All I see for miles are fishing lines. End of the season, most of the vacationers have gone back to school and work. The only people left on the beach are fishers, those who live here, and those who are drawn.
Me being the latter.
I grab a sandwich in plastic wrap from my tote bag just as a sudden gust of wind blows the sand around me in a swirl. When I bite into the sandwich, just underneath the crunch of the lettuce, the sand grains roll across the grooves of my teeth.
Hurricane season. Just over 100 miles off shore, a storm is churning the waters. The clouds from the outer bands have started to roll in, and the stifling humidity is a warning that the storm is getting closer, growing stronger.
Wherever the path turns in the next 24 hours will determine whether this area will be under a mandatory evacuation. By this time tomorrow, the beach may be complete deserted, save for one body.
I honestly don’t know how I got here—willing and ready to be swept away by the storm—only that I needed to get away from Brian and the kids.
Brian and the kids.
I know what you’re thinking. And honestly, I don’t think I’m a bad mom or wife. But I’ve made mistakes. The latest was leaving Cam alone at Wal-Mart for two hours.
It wasn’t intentional, I just . . . forgot. One minute, I was sending her back to the store to return the shopping cart, and the next, I was driving back home, as if she were never with me in the first place.
And even as I was unloading the trunk, I still didn’t realize that I was alone, that the child I had taken with me was now missing. I only noticed that the house was empty, quiet. I savored that, immediately made myself comfortable on the couch in front of a good Netflix rom-com to snooze to, and began to dream about the violent calm of the waves crashing onto shore repeatedly, one after the other, until a rapped knocking startled me out of my sleep.
When I opened the door, I found the cop and my daughter, her face red and swollen from crying, and Brian, pulling up with the boys behind the police cruiser, getting out of the car, furious.
“How could you leave her! How could you be so stupid! Goddammit! Do you know what could have happened to her! Do you have any idea how dangerous that was!”
And the officer saying, “Ma’am, are you suffering from any type of stress or depression?”
“You can’t use postpartum anymore, Susan. Jared is four!” He spat it out with pure disgust, as if he couldn’t stomach the taste of my name on his tongue.
I could tell the cop was becoming uncomfortable, he rested his hand on the baton in his belt and looked anywhere but at me and my husband, finally settling on the top of Cam’s head. “This could have been a lot worse. I could be here for different reasons.”
“Thank you, officer, for bringing her home. I promise you this will never happen again. Susan’s not leaving this house ever, with any of our children.” He cut me a glare that could have pierced the thickest of rhinoceros skin.
“Let’s hope not.” The chagrin in his face. Did he even know what he was saying? I saw his wedding ring. Did he treat his wife like this? How could he turn a blind eye? But that’s exactly what he did. He said, “Y’all have a nice rest of the day,” and left without looking back. Part of me wanted to call his department later that night to complain about him willfully ignoring an ensuing domestic dispute. The moment he left, I was on the floor, barely able to see out of my left eye, the blurry images of my husband and children hovering over me. The word “stupid” heard over and over.
If my kids ever had sympathy for me through the years of Brian’s hatred and abuse, that ended the day I left Cam.
And now I’ve left them all.
I dig my feet deeper into the sand, plant myself to bear the brunt of the storm soon to come. Can I do this? Give up so easily? Is this my only option?
A man with a cooler approaches. “Best time of the year to catch the good ones, amiright? ” he says excitedly and tosses me a Ziploc bag containing a trout as big as my forearm that slaps against my thighs.
“Uh, sure, thanks.” I can’t remember the last time I’ve had fish. Brian hates seafood, won’t even let me cook it for the children. So many times I’ve caved for him, his preferences, his wants and demands.
The man waves and continues on, donating the morning’s catch to anyone by themselves on the beach.
I stuff the Ziploc bag into my tote. Scaling and gutting it will be messy, but I’ll rent an Extended Stay for the night, cook it with maybe some grits and gravy, or cheese, or stop by the local fish market and add some shrimp or scallops to go with it. Make it my last supper meal before taking the three-hour drive back to face the reality of the hell I live in. I will have three hours to decide how I will tell Brian I’m leaving him, finally, for good.
© Nortina Simmons