Authors: Kathleen Rovner
As a whole, the town seemed like live pictures from a home and garden magazine. It was perfect. It felt unreal.
As a child she didn’t noticed it. But now, coming from a big city, it was as if every bench, plant, and walkway was placed just so. It was beautiful but sterile. Atlanta was real, grit and all.
People walking down the road watched their car as it went by and smiled or waved when they recognized her father. Julie remembered that her mother had introduced her to everyone she had met in town and on the beach. She’d forgotten that everyone knew each other here.
They turned away from the main part of town and headed along the main road. It stretched the entire length of the inside of the island, if she remembered right. The park they passed was dead center, where the long slash of land widened in the middle.
Along the way, neighborhoods with gated entrances ranged from Victorian to modern in theme. It was hard to see any homes. Trees and gardens obscured most of them, and it was mostly just rooflines.
After a few miles, they reached the end of the road. A turnabout planted with more trees and flowers stood sentinel in front of the last neighborhood. They turned before they got to that one. She recognized the gate from when she stayed as a child. It looked like a miniature turrets made of wood shingles and had yellow roses climbing across the iron grates.
This neighborhood was full of craftsman style homes. Every home was brick or stone, with wood shutters, shingles, eyebrow windows, and large, graceful front porches. They turned into one of the first ones, and Julie was a little disappointed that they weren’t directly along the beachfront.
Their new home was river stone and shingles. It had a wide porch surrounded by roses and lantana. There was an inviting wooden swing with red cushions that was large enough for lounging on. One side was rounded to mimic a tower. It was beautiful.
She hated it.
“I’m going for a walk.” She got out and slammed the car door. She left her bag in the car.
Jamie looked at her groggily as he woke up. Her dad nodded at her, his eyes meeting hers in the rear view mirror. He looked tired.
“You can check out the house and your room later. Do you think you can find your way back here?” her mom said with a false cheer. Her hands were opening and closing like she wanted to reach out for a hug.
Julie stared at her and shrugged. How lost could she get? She turned before Mom could pounce.
The car ride wore all the fight out of Julie. The apathy from earlier had returned while she slept. She didn’t feel like doing much of anything, especially unpacking her bag in her new room or hanging around her family. There was a path to the beach at the end of the road.
Julie started down the sidewalk. Gazing at the houses as she went, she was mesmerized by the yards. Each one blended into and complemented each other. The pretty houses blended into the background, letting the yards have center stage. It was weird. In Atlanta it felt like people focused on the size and details of the house and, as an afterthought, threw some shrubs in the ground. Many neglected to think about how a shabby yard detracted from a mansion.
She stopped, staring at a single bright pink flower struggling up between a few rocks and some kind of bright green trailing succulent that fell artfully around it. The pink was all the more brilliant against the green plant and gray rocks. It looked arranged, like a display her mom would buy in a pot to put on a table. Yet the flower had clearly grown up between the rocks on its own.
The quiet yards were a fairyland. It entranced her, soothing over her anger and bitterness—a balm against her family’s betrayal that blunted the desire to fight against being here even more. Before long she was humming one of her favorite dances, swaying to it as she walked, as if she were drugged.
When Julie reached the beach a few minutes later, she spun around in circles. Laughing, she plopped down on the sand, running her fingers through the sparkling white grains. She hadn’t felt this light and free since her parents had told her they were moving.
She should be furious still. What had gotten into her? A distant part of her mind called out. A curious feeling wound through her as if someone took a knife to cut through her anger. Warmth and contentment spread through her again.
The ocean sounded pleasant, and she liked the feeling of the sand between her fingers. The last rays of the sun lit the beach in front of her, but the sand was so white it seemed to glow, making the coming night brighter. The island was like another place, like it wasn’t part of the world. The calm of the beach, the soft lapping of waves creeping up from the world onto the perfect island, and its infant expanse almost lulled her into a trance.
“Hello?” A timid voice behind her asked.
