(Excerpts not in publication format) 


            Morgan’s long copper curls were carried high into the warm salt air before falling to her slender shoulders.  The day was perfect.   Her husband, Robert, had coerced her to bring the family out for an afternoon of sailing.  Robert always insisted on testing every boat that left his shipyard, but this one was entirely unique, as he had designed and built it especially for his family. Morgan initially protested.  Bringing the children to sea always carried a risk, but the beauty of the day seemed to override any concern.  The midday sun sent shimmers across the smooth South Carolina water.  Smiling to herself, she was glad that she had relented.

            Robert emerged from below with two cold drinks in hand.  After so many years, he still looked at his wife with a fire in his eyes that any woman would desire.  The love they shared was rare indeed.  Morgan had the life most of “her kind” could only dream about.  A family such as this was uncommon in the world in which they were born.  She smiled as she watched their two children holding onto the rail of the bow.  Her son, who had the appearance of an eight-year-old, but the demeanor of a child much older, barely seemed to fit into the life she had chosen for him. Morgan wondered how long William could pass for a normal human boy.  He towered over his little sister who had just turned two.  They were so beautiful–too beautiful. Morgan scowled.  How long could she keep them hidden away?  She had thought it would be easy to blend into this life, and yet, recent events only proved how impossible that challenge would be.

            “Why don’t you pose with the children for a picture?”  Robert said to his wife as he pulled out a small camera from his pocket. “They are growing so quickly, and we hardly have any pictures of Madeline.”  Morgan smiled faintly at the young beauty whose light copper curls hung almost as long as her own.  He was right; there were few pictures of the children and none whatsoever of the pair together.   

            “Alright.  I suppose there isn’t any harm in a few pictures.”  She took their hands lovingly and turned along the bow’s railing to pose. 

            Robert raised the camera snapping several shots, when the look on his wife’s face caused the camera to slip from his fingers, banging off the deck and into the water below.  The look of terror could only mean one thing: somehow they had been discovered.    As he turned, he saw the malice–filled eyes of the dark-haired beauty behind them.  It was the face he had always feared would come.   The same creature whose eyes would often keep him from his slumber.   He was instantly overpowered by the pungent smell of gasoline. 

            “Morgan!”  He screamed, but she was already a blur of motion.  In one powerful move, she cast both children far from the vessel and into the churning waters below. 

            Their almost perfect world enveloped in flames.



  (Exerpt from Chapter 1)


                         “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

                                      –C.S. Lewis

             I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or awake.  I knew logically it had to be a dream, as I was swimming and I don’t swim … ever.  The ocean waves spilled over me as I was drawn farther and farther away from the shoreline.  I closed my eyes and leaned back into the flowing current.  My body felt strong, alive.  Smiling, I went to kick my legs, but something stopped me.  Frantically, I realized something had a hold of me.  I wanted to scream, but the panic trapped my voice deep in my throat.  Long, thin, white fingers had wrapped themselves around my ankles, pulling me farther out to sea.  I struggled and turned to get a better look at my captor.  Long flowing brown hair framed what appeared to be the enchanting face of a woman. But as she turned to me from under the depths, I could see her eyes-green glowing, bright and evil. My panic became unbearable as I struggled to scream for help, but no sound would escape my lips.

             The creature began to pull me under, her fingers tearing into the skin just above my ankle.  I started to scream in pain, but the salt water rushed into my lungs.  I began to panic as my lungs burned for air.  And then, a small strong hand not much larger than my own stretched out to me from beneath the water.  It grabbed hold of my hand, and with powerful strokes began to pull me toward the shore.  I opened my eyes trying to see the face of the one rescuing me, but it was impossible to see through the swiftly-moving surf.  Unable to stop the powerful strokes of my protector, the creature still trailing from my ankle, released me with a malicious bloodcurdling screech.

