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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2260956
Exploring the dunes helps Trace find some peace.
Trace walked along the beach, his eyes not really taking in the surrounding beauty. Instead, his mind played over the brutal scenes that had him feeling off balance and scared. Not that he wanted to admit that to anyone. He'd begged off playing basketball with the guys to be alone. Because of his bruises, swollen eye and split lip they had let him go, not bothering to banter with him like they usually did when he wanted some alone time.

After walking a good couple of miles, he headed in shore to the dunes that rose in sandy waves. Their grassy tops blowing in the wind. Sand shifted and swirled as he moved forward, looking for a place to sit. A place to curl up alone and lick his wounds. He pulled his sweatshirt hoodie up over his head, longing to just disappear.

How long he sat there alone, he wasn't sure.

A startled gasp brought him back into place and time as he turned to see Zayda Gallagher looking down at him. With his one good eye, he stared up into her amber eyes. They were mesmerizing and sparkled with concern. He did not want pity. His skin crawled at the thought of someone pitying him, but her concern seemed different; more like a warm blanket insulating him from the harsh reality in which he found himself.

Remembering himself, he fumbled to readjust the hoodie to hide his injuries. He looked back out to the ocean, willing her to go away.

"Oh, Trace," she said with a breathless reverence as she dropped in the sand beside him.

Before he could move, she was laying her hand gently on his forearm. A calmness spread through him like an elixir. The painful emotions rapping at the inside of his brain paused, as if momentarily disengaged - sedated.

His eyes looked back at her and held for a moment. He was stunned. Then, remembering himself and feeling like she was looking into his very soul, he shifted and broke the contact.

Beside him, Zayda shifted and straightened the skirt of her sundress. She dropped her hands into her lap and clasped them as she looked out over the dunes and the ocean as he did.

“I like it here. It’s quiet,” she said. Her voice a melody that continued to soothe him.

Trace rubbed his hands up and down his legs as if he were cold. They sat for quite some time in companionable silence. Each with their own thoughts.

“Do you ever wish you could be someone else or somewhere else?’ he asked after a pause.

“Yes, doesn’t everyone?”

Trace chuckled. Zayda could hear an undertone of cynicism in it.

“I want to be away from here,” he told her, his voice barely heard over the crashing waves.

“Where would you go?”

“The city. I could get lost there. No one would ever find me,” He paused, then added, “I doubt anyone in my family would care if I disappeared.”

“I’d care,” Zayda admitted boldly, and earned his unwavering gaze. He wondered if she were waiting for him to say something cruel, like most people did. But he was not most people. In fact, Zayda was someone who intrigued him. He liked her, though he would never admit that to anyone. Her words warmed him.

He gave her a half smile, careful not to re-split his lip, “ah, but you’re not family.”

“And you like me,” she said, then blushed at her boldness.

He could feel her watching him as his own cheeks flushed. He saw her smile. A smile that lit him up inside despite the pain he had been feeling. To cover his emotions, he shook his head slowly and said, “You’re a crazy one, Zayda Gallagher,”

“It’s my witchy blood,”

“Maybe, but it’s more, too, I think. You’re not like the others…”

“Is that a good or bad thing?” she asked. She seemed poised as she waited for his response.

He gave her another lopsided, boyish grin as he said, “A good thing.”

“Well, that is good news,” she said, smiling back.

Silence swirled itself around them again.

Trace felt lighter; as if some of the ugliness of the last few days slipped away. He had no doubt that Zayda was the reason, but he would never admit that. She always had a way of lifting him, even when he passed her in the halls at school. There was something special about this girl.

“I suppose I should head back. My Mother is expecting me…. I just came here for a little thinking time…”

“And I interrupted you,”

“No, you helped. Thanks.”

He got up. Reaching down, he offered her a hand. She clasped it, then smiled. He swore he could see her cheeks flush and he could not help feeling he had caused that.

Clearing his throat, he said, “I’ll see you around, Zayda Gallagher. Thanks.”

“My pleasure,” she murmured.

He headed off the way she had come. His lip curled up in a smile at the thought that she was still watching him as he strode away. If they ever left this town, she would be the only thing he would miss. That thought sent joy and sadness through him as he headed for home.

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