Chapter One: Tales From Angry Seas
I found it kind of ironic that I felt more connected to everything when I was alone running out on the beach than when I was sitting out at the picnic tables in the courtyard with my friends, everyone laughing and talking. We were tighter than the kids on Beverly Hills;90210. Or at least it seemed like we all were. Even though Vegas and Mika were always sitting on either side of me, like two stone pillars, within finger length, I couldn't have felt more far away sometimes. Every morning, usually around five a.m., the landscape out here was the same, unless it was raining or the waves were especially choppy. The sky was a dark, opaque indigo, the horizon bridging on a lighter shade, otherwise it was just miles of trampled sand and sea. I was completely, totally alone. Sometimes I even wondered if this was what it was like for those criminals that had been deported to Australia from England in the 1800s, was this coast their mute exile?
Either way, it was ritual, earphones almost blasting, I ran. With every step I pushed forward with more force, willing that stress away, fighting forward. I felt that somehow, life was this way, especially sometimes running on the slant when it was low-tide. Always fighting to get forward, even if it was a tiny progression; willing there to be something sturdy to stand on when the ground gave away so easily under my sneakers. Sometimes I'd stop, breathing heavily, sweat running down my face, feeling too much like insects crawling on my skin, and I'd think this is my life, all of this work for so few miles. But then I'd keep running, because everyone has had it tough, y'know?
Even though it killed me, even though my mom would cast me an odd look after hearing about the ungodly hour I'd woken up before school to sweat my ass off, I loved it. I loved running. I loved the adrenaline rush I got before I went, the new, cleansed feeling I got afterwards. It was like I'd worked all of my stress through my muscles, like there was some thick tar coating my lungs. It was the only way I could get my head straight. If you told me to run forever, I would have done it. I reveled in the work, I always had. My 4.0 average and my third ranking in the class proved that, along with the calluses on my fingers. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the satisfaction of a job well done.
Nimrod geek? Absolutely.
So with the other billion and one agonizing questions about moving back out to Copper, I was keeping my fingers crossed the whole ride there that there would be some decent place to run out my nerves. Which, I'd been doing much more of lately due to the fact that my parents were involved in a sticky divorce. Which, no I do not want to talk about that. At all. The only thing that currently mattered was that my mom, brother, and sister and I were moving back to my Aunt's for school, or in other words, until the papers were signed and my mom found a house to buy. Knowing my mom, god only knew how long that would take. In other words, my fate of limbo was sealed, and I was the basic definition of the All-American angsty teen, much to everyone's annoyance. My crabbiness and sarcasm held no mercy.
Not that I didn't feel a little guilty about bringing everyone's already bummed moods below ground level. Since I was the oldest it was 'my job' to keep a positive attitude, make sure everyone was in line, and that my mom was emotionally stable. I'd been doing it for years, it was an assumed position. But I felt that the time was right for me to indulge myself in some careless nasty attitude, considering what had been going on in my life lately, and the fact that my sophomore year had been blown out of proportion. Okay, so maybe I was overreacting a little.
Copper was only twenty minutes away from Tucker's Bay, the small fishing town where my family and I had been staying with my Godmother. But once you drove through the town, considering that you knew you were there, it might as well have been in the middle of Nowhere, Mid-West. Seriously. 'Downtown' consisted of one main street. Here you could find a couple of small clothing boutiques, one was Bill's Clothes, which consisted of work clothes, Stetsons, and rattlesnake boots. The other was Dotty's Buttons, which consisted of cutesy little pastel colored sweaters and the like. You could also find the post office, town hall, the church, and Camille's Café, where you could get a decent cup of coffee for cheap. Then there was the elementary school, the park, and the gazebo, where the town events were held. The Stoned Crow, the town's bar and grill, was on the outer limits of town, along with Jerry's, which was Copper's version of a Wal-Mart. The rest was winding hills and dairy farms. Tucker's Bay highschool was only bigger by one hundred students, but still. You would think that since both towns were so close to the Washington coast that we'd be packed with people. But the whole county was like 'the land that time forgot'. Tucker's Bay fishing economy had been short lived in the 1800s, most of the people that had started there had moved on to Seattle. Not that anyone really minded, less tourists for us!
Or technically, them now.
My only saving grace was that I'd be seeing Vegas and Mika and my other friends soon enough and I had my license. After everything that had happened I felt that I needed the support from Mika, but my Mom felt that we had needed some 'down time' for a 'fresh start'. Plus, it wasn't like we'd really had a place to kick it after my Mom had moved out of the house. Shoot me now. So, back in May of my Sophomore year we had gone out to Tucker's Bay to stay at my Godmother's beach house. All of the free time had nearly killed me, I usually passed it by reading on the beach when Vegas or Mika couldn't come out to visit. They had come by often, but even then it wasn't the same. It hadn't been just the distance between the towns that had built the invisible wall between the three of us, it had been the emotional wall of that day. That smoke that sleuthed between us and filled our lungs but we refused to bring up. Plus, even though I'd been spending countless hours basking in the warming glow of the sun this Summer, there was always the cool thought of moving stuck in my head.
