Destiny Ever-changing
Author: Tasha Ivey

Chapter 5
Laura - The Journal

Laura:

 

It’s obvious that Nana doesn’t want to talk more about it right now, so I decide to let the issue with the man in the locket drop for now. When we finish our talk, she goes outside to work in her beloved flowerbeds. She is glad that we had a little rain shower right after I arrived, so the watering is already done for her.

I try to read a book, but I can’t focus; I keep reading the same page over and over. I, then, try to watch television, but there's nothing on that even remotely interests me. I call Fawn to let her know where I will be staying for a few days, in case she attempts to call me. The last thing I need is for her to call my aunt and uncle to look for me. I don’t want them to know anything is amiss until I go back home.

I don’t know what else to do, so I go out and sit in the swing on the back porch and watch the rain clouds roll out. It appears the evening will be clear and beautiful. I can see the shimmering ocean from here, and I would love to go for a walk on the beach. Nana said she would be starting dinner soon, so I’ll wait until after we eat. Maybe she’ll even join me. When I would visit her as a young girl, we would go down to the beach every evening.

“Oh, there you are, Laura!” Nana steps out the creaky back door. “I thought you were reading.”

“No, I just couldn’t concentrate on anything, so I came out here where my wandering mind can go where it pleases.”

“Ah, I see,” she says. “I’m going to go in and get myself cleaned up, and we can start dinner. How does fried chicken sound?”

I lick my lips.

“Fried chicken, it is!” Nana exclaims as she reenters the house.

I stay out on the back porch for a little longer, and when I hear her in the kitchen, I go inside to wash up and lend a hand. She works methodically around the kitchen, seeming as happy as a lark. She loves to cook, but she rarely has the opportunity to anymore. She sometimes has a friend over for lunch, but she's usually home alone.

I peel the potatoes and put them on the stove to boil, right next to the corn-on-the-cob. Meanwhile, Nana fries the chicken and makes her scrumptious homemade biscuits. Once everything is finished and put on the table, we realize that we’ve cooked for a family of 10.

“Looks like we’re having leftovers for lunch tomorrow!” I laugh.

She stands back in awe of the amount of food. “It does appear that we went a bit overboard. I guess we’d better get started!”

We both sit down at the table and stuff ourselves until we can’t eat another bite.

“I think you’re right, Laura. We’ll be having fried chicken for a few days.”

“I am so full!” I say as I take my plate to the sink. “You can’t cook like this anymore while I’m here, or I’m bound to gain twenty pounds!”

Nana winks. “I told you that I was going to fatten you up. You could stand to gain a few pounds.”

“I’ll gain more than a few if you keep this up. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about taking a walk on the beach after my stomach settles a bit. I have to do something to keep this fried chicken off my rear end. You should join me. It will be just like old times.”

“Oh, I can’t walk like I did back then. I’m lucky to make it down to the beach and back. You should go, though. It will be good for you to have that time to yourself. You knowto think.”

“Maybe you’re right,” I admit. “Before I do, though, I’m going to bring in my things from the car. Am I sleeping in the loft bedroom?”

Nana shakes her head. “I guess I never mentioned it to you. I changed the loft bedroom into my sewing room.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” I say. “I can just sleep on the couch.”

“Nonsense, you’re not sleeping on that tiny couch. I had all of the furniture moved from the loft bedroom into the room above the garage, so you can sleep up there.”

“I thought that was Grandpa’s office and storage room.”

“Well,” she explains, “After your Grandpa Sam passed away, I went through a lot of that stuff and gave it awayonly keeping a few special items. I knew I would need a guest room if anyone visited, so I hired someone to remodel it. The men even moved the furniture for me, since I cooked a nice meal for them.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll get my stuff out of the car.”

I grab my toiletry bag and a small overnight bag with two changes of clothing in it that I packed in case I stopped at a hotel on the way back home. I’m a little worried about the sleeping arrangements for the next few days. I remember my grandpa’s office was a dingy, dirty mess. There used to be papers piled everywhere, boxes piled against every wall, and the smell was that of an old locker room. It was terrible, but he never would allow Nana to clean up there. He would tell her that it was his room, and he’d clean it if he thought it needed it. I guess he never thought it needed it.

As I close my trunk, Nana is coming out of the house, carrying a set of keys. We walk to the garage and enter the side door. Turning the light on, Nana shows me up a short flight of stairs against the side wall that leads up to an old wood door, the same one that has always been here. She unlocks it and stands back for me to enter ahead of her.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing. The room is better than any bedroom I’ve ever had. The room is painted an ocean blue, and the plush carpet is the color of sand, giving you the feeling that you’re at the beach. There is an antique four-post bed with a matching white dresser and bookshelf. Separated by a half wall, the back of the space has a little living room with a small sofa, coffee table, and television. Hanging on the wall over the bed, there is a large print of a lighthouse that is framed in an ornate gold frame, and there are various pictures of family around the room. There are two doors along one wall of the room: a bathroom and a closet. Just past the living room, there is a set of double doors that lead to a balcony, which overlooks the backyard and the ocean.

