongings dangling from my arms and shoulders.
"Put everything in the back," Franklin ordered, pointing to the truck bed. "Catherine, please assist Mr. Sheridan into the passenger seat. Gabby, you and Catherine will have to ride in the back. Please forgive us for the inconvenience. We were only expecting one arrival today."
"That's okay," I mumbled awkwardly.
While Catherine did as Franklin requested, helping Andrew clamber up into the passenger seat of the cab, I quickly and quietly slid all of our bags into the truck bed, pushing a clump of hair away from my eyes, a slight wind picking up, trailing in from the coastline. The waist-high grass nearby swished back and forth, whistling against the wind, and I stared out at it, transfixed. It seemed like the grass had come to life within the wind, swaying along to silent music.
I jumped, startled, and turned to see that Catherine was now standing beside me and Franklin had started the truck. I was once again struck by how beautiful and exotic-looking she was. Her skin was so smooth and tan-colored, the color of deep caramel. Part of me wished I had skin like that. I was so pale and white, almost pallid looking. Along with my wiry frame, it tended to give off the impression that I was something of an albino, despite my extremely dark hair and eyes.
"You're very pretty," I blurted. The moment the compliment escaped my lips, I instantly regretted it. Not the sentiment behind it, but the fact that I had spoken a scant amount of words to this woman and coming out of nowhere to comment on her looks must have made me appear to be either very strange or possibly insane. On the other hand, I hoped she might take it as an extension of friendship.
My hopes were soon dashed.
"There are still many preparations to attend to," she said curtly, and deftly climbed into the truck bed, her lithe figure moving fluidly underneath the flowing linen cloth of her outfit. If I could see myself in a mirror at that moment, I was sure that my cheeks were turning a dark shade of scarlet, and I could feel the warmth burning beneath my skin, which in spite of the embarrassment, felt good against the chilly air.
I clumsily flung myself into the back of the truck, reaching down and closing the door behind me. It clattered shut, clicking into place. I clutched the lip of the lid tightly, beginning to wish I'd worn gloves or mittens. My fingers were bone-white against the metal. Moments later, the truck was in motion, moving along smoothly enough on the dirt road. I turned my attention away from Catherine's stony face, staring straight ahead at the passing scenery, and noticed that Andrew was in a similar situation with Franklin up in the cab. They both appeared to be sitting in utter silence.
As the truck rolled on, bearing closer to my grandfather's old house, I watched the wind-swept grass continue its dance, wondering if this is what my life would be like from this point on.
I noticed that the makeshift road continued to wind its away around the outskirts of the island, not moving further inland as I had first assumed. I was afforded a breathtaking view of the edges of the island, watching the waves splash against the jagged rock of the coast, and the fog had slightly receded, providing a much clearer sight. I started to feel as though I was riding alone in the truck bed, Catherine's silence nearly making her invisible to me. If I didn't look at her, I wouldn't even be able to tell I had company.
After the first few minutes of the journey, the road began to incline higher and higher as we climbed to a new section of the island, this one much farther from the surface of the water, the coast becoming cliffs. We crested a rather steep hill in the road and it became even once more, and I saw Grandpa Lucas's house for the first time. I gasped, a sharp intake of air that filled my lungs with coldness.
The scene splayed out before me was absolutely beautiful, like a scene out of some old movie. The three-story Victorian style house sat before a massive bluff, the cliffs sinking behind it to meet the cerulean waves below. A tiny pathway led up to a wraparound porch that sat beneath the gabled rooftops filled with cozy little dormer windows and a wide bay window situated to its left.
A series of massive oak trees stood guard throughout the yard surrounding the gargantuan home, lilting slightly in the ocean breeze. Most of the branches were bare, autumn already staking its claim upon the island apparently, and thousands of leaves littered the ground.
The Ford came to a halt at the end of the walkway where it met the road and I stared up at the house, barely paying attention to the sounds of Franklin and Catherine assisting Andrew back into his chair. I was taken in by the sight of the house, like one I'd dreamed about living in as a little girl, a real life doll house. I began imagining what my grandfather's life may have been like living in that house. Waking up to the sunrise coming up over the ocean, hearing the waves whisper against the cliffs behind the house, sipping coffee in a sun-soaked kitchen.
I slowly climbed out of the truck bed, unable to keep my eyes off the towering Victorian. I was vaguely aware of Franklin speaking to Andrew in his robotic voice, possibly filling him in on some of the details of the funeral or maybe even a few tips on the house. I didn't care to pay attention. I was much too enthralled by my new surroundings and wondering just how this was all possible, and most importantly - why.
