The boys were playing their games again.
The sun had risen, warm and inviting, after a week of hiding on the far side of the clouds, and they rushed to the surface, desperate to splash into the air, eyes shut against the blinding light. They held their breath and threw themselves high, spinning with the hands tucked around their knees before they came back down, head-first into the water. Then they swam hard, down deep, fins kicking, spilling bubbles after them, eager to cool off again.
From a distance, no one would be able to tell that the towel tied over her skirt was not part of the dress. Kindey assumed that that also meant that a quick look as she wove her way through the morning crowd on Deaver Street would also keep it hidden, and she pushed through on a long stride. If she kept her head high, even she didn’t see the towel, and she pretended she didn’t feel the rough fabric through the long tear.
Besides that, but it was only twenty minutes more until home, and after six hours, that hardly seemed like a stretch.
When Kindey turned off Deaver, she left most of the crowd behind, and hurried a little faster now that there was more space to see her. When she turned onto her own street, she left everyone behind, and she let out a happy breath, before gathering the edges of the towel in either hand with her skirt balled up underneath. Bolting for her front door, Kindey slammed through. She knew there was no hope of sneaking inside.
Thunderheads battled their way past the mountains, rumbling with the promise of a drenching. Looking up at them, Lilah quietly packed another shovelful of sand into the sack leaning against her knees. For once it looked like a promise they could keep.
The mountains usually had a way of turning a cloud’s head. No matter where the cloud had intended to go, the mountains caught and it, sliding it south along the ridge rather than letting it cross. What rain reached the valley on the other side came down in a misting, or sang in the river beds that wove down from the peaks. The rivers kicked a little more than usual in their beds, and no one in the town much minded the mild weather.
But the mountains singularly ignored the darkest clouds, as if they weren’t pretty enough for them. And these were plenty dark.
The beach was not a good place to hide. There was very little cover, though the few heavy rocks that scattered through the surf were pleasantly hulking and the wind was sharp enough to steal the sound of heavy running breaths and careful footsteps. It took too long to find that cover, and the soft sand took footprints jealously. Even the fierce wind that swooped in from the open water couldn’t swipe them away without a few hours persistence.
The sand near the water was harder packed, wet from old tides and beautifully dark. Soft steps could hide in the top layers, and the wind scoured them away quick enough. But it kicked up loose sand as well. Everywhere but the path of prints would be still and stoic, but wherever those careful prints had landed the sand would skitter and prance, the wind catching it by the hip and spinning it in a haphazard and happy country dance. The trail stayed obvious until the next tide came up to dampen the mood.
Amanda rarely packed for a trip more than twelve hours in advance. She had never forgotten something she couldn’t live without, and she had never been late for a flight, so she had no definitive proof that she needed to change that habit. However, packing at midnight was pushing it, and she knew that when selecting socks and shirts and shampoo became a metaphysical discussion.
It had started with a pair of flip flops. She bought them at the insistence of a friend, who told her that vacationing at a beach without flip-flops was like climbing Kilimanjaro without rope and harness. But Amanda couldn’t wear the flip-flops without frequently looking over her shoulder to make sure that the tapping noise she heard was not someone following her, and she rarely spent more than a few hours on the sand.
Except that time she’d gone to Greece. She had fallen in love with jewel blue water and thick sand, the force of the wind and the mixed smell of oranges and salt. Greek beaches had made her into a wader, and a sand-castle builder, and – at the end of two weeks – a tanned flip-flop wearer.
That gave Amanda a moment’s pause. But she was going to California, where the water was cold, and she expected to be more changed by the magnificence of the traffic.