The drive to the airport was a long and sullen one. Sulking, Abby refused to talk to her father, and even if she was conversing with him, it would have been dull anyway. She had stayed up all night attempting to gather her important personal possessions and cram them into the two suitcases she was permitted to check, which made her barely able to formulate a coherent thought. From the window of the limousine, she stared out at the blinking, bright lights of the Seat against the filmy, grey sky overhead, trying to remember her world exactly how it looked. To her right, her father sat, intently inking words into a crossword puzzle from the newspaper; to his right sat Hollis, leafing through the other pages of the paper.
She shot them both envious glares. They would be staying in the Seat for the summer, no doubt going to fancy dinners like the one that had been interrupted last night by her father's sudden announcement of her summer vacation to the Cove. The Cove might as well have been across the Great Sea; it certainly felt that distant. While she had never been there, she had heard that the people there were backward, savage, completely out of touch with the rest of the country. She had heard that very few of them drove cars.
"How will Jordana pick me up from the airport without a car?" she suddenly blurted in panic. Jordana was her father's best friend, though they had not seen each other face to face in years; she would be staying with her for the summer.
"Who said she didn't have a car?" her father questioned, dropping his pen for a moment.
"I'd just heard…"
"She has a car." He chuckled quietly. "Abby, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how technologically up to date the people of the Cove are. It shouldn't be nearly as bad as you seem to think it will be."
"It's easy for you to say that," Abby whined. "You grew up in the Cove. And you'll be sitting in your fancy office in the heart of the Seat while I suffer out there."
"That's true. But you might learn to love it, then. There is Cove in your blood." Whether she wanted to admit it or not, that much was true; though her mother had grown up in the Seat, her father lived in the Cove until he attended university. It was how he knew Jordana in the first place, and she sneakingly suspected if he had not met her mother, he would still be living out there. No matter now, that he was a politician, firmly entrenched in the Seat.
"What will I do for company, though?" she sighed, thinking about how all her acquaintances in the Seat would be partying, and shopping, and reveling in the arts.
"I told you, Jordana's nephew is your age. Besides, I'm sure there are plenty of other people nearby. Jordana doesn't live in the most remote part of the Cove. She's surrounded by civilization."
"It's all remote," Abby muttered, before clamping her mouth shut and staring back out the window. They were nearly to the airport at this time, so she rested her forehead against the cool glass and tried to quell her anxiety. In just a few short minutes, it would be entirely too late to turn back.
When the driver pulled up to the airport's curb, a pit fell in Abby's stomach. Keeping her head down, she tried to avoid looking at her father, as she got out of the car and waited for the driver to unload her suitcases. After her luggage was unpacked, though, she knew it was time for her goodbyes. As angry as she was at her father over the predicament, saying farewell to him for three and a half months certainly would not be easy, so she turned to Hollis first, killing time.
"Goodbye, Miss Whitebridge," he said, extending his hand to shake hers.
"Abby," she corrected, gripping his hand tightly.
"Goodbye, Abby." The two of them shared a smile, before Abby leaned in and gave him a quick, unexpected hug.
"Goodbye Hollis. Take care of my dad for me, or at least make sure he keeps his ties straight." Feeling a lump form in her throat, she took a deep breath before she spun around to face her father.
"Abigail," he started, as he folded her into his arms. "I know you're less than excited about this trip, but please try to keep an open mind. The Cove means a lot to me. It has a special place in my heart, and I hope that after this, it will have one in yours too." She highly doubted there would be anything enjoyable about living in the secluded wilderness, but to please her father, she kept silent, nodding her head instead of protesting. "I'm sure you'll be busy, but please try to find time to write."
"I'm sure I'll have time to ring," she assured him, and she felt a knot form in her chest as he shook his head.
"The telephone service in the Cove is questionable at best. I think writing is a more reliable method of communication." Noticing the growing look of agony stretching across his daughter's face, he chuckled. "Abby, I promise you're going to enjoy it, as long as you keep an open mind. Give Jordana a hug for me, and please write."
"I'll write," she managed, before she buried her face in her father's shirt. Upset or not, it was still going to be hard to part ways with him for nearly four months. After taking a few deep breaths to steady herself, she gave him one last squeeze. "I love you, Daddy."
