The Girl on the Beach Ch. 01byamicus©
I don't mind getting up early to take my youngest son to work, it is a small thing to do and sometimes I had been up all night writing or researching anyway.
I fixed a breakfast for him a couple times, but he preferred a quick stop at a fast food place for the breakfast biscuits. I got used to them after a while, they're okay; I like the hash browns.
I was a little puzzled and confused over both my sons. I have five children from the same marriage, three girls, two boys. I always thought a man would be proud of a son that followed in his footsteps; it turned out to be my daughters who sought the education and the professional life.
One son was content being a hotel desk clerk, the other, my last child, the one I was driving to work, was learning the building trade; the hard way, from the ground up, neither had an interest in college or learning.
He seemed to enjoy the outside physical labor and his workmates; he was almost always up and ready to go early in the mornings.
I stopped, and ordered four sausage and egg biscuits, two hash browns and large coffee for both of us. When he had cash in his pocket, he would pay, usually I used my plastic; again, a small thing to do, I didn't mind. As usual, he inhaled his, I decided to wait.
Sometimes he got another ride, other times, in nice weather, he walked the few miles to the job site. This morning was chill and brisk, he thanked me for the ride and the breakfast as I let him off.
I drove to the top of the hill where I could turn around. When I first came to the Oregon coast, in younger years, it was different. Fishing villages mostly, clustered near the ports or small rivers that drained into the Pacific from the coast range of small mountains.
Hundreds of small vacation cottages with colorful signs and fishing nets and glass buoys, driftwood art and fences were haphazardly scattered seeking a view. A lovely place for a summer weekend or fishing trip with one of the many Charter companies that chased the Salmon or Tuna in season.
That changed over the years as the prime real estate began to sprout two and three level million dollar vacation homes and resorts. Nothing stays the same, I guess; some changes I liked less than others. But the continual construction gave employment to local men and boys so I guess it is, in a way, a good thing.
I turned around and went slowly back down the narrow road above the ocean beaches. I could see a fog-bank a mile or so offshore and mused at the white-caps on the small bay, brought up by an onshore wind.
At the bottom of the hill was a visitor's viewing area, a gravel parking lot with several concrete benches and tables lining the top of the dune with posts in the parking area. It was empty, as it usually was this early in the morning. I pulled into a spot about midway between both ends and kept the engine running and the heater going.
I took a sip of the hot sweet coffee and lit a smoke and looked out across the tangled dune to the ocean beyond. I have always found the sea fascinating; restless and moving, colors changing with the light and the clouds and that special, 'iodine' scent of seawater and vegetation.
I opened one of the biscuits and took a bite, washed it down with another sip and continued to smoke and watch the ocean. I took another bite when a flicker of motion off to the right caught my attention.
There was a small figure moving slowly my way, a blue jacket with a hood, wearing jeans and...bare-foot?
The figure passed in front of the car, I saw a quick glance through the windshield and before it moved around to the driver's side. I rolled the window down.
Another quick glance, a brief look at wide blue eyes and then the head tilted down again.
"May I come in side and warm up a little, please?"
It was a soft feminine voice; she didn't look up at me.
"Sure, it's gotta be cold out there..."
She still didn't look up but turned and walked back across the front. I rolled the window up, reached across and opened the door. She got in quickly and closed the door and pulled her feet up underneath her, wrapped her arms around herself, leaned back, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
I turned the heater on full and directed the airflow at her. She took another deep breath and her eyes opened wide.
"Something smells really, really good!" Her tongue flicked across her lips and I heard and saw her swallow.
I reached into the sack and took out the other biscuit and the hash browns and held them out to her.
"Oh, that's your breakfast, I couldn't..."
"When was the last time you ate something?"
She looked away. "Dunno, sometime yesterday, I think."
I smiled and shook the hand with the food in it. "Well, here, I insist. There is hot coffee, too, with sugar, feel free."
She looked up with big eyes and swallowed again. "You sure?"
She timidly reached out. I smiled and took another drag of the cigarette and looked out at the ocean again. I heard the wrapper crinkle and glanced.
"Don't look at me, please; I am too hungry to be dainty..."
