"Where were you last night?"

Hannah did not answer her mother's question right away.  Where was she last night?  Her mother would not understand if she had answered, "in a dream," but after waking up in the uncomfortable hotel bed, to the mauve hotel walls, the mauve hotel carpets, the mauve hotel furniture, and the mauve shadow over her mother's eyes; last night could have been a dream.

"On the beach," she replied finally.

That much was real.  The stars glimmering like thousands of tiny diamonds and the rough sand beneath her bare feet had been real.  She swung her skinny, sunburned legs out from beneath the covers.  Wriggling her toes the last sandy remnants of last night fell onto the mauve carpet.  The beach, at least, had been real.

"You were on the beach all by yourself at night?" her father scolded from behind the morning newspaper.

"We're on vacation, Daddy," she chuckled, "not many drive bys on Mackinac Island."

The paper crackled as her father lowered it to glare at her over the sports section.  He was a retired Detroit police officer.  Three short months after his retirement, he had moved his wife and daughter to the relative safety of suburbia.  Their inoffensive three bedroom ranch had fences, locks, alarm systems, and a German Shepard named Duke, but nothing, nowhere, and nobody was safe enough for his little girl.  Hannah was reasonably certain that her father, who ate right, exercised and never missed his yearly physical, would drop dead from a heart attack right then and there if he knew that she in fact had not been alone on the dangerous beaches of Mackinac's west side.

"I'm going for a walk," she announced suddenly, after pulling on her favorite pair of cut off jean shorts and a black tank top.  In her mind she was already back at the beach.  She did not hear her mother's protests about needing to pack her things before they left that afternoon, or her father wondering out loud if they would still have enough time to stroll on the porch of the Grand Hotel.

She was walking as quickly as she could manage without looking like she was trying to outrun a mugger.  She mumbled her apologies as she pushed through crowds already forming in front of the countless fudge shops.  Her stomach growled in protest each time the sweet chocolaty aroma spilled out onto the street, and she did not stop.  Tiny beads of sweat began to form on her brow and her long dirty blonde hair clung to her face.  She stopped her hands from automatically trying to gather her locks into her characteristic ponytail.  He had said her hair was beautiful.

A smile took control of Hannah's face as she reached the beach and the crumbling remains of the sand castle still stood where he had built it for her.

"Every beautiful princess needs a castle," he had explained matter-of-factly as he began to pile up handfuls of damp sand, "where is she going to wait for her prince, if she hasn't got a castle?"

"Whatever, but I'm not exactly a beautiful princess," she answered taking in the sight of her skinny legs, her long skinny arms, and her bony fingers that ended with short fingernails and chipped purple polish.

He stopped abruptly and turned to face her.  His skin, already lightened by the moonlight, was white next to the black eyeliner that rimmed both of his dark eyes.  He arched his left eyebrow, drawing attention to the tiny scar on his forehead, and smirked, "a queen, then," he proclaimed triumphantly, "a beauty queen."

She rolled her eyes, "yeah, right.  On what planet?"

"Mars," he stated simply.

Hannah could not help but laugh as he continued to pile sand higher and higher, concentrating so hard on something so uncomplicated.  He would pause just long enough to tuck his unruly red hair back behind his ear.  She had never seen anyone with hair like his, long and dyed bright red like fire and blood and the paint used on hydrants.  Honestly, she had never seen anyone who looked even remotely like him.  He wore black and white striped pants like prisoners in old gangster movies and a tee shirt with the sleeves cut off that asserted the supremacy of Bon Jovi.  He wore a black cuff on his left wrist and both of his well toned arms were covered with tattoos. 

"You like Bon Jovi?" she questioned conversationally.

"I've never met him."

"Your tee shirt?" she clarified.

"Oh, I like it very much, but it's name isn't Bon Jovi."

She scowled, "you're impossible," she declared as she flopped down on the sand near where he was working.  He continued molding the sand into castle walls and towers as though he had not heard what she said.

She noticed a small tattoo on the inside of his right wrist.  She had seen the giant rose on his right bicep, the Jolly Roger on his left shoulder, and the snake winding it's way around his left forearm, but this one was smaller demanding less attention.  It was a single eye staring out from beneath his hand, like the eyes painted on the coffins of Egyptian mummies.  The tattoo stopped moving.

She pulled her legs up against her chest and rested her chin on her knees.  He had been watching her, watching him.  He grinned, "I went to Egypt last summer," he explained as he sat down next to her, offering her a closer look at the symbol on his arm.

"I've never left Michigan," she said, when it was clear that he was not going to elaborate, "I lived in Detroit till I was eleven.  Then, my Dad retired and moved us to Southgate cause he thinks the suburbs are safer."

"Safe from what?"

"Muggers, rapists, gangs, burglars, murderers, you know?"

"No, I don't know any burglars, murderers or rapists.  I knew a massage therapist once.  Do you think she was dangerous?"

She could not stop the fit of laughter, when she stared into his face, full of mock concern.

"Do you like Southgate?" he asked once her myriad of giggles subsided.


"Why not?"

"Everything is so predictable.  You know?  All the houses on my street look the same.  Everyone drives SUV's, has barbeques and mows their lawn every Saturday afternoon.  No one ever does anything unexpected."

He didn't reply.  She chewed on her lower lip and stared out at the moon.  It was somehow closer than when she sat gazing out of her bedroom window.   Not wanting to look at him, she began to examine the goose bumps forming on her bare arms.  Northern Michigan in early June was still chilly at night and she wished that she would have remembered a jacket when she stormed out of the hotel room.  All at once he stood up and grabbed hold of her hand.  He ran towards the water, pulling her stumbling behind.  They reached the edge of the beach where Huron's cold fingers clawed  their way onto the hot sand, but he did not stop.  Instead, he plowed forward into the frigid water.  Then, halting, he wrapped his arms around her waist, lifted her off of her feet and tossed her, unceremoniously, into the lake.

Her feet flailed above her head for a split second before her back connected with the lake with a loud clap.  The water rushed around her ears and up her nose and stung her eyes.  She surfaced spitting and sputtering.  "What the hell was that?" she shrieked angrily.

"That was unexpected," he answered tilting his head to one side and blinking his lined eyes innocently.

Shivering in water up to her chest, she once again erupted in a fit of laughter.  "You must not be from the suburbs," she mused, trudging back to the beach.

He shrugged.

He was so different than any of her friends back home.  His red hair and twisted sense of logic were completely new to her.  She stared at what remained of her sand castle, and smiled sadly.  He might as well have been a dream.  She was leaving today to return to the world of SUVs and identical houses, and she didn't even know his name.