A woman finds more than expected, forgotten memories and truth. Please read and rate.
|The North Shore
What’s wrong with me? It wasn’t my fault! Was it? Sometimes, I ask myself these questions repeatedly. I feel scared and frustrated, but eventually I stop and think of Claire and I know I am going to be okay. I am driving up to Aunt Claire’s cabin this weekend. It has been a year since I’ve gone to the North Shore to visit her. It was there where the past caught up with the present, where it all happened.
I hadn’t been at the North Shore ever since I was a child. I had few memories of the place. I used to think it was a dream. It was like I’d never been there at all. The beautiful shore, the lighthouse and the sandy beach that lead up to my aunt’s cabin. My aunt who used to be so strong and beautiful, happily married and had two sons. That winter her husband Tom died, her older son John was running some big shot company some where in the West Coast and little Danny was locked up in the state penitentiary, she was all alone. I was there trying to help her get over her loss.
Last winter on the day that I arrived...
We got on Claire's husbands’ old sailboat and spread his ashes across the ocean; the wind blew them so gracefully in the air. She stared toward the lighthouse and tears filled her eyes. I did my best in trying to console her. Where was the rest of her family? My mother had passed away while I was in collage; nana died when I was about twelve years old and the rest of the family had better things to do with their time. We sailed back to the shore. All the while there I felt so sad yet strange, I felt an eerie sense of being in the pit of my stomach. “Susan, are you okay dear?” She asked. “Yes Aunt Claire, I am fine.” I lied.
Back in the house, I got dinner started as Claire sat on her front porch. That night I couldn’t sleep. Something was wrong, I sensed it. I stayed up that night going over my work for the next photo shoot, you see I am a photographer for a fashion magazine in New York. When I finally did go to sleep I had strange dreams, but they were more like memories of my childhood. I woke up drenched in sweat and fear. I had awful dreams, dreams no one should have. I still have those dreams, dreams where I’m running away from someone, towards the lighthouse not far from my aunts’ cabin.
When I got downstairs the next day aunt Claire had prepared breakfast and I could smell the fresh cofee. “Claire, I am going into town today, would you like to come? Maybe pick up a few things at the market?” I asked. “No honey, I would like to stay in, but if it were not an inconvenience would you mind taking a letter for Danny to the post office.” She said. “I don’t mind. I’ll see you in a while, okay.” I replied.
In town it was quite busy that day. People opening their shops and getting about their business. I went to the post office and the postmaster noticed Claire’s name and address on the envelope. He seemed confused and asked me if I was a relative. “Yes, I am visiting in such a troubled time for her. I’ll be around for a while to help her till she’s eager enough to be on her own.” I said. “That poor woman has been through so much. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that he’s gone, at least she could be in peace once and for all.” He said. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I am sorry I must go, but it was nice talking to you, um…” he said. “Susan”, I replied.
That day all I kept thinking about was what the postmaster had said and how he avoided my question. What did he mean by it? I just couldn’t figure it out. That evening we sat on the front porch sipping hot cocoa and staring out into the night at the stars. It was a beautiful evening, but Aunt Claire seemed so distant, just as if she weren’t even there with me. We didn’t speak, but I know she felt comforted by my presence.
That night the dreams came to me again, this time much clearer and they seemed so real. It was as if they were calling out to me, Susan! I awoke in terror. It was still dark, but there was no way I was going back to sleep. I decided to do some work, but after a while I got bored. I began to roam about the house. I went downstairs to the den. I looked out into the night and the lighthouse seemed so close. I put on Claire’s’ shall over my nightdress and went outside. The wind blew through my straight black hair, the moonlight reflected on the water and bounced off my light skin. I got closer to the shore and stared at the reflection of myself in the water. I seemed to glow; my gray eyes almost the shade of the sky. I dipped my feet into the icy cold water. I felt a chill run down my spine. I stood there staring endlessly at the lighthouse. Why had it been in my dreams? I couldn’t figure it out. That eerie feeling took over me, something was definitely wrong. My dreams and this place had to be connected. It was a puzzle and I was going to solve it.
I went back inside and decided to look at a old photo album of the family. Practically the whole photo album was of people I’d never even seen. I know they were family because my family used to be very close. I don’t know why things changed. Now it's as if everyone avoids each other. I saw a picture of Tom and Claire. They looked like the perfect couple. Claire's light skin, raven black hair and gray eyes almost like a picture of me. Tom was a strong looking man of broad shoulders, brown hair, green eyes and serious expression. I stayed up till the sun rose. Aunt Claire came downstairs to prepare breakfast and she got startled to see me in the den. “Dear you’re awake so early.” She said. “I’m sorry I startled you, I just couldn’t sleep.” I said. “It’s okay honey.” She said. We ate breakfast and I couldn’t help but ask Aunt Claire about the family and why it hadn’t been reunited for so many years. Claire almost fainted and I went to her aid. “Are you okay? What’s wrong? Are you diabetic? Here sit down.” I said worried.
