I’ve been working on a new story, 100 words at a time. Here’s the story so far. I’ll be posting 100 words of it per day from now on. Thanks for reading!
The stones buried in the sand were smooth from years of tide. She took of her shoes and sunk into the sand. That morning she had bought herself a pink carnation, the stem now shoved into her purse next to a peanut butter and jelly. It was late afternoon on a Monday; the beach was empty and grey. She watched the yellow-striped umbrellas go slack as the boys began to close their stands for the day. It felt weird to travel alone, even though she was an hour from home. She focused on the sound of the waves.
She sunk into the delight of being the only one on the beach. She hated crowds and feeling crowded. With her hands and feet spread wide, she tipped back into the sand, her body a star. The ground was still warm from a day’s worth of sunshine. The Rhode Island rocks surged out of the water. What now? If she was with someone else, she would just lean on their cues. Now she had to figure it out for herself. The goal was to not succumb to the addiction of distraction. Were there rules against staying here forever?
The late afternoon clouds broke, and she noticed the surprise sun reflecting off of something lodged in the sand nearby. When she moved closer she realized it was a piece of broken glass, still sharp, not yet smoothed over by sand and salt and water. It didn’t fit in to the idyllic, private New England beach setting. The brown glass was wrapped with blue foil. The label was in a language she didn’t recognize. She reached for it but pulled back when she heard a voice.
“Ma’am, the beach closes at sunset. Just wanted to let you know.”
It was one of the boys who worked there, come to politely shoo her off the beach.
“Is that broken glass?” he asked, leaning in to take a closer look at the fragment.
Amalia pretended it was hers.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, I dropped it. I’ll clean it up.”
She made sure he was gone before returning to her discovery. She ripped a few sheets of paper from the notebook in her purse and wrapped the glass into a safe lump. She would examine it later. But why had she picked it up in the first place? It was essentially trash. She liked the newness of it, that it was something she had never seen before. She followed the narrow path back to the road, kicking sand out of her sandals along the way, and climbed into her car. Driving home was not an option.
Head downtown and explore, she thought. That’s something I would never normally do by myself.
As she made her way through town, she felt grateful it was a random Monday in early June. The streets were almost empty, but everything was open to welcome the beginning of peak season. The setting sunlight filtered onto the side streets and made the cobblestone paving and weathered wood-paneled shops look even more charming. Why don’t I come here more often, she thought. Then she remembered that today was different. She wasn’t in vacation mode; she had run away and now had to figure out her next move.
But first, a lobster roll. And shoestring fries. And beer.
She found a parking spot on the street next to a restaurant called Rickie’s. It butted up to the water, and had a large deck that was mostly empty, except for a few families and couples. It looked like the kind of place that served overpriced lobster rolls to tourists, but she was proud of herself for finding it without using her phone, and for even considering going out to dinner on her own. She grabbed her purse from the passenger seat. Inside: wallet, keys, phone, smashed pb&j, withering carnation, notebook, pens, balled up summer dress, paper-wrapped lump.
She reached in to unwrap the lump, using the paper to protect her from the fragment’s edges. Close up, the glass was thin and aged. One of the corners had crumbled off, spilling sharp brown dust into her bag. She still couldn’t place the writing on the blue foil label. The rounded letters looked slightly familiar now. What was more confusing to her was why she suddenly cared so much about an old piece of broken glass. But, it was something to distract her from that other question she had been avoiding.
God, where am I going to sleep tonight.
The glass lay exposed in her lap. She held her hand over her eyes and leaned into the car seat. A few focused breaths were supposed to help, but it was painful to breathe like that in the moment.
Ok, eyes open. Take the next step.
She had $700 in cash and a credit card with a $10,000 limit in her wallet. She’d find work and start over. She folded the paper back over the glass, and got ready to get out of the car. But then Jack’s face flashed in her mind and she had to steady herself again.
She remembered how Jack’s eyes had dug into her, angry and unpredictable.
You’re avoiding the question.
She looked up to meet his glare, making eye contact to show she wasn’t afraid.
Yes. I did it.
He struck her cheek, then stood to leave.
I don’t want to see you here when I get back. And if I ever hear from you again, I’ll kill you.
