Friday, September 18, 2009

chapter two: crescent view

here's the second chapter of the story i started last month, enjoy.

Chapter Two: Crescent View

I was sixteen the year my father finally left. I knew my folks were having problems because they weren’t exactly covert about it. My dad was often absent and when he was around his was often drunk. The fighting had gotten unbearable and I had taken to locking myself away in my bedroom of our small apartment . My dad would come and go at all hours stumbling and yelling and sometimes passing out before he made it to the couch or the bed. It came to light one evening that he had been seeing someone new and had fallen in love with this mystery woman. After all these years he was tired of pretending there was any hope for them and he wanted to leave. He gave mom all of the old stand-by lines you might expect to hear in a situation like this; he didn’t love her anymore, she was too controlling, she expected too much from him, life didn’t turn out the way he had planned, they had been too young, etc…

Some of it was a little true I guess. They had been young when they got married. Still in high school actually and out of duty because my mom was pregnant. I guess at that time they were full of that powerful teenage love that makes one unable to breathe and able to believe that everything is possible. Even in a situation that didn’t seem likely to succeed, one where they were both way too young and not really ready for a baby. She did have high expectations of him but they were not unreasonable when you have a family to care for. Merely that he ought to have a job and hold it for more than a month, that he come home to her and his daughter every night and not be drunk, that he spend quality time with their growing daughter, and that he be faithful. I guess he didn’t have that high of expectation for himself. After he spilled the beans about the affair and wanting out, my mom did what any strong woman and mother might and went to see a lawyer. We didn’t have much and he didn’t want anything but Mom was cautious and she wanted every part of the divorce documented. Soon it was done.

When the divorce was final, my Mom cried hard. She had always loved him and still carried hope they could work it out. I think she knew realistically that was not a possibility but she didn’t want to believe it. She was out of sorts for a few weeks just trying to figure out how she and I could make it in the world. She kept up good public appearances with her job and the parents of my friends but she couldn’t keep from me the way this event tore her apart.

“Oh Gina, I am so sorry you have to see me like this,” she would say, “I promise it will get better honey.”

“Don’t worry mom, I’m here for you,” I would tell her as I cleaned up the dishes or did the laundry. “I know we’ll get through this. You’ll feel better soon.”

It took a while but eventually she picked herself up and brushed off her pain and went about making our lives as good as she could.

Unfortunately for me, my dad didn’t really seem to want to have anything to do with me. Of course I was sad about losing him, there were times when he and I had a lot of fun together for instance he was great on birthdays and he liked to fish in the canals. But as far as my daily life, he wasn’t ever a very big part of it, at least that I could remember. He had never been much of a dad and so I couldn’t imagine why he would change now. When you’re sixteen you can easily be cynical and I just saw him as an egotistical asshole who ruined my Mom’s life.

Within half a year my Mom decided that the best thing she could for us was to move. She couldn’t see going back home to Point Salisbury where she grew up or going to a completely new place. The place she saw us going to start over was to the beach resort town of Crescent View. It was a small town on the gulf coast of Florida. We had gone there over the years for vacations with her father, my Grand, as I called him. He had a condo there and he had offered her a room many times over the years. He had bought it in the seventies and their family had gone to the beach for vacation every summer, it had been a good real estate investment for him as there were always folks looking for a short term rental near the beach. A few years ago after my grandmother passed away, Grand sold his old house in Point Salisbury and moved to Crescent View fulltime. He loved living on the beach and he offered my mom and I place to call home until we could settle in. So after the school year ended, and I had the chance to celebrate my 17th birthday with my good friends, we packed up the apartment in the city, said goodbye to the only life I had known and moved to the small beach town of Crescent View. Temporarily we would live in Grand’s condo, but only until Mom found a place for us that would be ours alone. In truth I was looking forward to summer in Crescent View, I loved summer at the beach.

When we got to Crescent View, Grand was there to meet us at the condo. His sly smile always made me laugh and he hugged me so tight. I was glad to see him and I was glad for my mom that he was here for us. I knew it was hard for her to accept his help, but I was glad that she did, she needed someone beside me to hug her and tell her how much she was loved. Grand was a tall man in his late sixties. He had a full head of silver white hair that sat atop his sun bronzed sculpted face. He had always taken good care of himself and it seemed to me that living on the beach almost made him younger than he was a few years ago. He had a slim frame and I was surprised that you could see slight muscle tone in a man of his age. He had a jovial countenance and his blue eyes sparkled in the sun just like the ocean he loved so much.