“Nana, this room is amazing!”

“I told you that I fixed it up! Did you see the balcony on the back? It has its own set of stairs, so you can walk down to the beach anytime you like, without having to go through the garage.”

“I don’t know what to say!” I am in awe. “Why haven’t you made this your bedroom? It would be perfect!”

“I like my bedroom just fine,” she answers. “Anyway, I couldn’t get up and down these stairs all day long. It just makes me happy to know that I have a nice place for someone to stay when they visit.”

“I may never leave,” I joke.

She hugs me. “I may never let you, either!”

Nana walks to the closet and opens the door. “Darn, I thought the extra quilts and pillows were in this closet. I guess I never got around to getting it all back down out of the attic to bring over here. I’ll have to try to get up there and see if I can find them.”

“No way! I’ll go up and get them myself. Just show me the way.”

We walk back over to the house, and she shows me the door that leads to the attic. I don’t ever remember going up there as a child, and I find out why when I make it up the steep stairs. There is hardly any walking room up here. It’s packed with boxes, furniture, stacks of magazines, plastic bins, and a multitude of things that are so covered in dust that I can’t tell what they are. She said the extra quilts, sheets, and pillows were in a big plastic tub, so I begin opening each onewithout having much luck.

I turn toward the door to ask Nana if she is certain that they are up here, and I notice another plastic bin on a wide shelf. There is hardly any dust on it, so I can tell it hasn’t been up here long. I have to squeeze between an old armoire and the wall to get to it. I pull the heavy tub off of the shelf and open the lid. I have finally found the right tub, but I am unsure how I am going to get the large bin out through that tight space; it‘s too heavy to pick up very high. There is a dusty, old desk with a large enough opening at the bottom for the bin to fit through, so I shove it through the hole and go back over to squeeze past the armoire again.

As I walk over to pick up the tub, I notice a small box in front of the bin.  I must have pushed it out from under the desk when I shoved the bin through. I pick the box up to return it to its place, but I notice the name “Regina” is written on the front. Curiosity gets the best of me, so after placing the box on top of the desk, I carefully pull the lid off of the top.

Inside, there are some dried flowers, seashells, a piece of rope tied into a loop, some carnival tickets, a bundle of letters, and a book. The book draws my interest, so I pull it outcareful not to crumble the dried flowers. It’s a faded, burgundy leather-bound book with a black ribbon tied around it to keep it closed. On the front, the word “journal” is inscribed in gold lettering. This must be my mother’s journal.

I put the lid back on the box, and I set it on top of the plastic bin, carefully carrying them back down the attic stairs.

When I reach the bottom of the stairs, Nana calls me into the kitchen.

“Did you find it, honey? It’s a real mess up there.”

“Yeah,” I tell her as I walk into the kitchen, happy to be able to put the tub down for a moment. “That’s not all I found.”

“Oh, you found another box of your mother’s things. There’s no telling what of hers is up there. I packed up everything she left behind when she married your dad. But . . .” She picks up the dusty box, studying the name on it.

“What?” I ask.

“Well, this isn’t one of the boxes I packed. Her name is written in her handwriting. She must have put it up there, because I don’t ever remember seeing this one before.”

She opens the box, peers inside, and smiles. “If you want to know more about your mom’s first love, this box will help you more than I can.”

“What is all this stuff?”

“These are some things that he gave her and the journal I gave her just before they met. I don’t know a lot of the particular details, but I know that after he and your mom broke up, I noticed that all of these things were gone. I had assumed that she either threw them all away, burned them, or whatever it is that angry teenagers do when they go through a break up.”

I pick up the long forgotten journal. “So, she wrote about him in here?”

“I honestly never read it, but the simple fact that it’s in this box, tells me that she did.”

I am suddenly overcome with a pang of guilt and shame. These are my mother’s private possessions, and I am looking through them. I immediately put the journal back in the box and put the lid on.

As I pick it up to take it back to the attic, Nana puts her frail hand on the box. “What are you doing?”

“I just don’t feel right about this. These were her personal things and her secret thoughts. I’m going to put it back where I found it.”

“Laura, just like the locket, I know your mom would have wanted you to have these things. If she were here right now, she would willingly tell you everything in that journal herself. It’s a part of who she was, so I think it’s essential for you to know what she went through in her life. Really, Laura, keep it.  You don’t have to read it now, but someday you may want to.”

I place the box back on top of the quilt tub. “Okay. If you think so, I’ll keep it.”