I turned away and smiled. Like my son, she inhaled the sandwich and potatoes in about a minute; I saw a hand reach for the coffee and smiled again.
"Oh, God, that was sooo good, thank you, thank you!"
"Welcome, ah, bare-foot?"
She didn't say anything.
"You didn't by any chance spend last night on the beach?"
Again, no answer.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
"Would you like a cigarette?"
I opened the package and handed her one, got my lighter and reached out, she leaned forward and got it burning, took a deep inhale and then another and sat back, still all curled up.
We sat silent and unmoving. I had another sip of coffee and lit another for myself. The silence continued.
"I think I would like another coffee; would you like a ride up to the restaurant?"
"I feel a little sick. I need to use their ladies room, I think."
I reached up and fastened my seat belt, she did the same.
"I never used to do that all the time, but my son got a hundred dollar ticket, it ain't worth it."
I drove slowly back to the main highway, waited for traffic and then into the parking lot of the fast food place, right in front of a door.
I got out and went around to her side. She was already out. I opened the door for her. "You like everything on your hamburger?"
She didn't look up. "Yeah."
"Chocolate or Strawberry?"
This time she did look and I saw a tiny twinkle in her eyes. "Chocolate."
She turned towards the ladies room and left without another look.
I stood in line, ordered their biggest hamburger and a large Fries, a chocolate milk shake, two hot apple pies and a large coffee. That ought to keep her happy for a while.
I stepped away from the counter and looked at the nearly full restaurant with more breakfast crowd coming.
My order came; I added some condiments, sugared the coffee and found a place to wait.
She took a little longer and when I saw her, she looked pale and anxious as she looked and finally saw me, and moved quickly to my side.
She sounded apologetic. "I guess I ate too fast, sorry for taking so long." She glanced around. "Could we go back to your car?"
She asked if I could move from the front of the restaurant to a vacant, less busy part of the parking lot. I didn't understand, but did as she asked.
I handed her the sack of food.
"I don't, ah, know if I should try to eat anything..."
I smiled. "You were hungry. You need something in your stomach, I think."
She got the coffee out first and carefully sipped the very hot liquid. "I rinsed my mouth but it still tastes yucky."
I smiled and lit another cigarette, yeah, I know, I smoke too much.
"May I just have a drag, not one for me?"
I handed it across to her. She smiled and took a deep drag and handed it back. I sipped on the coffee and leaned back.
She did take a few sips of the milk shake, found the catsup and doctored the fries and took a small bite of the burger. She put everything away and curled her feet under her again and leaned back.
A few minutes later I heard her take a deep breath and then another.
"I didn't feel like going to school yesterday, so I called this guy, on his Cell. I had been out with him once; he liked to do crazy things. So we both cut school and just went driving around.
"He had a full tank and a little money; it was looking to be a nice day, we decided to drive to the coast, just for the hell of it and something to do."
She sighed. I just waited and smoked and sipped a coffee, she reached for the smoke again and took a sip also.
"My mom got a new boyfriend. I don't like the way he looks at me, makes me feel uncomfortable. I try to be gone when he's there and always keep my door locked." She sighed again. "I don't know why I told you that..."
"I went through a divorce. I know all about it. Lot of kids don't have their dads around, sorry."
She looked up briefly. "Yeah, I know, most of my friends are that way; some don't even know their real fathers..."
It was a little painful for me. I felt my eyes water and concentrated on looking out at the parking lot and the moving cars on the highway.
I heard her take another deep breath.
"It was turning into a pretty good day. We were singing to music on the radio, drinking soda's, he even found an old joint with a little left; we ate something, somewhere and got to the coast somewhere around noon, I guess.
"We both wanted to see the ocean, walk on the beach, have some fun. So he drove across the highway and down and we looked for a public beach. Neither of us knew the town, so we just kept looking.
"We got to a place where you could see the beach, but no access. He pulled over at a wide spot and we just sat there, smoking for a few minutes.
"Then he leaned way over and put his arm around me and pulled me close. I mean, like I wasn't in the mood, not at all. I didn't like the way he kissed me before and he was all grabby and stuff, but, it was his car and he drove me all the way over here, so I figured a few kisses, what the hell, I could live with that.