             I awoke in a sweat, still shaking and trying to catch my breath.  I didn’t usually dream, and rarely about this.  But when this nightmare managed to slip into my sleeping thoughts, it was always the same, down to each vivid detail.  I brushed the tears from my cheeks, my heart still pounding in my chest.  “It was a dream,” I reminded myself, but a dream that once had been all too much a reality.  I was eight at the time of the incident.  And just like in my dream, the one who saved me remained as much a mystery to me as the creature who tried to take me, leaving only the horrifying memory and the scars on my ankle to prove that it had actually happened.  I was safe, I reminded myself, but not unscarred. Water was now my constant fascination, obsession even, and yet I had not ventured out into it since that ill-fated day.

             My family had been supportive, but dismissed the whole ordeal as my imagination running wild.  They, of course, could not discount the deep scratches to my ankle, which they thought could have been caused by some type of large fish or fisherman’s net that had been broken free entangling me as it drifted through the surf.  I knew the truth.  Something was out there–something not quite human, something evil. 

            But also couldn’t help but remember the hand that had intertwined tightly into mine, pulling me to safety.  Though it wasn’t much larger than mine, it was stronger–possibly a boy’s hand.  When I was younger, I would allow my childlike mind to imagine it could have been a mermaid, and I spent many hours doodling pictures of what my rescuer could have looked like.  The entire incident, however, only seemed to upset my parents–especially my mother, so I learned to keep my drawings and my thoughts to myself.  It was easier that way, and so I tried to forget.  Over the years I even tried to convince myself that I had been mistaken.  The world is a far easier place to live in if you pretend that such things don’t really exist, but deep down, I knew.   I was usually able to suppress the memory from my daily consciousness, but certain things are impossible to erase from your mind, no matter how many years pass, and this was decidedly one of them. 

            I pulled out the grey leather-bound book that I often carried with me and began to jot down some details of my dream.  The book wasn’t a journal exactly, more of a miscellany of poetry, quotations, and thoughts.  Most of the journal writings were my own, but it also included writings of other authors–all things that I didn’t want to forget.  As disturbing as it was to relive the details in the dream, I didn’t want to lose even the smallest detail of it.  Any kind of evidence that could help explain what had happened to me so long ago would be worth remembering.

             I pulled my white jeep into one of the only remaining spaces in the back of the West Florence High School parking lot–late again.  Great!  I could see Caleb’s jaw harden as he flashed an angry look in my direction. Luckily, my younger brother held his temper as he pulled his overstuffed book bag out of the jeep.  I tucked the strand of blondish-brown hair that had fallen loose back behind my ear and bit my lower lip.

            “Sorry Caleb, I will try to do better.” I tightened the belt of my long grey sweater coat, and braced for the worst. Caleb hated to be late, and this was the third time I had made him late this week.

            His expression softened a little.  “Three more months and I will be trading in this permit for a real license! And believe me, I am counting the days!”  I could see he was still heated, but he kept his anger in check as he hurriedly gathered his belongings.

            "Am I really so bad?” I stepped out of the jeep and cocked my head to the side, my lips curled in an over exaggerated pout.

            Any remaining anger vanished as he tossed my book bag in my direction and loosely draped his arm around me.  I wasn’t sure if the gesture was to move me more quickly toward the school building or if it was his attempt at some sort of an apology.

             “Nah, just hate that you have to tote me around and wait for me after school, that’s all.”  Caleb had a thoughtful side that made him quite charming. 

             I don’t mind waiting for you.  It gives me some extra time to read,” I shrugged as he pulled me closer to the school building.

             “Um yeah, speaking of which, if you would go to bed earlier and not spend half the night with your face in a book, we actually might be able to make it to class on time.”  He was right.  It was impossible to pull myself out of bed in the mornings when I had spent almost the entire night immersed in the unprincipled adventures of Becky Sharp.  Vanity Fair was to blame this time.  The book had recently been added to my list of favorites.  It was easy to relate to the plight of a heroine who struggled to find her place in the world.   I never seemed to fit in anywhere. 

          “Sorry.  I promise to get up earlier tomorrow.”  It was a promise I’d made many times before.

            He shook his head in disbelief and gave me a reluctant smile as we walked into the large outdated building that apparently would be our school for the next few years.  As he walked away, I notice he looked back over his shoulder with an expression that was new to me.  Was it pity?  Had I become so socially reclusive that even my little brother felt sorry for me?