"I love you, too, Abby." He pressed a kiss onto her pale blonde scalp, and that was that. She gathered her suitcases, dragging them into the airport behind her, lugging them up to the counter where she checked in and surrendered them to the clerk. Because she was in a public place, she swallowed the lump of tears welling up in her throat and stared down at her boarding pass, finding the gate number and repeating it in her head as she stood in the security line. After stripping her shoes and stepping through the body scanner, she departed down the terminal, until she reached her gate.
Unsurprisingly, the gate was empty. Abby frowned to herself, knowing that nobody would willingly leave behind the luxury of the Seat for the uncouth wilderness of the Cove. Of course she would be the only person departing on her flight. There was no line when boarding began, only one call needed, although a minute or so after she had settled into her seat on the impossibly tiny jet, an older man joined her. He settled down into the seat across the aisle from her own, though there were only four other seats to choose from, and Abby assumed he was someone from the Cove who had merely been visiting the Seat, attending a cousin's wedding or a great aunt's funeral.
The engine roared awake, and she clutched the cool metal armrests as though they were sustaining her very life. As the plane sped down the runway, she wished she had eaten breakfast, because her stomach had tied itself up into knots, whirling like the winds of a hurricane. She felt the jolt of the plane, the sensation of its wheels leaving the ground, the jagged current of the jet stream underneath its wings, everything. In fact, she doubted there was much a passenger did not feel in their tiny vessel.
Noticing the discomforted expression and tinge of green on her face, the older man struck up conversation, leaning over to ask, "Is this your first time flying?"
"Yes," Abby answered, too scared to nod her head, fearing she might lose what little control she had on the contents of her unsettled stomach. While her father had traveled before, to sign treaties and enact laws in other parts of the country, she never joined him; before her mother left, she stayed home with her, and after that, well, she was old enough to take care of herself for a few days anyway.
"I don't think this particular flight is going to give you a warm welcome." He chuckled. "The larger the plane is, the more comfortable the ride." A tight smile graced her lips, since she was unsure of what a proper reply would be. "What brings a girl like you out to the Cove?"
"It was my father's idea," she replied tentatively. "I'm visiting a family friend."
"Well, that's exciting." She nodded, though half-heartedly.
"What brought you to the Seat?" At least their small talk was distracting her from the shaky plane ride.
"How could you tell I'm from the Cove?" He laughed. "Anyway, I had a small, um, matter to attend to." Sensing his uneasiness to talk about it, and truly feeling the effects of her night without sleep, Abby did not say anything more to him. Instead, she pressed her forehead against the small, ovular window and closed her eyes, ignoring the harsh jitters of the plane for just long enough to fall asleep.
A great tug of wind sent the plane trembling, jolting Abby awake from her sleep. When another, even more furious gust ripped through just a second later, she peeled her head away from the window to glance out it. She stared down at the vast expanse of green treetops for a moment before she realized they were getting closer and closer as the plane made its descent. Its wheels touched down on the runway, sending her bouncing in her seat.
"Well, it looks like we survived," the man across the aisle announced, and Abby offered up light laughter, the only kind she could really muster. The plane halted, and as quickly as she could, she darted out of it and down the tunnel that deposited her at the edge of the secured part of the airport. Her stomach still queasy, she paused for a moment at one of the vendor's stands to purchase a water bottle. After taking a sip or two, the gurgling subsided, and she continued on, following the sign overhead until she was at the luggage carousel.
Compared to the airport she had departed from earlier, this might as well have been a shack, with ten gates within security clearance and a lowly two baggage carousels. Her two large suitcases emerged from behind the black curtain of the only one running, and though it took quite a bit of heavy pulling on her part, she managed to drag them off the slick black tracks and onto the faded carpet of the floor. Slowly, she wheeled them toward the door, before it hit her that she had no idea where Jordana was or how to find her.
She had, of course, seen photographs of her, though they were from days long ago, before her father knew her mother even, when he was just a child, living in the Cove, and Jordana was his best friend. In the pictures, she had been striking, with long curls of black hair and glowing tawny skin, standing nearly as tall as her father. Still, years had passed since then, so she probably would not recognize Jordana if she stood straight in front of her. Presently, though, nobody did. An exasperated sigh passing from her lips, she released the handles of her suitcases from her hands and pushed herself up on top of the larger one, to sit upon while she waited.
