Maidens of the Sea
Summer break should be devoted to something big. Not like photographing every sunset, finding the perfect shade of nail polish, or seeing how many times you can watch The Fault in Our Stars and still cry big, but something really important. Like finding out what happened to Vanity Harrison.
I was two weeks into break and no closer to the truth, halfheartedly studying her house with my grandfather’s faded binoculars through a break in my curtains, my feet dangling off my bed, Fatty Fred happily purring on my back as he cut my lung capacity in half, when Mrs. Harrison drove up her circular driveway in the red convertible looking more like a Hollywood ingenue than a grieving mother had any right to. She parked in front of the elaborate Greek columns lining the exterior of the entryway and went inside. Just like normal. Just like she had everyday since she woke up and found Vanity gone.
“Gah! This is pointless, Fred.” I rested my chin on the edge of the bed, my arms hanging like weeping willow branches to the floor, and dropped the binoculars on the ground. I wanted to turn over and stare dejectedly at the ceiling, but I was at Fred’s mercy and he seemed pretty comfortable for the moment.
There was a soft knocking on my door before my dad pushed it open. I rolled my eyes. Luckily, he could only see my feet and Fatty Fred.
“Dad, you’re supposed to wait after you knock. What if I was naked?”
“It’s 10:30 in the morning. Why would you be naked?”
I rolled my eyes again. “That’s not the point.”
“Right. Privacy. Gotcha.”
I heard a creak, which meant he was leaning against my dresser and was actually planning on staying instead of just saying a quick hello. Apparently Fred thought so too. He stretched, before plopping off my bed and waddling out into the hall. I sat up and looked at my dad. He was tall and skinny like me but with a better tan. He was also wearing his fishing hat.
“No,” I said as firmly as I could.
“Hillary, you haven’t left this room in two weeks.” He scowled like Clint Eastwood, eyebrows coming down over piercing eyes.
“Sure I have. I’ve been to both the bathroom and the kitchen,” I said as if they were big things, like I had been to Everest and the moon.
“You know what I mean.”
I glared and chewed my lip. My dad threw up his hands and turned to face the wall. The picture of Van and me with ice cream on our noses, that had sat on my dresser since we were twelve, was turned around. He turned it back. I studied my feet. My toes really needed to be painted.
My bed sank as he sat next to me and put an arm around my shoulder, pulling me to him until I sighed and put my head on his shoulder. It was bony and dug into my cheek, but it was a comfortable discomfort, familiar.
“I know this is hard,” Dad began.
“No,” I interrupted. “Hard would be Van dead. At least I would have an answer. This…” I waved my hands searching for a word that described your oldest friend turning her back on you and morphing into a Megan Fisher clone before getting her ass handed to her at the school sing-off and disappearing into thin air the next day. “Whatever this is… It’s impossible.”
“The police are searching for her. Her dad even hired a private investigator. Hill, everything is being done to find her. Someone will find something.”
He squeezed my shoulder again and I wanted to believe him. I wanted that everyday for the past month. Problem was no one thought Mrs. Harrison had anything to do with it and I knew she did.
“Come fishing with me?”
“You need some fresh air.”
“I’ll open the window.”
“It’ll be fun.”
I lifted my head and scowled at my dad. “Lost friend or not, fishing is never fun.”
He sighed heavily. “Just come to the shore, walk the beach. I’ll even give you money for the arcade or something. Please come?”
Wow. Extra money. He must be really worried. I guess the beach was as good a place as any to look for clues.
“Fine. Give me ten minutes to get ready and I’ll meet you at the car.”
“Thank you,” he said rising and kissing me on the head.
“Thank you for shutting the door,” I muttered after he left.
I quickly changed into a swimsuit and jean shorts and grabbed a beach bag, stuffing the binoculars in just in case, before meeting him at the car. Thankfully, he blasted obnoxiously happy oldies all the way there and I kept my mouth full of apple, keeping the talking to a minimum.
We found a spot right up front since it was mid-week. Lucky us. It was nice day, the sun made the small ocean swells sparkle and a soft wind propelled the salty air into my hair. Dad grabbed his fishing gear from the back and started to head toward the pier as I stuffed my flip-flops into my bag.
“You sure you don’t want to fish?” He asked over his shoulder.
“If I change my mind, I know where to find you.”
“Right. Meet you for dinner at MacHouey’s?”
“Yeah. Sure.” I waved and started walking away before he decided to cancel fishing and do the concerned parent thing all afternoon.
If this was a normal summer, Van and I would be getting ice cream and watching the surfers from behind our sunglasses. Since she had gone over to the dark side, I had assumed she’d be at the Rocks smiling and flipping her hair with Megan Fisher as they all sang whatever song was getting overplayed while luring the surfers over to flirt with them.
“Hey, Hillary. Hold up.”
I turned, my mouth hanging open like a grouper. Mario St. Georges, who according to Van, was pretty much the hottest guy ever, bounded towards me. His board shorts rode low on his hips and the salt water glistened as it dripped down his bronze ab muscles. I swallowed hard. Van may have been right.
“Hi.” He smiled. Man, he had nice teeth.
“So you were friends with Vanity right?”
This should have been an easy question, but my answer froze on my tongue. Were we friends? I mean, of course we were friends before she ditched me. But if Van suddenly appeared on the beach, I’m not sure she would acknowledge my presence now.
“Sure.” There, that wasn’t too committal.
“Finally! The Rock girls acted like they had no idea who I was talking about, you know?”
Mario gripped my shoulder and leaned back, gesturing with his other hand. “Thank you. That’s what I’ve been saying.”
“Yeah. So what do you think happened?”
He let go of my shoulder but leaned in real close like I was about to reveal a big secret. His green eyes were glued to mouth.
“Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure it out and I pretty much have nothing. We hadn’t talked recently and when she didn’t show up at school after the sing-off, I just thought she was too embarrassed.” I could feel my cheeks heating as I realized how much I was venting to a boy I had never spoke to before, but when I looked up at him, he was nodding like he totally got me. “I didn’t even start looking for clues until her disappearance made the news.”
“I know, right?”
“Okay. I haven’t told anyone else this, you know? Because it’s crazy.”
It’s was my turn to lean into Mario, but he stopped talking and frowned over my head. I turned to see what he was looking at and had to put a hand up to shield my eyes from the sun. Mrs. Harrison was parking her red convertible. Megan and her mom were in the car too, along with Liz Parker, the girl who had ruinously out-sang Van at the sing-off.
“Aca-scuse me?” I squeeked.
“Sorry. Not you. That!” I said shaking my head toward the car.
“Oh, yeah. I know, right?”
We watched as they all glided out of the car and headed down the beach toward the Rocks. Mrs. Harrison paused for a moment as her head turned toward Mario and me, but with her sunglasses on I couldn’t tell if she was actually looking at us.
“Would you meet me tonight?” he asked, his eyes squinting into the sun as he watched them walk away.
“Uh.” My mouth was in grouper mode again.
“So I can tell you what I found, you know? Secretly.”
“Sure.” I can totally tell my dad to leave me at the beach so I can meet up with a older, wicked hot surfer boy who wants to share secrets with me. I smiled. I could think up something to tell my dad. “Where?”
“At the pier? Around 8? I can drive you home after?”
“Cool. See ya.”
I sighed as I watched him walk back to the waves. He grabbed his board from another surfer and ducked under an incoming wave. I had to stop myself from waving at him. Van would be so jealous when I told her about this, if I ever got to.
To be continued…
For more poetry by WB Yeats, please read his collections online or at your local library. Poem © Copyright, William Butler Yeats 1899. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the Creative Commons License.
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