        This was our sixth new school together since kindergarten, equating to six new towns and countless displaced friendships.   The few friends we’d made over the course of our childhood were always left behind.  As a result, we learned early to mostly depend on each other, but recently things had changed.  Caleb had become quite involved in sports, so I was left on my own a lot.  Being alone had never bothered me.  In fact, on most days solitude was my preference.  I had little need for the constant companionship and relentless affirmation that so many other silly teenage girls sought.  I was different.  It wasn’t that I was unattractive. I knew that some people even thought me pretty, but a certain awkwardness kept me at a distance from others.  Eventually most of my classmates seemed to accept this, and they no longer bothered trying to form a close friendship with me.  I had tried on occasion, and sometimes successfully, to form female friendships, but, none lasted more than a year or so. They would eventually grow bored with my lack of interest in the friendship, and we would fall into mere acquaintances. 

            As a child I had longed for a “Diana” like one of my favorite book characters, Anne Shirley, had found in Anne of Green Gables, But as the years had passed, I realized that such a person didn’t exist–not for me anyway.  It became easier to stop trying to “fit in” than to deal with the constant feelings of insecurity and inadequacy associated with being a teenaged girl.  It didn’t seem to bother me.

            My first few weeks at West Florence High had been much the same, with one exception.  Caleb, who was naturally shy, really seemed to have come out of his shell.  He now held a starting position on the soccer team and had made some real friends.   His dark hair and features, combined with a small but fit frame, made him quite attractive.  I was genuinely thrilled that he’d finally found a place that made him happy.  I was surprised that some girl hadn’t seen what was so plainly obvious to me, as I couldn’t recall him ever having a serious girlfriend.      

             When we first arrived, I had immediately gained some unsolicited attention from some of the boys, as any remotely attractive new girl would do.  The most persistent of the group was Blake Lakely, all-around jock, handsome, and for all intents and purposes a pretty nice guy.  After breaking most of the school’s football records, he’d added track to his list of accomplishments by breaking the county’s 400 meter dash record of 49.68 seconds.  He was kind, funny, and very likeable.  I accepted his friendship with caution, as by no means did I want to encourage him, especially with his ex-girlfriend Jennifer Mason shooting daggers at me anytime he was close by.  Jen was unbelievably beautiful.  To call me plain beside such a great beauty would be an understatement.  She could easily grace the cover of any magazine. I knew the type well: platinum blonde, head cheerleader, prom queen–the works.  She fell into every cliché imaginable and promptly put me on her hit list as soon as she discovered Blake’s attentions toward me.   But despite her glares, Blake’s attention toward me only increased.

            All of West Florence’s sports congregated on a large field after school for practice.   Funding for sports in smaller schools such as this one was scarce, so the field was home to most after-school athletics.  The soccer team was set up on the northeast end.  The football team was on the southeast end.  Track and field took up most of the west side of the field, and the band took over the back parking lot.  The cheerleaders practiced off to the side of the football area. Several small sets of bleachers set up between the soccer field and track arena.  No bleachers were needed near the football practice field, as all of our football games were played off campus at a local college’s stadium. I waited patiently, and quite content, on one of the sets of bleachers after school each day for Caleb during soccer practice, always immersed in my latest book.  Blake was practicing with the track team since football season had ended and was in rare form as he kept desperately trying to draw my attention from my book. 

            “MARGO!”  He waved in my direction as he passed by the bleachers. I tentatively returned the wave but continued reading.  “MARGO WESTLEY!”  His words grew louder as he passed again.

             I looked up from my book briefly to see Blake successfully jump over a hurdle.  He looked back in my direction for some type of affirmation.  Not to be rude, I flashed a quick smile at him and returned once again to my book, trying to hide my growing aggravation.  On his third lap around he seemed to grow more determined.