The minutes bled on. She watched the hands crawl on the large clock plastered to the wall. Time drained by so slowly that she swore she could feel the seconds passing in her bones. She was just about certain that she was abandoned for good when some sign of life emerged. A boy stormed through the front door with such startling, demanding footsteps that she nearly fell off her suitcase at his arrival. He glanced at her for a moment before starting in her direction.
"You look just like your father," he declared, and Abby felt her brow furrow in confusion. She had never seen him before in her life…although as she scrutinized him, she realized she could see traces of Jordana from the old photographs, in his tanned skin, his dark hair, his inky eyes. "I'm Noah, Jay's nephew. She had to stay home with my little sister since she's sick, so I came to pick you up instead."
"Oh," she finally said, as the two of them stood a few feet apart, still scoping each other out. "I'm Abigail."
"Gail," he abbreviated, drawing a frown to her lips. Gail reminded her too much of the heavy summer storms that for years flooded the Seat during the Founder's Festival, ruining all the fun.
"Abby," she corrected, but he did not acknowledge that. Instead, he turned on his heel and headed toward the door, leaving her to attempt to drag both her suitcases outside. In the Seat, it would be unthinkable for a gentleman to not provide help to a lady, but apparently in the Cove, chivalry worked differently, because when she cleared her throat, he took no notice. Finally, she stopped short. "Aren't you going to help me with my bags?"
"What?" He turned around, a look of utter bewilderment upon his face. Noticing the expression of palpable contempt she was giving him, he eventually grabbed the handle of one of her suitcases, but not before chuckling softly to himself and shaking his head. She struggled to keep up with him as he cut across the small parking lot toward an enormous, rusted red pickup truck, her short legs unable to match his lengthy strides. He laughed again when he noticed how far behind she had fallen, but made no effort to help her. She was honestly surprised that he even hoisted her suitcase into the bed of his truck for her.
The key in the ignition, the car came to life with a sputtering cough. She secured her seatbelt quickly, completely unsafe in such an old vehicle. At home, this would have been in the scrap metal deposits a decade ago.
"Are you sure this car is…well…fit to be driven?" she had to ask.
"Yeah, I'm sure." He backed out of the parking spot before murmuring, "Jesus," under his breath. "It got me here in two hours, I'm sure it can get us back."
"Two hours?" she gasped incredulously.
"That's on a good day." In the Seat, if she had so desired, Abby could walk from her house to pretty much anywhere of interest: the cinema, a restaurant, boutiques, even of Museum of Modern Art was a block or two away. Apparently, in the Cove, there was no such thing as a centralized location. She shook her head, staring down at her tiny hands folded delicately in her lap. The manicure she had gotten two days ago would begin to chip soon, and she doubted there would be any chance of getting a replacement.
The two of them sat in an uneasy silence for a while, the only noise coming from the rattling of the truck's engine. Abby regretted not bringing along any magazines for entertainment, as she tried to take her mind off the fun she was missing out on at home. Finally, Noah cleared his throat.
"So, you help out with the resistance, right?" he asked, and she rolled her eyes in annoyance. Why would anyone ever think that?
"No," she replied flatly.
"Oh. Well I'm sure you were just waiting until you came out here to get involved." She shook her head.
"No. Actually, I'm not really involved in my father's politics at all, nor do I plan to be."
"What?" It took all the self-control Noah possessed not to slam on the brakes of the truck. "Your father is the greatest political activist in years, and you're not a part of it? Your father is going to lead our nation back to its former glory, and you're not a part of it? Your father is planning to singlehandedly save the Cove, and you-"
"I don't give a damn!" she snapped, without even thinking really. When she realized she had sworn, she slipped a hand over her mouth, feeling her cheeks begin to blush in shame. "I...I'm-"
"I should have expected as much from a Seat girl. All you vapid bimbos care about is dresses and jewels anyway." Abby wanted to defend herself, to explain why she avoided her father's politics the way she did, but she shook her head. Nobody would get it, least of all this boy from a completely different world, who truly had no idea what life in hers was like. He would never understand.
Just to spite her, he cranked up the radio. Swimming in a sea of static, it was hard to catch one clear station, and he fiddled with the buttons while lazily keeping only one hand on the steering wheel. Abby cringed, both at the noise and at the thought of them veering off the road and into one of the low, hollow ditches, filled with nothing but rocks and mud. He finally settled upon a station of loud, hard music, shredding guitars and thunderous drums. She contemplated asking him to turn it down, eventually deciding not to, since she could imagine his reply would be hostile and in the negative. Instead, she shifted in her seat and stared out the window, trying to amuse herself with the sights of the unfamiliar, sprawling woodlands as they drove on.