We made ourselves comfortable in Grand’s guest room. The condo was part of one of the smaller complexes. His duplex wasn’t directly on the beach but it was close enough that you could look out the windows and see the water. It wasn’t very big just a two bedroom with living room and kitchen but it seemed large enough. He also had a Bahama room which was sort of like a big screened in patio but also kind of like another room. It had a futon and small table with chairs. I guessed by the indentations in the futon that he liked to sit out here often. I was sure I would join him.

After we settled in he called in the doorbell rang and a young man carrying a take box was waiting with what I presumed to be our dinner. Grand had ordered a take-in dinner from his favorite Italian restaurant to celebrate our arrival. It was a delicious meal. Grand didn’t ask a lot of questions, we talked to him on a regular basis. It was easy being here, at least this first night just felt like it always did when we arrived for vacation.

After dinner I realized how exhausted I was. “May I please be excused to get ready for bed, I’m pooped?” I asked.

“Sure darling, we’ll see you in the morning,” mom replied.

I hugged Mom and Grand goodnight and retired to the room. I could hear them talking and catching up and mom was even laughing. I knew things were going to be good here. I took out my journal and wrote a little bit about the adventure of the move.

June 16th, 2002,
Today has been a long day. Although not quite as long as the past six months. I’m glad that we finally made it here to Crescent View. It wasn’t a long drive, it just seemed to take forever to get here. Grand’s place is really nice and the ocean is so amazing. This afternoon as we drove in the sun was shining down so brightly on the water. It looked as if a million tiny jewels were floating on the surface just sparkling as bright as possible. I think this summer will be fun and I am glad that I have a few months to get my bearings and feel comfortable here before school starts. Tomorrow I’m hoping to make it down to the beach. I don’t see why that would be a problem considering how close it is. I do so love the ocean.

I tucked my journal away and thought about how much I truly did love the ocean. I could smell it in the air even with all of the windows closed and the AC running. I could taste the salt on my lips even though I wasn’t near the water. I imagined that I could feel the water on my skin with waves splashing over my face. I must have fallen into a deep and peaceful sleep almost immediately because in the morning I felt ready to conquer the world.

“What do you two have planned for today?” Grand asked handing me a glass of fresh squeezed juice as I walked over to the breakfast bar. I noticed that he had set out a box of cereal and the milk too.

“I’m not sure what’s on mom’s list for today,” I replied, imagining that he probably knew more than I did given how quickly I’d gone off to bed. I got a bowl and poured myself some cereal and milk. “What are you going to do today Grand?” I inquired of him. I knew he wasn’t one of those old guys that just sat around. He held a part time job at the senior center and he spent a lot of his time volunteering around the town.

“Well, I have a pretty busy day today down at the senior center so I won’t be able to walk you around,” he said hesitantly, “but I’ve made dinner reservations at my favorite burger joint for tonight. So don’t you go filling up on junk foods.” He smiled and I laughed because I knew his favorite burger joint was a little shack on the edge of the beach with no tables and definitely no reservations.

“Make yourself at home my sweet Gina, I am pleased to have you here. I hope you will love Crescent View as much as I do. It’s good that you arrived in Summer and have a few months to enjoy it before school starts. Tell your mom there’s juice in the fridge and breakfast in the oven. See you later alligator,” he said as he grabbed his messenger bag and bike helmet and walked slowly towards the door.

“After while crocodile,” I replied as had been our custom. I stared out the living room window and watched as the waves crashed into the rocks. I thought about how much energy Grand had and how nice it would be to live near him. After a while my mom woke up, ate breakfast, got dressed and looked expectantly at me. I was still sitting on the couch in my pajamas looking out the window.

“Do you want something mom?” I asked, knowing she wanted me to follow her example and get dressed as well.

“Well Gina, I thought we might go walk around town and get a sense for our new home. You never know what opportunities are waiting for you,” was her optimistic reply.

I groaned at her perky smile and plodded to our room to dress. I threw on my bathing suit planning ahead and over that a deep green sundress. I ran a large tooth comb through my knotty curls and pulled it all up into a loose bun. Once I was ready we headed out of the condo and took in the new landscape. Right away I noticed that you could see the beach from just about everywhere. Since Crescent View was shaped like a small peninsula it was surrounded almost entirely by the ocean. All of the water made this place seem extra special. We spent the day just sort of going here and there, walking along the boardwalk, in and out of little shops, and getting the lay of the land. Of course I insisted we take a short swim and mom sat on the sand while I splashed around. The streets were lined with as many cars as could fit and the beach was full of people from all over. I noticed there were many groups of teens who were also enjoying the sun and surf not to mention all of the families spread out along the coastline. I knew that since it was summer there were a lot more folks here than there would be once the school year started. A part of me felt strangely social like maybe I should go meet some new people but then another strong feeling crept in. I didn’t want to meet any of these transient people invading what was now my beach and I felt annoyed that I would have to share this place with all of these visitors. I realized that I was looking forward to the time when they would all be gone. I turned my gaze away from the groups and plunged deep into the cool water enjoying the slight sting of the salt in my eyes. I emerged with a splash smiling brightly at my mom, who in turn laughed quietly at me.