             “HEY MARGO!”  He was loud enough this time to draw attention from the other students on the field.  My face flushed as I noticed too many pairs of eyes now looking in my direction.  I looked up to find that Blake had now left the track lane with the other runners for a lane with more hurdles.  I watched as he leapt over three hurdles in a row before his foot getting caught on the fourth, causing him to stumble hard to the ground.  I instinctively wanted to jump up to check to see if he was alright, but thought it would be less of an embarrassment for him if I pretended not to have seen his fall.  But Jen had seen it and rushed over to the track protectively.  He brushed her off completely and continued running.  Jen, unaccustomed to being given “the cold shoulder,” glared over at me in the bleachers.  I took a deep breath and braced myself as she glided across the field toward me.  Her eyes glared with anger.   I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of those horror flicks where the cheerleader becomes possessed by a zombie.  She looked as if her head might spin around at any second, and I am pretty sure actual smoke was coming from her ears.   

           “You know, Blake and I’ve been together for like, forever.  We’re just on a ‘break’ right now.”  Her angry beautiful smile loomed over me.  I looked up at her blankly not really knowing how to respond.  That was the best she could come up with? 

            “Um, ok. Good.  He seems to be a nice guy.  I’m happy for you both.”  My response seemed to just anger her more.  She flipped her silky strands back and continued her mini-tirade. 

            “What I mean is … everyone knows he’s off limits.”  She didn’t smile this time but held her eyes firmly on mine.  I noticed that Caleb seemed to be finishing up on the soccer field, and I needed any excuse for an escape. 

            “Yeah well, that’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned.  I’m really not interested.”  I stood without meeting her glare and started to leave, but absentmindedly tripped on my book bag at my feet.  Great! Could I get any more awkward!

            She took on a sweet exaggerated tone.  “You know, cheerleading tryouts start tomorrow for next year.  Are you planning to come?”  Seriously!  They held tryouts this early?  It was only the beginning of March.  Surely she didn’t really think that I was coming to tryouts. 

            “Um, no–not really my kind of thing.” Actually, trying out for cheerleading was about the last thing that would ever cross my mind.  I put my book in my book bag and began to walk away.

            “Yeah, I really didn’t think so.” She looked me up and down again.  I wanted to hide under the bleachers. “You don’t look much like the athletic type.”  I looked back up at her to find her crystal blue eyes staring at me.  It was true.  I had been born with “two left feet,” but the way that she looked me over infuriated me. The full effect of her intentionally spiteful comment took me by surprise.  I felt a surge of anger travel through me, something unexpectedly fierce inside of me began to boil.  Other girls like Jen had been at my past schools, but none had set a target on me quite like she did.  I looked down at my knuckles.  They were white, as my hands were now coiled tightly into fists.  I continued down off of the bleachers, trying hard to ignore her.

            I thought I was successful until I heard her mutter, “Like she could ever play a sport.  Someone needs to go back where they came from.” She was spitefully laughing at me.  I snapped. Surprising even myself, I swiftly turned back to where she stood still looking at me smugly.

            “Huh, I didn’t know that shaking pompoms even qualified for a sport.”  I shot back at her as I turned and briskly walked across the field toward the parking lot without giving her a chance to reply. It was the best that I could come up with.  I was new to this kind of banter.

         I would have time to regret the comment later.  So much for flying under the radar; I was sure to be moved now from the hit-list to the firing squad. The truth was that I really did appreciate the amount of work and athleticism that some of the really talented girls possessed.  I thought many of them were quite amazing, but I went with the only retaliation that I could come up with on the spot.

             Caleb ran up beside me as I moved briskly toward the Jeep.  Sensing my anxiousness, he looked back over his shoulder at Jen and the rest of the cheerleading squad who were now all looking angrily in my direction.

             “Uh oh–what did you do now?”  His words were both lighthearted and genuinely concerned.

             “Just managed to piss off the entire cheerleading squad,” I said as I hoisted my book bag into the Jeep. 

             “Nice!” He jumped in the passenger side. “Guess I will never get a date for the prom!” he laughed.

             “Not a chance,” I replied less cheerfully, but I couldn’t help the smile that escaped as we pulled out of the parking lot.





(Exerpt from Chapter 2)


~The cure for anything is

saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea.

                      ~Isak Dinesen

          “Well, that’s the last bag I can manage to cram in there!”  Caleb gave an extra push to the duffle bag he had just stuffed in the back of my jeep.  My grandmother returned home just after my release from the hospital to get the house ready for my arrival, but I remained for a few extra days to make the last preparations.  “No changing your mind at this point I guess.” He gave a weak smile in my direction.