"But he started kissing me really hard and squeezing my boobs; it hurt and I tried to push him away. He wouldn't stop and put his hand between my legs and started rubbing. This time I really pushed him away and told him to stop, I didn't like it!
"But he wouldn't stop. I bit him and scratched him and he called me bad names. He said it was a long way back and said I could walk if I didn't, you know...let him.
"I told him I wouldn't let him if he were the last guy on earth! He reached over and opened my door and started pushing me out of the car, I didn't believe he would really do it. Then he lifted his leg and used his foot to push, really hard and I went tumbling out of the car into the gravel.
"I still couldn't believe it as he started the car, and gunned it, the door slammed shut, gravel flew everywhere and he was gone!
"I just stood there, stupid like, figuring he was daring me, that he would come back. I still would not have let him, but I really thought he would come back.
"I brushed myself off, felt pain in an elbow and on one side; I just walked around in circles."
She paused for a moment.
"I'm sorry, really sorry. So you've been here since about noon yesterday?"
She sighed. "Yeah. After a while I just started walking, back the way we came. Then I got up on the highway and guys were whistling and offering me rides. I stopped at a convenience store and got some candy and a drink and started walking again, away from the highway. I finally found the beach where you found me."
I didn't know if it was the right thing to do or not; I chanced it. I reached my arm across and gently placed my hand on her shoulder.
She didn't startle, just looked at me and smiled and put her hand on top of mine, then pulled it down and placed her lips on the back of my hand. "Thank you for being nice."
I kept hold of her hand and pulled it across to me and gently placed my lips on the back of her hand before I released it. "My pleasure. People need a friend now and then, I think."
I must have said the wrong thing. Her face clouded up and she turned away, and curled up in the corner as far away from me as she could. I heard the sobbing and saw the shaking of her shoulders and now I felt really bad.
I lit yet another one, sipped and stared until her crying began to subside. She sat up a little, got a napkin out of the sack and dabbed at her eyes.
"That was silly of me, I'm sorry."
"Not silly at all," I smiled. "Why didn't you call your mom, or a friend or other family?"
She sighed. "My mom told me never to call her at work, for any reason. We don't talk much. There is an Aunt, but she's old and can't even take care of herself. No best friends really, girls are all giggly and helpless, there really wasn't anyone I could call."
"Hmmm....well, I would like to help but I don't know quite how. What are your plans?"
"More school I guess. I graduate soon, been accepted at a community college; a glorified high school, I don't really know what I want to do. You need a maid or a housekeeper? I work cheap!"
She grinned with a look that said her words were meant lightly, just as an aside, to lighten things a little.
I smiled. "Well, I could feed you and put a roof over your head for a while, until you figured it out?"
I guess I said the wrong thing again because she drew back and glared at me. "Why would you do that for me? You don't know anything about me! You just wanna fuck me like every other guy, I know! I won't! No matter what happens to me, I won't! Not ever!"
I took a deep breath. "Look...."
"No, I won't look, I won't listen! I won't do it!"
"Why don't you take your food and get out of my car. I don't need this."
Her eyes went wide and filled. "Oh, oh; I'm sorry, sorry, sorry. I don't know why I said all of that, you have done nothing but be nice to me and not even look at me that way. Please forgive me..."
I smiled and reached out for her. She scooted and leaned as far as the center console would permit and rested her face on my shoulder and cried lightly for a few minutes.
I thought slowly and chose my words carefully. "Whatever you do, you need some shoes on your feet and maybe a few other things. I would like to do that for you, if you will permit, no debt, no obligation; just a gesture from a stranger who has needed a helping hand before. I won't offer again; my name is John, I would like to know yours."
She lifted her head and pulled back, not as far as before and did not hide her face.
"My name is Grace, ah, John and yes, I do need something for my feet. But will you let me repay you? I have money at home and I want to."
"It is a gift, ah, Grace, from a father with daughters that maybe someone helped along the way. It is my turn; you owe me nothing."
She looked away and then back again. "No one ever did anything like this for me without wanting something. I never cried on a man's shoulder before, I never kissed a guys hand; I don't know how to do this."
