Home > We Are Okay(14)

We Are Okay(14)
Author: Nina LaCour

Gramps was very still. He stared into his teacup.

“I’ll look through some storage. See if I can find something.”

“That would be great.”

He opened his mouth to say something, but must have changed his mind. The next day after school when I came inside, he was waiting for me in the living room. He didn’t look at me.

“Sailor,” he said. “I tried but—”

“It’s okay,” I rushed in.

“So much was lost.”

“I know.” I was sorry I was making him say this, sorry to have brought back memories of what was lost. I thought of the way he yelled at my counselor. “You remind me to remember them?”

“Really, Gramps.” He still couldn’t look at me. “Really. It’s fine.”

I’d known better, but had asked anyway. I was sick with the way I’d upset him and sick, also, with the way I’d let myself hope for something that didn’t exist.

I walked along Ocean Beach for a long time, until I reached the rocks below the Cliff House, and then I turned around. When I was back where I started, I still wasn’t ready to go home, so I sat on a dune and watched the waves in the afternoon sun. A woman with long brown hair and a wet suit was nearby, and after a while she came to sit next to me.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m Emily. I was one of Claire’s friends.”

“Yeah, I recognize you.”

“He’s been coming here more often, right?” She pointed to the water’s edge, and there was Gramps in the distance, walking alone. “I hadn’t seen him for a long time. Now I see him almost every week.”

I couldn’t answer her. Besides his trips to the grocery store and his clockwork poker games, Gramps’s comings and goings were mysteries to me. I’d run into him on the beach a few times, but I wasn’t usually here at this time in the afternoon.

“He was a good surfer,” she said. “Better than a lot of us, even though he was older.”

Gramps never talked to me about surfing, but sometimes he’d make comments about the waves that showed he knew a lot about the water. I had suspected that he’d been a surfer at some point in his life, but I hadn’t ever asked him.

“There was this day,” Emily said. “A couple months after Claire died. Do you know this story?”

“I might?” I said, even though I didn’t know any stories. “Tell it to me anyway.”

“None of us had seen him out there since we’d lost her. It was a Saturday, and so many of us were out. He appeared with his board on the sand. Some of us saw him, and we knew that we had to do something. To show our respect, let him see our grief. So we got out of the water. We called out to the others, who hadn’t seen him. It didn’t take long until there was only him in the water, and all of us were lined up on the sand in our suits, watching. We stayed like that for a long time. I don’t remember how long, but we stayed like that until he was done. When he finished, he paddled back, tucked his board under his arm, and walked right past us, like we were invisible. I don’t even know if he noticed us there.”

He was closer to us now, but I knew that he wouldn’t look around and see me and I decided against calling to him. A wave crashed in, took him by surprise, but he barely tried to dodge it. It soaked his pants legs up to the knees, but he kept walking as though nothing had happened.

Emily’s brow furrowed.

“I know I don’t need to tell you this,” she said. “But it can be dangerous out here. Even just walking.”

“Yeah,” I said, and I felt fear rush in, compounding my guilt. Did I dredge up memories he’d worked hard to forget? Did I drive him out here with my request? “I should say something to him about it.”

She kept watching him. “He already knows.”

Chapter six

WE’RE WAITING AT THE BUS STOP in the snow.

Mabel was already showered and dressed by the time I woke up. I opened my eyes and she said, “Let’s go somewhere for breakfast. I want to see more of this town.” But I knew that what she really wanted was to be somewhere else, where it wasn’t the two of us trapped in a room thick with the things we weren’t saying.

So now we’re on the side of a street covered in white, trees and mountains in every direction. Once in a while a car passes us and its color stands out against the snow.

A blue car.

A red car.

“My toes are numb,” Mabel says.

“Mine, too.”

A black car, a green one.

“I can’t feel my face.”

“Me, neither.”

Mabel and I have boarded buses together thousands of times, but when the bus appears in the distance it’s entirely unfamiliar. It’s the wrong landscape, the wrong color, the wrong bus name and number, the wrong fare, and the wrong accent when the driver says, “You heard about the storm, right?”

We take halting, interrupted steps, not knowing how far back we should go or who should duck into a row first. She steps to the side to make me lead, as though just because I live here I know which seat would be right for us. I keep walking until we’re out of choices. We sit in the center of the back.

I don’t know what a storm here would mean. The snow is so soft when it falls, nothing like hail. Not even like rain so hard it wakes you up or the kind of wind that hurls tree branches into the streets.

The bus inches along even though there’s no traffic.

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