So I guess there was a lot on my mind.
Thankfully, though, there is some deliverance. It had only been a couple of weeks ago that my Mom had announced at the table across an empire of orange juice, coffee, toast, and waffles that we were going to move back to Copper and stay at Aunt Dawn's for the upcoming school year. I was saved! Well, sort of. You see, there was one HUGE similarity between Tucker's Bay and Copper and the rest of the small towns from California to Jersey; everyone knew each other's business. So, people would be talking when I suddenly returned from my 'mysterious disappearance' last May. Ha, like they didn't know. So now I'd have to deal with walking in on suddenly quiet groups and ignore lingering gazes. Well, I guess it wouldn't be that big of a deal.
It wasn't like I suddenly despised Copper like some dirty STD though. I loved the rugged beauty of it, there was so much sky. The open land was perfect for horseback riding and dirtbiking. I didn't have a dirtbike, and Gran's horse, Bentley, had passed away years ago. There would still be Mika and Vegas though, and I was sure that they already had a few things planned before school started. Even then, there wouldn't be that much time once Vegas and Mika started Cross County and Football practice. And who even knew how long I'd even be in Copper? Then I'd have to spend my hardest year of high school in new surroundings, I'd have to join new clubs, make new friends. Meeting new people didn't bother me, I guess you could say I'm pretty laid back when it comes to people, so I made friends easily. Even then, being alone didn't bother me either.
Hadn't there been enough? Couldn't we be done with the changes? It was the instability too, of not knowing where we would end up. My mom had said she'd try to find a house in Tucker's Bay or Copper, somewhere nearby. Anything could happen though. That's what bothered me, the sand shifting under my feet. And they were looking at me, they were looking at me for decisions, support. My mom, my siblings, my friends, the town, the court. That was the problem with small towns, everyone knows everyone else's business. There was nothing to hide. But maybe I could work out the kinks in my attitude, wait things out, tame the tiger inside. Maybe looking away would change things, stop them once and for all. Maybe Copper's clockwork would overtake my life, slow the changes, slow the waves. But what if I didn't want to fight? What if I didn't want any part of it? I'd never asked to get involved. He asked me, he'd asked me all those times. The brunt of it was that my days were numbered, whether I realized it or not. A huge change had taken place, and it was only the first of many.
How many? I wanted to know, how many more?
"We're here!"Aunt Dawn exclaimed in her most bubbly voice as she pulled up to the farm house, killing the engine of the gargantuan pick-up. I snorted, arms crossed. I'd been quiet the whole ride over, watching the scenery change from the suburb streets to farms and fields. The only noise had been coming from the prehistoric pick-up's grumbling engine and some country station on the radio. Country music made me want to pound my head against the dash until blood squirted from my ears, but I tuned it out with my iPod, making sure to keep only one headphone in just in case Aunt Dawn wanted to start conversation. But our short lived chit-chat at the house had stayed there, I think she got the idea that I didn't feel much like talking, I hadn't been lately. She was perfectly fine with it, the dark clouds of my mood didn't affect her, she had driven the whole way with a slight smile on her face, humming with the radio. She was my mom's younger sister, 'the spoiled Honor student' as my mom defined her jokingly. Where my mom had been rebellious and wild, my Aunt had been scholarly and focused. Aunt Dawn was smart too, she had gone to school in California and gotten a degree in Engineering. She had worked in Seattle for ten years, but after my grandmother died, she had come back to Copper with her husband, Uncle Jack, and moved into my grandmother's house. Now she taught as a math teacher at Copper high school. Uncle Jack owned Copper Collision, the most successful, and only auto-mechanic in Copper.
Uncle Jack actually owed his marriage to my mom and dad, since they had introduced him to my Aunt Dawn. My parents had known each other growing up, they'd been high school sweethearts and gotten married shortly after graduation. Uncle Jack had moved to Copper from northern California, and became best friends with my dad. Everyone was linked together. Even now, Dad, without you.
I had two other Aunts from my mom's side of the family, but Aunt Dawn was my favorite. She was thirty-eight, and even though she was focused and hard-working, she was far from strict with me. The woman nearly let me get away with murder, and had spoiled me rotten as a kid. There were times that I even thought of her as just an older classmate or something of the like, I felt like I could tell her anything that was going on, the things I couldn't tell my mom. But even then there were a lot of things that I kept to myself. Partially because I was afraid she'd tell my mom, mostly because I was guilty of sharing secrets with her and not my mom. Other than that though, she seemed to understand what I wanted without even saying anything, things had changed between us since the divorce. Well, with me. I was more quiet, more reserved. But she didn't hassle me about what was going on, try to force me to talk, she was my silent form of support by simply being there for me and trying to cheer me up. Normal was what I craved, normal was what Dawn dished out. I knew she would talk to me if I wanted though, because we'd already talked once. Only once, right after..the night with Dad.
