This Monday’s Post Has Already Departed for the Beach!

 

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We’re off to luxuriate in blue skies and sunshine, leisurely days and evenings and a little exploration–much needed since Marc has been travelling a lot for work, as usual. We do still miss each other (even at this point in married life) after awhile! Plus, it’s his birthday present, not saying for which one, out of loving respect. ūüôā Hope you readers can create time to enjoy yourselves and loved ones, too. I’ll be back with more pictures and words by Wednesday or Friday, depending on timing (and perhaps how very relaxed I become on the trip…)

May blessings surround you; may peace visit all.

Cannon Beach-Astoria-Lg Beach, 5-17 486

 

Escape: Part 1

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The wind changed from¬†ferocious to more familiar¬†and¬†the afternoon sun seeped into her skin¬†but Darla¬†gave up and sat down. She had been walking more than an¬†hour, ever since the car broke down.¬†It had shuddered and coasted to the edge of the road, right before¬†the¬†highway exit. She knew it was a bad idea to take Abe’s car but, then, she didn’t see that she had a choice. He was working on¬†her beat up Volvo at his buddy’s–she had dropped him off, ostensibly to go to work. She had thought it¬†over. It was either take her¬†chances or¬†try to placate him again. But she just couldn’t put the effort into peacemaking anymore. Not because she didn’t care because she did, sometimes.¬†It just¬†didn’t work.

She’d kept on until she got to this stretch of beach. It¬†was easier to walk than the roadside.¬†Abe would first look¬†at her best friend Sarah’s, then Teddy’s studio above his caf√©, and lastly the Knit and Purr (the owner’s¬†sickly Persian cat had died during summer) where she worked¬†three days a week. He wouldn’t try Granny Robb’s until tomorrow, likely–he did have to work later. And he didn’t like Granny, had told her a thousand times to stay away from her so he assumed she took his opinion and advice to heart. Darla hoped to be at Granny’s by¬†nine o’clock and in the morning to be somewhere else. Had to keep moving, otherwise Abe would catch up and haul her back home.

Her new tennis shoes were chafing her left foot. A blister was ballooning on her heel so she took them off and stood up. The wet, smooth sand was soothing.

If Darla knew anything, she knew the ocean. She grew up not¬†far from there; all¬†this had been her playground.¬†Kept alive in her memory were¬†tidal secrets and all the places she could hide and explore.¬†The weather’s shifts and turns here were an intimate part of her¬†knowledge.¬†She had¬†lived to surf and¬†kayak before Abe.¬†Today the sea was restless as ever, gleaming waves muscling their way in, carrying humans,¬†boats¬†or¬†debris with¬†an indifferent elegance. She tilted her face to¬†sea spray, then tied her tennis shoes¬†together and tossed them over her shoulder.¬†Darla’s feet pounded the¬†wave-carved beach,¬†hair loosening, legs lengthening. This is¬†how it felt¬†to be free. Like she had no origin or destination or ending, as if she was¬†one hundred percent bona fide alive only in this¬†moment.¬†Every cell¬†sparked and danced,¬†primed for joy. Nothing–no one–could claim her as theirs.

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Salt kissed her lips and light burnished her skin. She was turning to gold and snared by the rhythm of running so imagined she was a wild horse as she did when a child, galloping and cavorting past waves, rocks, driftwood, crabs, mussels, the world. Only when her breathing was pinched by the pounding of her heart did she slow and drop to the sand, gasping.

There was no¬†time for this foolish play. What an idiot to dredge up¬†memories made of childhood innocence. A naivet√©¬†not yet shredded by¬†disappointment and¬†loneliness. Now Darla¬†had to deal with¬†facts that required she¬†come up with a better plan. Soon. She was¬†an escapee,¬†after all. Broke right out of Abe’s Coastal Camp–that’s what he called it since it was his¬†summer camp. Abe’s work camp, he should call it, for all she had done for him¬†to keep him¬†even halfway placated. He loomed¬†in her mind: that furrowed forehead signaling¬†dissatisfaction, the immediate or delayed¬†anger¬†instigating more ridiculous demands–“corrective actions”, he called them. And too often the force of his broad hands marring her face or¬†grasping on her shoulder, hair, neck. Those were “reminders”. Of who was in charge.

She had to climb the hill and get back to the road, find a ride to Granny’s. She was gone this week but she’d told her to come on. Darla put her socks back on and then her shoes, her heel tender. She had four protein bars in her bag and ate one as she hiked up the twisty trail. Two women passed her laughing,¬†a blanket and¬†a tote full of food between them. She kept her head down, not to be unseen but to avoid their normalcy, their happiness. She wondered if they carried wine, then banished the thought before it stole her mind away like a thief. The last thing she wanted ever again¬†was a drink.

