The drive from St. John’s Airport took about two hours.
Sadie spent most of the drive staring out the window, accompanied by the radio’s quiet music. She knew enough classic rock to recognize most of the songs, and if she’d been in a better mood, she might have even sung along.
Their journey took them through the town of St. John, and out of it, though the only thing Sadie had eyes for was the glimpses of the ocean she saw through the trees and buildings. The blue water looked almost still, except where it crashed white against the shore.
She’d never seen the ocean before. People were the same everywhere, but the ocean — that was new.
That was exciting.
Her aunt, Claire, was almost a stranger. She sent Sadie gifts at Christmas and on her birthday, and wrote the occasional email or postcard which Sadie dutifully returned, but as Claire had moved to Newfoundland when she was only five, she didn’t exactly have memories of her. When her mom and dad gave her the option of spending summer in St. Brenden’s Bay, however, away from the messy divorce and constant arguing, she hadn’t even thought to say no.
It was probably the kindest thing they could have done for her.
She glanced over at her, sitting behind the steering wheel. Claire didn’t speak too much, but that was all right. Sadie wasn’t in the mood to talk, either.
In fact, she kind of liked the quiet. Her mom always wanted to talk, always filled the silence.
Since she and Claire were sisters, Sadie had figured they would be similar, at least in some ways. She was glad to find that wasn’t true. That Claire Stanton and Jessica Nelson were two separate people, and one had no bearing on the other.
As they turned along a long, steep curve, Claire spoke for the first time since the hugs and welcome at the airport.
“So, kid,” she said, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. “Your mom tells me you had some trouble during school. What’s that about?
Sadie shrugged, then realized that Claire couldn’t see her.
“Dunno. I was late a lot, and I missed a bunch of homework. My therapist thinks I have ADHD.”
That was a bit of news that she hadn’t told her mom and dad yet. She’d convinced her therapist to hold off on that conversation until August, when she got back from Canada.
“Oh? You doing okay with that?”
“Yeah,” Sadie said, a little surprised at the question. “Rachel, that’s my therapist, she says it’s better to have a name for things.”
“Sounds like a smart woman. Your mom didn’t mention that.”
“She doesn’t know yet.”
“Okay. Want me to keep it to myself for now?”
“Sure thing,” Claire said, and that, it seemed, was that. “Your mom also said you have summer school. How does that work? Since you’re here, not back in Michigan, I mean.”
“Um, I have my laptop and stuff,” Sadie replied, thrown off by the question. “I have to watch lectures and turn in assignments online.”
“Sounds fine to me. The wifi can be spotty, but it’s usually working.”
Sadie’s mind immediately went to how many times she could use that excuse before it got old, before scolding herself. She was turning over a new leaf in school. Her therapist told her that she should begin as she meant to go on, and every day was a new beginning.
It sounded kind of cheesy at first, but Sadie’s mind kept going back to it, so maybe there was something to the idea, after all.
They turned down another steep curve, and St. Brenden’s Bay came into view.
Sadie couldn’t help the smile that appeared on her face at the sight. It was so different than what she was used to, so different than the cookie-cutter suburban streets she lived on at home. Every house, every building was unique.
And the ocean... the Atlantic, there in the bay, in all its glory. She rolled the window down, and the fresh, salty air was as certain a cure for her ills as anything.
For the first time since she got on the airplane, Sadie was really paying attention.
Maybe this summer would be worth something, after all.
The short drive through town was pleasant, and seeing all of the different places to go was nice, as well. She spotted a bakery and coffee shop next to a bookstore that looked particularly appealing, and decided that she would definitely leave for home with more books than she came with.
She was surprised when they drove out of town, though. Sadie had been expecting her aunt to live in one of the houses that lined the streets, but instead, they drove up a steep hill to a small house overlooking the bay.
The house was painted a bright blue, and the garden was wild, completely unlike the orderly lawn her father kept at home. Everything here was different, and the most she saw, the more she liked it.
The car rolled to a stop, the engine cut, and Sadie opened the door.
“So, what do you think so far?” her aunt asked as Sadie jumped down from the pick-up.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, grabbing her backpack and slipping it on her shoulders. Her duffel bag was in the bed of the truck, and her aunt pulled it out before she had a chance.
Her Aunt Claire was a strong sort of woman. She supposed working with wood and metal, welding and carving all day or whatever she did to make her art, had left her withsome serious muscle tone, and she lifted Sadie’s heavy duffel as if it was nothing.
Hauling it over her shoulder, she led Sadie into the house, unlocking the door before pushing it open.
Past the brightly colored door was a narrow hall, decorated with paintings and hooks for jackets. To the left was a small cove for boots.
Aunt Claire led her through the cramped, dimly lit hallway. She glimpsed a small kitchen to the right, with a battered wooden table sitting in the middle of it, covered in colorful mugs. Sadie wondered if they were filled with coffee or tea, or perhaps paint-water.
She would have to be careful what cup she drank out of if that was the case.
Into the living room they went. There was a bright, somewhat abstract painting on the wall that nevertheless drew Sadie’s eye. She loved art herself, and she’d bought a brand-new sketchbook for her summer trip, along with her trusty collection of pencils and markers.