I smiled. "There is a big variety store close by; they seem to have some of everything..."
She smiled. "Okay...I give up. Thank you, John."
I found the store and parked near the entrance, closed the car up and she followed almost reluctantly behind me into the building.
I found a cart and followed the signs to the Women's clothing area. She went straight to a bin of 'Sale' shoes.
"Get two pair, sneakers and whatever they are called, flats or something."
She smiled. "They're really cheap, you sure?"
"Yes." I smiled in my most fatherly way. "Get two pair of jeans, some tops, something pretty, skirt, dress, blouse, I dunno, ahm and you need underwear and some girl things. I want you to have enough things to get by."
Her eyes went wide. "All of that?"
"Yeah, and some make-up, I wanna see what the girl side of you looks like, when you get all prettied up."
A look crossed her face and then turned to leave.
"I used to take my daughters shopping, when they were young. They were always all happy and excited and I loved doing it for them." I smiled again. "Think you could be a little bit happy, even if you have to pretend?"
Her eyes filled again as she looked up at me. "I'll bet your were a great dad! I won't have to pretend. I like it when you smile."
It was as if a burden had been lifted. She scampered up and down and all around. I followed with the cart. She giggled and laughed and showed me things, put things in the cart, took them out, replaced them and then put the first one back in again. It was a pleasure to watch, I would have bought the whole damned store for her if I could have.
She was shy about some things, wouldn't show me and tucked them under other things. She did it again at the Pharmacy; I understood. She tried to refuse the make-up counter; I insisted.
I found a clerk and had her remove the tags while Grace was changing into new things. She came out smiling with a new look in her eyes, her sandy curly hair hanging to her shoulders. A look that made it all worthwhile.
She just smiled at my smile. "I feel human again!"
She had shopped well. The bill was only about half of what I expected. I gave her the right key for the back and stood smoking as she unloaded the packages and pushed the cart to a designated area.
She came back and stood before me, took a drag, handed it back and looked up at me, beaming.
"Don't misunderstand this, but I just gotta!"
She surged forward and slipped her arms around my waist to my back and hugged me. I let my hands rest high up on her back.
Her eyes were wide. "I never hugged a real man before! That was nice, really nice. Thank you so much!"
I smiled. "My pleasure; happy to see you in a better mood."
We got in and buckled up.
"Now I am hungry! Could we go back to where you found me?"
I smiled. She wouldn't let me stop and get other things to eat. I drove slowly back and parked in the same place as before. The sun had heated the inside of the car; I turned the heater off and opened both windows.
She was indeed hungry but she ate more slowly this time, insisting I have a bite now and then and a sip of her milk shake. She finished and stuffed everything back in the sack, took a drag from my smoke then leaned her head on the window sill. I couldn't see her face, but I felt she was smiling and her eyes were closed, I wondered what she was thinking, lit another smoke and sipped coffee and stared off into the distance.
I felt her hand on my arm. "John?"
"I hear something..."
I tuned my hearing, heard a distant seagull, the gentle murmur of the surf. The wind had changed and the scent of the sea was stronger. "I don't hear anything..."
"Well I do, I know it!" She got out and walked away, turning her head this way and that. I followed.
"There!" She pointed down toward the ocean.
I stepped alongside her and followed her finger and listened. Still nothing unusual....wait...wait...faint...damn!
"Sounds like a baby crying; John?"
"Yeah, let's have a look."
I went ahead of her and pushed through the thick tangled vegetation at the top of the dune until we came to an outcrop of sharp black rocks that fell about fifteen feet to the beach. I saw two arms of the rock reaching out into the water, forming a small cove, with a small beach in the center. "Damn!"
"John, it's a baby!"
I saw it. Right at the waters' edge. As we watched a wave came in and the child fell, crying even louder.
"John! What do we do?"
There was no time to think about it; there was no one else on that small mouth of sand. I scanned quickly, turned around and began making my way down the rock face. It wasn't easy or quick. I heard Grace cry out and looked, another wave had battered the tiny child. The tide was coming in fast. I pushed off and jumped the last few feet, landed running in the sand and swept the child up in my arms as yet another wave came in, soaking my feet and up my legs.