When the truck at last came to a stop, it was on a dirt road, in front of a tall but narrow house, resting upon stilts and crafted from logs. Without a word, he stormed out of the car, and after a moment of shock, she slipped out of the passenger's seat and started off around back toward her suitcases. She was still attempting to yank the first one out of the bed of the truck when she heard the door of the house swing open, and out stepped a woman who was unmistakably Jordana. Though twenty years had passed since the photographs, it was unnoticeable; Jordana was disarmingly young, and while not classically beautiful, still looked very attractive, her tan skin stretched tight across her muscles.
"Abigail!" she cried out, hurrying over to the truck. "It's so nice to meet you." She offered Abby a brisk hug and a warm smile.
"It's nice to meet you as well…" Abby fumbled, wondering exactly how to address her.
"You can just call me Jay." Jordana seemed to read her mind. "God, you look just like your father."
"So I've heard," Abby replied with a smile. Already, she liked Jay, with her friendly nature and comforting smile. The fact that she helped Abby get the suitcases out and drag them up the stairs and into the house only increased the initial fondness.
"Just leave that down here," she ordered, gesturing toward the suitcase in Abby's clutches. "I'll have Noah bring it up to you. It's probably too heavy for you to drag, huh?"
"I was struggling a bit," Abby admitted with a chuckle, as she followed Jay up two flights of stairs, to the attic that had recently been renovated in preparation for her visit.
"I know it isn't much, but I wanted to give you a place to yourself," Jay explained. "Making you share a room with Nicole would have been awful."
"Not at all," she lied in reply, trying to keep up an air of grace, though Noah had seen otherwise.
"Well, you haven't met Nicole yet," Jay chuckled. "Anyway, if you need anything, I'll be downstairs. Noah should have your other bag up in a second."
"Thank you." She waited until she heard Jay's footsteps disappearing on the stairs before she unzipped her first suitcase in an attempt to unpack. The attic turned bedroom did have a small wardrobe, along with a chest of drawers, so she figured most of her clothes could be unloaded. Beneath a blouse and a few dresses sat a photograph. It was of her family, the three of them, before her mother left, which meant it had to be taken when Abby was about eleven or so. Judging by the look on her mother's face, you could never tell that she would abandon them soon, the glow in her eyes, the way she leaned into her husband, her hand resting upon Abby's shoulder. They looked perfectly happy.
"Here's your crap, Princess Gail," Noah announced, without knocking, throwing her bag to the ground. He sneered at her.
"It's Abby," she corrected, but he simply shrugged.
"Whatever you say, Gail." She stood up from her small bed, starting toward the door, but before she could reach it and slam it in his face, he was already darting down the stairs. Still, she shut the door before heading back to the bed, where the photograph she had been examining remained. A sudden wave of longing for her father washed over her, so she turned on her mobile and attempted to give him a ring. The call, however, failed, and she stared down at the screen, noticing she had no service bars. It was to be expected, since her father had already warned her, but for whatever reason, it was just enough to send her rapidly mounting frustration boiling over.
The tears began to pour from her eyes, and no amount of deep, calming breaths seemed to help. She buried her face in one of the pillows on her new bed, but all that did was exacerbate her feelings of desire for home. All she wanted was a welcoming hug from her father, and the tranquil comfort of being nestled in her own sheets, two things she would not be able to have for months. The very thought of that only made the tears worse. She pulled the other pillow over her head, as though that could block out the fact that she was in the Cove. It did not, of course, although it did help her will to fight her increasing exhaustion surrender, and her tears carried her into the relief of slumber.
Sorry for such a delay in chapters, I wanted to make sure I had the entire story outlined before I posted any more if it. 46 pages later, here's the next chapter.
I really appreciate all the feedback I got on the first one! It meant so much to me. I'm having trouble review replying right now, but as soon as the problem clears, I will be doing so! This story means a lot to me (as I've been working on its premise and the ideas for its two companion stories for nearly a year) so con-crit is truly appreciated!
You guys are the best, thank you so so much.