She wondered if her aunt would give her some tips. Then again, Claire’s art wasn’t exactly the kind of thing that Sadie was interested in creating. That wasn’t to say that she didn’t like and admire it, because she did. But Sadie had her own goals.
Though working with metal might be interesting, now that she thought about it. Maybe something to consider in college, if she went for an art degree or something.
But that was a long way off. Sadie still had three years of high school to complete — three presumably miserable years, if her freshman experience was anything to go by.
“Come on, let me show you your room,” Claire said, jerking her head towards another hall on the other side of the room. Sadie followed her, and at the end of the hall was a plain wooden door, painted a pale purple.
Claire opened the door, and Sadie entered behind her. It was a nice room, if smaller than her one at home. The walls were painted a soothing purple to match the door, there was a twin bed against the wall, and the best thing — a window, facing the ocean.
She barely took in the wardrobe against the wall or the tiny desk with a wooden chair. It was the view that captivated her, the ocean's endless blue in her gaze.
“Wow,” she muttered, dropping her backpack on the bed.
“Yeah,” her aunt said. “No matter how long I live here, I never stop appreciating the view. I had to sell a hell of a lot of art to afford this place, but I think it was worth it. Don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Sadie replied. "Definitely."
“Well, I’ll leave you to get settled. Feel free to eat anything in the kitchen. I’m a vegetarian, so if you want anything not vegetarian, we can pick it up in town tomorrow. My studio and bedroom are upstairs, so if you need me, I’m usually up there, or in the garden. The wifi password is 'hellodahli,' like Salvador, and I think I’m the only network we pick up. Oh, and the bathroom is just down the hall. Jiggle the handle on the toilet and you should be fine. Any questions?”
“Yeah... when can I go to the beach?”
Claire laughed gently.
“Whenever you want,” she said. “The beach down the hill isn’t private, exactly, but I rarely get visitors from town. Tourists usually stay away, too. Just take your cell phone with you, and don’t be afraid to text me. And if I call or text you, I expect a response, okay?”
“Sure,” Sadie agreed easily.
“I’m going to head up to my studio now. Help yourself to lunch, get used to the house. Or go down to the beach, if you want. Just let me know if you’re going to be gone more than an hour or two.”
“Okay.” Sadie watched her aunt head out of the room, sat down on the bed. Summer was looking up.
She snapped a quick picture of the view from her room, posting it to her Instagram for her friends to see. She didn’t have a lot of them, but she was close to the few that she did. She wanted them to know that she was having a good time, even if she wasn’t in the mood to text or call.
Sadie zipped open her backpack, pulling out most of her stuff. It was stuffed to the brim with anything that didn’t fit in her duffel, and she didn’t need to bring all that to the beach. Finally, when it held only her kindle, sketchbook, and pens, she slung it over her shoulder and headed out into the kitchen, intending on packing a quick lunch.
Luckily, her aunt was well stocked in peanut butter and bread, and so a sandwich it was. Sadie wrapped it in foil, grabbed a coke from the fridge, and headed out.
Now that she was by the ocean, she couldn’t stay away.
Outside, she passed through the overgrown front garden to the back of the house, where there was a tidy patch of growing vegetables in the midst of chaos.
Past that was a sandy dirt path down the hill, and that was where she went toward the pale beach and the Atlantic, the sun reflecting off the water.
Stumbling slightly down the hill in her eagerness to get to the beach, Sadie followed her shadow, her black converse sinking slightly in the sand as she stepped onto the beach proper. It was deserted, as her aunt promised, though Sadie could see the town and a few people in the distance, enjoying the summer sunset.
Her backpack on her shoulders, she turned away from the bay, and headed further north, the ocean to her right. After a bit of walking, she kicked off her shoes and socks, stuff them into her bag, and kept on going, the cool sand against her feet.
It was marvelous.
When the blue house was only a distant block of color, something else was coming into sight ahead of her. There was another, smaller bay, a kind of curve in the coastline. Curiosity piqued, Sadie headed for it.
Her aunt hadn’t mentioned anything about this. And she couldn’t imagine Claire not exploring the beach outside her house. It looked like a cave.
That could be cool, she thought. A secret cave.
But as she grew closer, she saw the bright blue water flowing into it, and she realized she had been wrong. It was a cove, not a cave. A small, underground bay.
With a grin, Sadie peered into it. No one seemed to be around, and when she turned, her aunt’s house was just a blue speck in the distance.
Tide was out, so it was easy enough for her to scramble across the rocks into the cove. There was a narrow, rocky path along the inside, just wide enough for her to walk, though she was careful of the water, aware that she didn’t know when the tide would begin to rush in.
The inside of the cove was cool and dark, a relief from the warm summer sun. Sadie was hoping to find a place to sit and have lunch, maybe read or sketch.
As she scrambled over a pile of rocks, eyes down so that she didn’t trip, she didn’t see the dark figure in front of her, resting on the inland beach.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood, and she shivered.
But when she looked up, there was no one.