(Although, I should warn you, I DO have a holiday story for you all as a special thank you for letting me off for a month. :)
But now, since you probably skipped the intro anyways...the next part of my current favorite story..."Ocean Mist". :D
“I feel really bad about what happened,” Dillon remarked as he watched the youngest pastor’s kid climb painfully into the car and drive away.
The dark-haired teen next to him shrugged. “My brother has been in worse accidents than this one. I think he’ll be fine.”
The sister of the wounded boy didn’t look so hopeful. Her brow was knit in worry, and she had started chewing on her lower lip. “I wish I could have kept that from happening,” she said.
A wave of guilt swept through Dillon. “I shouldn’t have brought it up,” he said. “This whole accident was really my fault.”
Nicole sent him a sympathetic look. “Not the whole accident,” she was quick to say, “but you’re right, you shouldn’t have brought it up,” she added honestly.
A sudden breeze kicked up off the ocean, and without the comfort of his shirt, Dillon felt the coolness of it right down to his bones. He gave a slight shiver.
Shawn’s sharp eyes noticed the almost undetectable shudder and unzipped his jacket. “Here,” he offered. “You can wear this until you get home and can change into a shirt of your own.”
Dillon gave the pastor’s son a look of surprise. “I might get it dirty,” he warned. “In fact, there’s no ‘might’ about it. I will be getting it dirty. I’m covered in sweat!”
An unreadable expression crossed Shawn’s face, but the hand that held out the jacket remained steady. “Jackets wash,” he said.
Realizing his new friend was in earnest, Dillon took the gift and slipped into its welcome protection from the wind. The arms were a little tight, but other than that small factor, the jacket fit pretty well. A faint smell of Shawn’s cologne reached his nose, but the smell was pleasant, and not unbearably strong. He smiled his thanks. “That’s a lot better,” he admitted aloud.
Shawn gave him a stiff nod before shoving his glasses back up his nose and looking down the street where his dad’s car so recently disappeared. Dillon followed his gaze and grinned when he recognized his own dad’s car driving towards them. Eagerly, he waved.
“Boy, am I glad to see you!” he exclaimed when the window rolled down and Mark’s face stuck out the window.
“Well, we couldn’t leave you stranded here forever, could we?” Mark answered. “No matter how tempting that thought might be,” he added with a grin.
Steven stepped out of the backseat. “Mark and I stopped by your dad’s house after alerting Ray’s parents and told him what happened. He’s going to give y’all a ride back to their house again.”
Dillon glanced down at the borrowed jacket. “Could we make a detour to our house first so I can give Shawn’s jacket back to him?”
“What happened to your shirt?” Mr. Blake asked, craning around Mark’s gangly form and seeing his son’s outfit for the first time.
“My brother was bleeding heavily from a gash in his side and Dillon provided the needed bandage,” Nicole explained. “It may or may not be able to be used again.”
“I didn’t ever like that shirt anyways Dad,” Dillon added. “It wasn’t a big deal.”
“Well, I’m glad you were able to help him out,” his dad answered. Switching subjects, he said, “This car only holds four people other then me. Who’s biking home?”
“I can,” Steven offered.
“I will too,” Mark put in. He punched Steven gently on his shoulder. “Y’ know, just so you aren’t lonely.”
“Ok, Dillon how about you get the rest of the bikes onto the back,” Mr. Blake said.
“Sure thing, Dad.”
Shawn and Nicole helped pack their three bikes and the remains of Ray’s bike into the trunk and bicycle rack that adorned the rear of the car. They waved their goodbyes to Steven and Mark and then climbed into their seats.
“All buckled?” Mr. Blake asked from the front.
“Yes, sir!” chorused the three teens.
The car started and they moved down the road.
“Wow, you guys have a really good view!” Nicole breathed out ecstatically when Mr. Blake parked their car.