How was it possible for Grandpa Lucas to just abandon his life, his family, come to this island, and live in this audacious home, so many hundreds of miles away from the rest of civilization? Why did he feel the need to start his life anew here, seemingly at random? I couldn't even remember what it had been like when he left, if there had been any circumstances that could have led to his departure. I was still a small child, unable to pick up on the comings and goings of the adults towering around me.
But there was something about this house, something that called out to me from within its expansive bulk. Perhaps there would be answers here.
While I was busy going over the thoughts in my brain, Dad had rolled over to me, his chair bouncing a little, the wheels resisting traction against the uneven ground of the front lawn. All of our belongings had been neatly lined up behind me, removed from the truck. Franklin and Catherine came to stand before us, watching us expectantly.
"Here are the keys," Catherine said, holding her slender hand out, a key ring dangling from her pointer finger. Two silvery keys jangled against each other as they hung precariously near her fingernail. Dad held out his palm and she dropped them into his waiting grasp. "Please be at the church within thirty minutes."
After quite the unceremonious drop-off, the siblings hopped back into the Ford without another word and moments later began trekking back down the road away from the house, presumably to the church where they planned to deal with all of the final preparations for the funeral they spoke of. By the time they were gone, their minimal presence was hardly missed, as if they'd never even been there.
Dad looked up at me, unable to hide the wry grin twisting his lips.
"Quite the welcome wagon, huh?" he asked, waggling his eyebrows slightly. I couldn't help but giggle slightly, but the humorous feeling was fleeting. I was still overcome by all of the events that were transpiring. It was hard to believe that less than eight hours ago, I had been in upstate New York, back in my old life, still standing on the edge of the cliff, waiting for the freefall.
Now I was in flight, and it was terrifying.
"I don't think they liked me very much," I murmured, suddenly feeling extremely self-conscious and very aware that in a short thirty minutes, not only would I be facing them both again, but Catherine would have had time to tell everyone else on the island that I had apparently tried to hit on her. A plume of red-hot embarrassment immediately began to rear up within me, threatening to redden my skin.
"It'll get better," Dad said, trying to be comforting. "Once we get settled in, you'll see. I'm sure you'll make plenty of friends out here."
The mention of friends sent a pang of guilt through my stomach. I still felt bad about how I'd left behind Kristen and Erin. They must have understood my methods, and how hard saying goodbye would have been, but at the same time, I'm sure they would have liked more of a chance to grieve the sudden transition in our relationship. But then an entirely new wave of guilt appeared as I realized that I believed they were probably more upset to lose me than I was to lose them.
Sure, they were great friends, and they made Bluffton Hills that much more enjoyable, but I had never been much for crowds and by no means a social butterfly, so being alone wasn't exactly the death sentence for me that it was to most other girls my age. A therapist once told me, about a year after Mom's death, that it may have something to do with going through such anguished grief during my formative years. But I honestly wasn't sure that was the case.
"Yeah, sure," I said softly, brushing my thoughts aside.
"Let's get our things inside, huh?" Dad suggested, nodding towards our bags lying on the front lawn. I nodded quickly, ready to occupy my mind with an activity. Something mindless, like moving items into the house, would be enough to stop me from thinking about everything that was going on around me.
"Let's do it," I said, and we started to pick up our things.
We didn't have enough time to properly check out the house and everything was a blur the moment I helped my father through the ornate front door. There was a very short period of time to get ready and we still weren't sure how we were even going to get to the church. We didn't even have a car.
Within ten minutes, the only room I'd had a chance to closely inspect was the downstairs guest bathroom, just off the main hall. I dug through the first bag I picked out of my small pile of belongings, searching for something appropriate for a funeral. I knew this was the bag I had packed a dress in. I'm not usually one for dresses, so it was a specific memory for me packing it into the bag.
I found it, pulling the soft material out of the bag, smoothing the simple black dress out against my body, checking for wrinkles. Luckily the material seemed to be averse to wrinkling, so it appeared to be in good shape. I studied the intricate wallpaper design as I slid out of my jeans and sweater, pulling the dress on over my thin, pale body. I turned to stare at my reflection in the large wall mirror, taking stock of my appearance.
My hair was as limp as always, flat and lifeless. I brushed my fingers through it quickly, attempting to tousle it into some form of style, but I was unable to pull it off. My skin was smooth for the most part, except for a couple of stray blemishes near my temples, but my hair mostly covered those. My large brown eyes stared back at me and I was struck by how empty they appeared. I was suddenly aware of the state of shock my entire body must be going through.