“I know so,” she says, kissing me on the cheek. “Oh, I almost forgot! Here are the keys to the garage apartment.”

“Nana, I’m only going to be here a few days. Why do I need keys?”

“First of all, I like to keep it locked; there are a lot of odd people up and down that beach. Secondly, I want you to be able to come and go as you choose, without feeling like you’re troubling me. Lastly . . .” She pauses and looks at me.

“What? What’s the last thing?”

“I want you to stay here. Nolive here.”

“I would love to, but I can’t impose on you, especially with all of my emotional baggage.”

She grabs hold of both of my hands and squeezes them. “Look, I couldn’t take you in when your parents died, because your Grandpa Sam had Parkinson’s disease. He required my full attention and care. I finally have the chance to take care of you for a while, even if you are a grown woman, and I could use the company, too. I’m going batty in this big house all by myself. Please, Laura, at least consider it.”

As she looks at me, waiting for an answer, I contemplate my options. Whether I go back home or stay here, I’ll still have to live with someone until I find a job and save some money. Here, I will have an amazing room and almost as much privacy as I had when I lived on my own. I could just stay for a few months, at leastmaybe until the end of the summer. There are some little shops downtown, so I may be able to find a job to earn some money. At the end of the summer, I’ll decide if I want to go back home or not.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but . . . okay. I’ll stay,” I say, immediately wondering if I am doing the right thing.

She wraps her arms around me so tight that I can hardly breathe. “I’m so glad! It’s going to be so nice having you here!”

“Just make me one promise.”

She finally pulls back from her embrace. “What’s that?”

“Promise me that you’ll cancel your plans of fattening me up.” I wink.

“You’ve got a deal. I’ll only bake a cake or cookies every other day.”

All I can do is laugh.

I pick up the big bin with my mom’s box on top, and I trudge back to the garage.  I’ll certainly get some exercise after walking up and down the stairs to my bedroom several times a day. I get in my room and begin making the bed. I still can’t believe I agreed to live here, but I just couldn’t say no to her. It’s not like I won’t be comfortable; this room is incredible.

I look out the French doors toward the beach, and I realize there’s only about an hour until the sun starts to set. If I’m going to go for a walk, I need to do it right now, so I run back over to the house to tell Nana that I’m going for a walk. Maybe living with her won’t be so bad, after all. She actually lectures me, because I tell her where I am going.

Finally, I head toward the water. I was right about the evening being clear; only a few wispy clouds still hover overhead. When I get to the sand, I take my shoes off, hide them behind a little bush, and I begin walking down the shoreline. The warm, fine sand feels amazing on my tired feet, and a gentle breeze caresses my exposed skin. The rhythmic sound of the waves is very calming to my soul, and I immediately begin to relax a little. It’s the perfect end to a not-so-perfect day.

As I walk, I think about everything that has been going on in my life, including today. I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do now. Nana said that I had to figure out what I want on my own, but all I can think of is what I don’t want. I don’t want to keep starting my life over. I don’t want a boyfriend that is going to try to change me or cheat on me. I don’t want to feel like I’m doing everything wrong.

Up ahead, I see a young girl walking toward me. As she gets closer, I can see that she is talking on her cell phone, and I can guess that she’s talking to her boyfriend by what she is sayingcrying, actually. It appears that I’m not the only heart-broken person on the beach tonight.

The sun is beginning to set, and it’s the most mesmerizing thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember sunsets looking like this when I was a little girl, but I guess, at that age, I just didn’t care.

I don’t know how long I’ve been walking or how far. I should probably turn back, since it’s already going to be pitch black out here by the time I get home. Luckily, I have one of those handy little flashlights on my key chain, among various other things you need when you live in a city like Baltimore. I look ahead, and I see a set of stairs coming off of the steep bluff. I decide that I’ll walk to those stairs, turn around, and head back.

I’m almost to the stairs when I see that there is something on them. No, it’s someone. A pretty drunk someone, if I had to guess. I can see empty beer bottles planted in the sand all around. I can also identify that it’s a man, since he’s not wearing a shirt. I can’t tell if he’s asleep, but I feel compelled to make sure he’s okay. Clenching my pepper spray on my keychain, I continue to approach the man.

Once I am near enough to distinguish that he is, in fact, breathing, I realize that I recognize him. He’s the gardener that changed my tire, and it looks as if he's passed out cold. I know that I need to hurry and leave before he sees me, but I linger for a just moment to admire him. I didn’t look closely at his features earlier today, since I was embarrassed the entire time. He looks much different now with his face relaxed. He must have been swimming, because his khaki shorts are still damp. His dark hair looks dry, but it’s a beautiful mess. He also has sand clinging all over his tanned, defined chest and muscular arms. I’d much rather look at him than the sunset.

