To thank all you wonderful people, we wanted to share a sneak peek at our current novel venture entitled “Riptide.” (the photo above gives you an idea of what the story will involve.)
The bus station is large, with pale green linoleum flooring that clicks as you walk on it. The big windows let it light from the street lamps outside. It’s basically deserted, apart from a middle-aged man curled on a bench sleeping and a couple checking their watches and chatting quietly. The last time I was here, I went with my parents to pick up my aunt Millie. It was the middle of the day and bustling with bright cheery people. This is a stark contrast to then.
Hesitantly I approach the ticket counter where a bald man with red cheeks and a tight shirt counts ticket stubs. He eyes me dully.
“What can I do ya for, kid?” he drawls.
“I’d like one bus ticket please,” I say.
He rolls his eyes and taps the board behind him which indicates the places the buses go. “Where to?”
Good question. I hadn’t though that far. I check down the list. Houston, Detroit, San Diego, New York. None of the choices appeal to me until I see one that reminds me of the money in my pocket.
“Can I get a one way ticket to Santa Cruz please?” I pull a few bills from my purse and place them on the counter.
The man sits up a little straighter in his grubby chair and slides the money off the counter, counting it quickly. “One way or round trip?”
He nods to himself and taps some buttons on his register. A receipt prints out and he hands me my change and a pale pink ticket. “Bus leaves in fifteen.”
I catch sight of my reflection in the glass of the door before I push it open. My blonde hair is messy and sticks up in places. There are bags under my tired blue eyes. No one waiting for the bus pays me any attention though. When it arrives, everyone piles on, sliding their luggage into the storage compartment on the side of the bus. I settle into a seat at the back as the bus pulls away from the curb and idles at a stop sign. Closing my eyes, I nod off, clutching my purse and thinking about all the things I’ll be able to do, just because I can.
I wonder if my parents have reported me missing yet. I wonder if Tanner is crying over me. The idea of either possibility screws my mouth into a grin. I guess Stella isn’t as perfect as you thought she would be. Ha.
I stroll down the boardwalk, lugging my suitcase along. The station the bus had stopped at was only a mile from the beach, so that’s where I headed. Spying a hotdog stand, I head over and order a deluxe with everything. My stomach grumbles as I speak, my mouth salivating at the thought of relish and mustard and onions slathered over a steaming dog.
“That’ll be $2.00,” the server says as he squirts the toppings onto the hotdog and sets it on the counter.
“Sure thing,” I smile, reaching into my purse to pull out a five, furrowing my brow when I can’t find a bill. I open the purse and turn it upside down. A mint and a dime clink onto the counter. You’ve got to be kidding me. “I swear I had money in here. I took a bus here and someone must have stolen from me while I was sleeping.”
The server snorts and dumps the hotdog into the garbage. “No money, no food. Now get lost.”
I stare at the garbage in distain. “Please, I’m really hungry. I could—“
“I said get lost!”
Hungry and upset, I wander away down the beach, tossing the useless purse in a trash can. This isn’t really turning out how I expected. I’ve got no money, no place to go. The waves rumble as they crash into the shore, young kids shrieking as they try to outrun the water. I set my suitcase down and sit on top of it. Rolling up my jeans, I pull off my shoes and dig my toes into the sand.
I watch as women in bikinis eat popsicles and giggle to one another. A group of boys in trunks run with their brightly colored surfboards slung under their arms toward the water. A young boy builds a sandcastle nearby, placing seashells around the perimeter. Everyone on this beach is having an awesome time, and I’m here alone and totally screwed.
A little ways away, near the lifeguard chair, there’s a hose where people can wash the sand from their legs and I notice some kids drinking from it as well. I walk casually over and take a long sip from the hose. The water is cool and heaven against my dry lips. I drink until I can’t fit anymore in and I can feel it sloshing around in my stomach when I move.
I spend the rest of the day combing the beach, people watching. I check out the shops along the boardwalk. Most of them sell souvenirs, but a few sell bait and tackle as well as surf attire and equipment. Lots of the people working in the shops eye my suitcase like I might steal something. I wouldn’t. I’m not desperate enough to, not yet. I smile at them anyway, and say have a good day as I leave.
When the sun has sunken below the horizon, I head back to the beach. It’s become obvious I’m not going to have a place to sleep tonight, so I look for a reasonable place that provides me a little privacy. I find what I’m looking for a ways down the beach. A small peeling blue bait shack is nestled beside a palm tree, whose fronds droop down, dipping into the sand. I curl up against the shack resting my head against the suitcase. Tomorrow I’ll start figuring out just exactly what I’m going to do.