Julie turned around. She felt so relaxed that a monster could have walked up behind her and she wouldn’t have been startled. A tall girl with striking blue eyes and long gold hair pulled back in a thick braid stood behind her. She looked about the same age, but for some reason Julie felt like she was somehow a child.
Was everyone here this beautiful? She knew that she was pretty enough, but no one here seemed old or ugly. The thought struck her, but it too seemed to slip away without care.
“My name is Kara. Are you Julie?” The girl asked, tilting her head to the side curiously.
Julie nodded. “Yes. How do you know that?”
“There aren’t a lot of new faces around here.” Kara smiled warmly. “I live a few houses down from you so I knew we were getting new neighbors.”
“Okay.” Julie was unsure how to respond. She wasn’t used to neighbors knowing that much about anyone.
“Can I sit with you?” the girl asked after a moment, tilting her head to the side again.
Julie shrugged and watched with suspicion as Kara lowered herself gracefully into a sitting position. “Are you a dancer?”
“Not really.” Her face was quizzical. It was obvious she was thinking this was an odd thing to ask. “Why?”
She lost interest in the girl as she stared out at the waves lapping peacefully against the shore. “No reason, it was the way you sat down. It was like a dancer might. You know, someone that has trained to be graceful. Not just plop.”
It sounded weird and lame to her as she said it and she looked over to see her response.
Kara was staring off into the water too, her face serene. “I used to dance when I was younger. I loved it, but I haven’t in a while now. I think it might be fun to do it again though. Do you dance?”
“Yes.” Julie didn’t say anything more. Her eyes started to well up. She was afraid she would start crying.
“I will ask Momma if we can both go to Muriel then. She is the best dancer on the island. I think she will like to have students again.” She looked at Julie, who was blinking rapidly. “Have I said something to upset you?”
“No, I just miss Atlanta,” she said quickly. The sound of the waves washed over her, and the urge to cry washed away with them.
Kara nodded. “I would miss my home too if I had to move. Will you go with me?”
Julie looked at the girl’s excited face and found that she didn’t want to disappoint her. Something about Kara seemed sad, even though her face looked serene.
To her surprise, Kara leaned over and hugged her tight, squeezing any thought of tears away. It felt like a couple of minutes before she let her go. Julie patted her on the back awkwardly.
“I knew when Momma told me you would be going to my school that we would be the best of friends. There are no other girls close to my age anymore. This is so exciting.”
Julie gaped at her. “What do you mean there are no other girls our age? The island isn’t that small. There have to be more girls than the two of us.”
“Well of course there are, but they all go to the other school now. They all left me behind.” Her voice cracked, and her features seemed to droop. Then her gaze seemed to grow dreamy, smoothing away any sorrow. “I’m sorry. I zoned out again. I do that a lot. What did you ask again?”
Julie’s mouth hung open, and she closed it. Her fists grabbed the sand under her as if she were hanging onto the ground for support. The sand crumpled under her hands. She had just seen Kara’s emotions evaporate—disappear, along with it the ability to remember what she was upset about.
Was that happening to her? Would she even know?
She felt a tug at the back of her mind. The thoughts that were making her upset started to slip away. She tried to concentrate on them, but it was too much effort. The sand and the waves were so peaceful.
“You know, I don’t remember.” Julie smiled. Her own face mirrored Kara’s tranquil one as her fears fell away. She found herself staring at her new friend, wondering what they were talking about.
Kara giggled. “I’m glad I’m not the only one to do that. I think we will be the best of friends.”
They sat and watched the water lap onto the sand over and over. It was so peaceful, so perfect here. The last of the sun’s rays died, and night fell. The moon painted the ocean and shore with a silver brush.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you at school.” Kara got up and brushed the sand off her pants. “I better get going since it’s dinner time. It was nice meeting you, Julie.”
Kara smiled as she turned to walk away gracefully. Julie wondered if she was a dancer. She would have to remember to ask her next time she saw her. She briefly wondered why she hadn’t asked her this time.
