The beaches around Moultrieville suffered more erosion issues than those on the middle of the island. Breach Inlet battered the north end. The south end wrapped around toward the harbor, where multiple rivers flowed into the sea. The town and the property owners had set up stone jetties and retaining walls to defend the dunes and private property, and once the tide came in, there would be no beach left for Tipsy to wander. The waves would smack against the rocks and retaining walls. A huge, permanent signed warned of the dangers of the currents— SEVERAL DROWNINGS, DON’T BE NEXT.
So better get going, if you’re going to do it, said Granna.
So Tipsy walked the beach. She cleared her mind of everything but John Huger’s handsome face. She listened to the complicated rhythm of her heartbeat, the switch-switch of her flip flops on wet sand, and the wind jumping from one side of her head to the other as she craned her neck for any sign of a ghostly glow.
John Huger? Are you here? I need to talk to you. Do you remember Janie? She needs your help.
She walked as far as station nine and turned around, into the wind. Grains of sand stung her cheeks. The ocean slithered close, and then retreated in a babble of frothy giggles, as if Tipsy were playing tag with the waves and she was It. Lightning sizzled past the Ravenel Bridge, pale against the steel gray sky. For a few seconds, the bridge shone like the white skeleton of an abandoned fairy tale castle. A clap of thunder followed, making Granna jump. Her agitated presence rattled against the inside of Tipsy’s skull along with the reverberating thunder.
The water is coming in.
As if it had been waiting on Granna’s cue, the first wave of the incoming tide, warm and deceptively pleasant, sloshed over Tipsy’s feet. She picked up the pace, and looked at her phone. She’d tucked it into her bra to avoid the rain, but it was wet anyway, like the rest of her. She’d been walking for over forty-five minutes.
You got to get off this beach.
Just a little longer, Granna. I can find him. Tipsy climbed over a the jetty. She leaned down to keep her balance on the slippery rocks. A gull screamed at her. She jumped onto the sand and kept walking. She passed the sign for Station 13.
Tiffany! This beach is three miles long. The man could have died anywhere along here. He might not even be out here! You know most people go on. They don’t linger. Perhaps John Huger drowned and went on to his death with not a worry on his rich, spoiled, pretty boy soul.
How could he go to his death peacefully, if he had a part in Jane’s death?
She jumped as water covered her feet. When the waves came in, they hit mid-calf. The clouds above her head opened up, swollen gray water balloons pierced by the lightning prongs slicing the sky. Even if John Huger appeared, she might not be able to see him, unless his appearance coincided with a lightning strike.
She screamed for him inside her own mind, compelling him to come forward and solve her problems for her. Give her information that would bring peace to her home, and end her friends’ eternal speculation. She willed him to appear in front of her—the perfect model for her next painting, complete with handsome face and turbulent emotions and the beautiful background of the restless sea.
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