Ava arrived a bit sooner than I'd planned, but I certainly didn't mind when she sent me a text message saying that she and the Delmonts were on their way. I helped them bring their things up the elevator and into the apartment. Now there's a grand total of seven people and a dog staying here. Sometimes things get rather crowded, but mostly it's quite pleasant.
When I lived with my father, I always had to watch what I said. I don't know what I'd do if one of my family found out about what we're going through -- if some theories are right, exposing them would be disastrous. One slip, and I could be endangering their lives.
Here, there's nothing holding us back. It's not like any of us don't know what it is we're fighting. We can dig in, keep each other safe, and most importantly, be open. When one of us says, "It's a bad day," everyone else knows that they're not talking about minor trifles or a headache.
When people know what's wrong, and know how to handle it, it's easier to heal.
Ava and Violet have gotten on famously since they've met. Vi has never been the loud type, unless she's angry, but her dry, quiet remarks mirror Ava's wit beautifully. Zeke and Wren don't make many appearances; they mostly keep to their rooms or the balcony, and I think they may be plotting something. Tony and Cathy share their habits.
We could be a sitcom, I swear. Seven misfits, and a dog. We could fight crime.
Last night, I left the Gray Haven at midnight. Ocean City is far south enough in Maryland that it escapes most of the harsh, unpredictable weather of up north in the woods; the sky was clear, the wind just strong enough to ripple my sundress. We're very close to the Boardwalk, so I wandered down along the battered wooden planks, crowds of new high school graduates passing me, paying me no mind except for one or two boys with their friends who shot me half-drunken lascivious looks. I didn't really mind.
I took my iPod from my purse and put the headphones on as I wandered away and onto the cool sand of the beach. Taking my sandals off and stowing them in my purse, I walked along the threshold where the tide was slowly creeping up. Every now and again a big wave would come and soak my feet to the ankle.
Eventually, it got to the point where there weren't any other people out on the beach. Maybe that was unsafe, going out alone. But did anything compare to looking out at the ocean, gaze steady, feet sure, while the sand slowly melted with the waves around me?
My iPod was on shuffle. Over the headphones came the small, warm sound of a ukelele.
"I got troubles, oh, but not today,
They're gonna wash away, they're gonna wash away.
And I have sins, lord, but not today,
They're gonna wash away, they're gonna wash away --"
I felt someone step up beside me, too close to be a stranger. I looked over only to confirm it, but I already knew it was just him; sometimes being followed is as much a protective measure as a predatory one. I unplugged my iPod and hit play again, so that the music came out over the little speaker inside. I looked up at him; he was shaking his head, with a smile that said, You goof. You complete goof.
I laughed -- really laughed, out loud, the way people are supposed to laugh, giddy from the ocean and the beauty. A big wave came and water brushed the bottom hem of my dress; I yelped, stumbling backward, then spun and turned it into something almost like a dance.
Zeke laughed. I furrowed my eyebrows in a playful pout, dropped my purse in the sand, I ran back over to him, grabbing his hand and dragging him into my idiotic dance. With a smile, he corrected my hands, tried to guide my feet, spun me around.
Freedom, I realized. Aunt Michelle has given me so many things, but her greatest gift was freedom.
"Oh, I been cryin', oh, I been cryin'.
No, no more cryin',
No, no more cryin' here.
I got troubles, oh, but not today,
'Cause they're gonna wash away,
This old world is gonna take them away."