When she reached the road she loosened her shoe and stuck out her thumb. There were trees standing close together here; the ocean roar was gentled. An October sky was dissolving into a powdery grey-blue and coral. The sun would soon begin its disappearing act on the vast celestial stage. She had to be off the road by then. Fear pricked her innards. What had she done? Did it really have to come to this?

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She waggled her thumb at several cars but they sped by, sometimes honking or swerving, as though her small presence might be a serious threat to them. She stepped back, close to underbrush and the darkening forest. After about twenty minutes she started walking fast even though her heel was hot and stinging. Darla took in the sea between treetops like a gulp of hope. She considered praying when headlights blinded her. She turned at the sound of the vehicle as it pulled up nice and easy.

The interior lights went on. They looked okay,¬†both man and¬†woman, each¬†with greying hair. A¬†brownish tabby cat curled up on¬†the woman’s lap.¬†The car was a¬†new model SUV, deep blue. The woman¬†rolled her window halfway down and stuck her face out.

“You need a ride, dear?” She peered over her glasses and smiled with¬†pale peach lips closed. “You shouldn’t be out here all alone.”

“Well, about 60 miles is all. To Winton, up north. You know it?”

The older woman nodded,¬†loose curls bouncing.¬†“Oh,¬†we go right by it on the way to our cottage. We’re eighteen miles past there.” She looked Darla up and down for a quick assessment¬†then made a motion to the left with her head. “This is Kenneth, my husband. Just get rid of sand, please.”

Darla bent down and looked in the car. Kenneth had on an old straw hat but he pushed it back from his forehead, then peered at her. His hooded eyes made an attempt at smiling. He looked sixtyish or more, ruddier and younger than his wife.

“Well, I guess…”

“What happened, dear? No car? How on earth did you get here?”

Darla could feel the heat being leached from the air as the sun stayed its own course. She shivered; she had to get out of here. She stomped her feet to rid them of sand and brushed off her jeans.

“It broke down. I’m on my way to my grandmother’s, Lena Robb’s.”

The man gestured for her to get in back. “Pile in. I want to get to our place before it’s too late.”

Darla took off her backpack, tossed it in and¬†settled in the leather seat. The cat jumped from between the front¬†seats to the seat by¬†Darla, walked over her twice with a sniff or two, then jumped back to the woman in front with a plaintive meow.¬†Darla didn’t like cats that much but here she was, stuck with one again.

“I’m Roslyn Gentry, by the way.”

“Darla, ah, Darla Robb.” She took a painfully¬†deep breath as they started off down the road, then¬†looked out¬†the window, through the pines. The ocean was¬†receding; the sky was aflame. The SUV was warm and smelled faintly of¬†cinnamon and, possibly, sausage.¬†A¬†tangy hint¬†of sweat. No one spoke the first mile except the cat, who hissed at her once from her mistress’ shoulder.

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(TO BE CONTINUED. Please come back for Part 2, to be posted this week.)

Priscilla at Loose Ends

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(Photo: “Priscilla” Joseph Szabo, 1969)

It’s four¬†o’clock in the afternoon and I’m watching my friends¬† surf¬†a last time in the season when this kid comes up and grabs the cigarette out of my¬†hand.

“Are you crazy? Give it back–you’re about the age of my niece and she’s only ten!”¬†

But she inhales nice and easy like she’s a pro. I’m not sure what to make of it. I stand up and make a grab for it¬†but she steps back. I take another tact.

“Who do you think you are? No one grabs a smoke out of a stranger’s hand. It’s rude. For you, also illegal.”

She smiles, and the thing is, it’s a charming smile despite the cigarette dangling between her small white teeth. It fits snug against¬†the space between the two in front. I’m disgusted by her smoking but I wave her closer. She¬†pulls up her pants and puts her hands on skinny hips.

“Okay. What’s your name?”

She blows out a thin stream and watches it slink¬†between us as though it is a standard greeting from a little monster. Because I think that’s what she may be or at least tries to be.

“Priscilla.” She lifts her chin a notch and peers down at me. A smaller smile starts and stops.

The sound of her voice is smarmy, like she’s trying to impress me with her kid wondrousness. I would’ve thought she’d had a nickname to offer, but how do you nicely shorten¬†a name like that?

“Well, Miss Pris, I’m Constance, Connie if you’re a friend of mine which you’re not.¬†What are you doing out here, anyway? Where’s your mom or sister?”