It was still fresh. She pulled down the drivers side visor to check if a bruise was starting to color. She saw the pink and purple pools peeking through. She dabbed on her concealer.
With enough concealer, she transformed the bruise into a dim shadow on her face. She walked into the restaurant.
Hi, table for one? the hostess asked. She was a pretty brunette, probably still in high school.
Yep, just me. Can I have something outside, by the water?
The hostess walked Amalia to a large round table at the edge of the deck. She was happy it was a few tables away from the other groups outside.
Oh, and can I have an ashtray?
The hostess made a sincere but apologetic face.
I’m sorry, there’s no smoking allowed on the deck.
Amalia sighed, but faked a smile.
She slid the new pack of cigarettes and lighter back into her purse, pulled her sunglasses over her eyes, and looked out over the water. The boats were neatly tethered to their docks. She felt the urge to drive one away.
Hi, how are you? My name’s Andy, I’ll be your server today. Can I get you something to drink?
Amalia popped her sunglasses back up.
Actually, I’m ready to order. A lobster roll with fries, and a Narragansett please.
He smiled, pleasantly surprised at her decisiveness.
She knows what she wants.
Amalia’s voice was sharp. She squinted, as if she were looking into the sun. His smile waned.
I was admiring your decisiveness.
There was an awkward pause.
Well, I’ll go put that order in. And I’ll be right back with your beer.
She was relieved to watch him walk away. The last thing she wanted today was a flirt. She just wanted to be left alone.
A band was setting up their equipment at the back of the deck. Boys in t-shirts carried amps and instrument cases, and ran wire into the interior of the restaurant.
Andy returned with her beer, and her food shortly after. He hadn’t said a word since their earlier exchange, and she was starting to feel rude for the way she had talked to him.
So, who’s the band?
He eyed her cautiously.
Some friends of mine, The Learjets. They’re pretty good. You should stick around for them. If you feel like it, that is.
Thanks, I might.
She ordered another round, and decided to go out to the sidewalk for a cigarette. On the way to the front door, she stopped at the host stand.
Hey, are you guys hiring?
As she inhaled her first cigarette of the evening, she pinched the job application form with her left fingers and held it up to the streetlight. It was a basic form that any restaurant would use.
Back at her table, she started to fill it out. She tried to highlight her previous experience without giving too much away, leaving phone numbers off and the box next to “may we contact this employer” unchecked. With the evening sun gone, her only light was the candle that Andy had placed on her table while she was away.
What are you working on?
Andy stood across from her, trying to make out the form in the candlelight.
Eh, it’s a job application.
He looked confused, but didn’t say anything else. When she was done, she paid her tab in cash, and handed her application form to the hostess on her way out.
Have a good evening!, the high schooler said.
The restaurant was crowded by the time she left. Now that she was standing on the street, distinctly apart from all the people laughing and eating and clinking silverware and glasses on the deck, she felt alone.
She considered sleeping in her car, but had a feeling that would invite law enforcement quickly in a town like this. She needed a shower and a bed and time to recover.
Her phone reported a handful of hotels within 0.3 miles, but she settled on one just outside the city. Hopefully it would be safe and cheap. In the darkness, she remembered one of the most terrifying parts of her day: going over that damn toll bridge. It had felt a mile long, and so steep the on the ascent that it appeared to drop off at the peak.
Going over it now was even worse. She knew the ocean was hundreds of feet below, and her path was lit solely by floodlights. This should be illegal.
When she reached the hotel, the parking lot was almost full. She laughed, and then grimaced, at the thought that on any other day she would be home in 45 minutes. Not anymore.
The front desk was unmanned when she walked in. A CNN pundit raged quietly on a screen in the lobby. She reached for a green apple at the top of a display bowl pile.
May I help you?
Yes, hi, do you have any rooms available tonight?
I’m sorry, we’re completely booked. You could try the Radisson about a mile down the road.
Amalia considered returning the apple to the pile. Wasn’t it an unspoken rule that lobby fruit was for guests only? She kept it in her hand as she walked out.
She tried the Radisson, then two others before she decided to start calling places instead of experiencing the same front desk routine at each.
Finally, she tried one called The Ocean Front Motel.
Yes, we have a room, a woman said on the line.
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