I didn’t ask her after that. Something awful had happened, but what had happened I couldn’t figure out and she seemed so bothered by my questions. That afternoon I went for a jog out on the shore. I decided to go to the lighthouse and from there it would be enough of a work out, I also needed to sort my thoughts out. I ran and the eerie feeling took over me. Memories came fleeting back into my head. Like a gust of wind knocking over a sailboat.
“Mamma, where are we going?” a small and faint voice asked. “We are visiting Aunt Claire for the weekend.” a woman said. I stopped at my tracks, but my mind was somewhere else. “Aunt Claire, Aunt Claire! Look at what Danny found!” Said the same faint small voice, the voice of a little girl. “It’s beautiful honey. We are going into town Tom! Would you mind taking care of the children? We’ll be back in a while! Said another woman. "Fine with me!" Said a man. “Mamma, where are you going?” Said the little girl. “To the market, sweetie, but we will be back shortly. You just listen to your Uncle Tom and don’t give him too much trouble.” Said a woman. “Okay mamma, I will be good.” Said the little girl. “Susan! Susan!” I was back. I begun running again, but when I was getting to the lighthouse I realized that I was remembering something from this place, I was the little girl speaking. Maybe this memory of the past was the clue I needed to solve this mystery.
The gust came back, but even stronger this time. “Susan! Get back here!” Said the voice of an angry man. “Daddy, please don’t hurt her! Daddy!” Said another child. This child was Danny. The man smacked Danny to the ground. “Susan!” he said even angrier. I ran faster and faster towards the lighthouse. “Susan!” He said. I ran into the lighthouse and hid, but he found me. He picked me up and threw me to the ground. His breath of whiskey and he lifted the skirt from the little blue dress I had on. He pulled down my stockings and panties. I screamed and bit him, but I was too small. I couldn’t stop him. I scratched and bit him trying to fight him off, but it was useless. He forced me into the worst act and there was nothing I could do to stop him. I was so small, about five years old. I came back from my memories and I dropped to the ground and begun to cry like I cried in my memory. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I just sat there feeling helpless. Why had this happened to me? Why? I wasn’t a bad person.
I ran back to the house and demanded an explanation from Aunt Claire. I told her all that I had remembered. She held me as I cried and she begun to cry also and begged for my forgiveness. “Why? Why?” I asked her. After I was calm she begun to tell me what had happened the day that I remembered. She said, “You were such a beautiful little girl. The day that you remember, we went into town. Your mother, nana, John and I were at the market running some errands when this happened. When we got home you were in your room, curled up in a little corner, crying. Danny was hugging you, protecting you from what we didn’t know or expect. Tom had been drinking that day. It was his habit. He did stupid things when he was drunk. He beat me till he couldn’t anymore, till he was in bed and his kidney didn’t let him live any longer. No one, not even I could believe what he had done to you. We knew it was true because of all the scratches on his face and bite marks on his hands. This didn’t convince the court though so Tom only got a couple of months in prison. No one wanted to be believe what he had done, I also denied it completely, but I knew it was true.
That is why the family split up. No one ever came back here till now. John and Danny hated their father for what he had done. After that day nothing was the same. That bastard was lucky he didn’t get locked up in jail for life. Although he should have rotted in prison. Danny and John just grew up and fled from this place. John the studious one went out to collage as far away as he could. After that day nothing mattered to Danny. He got into trouble until he went to prison for drug dealing in the city. I guess he blamed himself. He blamed himself for not being able to protect you honey. Now I am alone because of my mistake and you are all that I have right now and I beg you to forgive my incredible mistake. Please forgive me Susan for being such a fool. Forgive me for leaving you alone that day with that monster. Forgive me for driving the family away. Forgive me for denying the truth that I knew all along.” She said.
“I forgive you Claire, I forgive you. I am so sorry, I’m so sorry for ruining everyone’s life.” I said. “You haven’t ruined anyone’s life. You’re a victim, like we all were. Don’t ever blame yourself,” she said, though sometimes I do.
...Now after a year I am driving my car up to the very place that once ruined our lives. I also finally learned to forgive Tom for what he did to me, though I can’t help to hate him sometimes. I must move on, I say to myself everyday.
I am going to visit Aunt Claire this winter, but this time Danny is coming along. I am going to pick him up at the penitentiary. He finally got parole. I went to visit him before going to New York. We talked and I told him “Danny, you can’t blame yourself for what happened to me. I love you and I thank you for trying to protect me, though you couldn’t. It’s time to move on.” I said. He broke down into tears and we hugged each other, but this time we didn’t feel helpless. Aunt Claire and I have planned a big family reunion for Christmas. I hope we can once again be the loving and strong family we once were. The North Shore is part of us whether we like it or not and time cannot erase the past, but we can change the future.