Snapping back into the reality of the situation, I decide that I can’t let him see me here. I quietly begin to turn to walk back, watching him carefully to see if he moves. Then, I notice his eyes slowly opening, and he looks confused. I instantly come to the realization that he only had his eyes closed and was not quite asleep.

Just great! He caught me!

 I quickly think of something to say, and he looks up at mewith a half-drunk smile. I can tell by that smile that he remembers me . . . and everything that happened today.

“Laura?” he says with a sleepy smile.

He knows my name? “Exactly how do you know who I am?”

He sits up as if he snaps into reality. “I don’t really. I just read it on a box earlier today, so I assumed that was your name. I‘m not a psycho stalker, I promise.”

“When you say ‘box,’ you mean the

“Just a box,” he quickly interrupts as if to save me from today’s embarrassments. “I don’t remember which one.”

He’s not a good liar, but I am relieved. “Good! Well, actually, I mean, you were right. My name is Laura. Laura Carey, actually.”

He holds his hand out to shake mine and tries to stifle a laugh. “Nice to meet you, Laura Carey Actually. My name is Brooks Tucker, actually.”

I can’t help but laughing, even though he is making fun of me. “Okay, I deserved that, actually. I have a tendency to sound like an idiot when I’m around someone I don’t know. I’m not what you would call a social butterfly.” I still sound like an idiot.

“And yet you came and found me tonight?” He raises one eyebrow.

“You have the wrong idea. I was just on a nice, long walk, and I could see you lying on these stairsobviously drunkand I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I didn’t even know it was you until I was within a few feet of you. In fact, I thought you were asleep, and I was going to leave before you ever saw me. I‘m no psycho stalker either.”

“Touché,” he says as we both turn when we hear a gate open at the top of the bluff. He quickly grabs me by my arm and drags me under the stairs with him to hide.

“What are we doing?” I mouth to him.

Brooks simply puts his finger over his mouth, looking up at the stairs.

“JOSHUA?” a woman yells. “ARE YOU OUT HERE?”

When there is no answer, the woman descends the steps halfway and repeats her inquiry. Again, there is no answer, and the woman huffs and goes back up the stairs. I hear the sound of the gate closing.

The curiosity is killing me. “What is going on? Who was that, and who is Joshua?”

“That is Jacqueline Martens. She lives up there.”

“Oh, she’s the woman you work for. Which makes Joshua her husband?”

Brooks begins to fidget. “No, not yet.”

That woman must make him nervous or something. I see an immediate change in his mood and his facial expression. He was calm and almost charming before; now, he is nervous and sullen. His once relaxed face becomes hardened and furrowed. Deep creases are forming just above his brows, and he presses his lips into a tight line.

“Why were you hiding from her?”

He begins to say something a few times, but he can’t seem to form the words. “I just don’t want her to know where I am,” he finally says with an edge of bitterness in his voice.

It’s obvious to me that he is agitated. I’m not sure what has provoked this behavior from him, but I decide it’s time for me to go. “Well, Brooks, it was nice to see you again, and I want to thank you again for today. I have a long walk back home, so I better get started. Maybe we’ll see each other around town.”

“I doubt we will, but maybe,” he says as he sits and glares at the sand, completely emotionless.

That was the strangest conversation I’ve had in a long time. I can’t figure out what is going on between him and his employers. Out of nowhere, she shows up, and he turns into cold stone. I almost wonder if there is some sort of love triangle thing going on.  His behavior was just so odd, and he became so indifferent. He could have at least offered to walk me home; it’s an awful long way to walk without much light.

After what seems like forever, I finally make it home. Fumbling with the keys, I finally get the door open and flick the light on. I take a quick shower to wash away what feels like five pounds of sand, and I get ready for bed. When I walk over to the balcony doors to close the curtains, I think I see movement on the beach, but when I take a second look, I don’t see anything. I assume going two days without sleep can do that to a person. I really need some sleep.

 

I wake up to a faint orange glow in the room. Nearly forgetting where I am, I get up and start surveying the room. Walking out onto the balcony, I see that the sun is beginning to rise, so I walk down the stairs and head toward the sand. I love to sit on the beach and watch the sun make its glorious escalation into the sky.

I find the perfect spot to sit and observe my surroundings. The aquamarine sky is gradually filling with bright rays of ginger radiance, and the water looks as if glitter is spilling out of the sun into the waves. There is a steady breeze blowingjust enough that I have to hold my silk robe down onto my legs. I can still see my footprints in the moist sand trailing off to the right from my walk last night, but . . .

I get up and walk over to the prints. There should be two sets of footprints here: one set from where I left last night and one where I came back. There are four. The other two appear larger than my feet, and they stop right at the clearing that leads to the house and go back in the direction they came from. It wasn’t my imagination. I saw someone on the beach last night.

 

 

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