There were times that I even wished Dawn was my mom, as terrible and selfish as that sounds. Everything would be different if she was, none of these problems would have started in the first place. I could only count the ways that things could be different if Dawn was my mom. She was beautiful too, gorgeous. I thought that in an odd way Dawn was an older version of Mika, with similar personalities. She had long, dark brown hair with natural highlights, that fell in feral waves to the middle of her back. She had high cheekbones, a soft jaw, and almond shaped, green eyes, like my mom's, bordered by long eyelashes. Her complexion was over-all lightly tanned from being outdoors. She had an athletic build, a firm stand on the ground. Not a Paris Hilton skinny, the type you felt you could just push away. I wish I could look like her, look like I had all of my bearings, like she did.
Where she and my mom were brunette, I had inherited my dad's dirty blonde hair. Which, I had enhanced by dying it a shocking platinum, where their hair was feral and wild, mine was straight and sleek. I usually kept it cut short, pixie style, but I had lost interest lately, letting it roam down to my shoulders. I had blue-gray eyes like my dad, but my mom's long eye-lashes. But where my brother and sister had my mom's facial features and plush lips, I looked more like my dad. Or at least, that's what my mom always said. I had his definite jaw-line, his cheek bones, the same small nose and small lips.
"You have the same look as your dad, kid, same expression for trouble,"Uncle Jack had told me one fourth of July during a poker game. I had taken it as a compliment, whilst when my mom had brought it up as almost insulting. I didn't care, when I looked in the mirror I didn't see them, I saw myself. That's all that mattered.
"Come on, Eeyore,"Dawn said with one of her wild grins, using my nickname for when I was in a particularly threatening mood. She took off her black Stetson and smooshed it on my head, playfully pushing my arm as she got out of the truck. I only groaned in reply, but she had closed the door already. I sighed and got out of the truck, hopping to the ground. I stuffed my iPod in the pocket of my faded Levi's and looked around at the miles of nothing. My interest finally settled on the farmhouse, it was actually a cabin, being made entirely of logs. It was low to the ground, but wide. It had a wrap around porch and a stone chimney. The house was two stories altogether, along with a cellar and an attic. I'd probably wind up staying in the latter. Yippee..
"Eeyore, stop catching flies and help me out here, huh?"Dawn called from the pick-up. My head whipped around and I jogged over to her. She grabbed a duffel from the bed and tossed it to me, I caught it, only stumbling back a step. I sighed, getting over my fear of falling and shook my head.
Dawn laughed, grabbing a couple of bags and starting for the house,"Not bad, I knew you were putting those muscles to work. Not looking bad in that Stetson either, you'll have to beat Saul off with a stick. We'll get the beach bunny out of you yet.."
I looked at her quizzically, but followed,"Saul? What are you talking about?" I hadn't even put my clothes away and already i was afraid that my Aunt was up to ehr devious match-making plans.
Dawn put the bags down on the linoleum floor in the kitchen, then stood up to cup my chin in her hand, a mischievous look in her eyes,"You shall soon find out, my dear."
I only gave her one of my signature you must be kidding looks. But Dawn didn't reply, because just then my mom's car pulled up. We could hear Glenn and Lina arguing from here. God, this was only the beginning.
Whilst my mom and Dawn were chatting and Glenn and Lina were bickering, I unloaded the rest of our gear in silence. By the time we were finished dusk was settling on Copper, turning the sky shades of cotton candy pink and plush indigo, crickets chirped outside. Dawn started up the grill outside, deciding we'd toss some burgers for dinner, we were sitting out back at the table. Glenn was messing around with his game boy whilst Lina was playing with a model horse. Peace at last. Glenn was twelve, short but wiry, with the same dark hair as my mom, but blue eyes. Lina was only eight, with blonde hair and green eyes, the spitting image of my mom, minus the blonde, of course. I loved them both, but the two of them had fights that made you happy to have an MP3 player.
My mom was sitting back in her chair, her short, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, her face was lined with exhaustion. She was tired, ready to go to bed. My mom had always been pretty, no-beautiful- pushing Dawn off the charts. But she hadn't been strong the way Dawn was. Plus, stones lasted longer than sunsets. My mom was still pretty, but time had a way of eroding at people, it was living proof in the taught paleness of her cheeks, of the crow's feet near her eyes. It was like a transparent fog enveloping her features, muting her. I was angry about the things that had happened, still was. Maybe I always would be. But she was doing something about it now, she had changed it, hadn't she? It had been eight months now. That felt like a different place, a different life. I couldn't let go, but I couldn't stare it down.
I didn't realize I was staring at her until she finally caught my eye and smiled a little,"What are you thinking about?"She asked curiously.
"Nothing,"I muttered, looking away. I didn't want to talk,"I'm going to go unpack."
And before anyone could stop me I got up and strolled quickly across the porch and into the house, taking the stairs two at a time. All before Dawn could even ask if I was hungry.