          “No … hey, thanks for helping me pack.”  I couldn’t look him in the eyes.  “Guess I’ve made you late for school one last time.”  I smiled.  I had already said my goodbyes to Lucy and my parents earlier, but long after they were off to work and school, Caleb still remained.  He scuttled around buying time, despite the fact that most of my bags were packed and loaded already.  It was as if he sensed a changed that the others had not.

          “Nah - I don’t mind a tardy slip.  Not today anyway.  Guess this is where we part ways huh?”  He shuffled his feet against the uneven driveway pavement.

          “Caleb, you know it’s not like that.  Seriously, we will see each other all of the time.”  Even through my words, I knew he was right in so many ways.

          “Yeah, I know, it’s just that … we have always been in school together.  It’ll be a little odd knowing that you aren’t there.  What I mean is …”

          “I know.”  I wrapped my arms around my little brother, burying my face into his lean collar.  His always-tanned skin smelled of fresh soap.  I closed my eyes as if to make it a memory.  Whenever I would smell fresh soap, I would remember Caleb and this very moment.  “You can do this you know … without me.  This is the right place for you.  I just have to find the right place for me too.”

          “Yeah, guess I’ve known deep down for a while now this was coming.  I’ll miss you.”  He playfully pushed me away, before grabbing me tightly for one last hug.  Caleb opened the door of the jeep hanging on it just a bit.  It was rare that this type of emotion passed between us, but we both knew the significance of my departure.

          “Me too.  Take care of mom and dad … Lucy too.”  I climbed into the front seat of the Jeep and Caleb reluctantly passed over the keys.

          “Are you sure you’re well enough to drive … I could drive you down.”

          “I’m fine.  I promise.  I’ll call and leave a message when I get there. Love you.”  The engine roared as I turned the key.  “Call me too … okay.”

          “Okay, now get outta here before I start crying.  I have a reputation to uphold!”   We both knew that we had reached a turning point.  He was now on his own, and I was about to embark on my own adventure.  It was the first time that we had ever been apart.  “Love you too.” He mumbled and turned away.  It was too much for both of us.

          I didn’t look back as I pulled out of the drive, but I knew he was still watching from the curb.

          The marsh air hit my lungs as I approached the bridge.  The scent that was repulsive to most visitors was intoxicating to me.  I giggled to myself.  I was here!  I checked the time on the jeep’s radio, as I never wore a watch. The drive had taken only about an hour and forty minutes.  Not a bad drive after all!

          The air was remarkable warm for early March, but a cold bite still lingered in the air.  I regretted not being able to let the top down.  I looked out over Murrells Inlet as I made my way over the tiny bridge that connected Garden City to the mainland.  Breathtaking! 

The sun was still high overhead, its blinding beams glistening across the water.  The tide appeared to be falling as the reeds were barely beginning to trace the canals.  There could be no place on earth more beautiful.

          The Garden City pier marked my turn onto the beachfront strip.  My heart raced at the sight of the ocean waves peaking between the beachfront homes. Just over a mile to go and I would be there!  The faded blue paint could just been seen in the distance as the jeep edged slower and slower in the direction of Grandmother’s house, aptly named Inlet Joy.  It was much older than most of the properties that surrounded the area.  Amidst the large newly built vacation homes, it stood timeless - like a pearl amidst a collection of gemstones. 


          My grandfather, Steven Westley Sr. began building the Inlet Joy in the mid 1960’s as a present to my grandmother.  My grandmother, Sara Askins, had grown up just over the inlet on the far end of the creek.  She was the daughter of a local fisherman, but much of her childhood remained a mystery.   All I really knew about her childhood was that her father worked hard as a fisherman and saved just enough to help get her through college, a rare occurrence during her day.  Apparently soon after she left for college, her childhood home on the inlet caught fire and burned to the ground.  Her parents didn’t rebuild.  Instead, they moved to the upstate, far away from the coast.  My grandmother never revealed the details behind the family’s relocation, and we never pressed her on the subject.

