Facing your past is never easy to do. (The beginning of a novel that popped in my head)
| Island of My Heart
Three years ago I stood in this exact same spot, at this exact same time. Watching as the sun sank over the horizon. My toes squished into the wet sand, as cold salt water rushed over my bare feet, spritzing my face with the stinging mist. Wind swept down the shore and tangled my long blonde hair. Blowing it across my face; I pushed it back with my free hand.
The only thing different than the last time I had been on this seashore was that the little girl standing beside me was no longer in my belly.
I looked down at my dark haired angel; the angel I had almost given up. Thanking God that I hadn't. My amazing saving Grace. She was everything to me, and leaving my family and this island was all worth it. The day I felt her move for the first time convinced me of that. Having her was the only smart decision I made that year. And she was the only one that gave me the strength to come back here to face my past.
Standing in front of the house I grew up in, and holding the hand of the reason I left; I can't believe I'm here. That I came back. It was finally time to bury my past-- along with my mother.
The sun had almost disappeared beneath the deep blue sea, and the crisp March air was cutting into my bones. I had forgotten how cold Dauphin Island got in the winter. Gracie's hand felt frozen in mine; I lifted her up in my arms and hugged her close. Her wet sandy feet soaked the hips of my old Levi's.
"Mommy, I wanna swim!" she said through chattering teeth. Her baby lisp was clearly evident.
Her big brown eyes watched the crashing waves with excitement, hiding her face in my shoulder every time a wave roared too close.
"Not tonight, baby, sunset is when the sharks come out to eat," I said. I told her the same warning that had been whispered in my ear so many times as a child.
Her eyes got huge and she watched the ocean as if waiting to catch a glimpse of one of these monsters.
"Come on." I hefted her up higher on my hip and turned to the familiar beach house that was set on high stilts. "Aunt Clara's waiting for us inside. She got you powder donuts," I said distracting her with her favorite treat.
Gracie let out a shout of glee and leaned toward the house as if this would somehow get us there faster. I laughed and started back up the beach. Swiping up the two pairs of sandals that we had left farther up the shore; I reminded Gracie that she was required to eat her dinner before she was allowed dessert. Not that either one was any better than the other. Domino's pizza was not exactly Mom's homemade seafood gumbo.
I climbed the dune hills, ignoring the staircase that was set there for just such a purpose. Clara and I had always played on the hills, even though Mom had constantly warned against it. The dunes were meant to protect against high tides, we were told that playing on them would eventually flatten the hill. I had yet to figure out how two children could ruin something that was supposed to protect against crashing waves.
At the top of the dune I turned around. Swaying Gracie on my hip, I watched the last slice of orange sun sink into the water. I rubbed the gritty wet sand off her feet absently. I felt the weight of her head against my shoulder. Slowly I turned away, and another gust of wind rushed down the beach and bringing with it the low hum of a sweet voice. Entwined with the thrum of an old guitar.
I stopped in my tracks, and without breathing, looked across the hundred feet of land that separated our houses. He was sitting on his mama's front porch steps like we used to do for hours every summer when we were young. Him singing and playing, me humming along. Seeing him there again today, I felt like I'd stepped back in time. His deep golden tan never faded, even when the cold came. He was so warm, with chocolate brown eyes, and dark hair that was streaked with blonde from endless hours in the hot sun. He had on the same worn and stained pair of jeans I'd threatened to burn so many times. And he had yet to trash the cheap guitar I had bought him for his fifteenth birthday. It was scratched and scribbled on but He'd always sworn it was the best sounding instrument he'd ever played.
The wind caught the tune he was strumming and brought it to my ears, and it saddened me to realize it was an unfamiliar song. I used to know all his music by heart. Yet, it was still lovely, though swept up by the wind. I took a step, as if to move closer, but thought better of it. I'd gotten too close to Johnny Sander's three years ago; I vowed not to do it again.
I shifted Gracie on my hip and couldn't help studying her sleeping face. The soft brown curls, strong jaw line, and straight nose never let me forget. My little girl looked just like her father.
I allowed my gaze to rest on him one more time; feeling the heartache of years ago cut me fresh. Mama hadn't wanted me to waste my life with a boy like him. And his mama hadn't wanted the responsibility of two more mouths to feed added to her plate. Abortion was the only option; that was their opinion. Even Johnny, the only person I had in the world, abandoned the fight and settled for adoption. After all, how were two teenagers going to survive alone? Let alone with a baby?
So I gave up on them. The day Mama planned on dragging me down to the clinic, I caught a bus for New Orleans and never looked back. At least not until one week ago when I'd gotten the call from my younger sister, Clara (the only person I'd kept in contact with). She gave me the news of Mama's lost battle with cancer, and the date of the funeral.
Yes, I cried. Cried for lost years, for a mother that betrayed me, and for a grandmama my baby would never know. Now I was here, and the past was knocking on the door. Begging for entry into a place my heart had forgotten existed.
It was at that moment that Johnny looked up. The music stopped, and I ran inside.