Chapter 8: New Rooms
ulie’s new room felt weird. There were no posters on the walls. And she didn’t feel like taking the time to do it. All of her old furniture had arrived that morning, but the walls were blank, except for the color—a cheerful yellow that darkened to almost orange in the corners. She didn’t like it.
While her room here didn’t have a window seat like her old room, it had something better. There was a small terrace outside her room, which had a spiral stair up to the roof. She shared the terrace with Jamie, whose room also led out onto it. On the roof, there was a place to lounge privately, and she could see the ocean through the treetops.
Somehow, a lot of her old clothes were lost in the move. They were mostly a lot of t–shirts and jeans, but she missed them. Mom had told her that they would go shopping later that day for school clothes.
After dinner last night, she had called Darcy and Mandy. Both were shocked at the sudden move and even more shocked that she was okay with it. They thought, like she had, that her parents excuse to move was a little overkill. They both promised to come visit this summer. She couldn’t remember much of the conversation after that.
It was odd that she would forget what they talked about. It happened last night. Was there something wrong with her? Her brow furrowed in worry. It wasn’t like her to forget things.
Outside one of her windows, a bird fluttered onto her windowsill. Its little brown head twitched back and forth. Julie stared at it as if fluffed its russet wings. It flew off a minute later.
What was she doing? She looked down to see a shirt in her hands. Oh, she was getting dressed to go out with Mom.
A nagging feeling throbbed in her mind, like she had forgotten something and it was on the tip of her tongue. She shook it off and pulled a t–shirt over her head, sure it was something lost with the move.
Her mother was waiting for her by the front door. She looked perfect, as always, wearing brown slacks and a teal top that complemented the auburn highlights in her hair.
She frowned. “Come on and let’s see if you have anything different to wear.”
“Um, I thought we were going shopping. What does it matter what I wear? This is comfortable,” Julie said defensively. She was confused. Her mom never made her change her clothes.
“Trust me, honey.” Andromeda pasted a smile on her face.
Julie opened her mouth to argue but then caught the way the light filtered through the window by the front door. The beam of yellow cut across the air. Tiny flecks of dust sparkled in it making it look magical.
“What were you saying, Mom?” she asked after a moment. “Did you want me to do something?”
“Come on, honey.” Her mother steered her up the stairs. Julie wondered why her mom looked so sad.
A few minutes later, they left the house. Julie was wearing a white peasant blouse and a short black skirt with large white flowers piped along the hem. Her long hair was pulled back by a clasp at her neck, a few tendrils loosened around her face. She touched the skirt idly as she sat in her mom’s Volvo, wondering why she had chosen to let her dress her up today.
“We are going to a store that a friend of mine owns. She is one of the few people I kept in contact after we moved to Atlanta. I think you’ll like her. I heard she has nice stuff. It is such a shame that most of your clothes got lost.”
Julie suppressed a grimace as they stopped in front of the store. It was on the edge of the town facing the perfectly manicured park. The outside had artfully whitewashed boards and bright blue shutters. She guessed it was supposed to look like a boutique you would find on a fancy beach boardwalk. The name Island Chic didn’t sound promising. It sounded stuffy, like it would be full of uncomfortable linen clothing.
The windows displayed outfits her mother would like. Slacks, silk blouses, and floral sun dresses. Linen. Of course. She hadn’t seen a single store that looked like it might sell jeans when they drove in yesterday.
She was angry that her clothes had to get lost and she couldn’t stay to pack them. Why were they here? She should still be furious.
Her fists clenched on the black fabric, and her fingertips tingled. She didn’t notice the tiny spark that jumped from her index finger and singed the black fabric.
“Come on,” Andromeda said.
Julie realized that she was staring dazedly at the front of the store. She could not remember what she was thinking about. She looked down at her hands, surprised. They were clenched into fists in the fabric of her skirt.
What was with her lately? She seemed to be zoning out a lot.