          It was during her time in college that she met my grandfather, a former army Lieutenant who had just returned home from WWII.  He had already purchased a small farm and was doing quite well by the time she finished school and they married.  The money he saved was wisely reinvested to purchase other properties in the area, which he rented out to other farmers for extra income.  Sara worked as a teacher at the local elementary school.  They were by no means wealthy, but lived quite comfortably.

          Sara rarely spoke of her life growing up on the inlet, but my grandfather could sense her love for the area, and had repeatedly tried to take her to vacation there.  She refused even to return for a visit.

          So he took matters into his own hands, after many years of hard work and saving he finally had enough money saved to buy some land on the inlet.  Land was quite inexpensive then, and his adoration for her unparalleled. It was to be a surprise anniversary gift.

          For almost a year my father and grandfather would sneak away to work on the house.  My grandfather hired a foreman to oversee his own farm and properties thus making it possible to work on the Inlet Joy without her notice.  But when the project was complete, and its name hung so prominently on the front of the house, no one could have anticipated Sara’s strong reaction to the surprise.  She immediately burst into tears and left, refusing to return despite my grandfather’s disappointment. 

          She demanded the place be sold at once. My grandfather, not realizing the cause of her objection, but aware that he had somehow unearthed extremely painful memories for her agree to sell it. It wasn’t until his untimely death years later that she discovered that it had remained unsold and untouched for so many years.  Much to everyone’s surprise, she left her home in the upstate and returned, now alone, to Murrells Inlet to live in the Inlet Joy.


          I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled into the drive.  My earlier observation was confirmed as I looked over the majestic inlet so perfectly settled behind the house - the tide was indeed falling.  Perfect!  High tide would be around sunset, the most beautiful time of the day. 

          It had been seven months since my last summer stay, but everything was just as I remembered.  The house wasn’t large, just three small bedrooms and two bathrooms.  Adjacent to the screened porch was a storage room that had been turned into a rather small bedroom for extra sleeping quarters.   When Lucy arrived, I made my summer quarters this small room so that I would not wake her.  Within the first summer I had fallen in love with the room, despite the inconvenience of not having a private bath.  It was close enough to feel assured of my safety, but far enough to give me some sort of independence.

          My grandmother was rocking on the front porch anxious for my arrival.  She rushed downstairs to meet me as soon as the jeep hit the shale drive.

          “You’re here!  I honestly can’t believe it.” She clasp her hands together in delight before hugging me.

          “Yeah, pretty unbelievable huh?”  I grinned back at her before opening the door.

          “How are you feeling?  I was concerned that you may not feel well enough to make the trip.”  She tugged loose a bag from the back of the jeep.

          “No, I honestly feel fine.”  Actually I was feeling better than fine.  It was remarkable how my strength had improved just from being down here. I am pretty sure driving so soon after my hospital stay should have been out of the question, but the doctor’s hadn’t said anything about it, and quite remarkably neither had my parents.

          “Well, let’s see if we can get some of this unloaded, but let me know if you start feeling tired.  We don’t have to get it all right away.” She grabbed another smaller bag and headed toward the house.

          “No, I am feeling pretty great actually.”  I pulled out several bags and headed toward the steps.  She proceeded up the steps and turned to open the door to the house.  “Oh, grandmother, I was planning to stay in my room out here.” I turned toward the tiny room off of the porch.

          “Marguerite honey, it isn’t practical for you to stay out here when we have other rooms inside.”

          “I know, but this has always been my room.  I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.  Besides, my family will be coming so frequently now that I am here that they will need the inside space.  I think it would be more inconvenient to have my space invaded by Caleb each time they come for a visit.”

          “Alright, alright - I suppose you make a good point.  I had a feeling that you would feel that way so I put fresh linens on the bed just in case.  Let me know if you change your mind.”  She smiled as she put the bags just inside the door and left.

          My room, though small, was perfectly suited for me.  My grandmother had decorated it much the same as the rest of the house.  There were a variety of shells from floor to ceiling, and a collection of mismatched nautically inspired treasures that she had excitedly unearthed down at the local market.  In the center of the room was an antique metal bed covered with a white handmade spread.  It was saturated, like the rest of the room, with the salty marsh air.  There was a small nightstand table next to an old wooden dresser, with a corner closet built in across from the bed. 