“Yeah, we really lucked out on this house,” the man agreed. “The owners were moving to Texas for business related stuff and wanted to get rid of it. We’ve made some improvements, but it didn’t need much.”
“Do you mind if I wander around out in front while we’re waiting?” she asked with shining eyes.
“No problem,” Mr. Blake assured her with a smile. “Go right ahead.”
Nicole opened the car door and walked through the lawn and across a side deck before finding stairs that brought her to the sandy beach. A hammock hung between two trees on the other side of the house, and a few chairs stood around a fireplace a few feet from where she stood. Her artist’s heart drank in the scene to capture in a future picture as shoe-shod feet sank into the shifting sands. Impulsively, she untied her tennis shoes and slipped the socks off her feet in order to sink her toes into the cool grains. It felt so good.
A smile lifted the corners of her mouth and she shut her eyes for a moment to experience the beach with her other senses. All was quiet at first, but then, her ears began picking up the sounds of distant seagulls, crashing waves, voices of neighbors, someone playing music way too loud for their own good, the wind whispering through the grass that grew coarse and tall on the sand dunes.
She knelt in the sand and ran her hands through the slightly damp substance, each grain unique in its different shape and color; each grain traveled from its mother rock or shell to make its long journey here, to where she could feel it in her fingers.
The wind dried her tongue when she stuck it out to taste the air, but she could tell it was cool. Some sand must have been picked up by it, because at least a few grains made it into her mouth by the time she closed it. With a grimace, Nicole spit them out and brushed other sand over it to hide the spot.
Closing her eyes again, she took a long, careful breath through her nose. The tangy scent of seaweed, the earthy smell of sand and grass, and vaguely, she could make out someone cooking something over the barbecue. It smelled good. Her stomach growled.
“Hungry?” someone asked from behind her.
With a gasp and exclamation of surprise, Nicole’s eyes flew open and she spun around. “Oh my word, you startled me Dillon!”
“Sorry,” the teen apologized sheepishly. “I was sent to let you know we were ready to head out.”
“Of course, thank you.” She smiled. “I was enjoying the view.”
“With your eyes shut?” Dillon asked with a doubtful grin.
“Sometimes that’s what it takes,” Nicole answered simply with a shrug. “I was enjoying it with all my senses.”
“Oh, I see,” Dillon said.
As they walked back to the car, Dillon puzzled over his new friends who never ceased to surprise him. During the ride to their home, it was very quiet. But that ceased the moment they arrived in their parking lot.
“Are you ok?” Nicole asked as she knelt by her brother. They were still breathless from running into the house the minute the car had stopped.
“Yeah, I’m fine. How did you get here so fast?” Ray demanded to know.
“Steven and Mark stopped by Mr. Blake’s place and he drove us home before taking the bicycles back to the rental and paying for all the damage. He said we could pay him back.”
“Is he out there right now?” their dad broke in, from where he was sitting on the other couch.
“As far as we know he is,” Shawn said.
“Well for heaven’s sake ask them in then!” Mrs. Daniels called from the kitchen. “I’ll get some coffee going.”
Shawn obediently did as he was told and soon both Dillon and his dad were expressing their sympathies to Ray while sipping from steaming mugs of coffee.
When there was a lull in the small talk, Mr. Blake surprised them all by turning to Nicole and saying, “I hear you are quite the accomplished artist. I dabble in art myself, and I would love to see some of your work.”
Nicole ducked her head, embarrassed, before replying. “I wouldn’t call myself an accomplished artist Mr. Blake. I enjoy drawing, and find it a way for me to relax, but haven’t spent a lot of time working on getting any better.”
When he insisted that he really would like to see some of her pictures, Nicole gave in and brought down her sketchbook and laid it open with the strange feeling that she was opening a part of her soul to him.
For a few minutes, the only sounds in the room were the almost silent sound of sips of coffee, the clock ticking, and the flipping of pages as Mr. Blake looked through Nicole’s handiwork.
