Estuary: a body of water in which salt and fresh water mix and mixed by the ebb and flow of tides and riverine outflow.
Important site for fish love and the continuation of marine life
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Last summer, Evan and Joanna were the hottest couple on the beach.
This summer, she doesn't even want to know him.
What could have happened in a year to make her change so much? And which is the real Jo?
For JDiane Riley, who's story 'California' got me thinking
… a structure developed to limit the influx of ocean waves onto the coast, to provide safe anchorage, but that may be destroying estuaries…
Unlike most years, and unlike most locals, Evan waited in thrilled but silent anticipation for the first bunch of summerers to arrive. His anticipation grew with each day that dawned warmer, each carload of pale overdressed city folk disgorged and filling up the beaches and sidewalk cafes. Until finally, one day, he saw her.
"Jo!" he called out. She hadn't heard, and he jogged across the street, grinning. The traffic hadn't yet built up to mid season craziness, but the influx of early visitors had already slowed the cars to a crawl. "Jo!"
She was sunk in conversation with two other girls, on the deck of the Seaview café. She looked just the same as last year, same faded shorts putting on display her long slim legs, same unruly hair tied at her neck in an attempt to tame it. The only difference was she hadn't yet got the tan she'd been so proud of last summer. It always set the summerers apart early in the season. By the end, the hope was that no one could tell a summerer apart from a local. Not based on skin colour, anyway.
"Hey," he said, swinging up onto the deck he leaned down to kiss her, noticing at the last moment her stiffness and kissed her cheek instead. "You're back."
"Uh, yeah," she said, glancing at him, almost shyly, then glancing away, staring at her iced coffee.
He waited, taking in the TV style makeup and carefully hairdo's of the other girls, then asked finally, "You going to introduce me?"
"This is Adie and Ellie," she replied, blushing a little.
"Of course! The best friends. I heard a lot about you guys. I'm Evan."
Their blank looks told him they'd heard nothing of him. Jo wasn't looking at him at all. He glanced back and forth between the girls, puzzled.
Where was the Jo that had hunted him down last summer, refusing to take no for an answer, waiting impatiently alone in a booth til he'd finished sweeping out the diner, staying out with him all night? Where was the girl that had lived in the surf, racing him to the island as much as twice a day, and more often than not beating him? This Jo didn't even look like she'd had a swim yet, her hair still shiny and smooth, and it was already 11 oclock.
"So… what's the plan for today," he asked, starting to feel odd, standing around while they sipped at their fancy drinks, ignoring him.
"Beach, beach, then some more beach?"
Adie and Ellie exchanged glances. "We don't really care for the beach."
He was stunned. Why come to Smithport if you didn't like the beach? "Well, the fair doesn't start up til this weekend…"
"Oh right, the fair." There was a hint of the girl he'd known before in that smile. He paused, waiting to see if anymore of her would come out of her shell.
"Well, it was nice to meet you, Evan," Adie said pointedly, her smile frozen in place like a plastic doll's.
"Yeah," Evan replied, "Right." He dropped off the deck, giving Jo one more puzzled look before walking away.
"Evan!" Jo called out, and he spun around, "The fair. This weekend. That'd be great."
He flashed her a grin that she returned in part, then turned quickly back to her friends. He could feel the heat of their stares on his neck as he walked home.
His mother was wiping up the dishes and Uncle Ed sitting in his favourite chair studying the newspaper when he walked in the door. Mrs Bailey looked up at the creak and crash of the screen door and smiled her hello.
"Jo's back," he said quietly, sliding in behind the kitchen table.
"Oh really?" His mother said carefully, without the delight she would like to have expressed. Evan should have delighted, but he very obviously wasn't. Something wasn't right. "And how was she?"
"Oh, ok." He shrugged. Mrs Bailey would never describe the vivacious summerer as 'ok'. She was always running at 110%, a river running endlessly for the sea.
"Evan?" She sat down at the table, eyes concerned, and he leaned back with a sigh.
"She just seemed kinda... distant."
She watched him with concern, hating the crease that furrowed his brow.
"Well it has been a year. Can't expect her to jump back in right where you left off"
Why not? He thought a little sourly, still confused. I did.
"Give her a bit of time."
"Don't expect any better of a summerer. Just flirts the lot of them. Better off free of her, boy."
"Hush, Uncle," his mother murmured as Evan got up again.
"Yeah. Well. I'm going down the pier."
The pier stretching out into the calm ocean and pale morning sky, like into liquid light. His friends Tod and Fly were already there, changing baits to try their luck with a new host of sea creatures, tossing their lines over the side and staring at the water as if they could discern its mysterious depths. Reveling in the knowledge that weeks and weeks stretched ahead without a deadline or a teacher to mar it. Evan thought likewise of the summer break stretching emptily ahead, but without the revelry. He hadn't even taken up his usual summer job at the diner. The emptiness seemed somehow unfilable. Hands deep in his pockets, he stood beside his friends and watched the lines vibrate with nibbles, rings of tiny wavelets stretching out and disappearing on the oily surface of the water.
"So you not going to ditch us this year," Fly said eventually, when it was plain the nibbles wouldn't evolve into anything bigger.
"I didn't ditch youse last year," Evan muttered, shoving him with his shoulder.
"Nah, your little friend ditched us for you," Tod replied, and they grinned at each other.
"Saw she's back."
"Yeah," Evan said, the grin disappearing, "Sort of."
"Sort of? Her head still stuck in the city?"
Evan shrugged, which his friends understood meant he agreed.