I didn't go out with my family to explore Pueblo after we all decided to take the rest of the day off from unpacking our things. Mom put a polka dot dress on Angela since it was too hot for her overalls and looked up at me as I'd climbed down the stairs.
"We're going to have a look around, get a grasp of Pueblo." She stared at me expectantly while Angela ran to get her sandals from the deck outside. When I didn't answer mom shook her head patiently. "You should come with us, get some fresh air? It'll do you some good."
"I'm fine." I said while pressing my back against the wall closest to the sliding doors that led to the beach. I could see Angela from here, her black curls imitating my mom's, but only tighter. "I think I'll just hang out on the beach."
Mom sighed and I always felt the slight pull of her exasperation on my heart, but I couldn't help it, I just wasn't into it. I couldn't spend hours at a time with my family after Jacob's accident. I just needed space and time to be alone with my thoughts, no matter how poisonous they were.
So that was that. They left, dad slightly worried about me and Angela completely forgetting that I wasn't going. I ran up the stairs and changed into my red swim suit. It had been Jacob's favorite. He'd loved how sporty it was.
"It's versatile," he'd said when I'd been trying it on in January. I used to love Summer and awaited its arrival expectantly, almost ritualistically. We'd gone to every swimsuit store and this one had been our favorite. "It looks great Ave, you should get it!"
I looked at myself in the large mirror on the oak dresser by my bathroom and immediately went over my features. I tried to fix my grey eyes into a gaze that said, "I'm okay, I just need to relax, give me some space." I perfected this by raising my eyebrows then expertly lowering them just a bit at the end of the arches. My pout was small and I tried to force a smile on my face, but that only left me looking distorted like as if I were looking into one of those mirrors at the circus.
I clipped back my bangs and looked at myself in the bikini. I was pale from the lack of sun and just above my bottom I had two small indentations. in the center of my back sat a tiny tattoo. It was a butterfly and I touched it softly, remembering the day that I'd gotten it. As I looked at the tattoo I noticed that the orange price tag was still hanging off of the bottoms of the bikini and I pulled it off before taking a deep breath.
After I had gotten myself together I'd chosen a towel from the closet that mom had just filled and a bottle of suntan lotion from the main bathroom. With my bare feet clomping on the hardwood floor I realized just how alone I was. Not just in the house, but in my life and how every time I took a step in it all I heard was the echoes of what used to be.
I slid open the sliding door and stepped out into the burning sun. I took in a breath of fresh sea-salt air and forced my nerves to calm down. I walked several feet down towards the water and laid my towel on the hot sand. After I'd applied some SPF 40 lotion on the places that I could reach on my body I rested back on my elbows.
There was a large white fence, like the ones in the movies, made of old wood surrounding the one side of the beach, separating us from the outside world. Several sand dunes could be seen over the fence. They were decorated with patches of wild grass that danced in the wind to some unheard music and, except for me on this side of the fence, there was no one else on the beach, at least none that I could see.
Then, as if falling from an over-crowded cloud, a ball bounced off my head. With my glasses askew I looked over at the now still soccer ball. I quickly lifted myself up until I was sitting cross-legged, barely taking in the throbbing that was quickly escalating at the top of my head from the blow while I just stared at it sitting there on the sand like an alien.
"Man," I heard from the other side of the fence. "I told you not to kick it too hard."
"Calm down Derek," another voice insisted, "we'll get it back, the fence isn't that high."
"Are you kidding me?" Came a third voice, "That thing is a monster. Plus, what if we get caught?"
"We won't get caught," a fourth voice added assuring the other voices. "We never do."
"Hey Alex, wait!" The third voice called out, but it was too late. A tall blond guy, that I assumed was Alex, suddenly appeared from the other side of the fence, which I had assured myself was empty only moments before.
It took him a while to notice me sitting there, crossed-legged and staring at him with glasses slightly crooked on my face. He was good looking, in an exotic way. His thick blond curls countered his brown eyes and his body was sleek under the white undershirt that he wore. His blue shorts ran to right below his knees and a red hat that he wore with the rim facing backwards emphasized his sunburned cheeks.
"Hi," was all he said in a deep voice as he walked towards me.
Immediately I stood up. "This is private property," I warned as he approached. "I could have you arrested!"
"Relax," he rolled his eyes, "I'm not gonna hurt you, I'm just getting my ball."
"Well," I informed him, "your ball hit me on the head."
"Sorry princess, won't happen again."
I felt my cheeks burning as he bent down to grab the soccer ball. I wanted nothing more than to hit him smack in the center of the back for being so disrespectful, but I controlled myself by showing my anger through a slight intake of air.
I watched him walk back towards the fence with the ball at his side before I decided to respond. "I'm not a princess!"
He looked back and smirked making me feel stupid for having nothing better to answer with. He bowed in my direction before throwing the ball over the fence and then, just as swiftly, pulling himself up and over, disappearing into another world.