          The most prominent feature of the room was a large double window that framed the breathtaking view high above the inlet.  Who would trade a larger space for this magnificent view?  I quickly opened the sheers to allow the natural sunlight to stream into the space.

          I had spent almost the entirety of my summers in this room since I was eleven. By the end of each summer, the room was distinctively my own with a variety of books, writings, and several unfinished paintings adorning the small space.  When I left at the end of last summer, I took only my clothes and books.  I was happy to find everything remained just as I had left it months earlier.  It was my own personal haven.   It was simple, cozy - I felt like I belonged there. 

          My grandmother and I retrieved the remainder of the bags from the jeep, and I spent the rest of the day getting my belongings settled into the room.  The task was not tedious, and I enjoyed combining my two worlds that had been separate up until this moment.  I was certain my grandmother would have loved to help, but she thoughtfully occupied herself with other things to allow me the privacy.  Thankfully she was the type who had a keen sense of when she was needed, and when I preferred to be alone.  We had perfected this through the years.  It was one of the many reasons we got along so well.  There was no need for her to entertain me, and though I was sure my presence provided companionship, she seemed content as well just to have me near.

          By dinner, my room was completely situated and looked as if I had been living there for ages.  My books were once again returned to the shelf above my bed.  My clothes were either neatly folded in the chest or hanging in the closet.   All of my music and family photographs filled the new bookshelf in the corner, and everything else had been stored neatly in the bins under my bed. Perfect!

          Dinner was, of course, all my favorites - a mix of my grandmother’s specialties.  The table was adorned with seafood smorgasbord of sautéed shrimp, baby scallops, fried flounder, homemade slaw, and hushpuppies.  For dessert she had prepared her prized pecan pie.  She celebrated the joy of my arrival the best way she knew how - in the kitchen.  I was touched.  I ate as much as I possibly could to satisfy her, and then helped her clean up the kitchen. 

          After dinner I was anxious to walk over to the beach, as I had not been out on the shore since my arrival.  But as soon as I walked out on the porch, I was reminded of the fact that it was still early March.  The sun hung on the horizon and I knew that it would soon be dark along the beach without the benefit of the lights from all of the vacant summer rental houses.  The temperature had dropped substantially, and a strong wind was blowing in from the north.  I would have to wait until daylight to enjoy the beach, but decided to walk down to the dock.  I carried my journal, scribbling my words by the last light sunlight of the day. 


          “The old wooden boards moaned with the sway of the tide and creaked with each step I made along the planks.  Such sounds played like music as if to welcome me back from my long absence.  The sun was settling for the night, its rays slowly retracting their golden arms in preparation for slumber.  I watched the majesty in blissful solitude as the sun finally dropped from sight.  All doubt was erased.  I was home.”

               A gentle hum could barely be heard off in the distance; slowly growing louder at the approach of a small beautifully crafted wooden boat winding among the marsh canals.  Through the dim shimmer of nightfall, I could see the driver.  I recognized him immediately, as I had seen him often through the years, but rarely up close.  Since he was a young boy I had spied him – always alone, moving through the inlet water in this beautiful vessel.   The image of him always stuck with me as beautiful - a young boy, alone in a timeless boat, exploring the inlet waters - alone.  Years earlier, I had even painted an image that remarkably resembled my memory of the boy in the boat along the waterway, but I only now realized the connection.  It was he that I had painted.  His strong features were impossible to forget.  He looked much older than I remembered, and far more handsome than I could have imagined from a distance.  Since my childhood I could rarely recall being out on the water without a glimpse of him.  He was always easy to spot in the small wooden boat that seemed to belong in a much earlier era.            He never smiled as he passed, but would often stare over at me through deep green eyes that seemed to sparkle from the light bouncing off of the water.  His dark tousled curls fell just above his ears and bronzed skin seemed to gleam through the quickly darkening sky. He was stunningly beautiful, but as a girl I always thought him quite odd.

            He spied me immediately but his boat did not slow as he passed. He looked over at me, his beautiful eyes piercing mine, but his expression was far from friendly.  He didn’t seem at all surprised to find me standing there, and glared at me with an expression far colder than the evening air that had already begun to cool with the setting sun.