When I was done cleansing the big city away I sat with my mom on the beach for a bit talking. She told me a few stories about her childhood memories on the beach here and I could tell by her expressions how much she loved it too.

“Gina, I sorry the circumstances that brought this about aren’t great, but I am really glad you will get to know this place the way I do,” she told me while she gently combed the salty knots out of my tangled mass of curls.

“It’s ok, Mom. I can tell that I’m going to love this place,” I replied softly.

“I know you will dear.” she replied. Then as an afterthought she added, “This beach is very special, just like you.”

It was late afternoon when we were finally worn out from exploring and we turned down the last block heading back to Grand’s condo. We had basically made a large circle around the town as there wasn’t that much too it. We stopped to admire the garden next to us because the blooms were so bright and lively. Then we heard someone.

“Hello there ladies,” said the woman in the garden. She looked a little odd with her extra wide brimmed sun hat and paint splattered overalls down on her knees tending to the cana lillies. She had a long silver braid that hung over her shoulder down to her waist and steel blue-grey eyes that looked directly at us. She showered us with a sincere smile that was bright and friendly.

“Oh hello,” replied my mother.

“You must be new to Crescent View, I haven’t seen you around.” She said in a knowing voice, continuing the conversation.

“Well,” hesitated mom, “actually yes. We just arrived yesterday. My name is Mary Riley and this is my daughter Gina.”

“It’s very nice to meet you both, my name is Dolores. Dolores Lockheart, ” The lady had replied increasing the size of her grin and I thought I saw a slight twinkle in her eyes. “Young lady,” she addressed me directly, “I can tell just from looking at you that you’re going places in the world. They might not be exactly the places you think, but it’s gonna happen for you. “

“Uh, thanks, I guess,” I replied wondering if this lady had been spending too much time in her flower garden with the bright, hot sun.

Dolores, who seemed harmless enough, invited us to come in for a nice cold glass of tea and some fresh chilled lemon meringue pie. While we snacked on the treats, she filled us in with all the workings of Crescent View and told mom who to check in with about rentals.

“You’ll want to be talking with Sissy Weakly about a rental. She seems to have the best handle on all of the available properties,” suggested Dolores. Then she added, “And you can trust her not to cheat you unlike some of the others around here.”

While Mary asked Dolores all manner of questions about the town, I looked around the living room of the cabana. I noticed that the sand colored carpet was well worn. The furniture was an eclectic gathering of seemingly antique and vintage items. There was so much art work her home was like a museum with sculptures, pottery, paintings, glass pieces and some things that just looked like jumbles of items. There were dozens of pictures hanging on the painted walls and in some places it was hard to tell the frames apart from the wall. Somehow all of it seemed to work though. There was so much but it wasn’t too much, it was just right.

“I thought to myself, “Quirky and yet somehow put together well, just like Dolores seems to be.”
“Where are you staying dears?” asked Dolores. Although something in her voice made me think she might already know the answer.

“Right now we’re staying with my father, Roger Tucker,” mom replied.

“Well, are you now?” she nodded. “That Roger Tucker is quite the charmer let me tell you,” Dolores said. It seemed to me as if she was trying to conceal a blush.

“Oh do you know my Grand?” I asked her with suspicion in my voice. Of course she did, he was a good looking older man and this was a small town.

“Let’s just say that he and I are good friends,” she hesitated a moment and then added, “From the senior center where I teach art classes. I am quite miffed that he never mentioned his daughter and granddaughter were coming to stay with him. He usually keeps me up to date about the happenings in his life. Oh well, lucky for me I saw you on the street.”

“Gina,” she said looking me eye to eye,” I just know we’re going to be fast friends. You must come back as soon as you can and we’ll get started right away on your water color lessons.”

“Umm, yeah, I’ll see,” I replied wondering how she could have possibly known I was interested in bettering my watercolor skills. “How did you know…”

“Oh my, look at the time sweetheart. We better be getting back to Grand, he’ll be waiting for us,” my mom said cutting me off. “It was kind of you to ask us in Mrs.Lockheart…”

“Ms.Lockheart,” Dolores corrected, “but please, call me Dolores, and call as often as you like. Gina, I’ll be seeing you soon.”

My mom rushed me out the door after that and we were back at Grand’s in a flash. He was waiting for us outside the building with his beach blanket in hand ready to hit up his favorite burger joint.

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