Priscilla makes herself at home a few feet away from me, sits and smokes, her hair flying in the cooling breeze. She holds it between her thumb and index finger, handing it back to me. I examine it, take a short drag, and smash it into the sand.

“Well?”

She shrugs, shoulders held close to her ears¬†for a few seconds, lips puckering. When they come down, she looks away. “Don’t have one or the other. I live-” she opens her arms and indicates the beach and surrounding park”-just here.”

I guffawed. “No, you don’t. You’re too clean for that. You’ve got shiny hair and nice clothes and a look in your eye that tells me you’re up to something.”

Priscilla takes off her¬†red tennis shoes and digs¬†up the sand with tanned feet, making¬†the sand spray at me. It’s not silky sand like you’d want to lay on in a bikini. It’s grainy, cool and none too clean. She narrows her eyes at me.

“What are you doing here? Looking for a boy? Trying to be cool¬† with your Frye boots when it’s only sixty degrees¬†out?”

I have an impulse to swat her like I would¬†my niece but of course that can’t happen. “No, fool, I’m with my friends. They’re surfing out there. ” I point. “Don’t change the subject. Do you live around the neighborhood?”

She turns and gazes at the ocean so long I about give up and take off.

“I used to. In that big house at the end of the road.”

She pointed at a nearby two-story grey house with black shutters. It was large enough for two families, at least. There was a covered veranda that looked empty and a very long dock where a boat, a small yacht, really, was tied up.

“Hmmm, nice.”

“Yep,” she asserted and turned her attention to¬†me again. “But Father lost¬†all our money in a bad business deal and mother, well, she took off with her best friend, went to Hawaii, and never returned.¬†So now father lives in a crummy little apartment.¬†I have¬†this narrow, cramped bedroom with a day bed, that’s what he calls it, which means it isn’t really a bed, at all. He works at a car place, you know, where they sell used cars.”

I sink down beside her, pull a last cigarette from the crumpled pack, and¬†shake my head when she tries to reach for it. I light it. “So, what are you doing here alone?”

“My father¬†gets¬†home late so I come down here sometimes. I have this dream that I will find my mother.” She scrunches up her face and rubs her eyes, sniffs a little, the trains her¬†big brown eyes on me. “I’m twelve, anyway.”

I get an odd sensation. The girl’s tone is¬†dramatic,¬†strange, too old for her age¬†but I feel her¬†sadness, too, so maybe her parents did have bad times. “I’m sorry. But you can’t just wander around here all afternoon. It’s not safe, Priscilla.”

“Oh, I’m fine. I know the area. The apartment is just a bus ride away. I have my crappy old cell phone.” She pats her pants pocket for reassurance.

I can see my friends coming in. They’ll wonder why this kid is hanging out and I have to be honest, though I’m worried for her, I want her to get lost. I have plans. I don’t want to feel responsible for a¬†smart-alecky waif who steals cigarettes and who knows what else.

“Good,” I say, “because I have to meet up with my friends. We’re going to eat, then¬†have a bonfire later.”

She looks at me imploringly.

“No, you can’t stay. Do you need money?”

“No, I’m good.” She shakes her head, then¬†walks away.

I watch her as she ambles down the beach. She stops a couple times and looks back, then stops by a man in a straw hat, hands in her back pockets,¬†her stance like a tough kid’s, which she sort of is. I’m about to turn away when I hear her laugh. She sits down by him.¬†Alarm runs through me.

“Oh, I know what you’re thinking.”

I turn to see who’s talking to me. A¬†guy, medium tall, tan, scruffy and pleasant-smelling. Older than me. He looks like a runner, all trim in tank top and shorts, low-cut socks and¬†sneakers.

“She stole my smoke this morning, too.¬†She’s a brat, really, but what can you do? I can’t break her of her¬†bad behaviors and¬†dad is very busy these days. Pris is too smart,¬†funny,¬†and a little rougher since¬† mom left.” He looks down the beach and nods. “Looks like dad interrupted her stroll.”

I¬†follow his gaze to Priscilla and the man. “Ah. Your dad. You live over there?” I point at the grey house.

“Yeah. I’m George. Come¬†by later and join our barbecue. It’ll be a crowd like no other!”

Relief¬†surges¬†within me but I wave him off. He smiles the family’s magnetic grin and starts running. I head down to¬†shore and catch up with my friends.¬†I am¬†sorry and scared¬†for Priscilla but also stunned. That’s the¬†only time I plan on being conned by¬†a ten year old. But I worry it won’t be the last time she¬†snags cigarettes or chats with strangers. I wonder if my friends want to stop by a barbeque tonight.