Ever since I learned about Grandpa Lucas's death, the existence of Luna Pier and all of the events that transpired to lead me to this very moment, my mind had been racing, speeding like a thrill seeker in the night, jumping from one thought to the next, one scenario after another playing out. But my body, my body had never been able to catch up yet. My mind was in control, but my heart, my soul, my body - they were still back in New York, unable to regain control against my brain. I shrugged those thoughts away, knowing I had more pressing matters to deal with. I'd deal with my self-inflected jetlag at a later time.
Once dressed more appropriately for a funeral, Dad and I found an old Volkswagen Beatle stashed away in the attached garage. It seemed to be in good condition and we both figured it must have been Grandpa Lucas's mode of transportation around the island. Dad noticed the keys for it hanging from a hook in the kitchen and brought them with him.
We loaded ourselves into the Beatle, me in the driver's seat, and we set off down the driveway and onto the same road Franklin and Catherine had rolled away on just minutes before. I clenched the wheel with both hands, anxiously looking around, trying to get my bearings. I was always a careful driver but I was probably driving much slower than I normally would given my unfamiliarity with the area.
Thankfully the island was very easy to traverse and we soon found ourselves rolling through a small downtown area, lined with little shops and a couple of restaurants, even some houses. It was all completely empty and everything was dark and closed. Apparently every citizen of Luna Pier was attending Grandpa Lucas's funeral. This did nothing to assuage my anxiety.
A few minutes later, I was pulling the Beatle up parallel to a small church located outside downtown. It was situated on a small hill, a glorious panoramic view of the ocean splayed out behind it, the crucifix placed on top of its pointed rooftop seemingly piercing right into the lowered sun which had already begun its crawl towards slumber beneath the horizon of the Atlantic.
I climbed out of the car, the hinges on the driver's side door squeaking slightly in protest. I smoothed my dress down, peering across the roof of the car, watching the long procession of people making their way into the church. I turned my eyes slightly to the left and saw the grave markers lined up in the field next to the holy place. Soon, my grandfather would join their ranks.
I carefully and methodically gathered Dad's chair out of the hatchback, folding it out for him and assisted him out of the passenger seat. I solemnly rolled him across the field until we found better footing on the pathway leading to the steps going up to the church's wide-open double doors.
We found ourselves in line behind about thirty other people, some of them clumped together in familial groups. The line began to move more quickly and after avoiding several stares somewhat unsuccessfully, I found myself inside the church. Almost all of the pews were filled with people. Everything about this ceremony appeared to be mechanical, dutiful. There were no hushed sobs. No whispered thoughts exchanged between loved ones. No mournful stares, no baleful glances.
Since Dad's chair couldn't fit anywhere else, we took our place at the back of the church and I perched on the edge of the last pew. The rest of Luna Pier's residents took their seats as well, and I glanced around, wishing for a familiar face in the crowd, knowing there wouldn't be one. I did, however, spot Franklin and Catherine sitting side-by-side in the middle section of the pews, stoically staring ahead silently.
It was then I saw the casket.
I quickly looked over at Dad, studying his expression, and I could see the heaviness in his eyes. Clearly seeing his father inside a wooden box in front all of these perfect strangers was doing a number on him. How hard it must be to face the emptiness of losing a parent without the comfort of dozens of friends and family members to gather around you, to hold you, comfort you. I remembered how it felt the day of Mom's funeral. I'd received so many hugs that day, deep, heartfelt embraces that made the coldness of death seem just a little farther away.
But here, it was only me. I was hardly a treasure chest of comfort at this point, so caught up in my own mental issues that I was. I realized then how alone he must have felt in that church, more than likely reviewing the same memories as I was, and likely not finding nearly enough solace in them.
An aging man with a long, thick mane of hair draped into a wildly assembled loose ponytail and a graying beard took stance at the head of the church, positioned behind a podium sitting next to the raised casket. He began to speak but I wasn't listening to his words. I couldn't stop staring at all of the people gathered here in this place of worship. Their faces were blank and non-responsive.
Did any of them even want to be here?
Grandpa Lucas had lived on this island for seven years. Seven long years, where so much could happen. Even if he'd been a virtual recluse, there must have been some kind of a bond with the rest of the community, especially given how private and secretive they seemed to be. Why else would they all make his funeral out to be some sort of town field trip? Yet there seemed to be something else under the surface.
Perhaps even the indifferent have to take pause to notate the ending of one era and the beginning of another.
My eyes turned back to the casket. As the bearded man continued his monotone blessing of my grandfather's passing, I wondered if I would ever come to understand Lucas's reasons for wanting to live out the rest of his life on this island.
And if I would eventually come to meet this same fate.