            And then, as quickly as he had arrived, he once again disappeared back into the canals as if the dark water swallowed him.

             I sighed.  Great!  I’m already making friends here, I thought sarcastically as I suddenly remembered why I though the boy odd.  Each time I had seen him, his face always held the same cold expression.  I wasn’t sure if it were just me that he didn’t like, or if it was everyone. I could not deny that I myself was far from a “social butterfly”, but at least I wasn’t rude. Wonder what it could be about my presence that seemed so offensive to him?  I tried to brush him from my mind completely as I headed back toward the house, but I found that more difficult than anticipated.  There was something in his eyes that seemed to stick with me far longer than I cared to admit.

                After a few games of cards and a crime drama on the television, my grandmother politely headed to bed.  I did the same, but I couldn’t sleep.  My body felt wide awake.  Those who rise early usually are early to sleep, but I was a night owl through and through. 

           I wrapped myself in the ancient cotton sack quilt that adorned the base of my bed, and quietly stepped on to the back porch.  I cozied into my favorite of the four faded wooden rockers.  The evening air wrapped around me, leaving me giddy - drunk - from its heady scent.  All was dark except for a few dim lights that stretched across the waterway, and the moon that reflected beams of light across the smooth surface. 

          The inlet had a beautiful eerie feeling in the off-season.  It was too early for the vacationers, too late for the fishing charters.  All was quiet except for the gentle lapping of the current against the seawall.  The inlet’s belly was so full that all of the marsh reeds were now completely hidden from the night.

          The cool wind whipped through the thin screens that covered the porch as I wrapped the quilt tighter around my body.  The adjacent homes were all vacant, as they were not rented out and rarely occupied by their owners outside of the warm summer months.  There was one in particular that kept drawing my attention - the Merri Mac.  All was quite there - too quiet.  I was reminded of the summers here before the Leighton’s had arrived. 

(One page description of the Leighton’ family and introduction of her best friend James)


          I looked out over the moonlit waterway one last time before heading off to bed.  I had often dreamed of living here, and now my wish was granted, but I suddenly realized that something was missing – James.

                Sleep did not come.  I tossed and turned over and over begging for it to take me, but still I remained awake.  Not a good start for my first night here in nearly eight months.  Of course there would be some adjustments.  I could have blamed my restlessness on the new room, but it wasn’t new to me.  Or even the feel of the bed, as I had slept in it for so many years that the old mattress wrapped around me perfectly.  No, there was something else keeping me awake.  It was as if some feeling buried on the back of my mind was preventing my body from relaxing, as if the mere ability to close my eyes had been stolen from me.  I fought the urge to get up for hours before finally slumping on the edge of my bed in the dimness of the night.  I looked over at my alarm clock - 3:28am.   

          The light from the moon radiated through the window reflecting off of the white bedspread and illuminating the tiny room.  The moonlight seemed to draw me to the window - closer until I was peering out over the smooth inlet water.  The sky was black with only the moon and stars for light, much darker than I had remembered from summers past.  My eyes scanned the panoramic view.  Searching for what, I did not know.

          It was then that I saw the shape of something outlined by the reflection of the moonlight.  It appeared to be kneeling down in the shadows of the dock.  My eyes narrowed and my heart began to race as my eyes beheld something I had never before seen.  The shape appeared to be human. But only in form, as it held itself in a manner that was nothing less than supernatural. The form looked large, too large to be female, but it was impossible to make out any other features at such a distance.  It hunched motionless, appearing to not even breathe, completely faceless in the dark night.  

          I studied the creature carefully for quite some time, trying to convince myself that it must be a shadow - that my tired eyes must be deceiving me.  Had my imagination had gotten the best of me and all that stood there was the cool dark folds of darkness?  Despite my efforts to dismiss what was before me - still it remained.

          The pace of my heart increased as I felt my body heading towards the old door.  Curiosity seemed to override any sense of fear or common sense as I gripped the doorknob.  Or maybe it was more than curiosity.  Maybe I was being helplessly drawn to the one thing that I should have feared – the one thing that could so easily seal my fate.   I stepped forward with no reservation into the unknown dark cover of the night.

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