After awhile, Dillon’s dad looked up at her tense face and smiled. “These are amazing,” he said, gesturing to the pictures with a wave of his hand. “Have you considered getting them published?”
Nicole shook her head and gathered up her sketches like so many lost children. “No, I prefer to keep it as a hobby. I find no pleasure in sharing my work with more than friends and family. Someday, if my grandchildren see fit to publish them when I’m dead, they’re welcome to the headache.” She finished her last statement with a shake of her head.
“This is my favorite,” Dillon said, pointing to the one still on the table. His dad bent down for a closer look. “See how she captured the expressions on each face so well?”
Indeed she had. It was the scene she drew of her family traveling down to their vacation home for a week, the five family members squeezed into the car like marshmallows and chocolate in a s’more. Nicole smiled at the memory now, but picked it up to put away with the other ones.
“That’s one of my favorites too, although I think this one topped out as the absolute favorite,” she said, flipping through her pictures for a few seconds before pulling out a different picture.
Her audience leaned in again. The sketch she held was the one she had drawn of her parents sitting together with their backs to the fire, arms around each other, hair blowing in the wind, a perfect picture of contentment, love, and peace.
Dillon’s breath caught for a moment, a lump had come to his throat as the memories of his mom came back in a wave of grief that took him completely by surprise. He glanced sideways at his dad and noticed that his reaction hadn’t been the only one. Mr. Blake had tears streaming down his face.
“What’s the matter?” Nicole asked in distress. “Is it something I said? Or did? What did I do wrong?”
His dad was in no condition to talk, so Dillon cleared his throat. “My mom passed away a couple years ago,” he said, his voice still thick with unshed tears. “That picture brought some memories back from our life when she was still with us.”
Nicole blinked, feeling tears coming to her own eyes. “I am so sorry,” she whispered, her hand over her mouth in shock. “I-I didn’t realize. If I had known…”
“It’s not your fault,” Dillon assured her. “It’s just…”
“Mrs. Blake died a few months after she discovered she had kidney cancer,” Nicole’s dad broke in. “It was very sudden. Nobody was prepared.”
“I’ll say,” Dillon muttered. “She had always been so healthy. Mom hardly ever got sick. She should have lived to be over ninety years old…” bitterness flavored each sentence the teen spoke. “But she didn’t. She didn’t even live to be forty years old. She died when she was thirty-nine.”
Suddenly angry, Dillon gripped the upholstery of the chair he sat in and spat out between clenched teeth, “It’s not fair. What did she do to deserve such a death? What did we do to deserve losing her? Sometimes, I hate this world and the way it works. If there’s a God, like you believe there is, and He created this earth, like you think He did, then I hate Him for taking my mom from me.” With that final statement, he slammed his coffee mug onto the end table and rushed through the door, closing it behind him with a bang.
For a moment, the Daniels family sat in shock. Mr. Blake broke the silence with an embarrassed cough. “I’m sorry my son spoke like he did about your God. He took Cheryl’s death very hard.”
“I understand,” the pastor replied warmly. “It’s always very sad to loose a loved one. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for you to loose a wife and him a mother. We’ll be praying for you both.”
Dillon’s dad stood up. “Thank you,” he said, “for both the coffee and your prayers. I’d better go talk to my son now.” Just before closing the door behind him, he turned to Nicole. “If you feel the urge to draw ocean scenery, you’re welcome to come to our place to do it. I’d be honored to have our view be captured in one of your sketches.”
“Thank you very much Mr. Blake,” Nicole answered with a heartfelt smile. “I won’t forget your offer.”
“I’ll have Dillon send you our address so you can find your way easier without having to rely on only your memory.”
“Which we all know is faultless,” Shawn muttered from behind his book. If anyone heard him, no one paid the comment any mind.
With one last round of “goodbye” and “we’ll keep you in our prayers”, Dillon’s dad closed the door. The pastor’s family was by themselves once again.