A week passed and I needed a change. I had spent every day since we had arrived either on the beach or in the living room watching TV and I had to admit that I was starting to get bored. I hadn't seen the soccer ball guy again in the last week and though he had embarrassed me and acted immature, at least he'd served as a source of entertainment. 

I'd decided that I would finally cave in and explore Pueblo, but on my own. So, on the Sunday that marked exactly a week since we had arrived, I prepared myself for my first walk outside of the safety of this secluded area that I had created for myself. I wore jean shorts, a white Abercrombie shirt, and my white and blue flip-flops. I pulled a hair band onto my wrist and had given myself no time to second guess my decision as I locked the door behind me. 

The world on this side of the house was impressively different. The ocean could be heard vaguely over the tops of the beach houses, but there were shadows everywhere and no one was outside, despite the nice weather. It only took me five minutes to get to the gate and only another minute while the security guard found our family's name registered in the computer's database. 

Walking the streets outside of the protective fencing made my heart beat slightly irregular. I didn't know why, but I guessed that maybe it was because of how alien it all was to me. Quaint little houses lined the streets across from the beach houses and I soon found a path towards the beach where the high black steel fencing of the beach houses took a sharp turn towards the beach. 

When we had started junior year Jacob had begun planning our senior trip. He had wanted us to go to countries that I didn't even know at the time, existed, but I'd then forced myself to remember because it had been so important to him. He would show me the maps that he had collected from the library or from his dad's office, while sneaking kisses on my face. 

"Has anyone ever told you that you are highly distracting?" I'd asked, not meaning any of it.

"Hm, several people," he'd answered; I knew that he meant none of it as well. He'd then held my neck gently in his wide hands and found my mouth, slowly parting it until my mind was elsewhere where only he and I'd existed. "I love you." He'd said, pecking my lips softly.

I found myself walking down the path towards the beach while remembering the last time that I had truly lost myself for all the right reasons. Wild, long strands of grass kissed my legs as I climbed one of the dunes that I had seen from my side of the fence. The view was incredible. The ocean appeared endless and to my right there were people, a lot of people, running and laughing and simply relaxing on the beach. 

I ventured down from the sand dune and took off my flip-flops. I walked towards the crowd, keeping my eyes down shyly as I began to get closer to them. 

"You know that when you do that," Jacob had said when he caught me glancing down at my feet one day after we had first started dating, "you look cute, but you don't let the world see you."

What I had never told him was that this was the point. I didn't want people to see me, recognize me, or point me out. I didn't want to be known as the daughter of the CEO of some investment bank. I wanted to be the girl that someone could meet and say, "I don't know anything about her, she is a stranger," because then it was like a new beginning, something other than myself. 

Children ran in front of me, leaving tiny footprints in the sand. I wanted to smile at the little traces of memories that would soon be washed away by the tide, but I couldn't. My mouth had gotten used to the mixture of anger and sadness and it could only take something huge to change the habit. Like a smoker--I couldn't just quit my mood cold turkey.

"Excuse me," I heard a little voice say and I looked down at a little girl wearing a Little Mermaid swimsuit. "Could you help me with this castle?"

I looked around me and, though no one was staring at me, I felt the urging from strangers to help the little girl with the two missing front teeth. "Okay."

I bent down and began shoveling sand into a nearby pail. Having almost lost my balance twice I finally conceded to sitting on the wet sand. Feeling water seeping through my shorts I shifted uncomfortably.

"What's your name?" The little girl asked, her blue eyes watching my every move like a manager of some construction company.

"I'm Avery, what's yours?" Angela would be proud of me if she could see me, never have I looked so fabulous. 

"Julie, I like your name." She smiled her imperfect smile. "It's very oginal."

I couldn't help but smile a little and in no way did I let it slip that I had broken my habit of not smiling so simply. "Original." I corrected.

"Yeah, that." She responded, barely paying attention. 

I helped her by making several more little bucket sized castles before continuing my walk. 

I hadn't walked very far before a shriek warned me, too late, of someone tumbling towards me. I felt a body on top of mine and after several seconds the weight was slowly lifted.

"Oh. My. God," the girl that I imagined had fallen on me said. "I am so sorry, are you okay?"

I nodded and held up my hand to calm her down while I stretched my back. 

"Jess!" The same girl yelled back at two laughing girls that were a few feet up on a sand dune that I hadn't noticed near the shore. "See what happened? I accidentally hit-- err, who are you, anyway?"

Taken aback by the question I answered, "Avery."

"Not your typical name," one of the girls yelled down, her smile was warm and inviting. "I'm Jess. That clumsy girl down there is Amanda--"

"You pushed me!"

"--and this is my older sister Claire." She continued while ignoring the menacing look from the girl that she'd announced to be Amanda. "You one of the outsiders?"

"I'm sorry?" I shielded my eyes with my left hand.

"An outsider, which I guess you are since I've never seen you around here before." Jess answered her own question.

"I don't trust outsiders." Claire said simply before walking down the dune and disappearing on the other side.

"Don't mind her," Amanda muttered to me as we both watched Jess run after her sister, she too disappearing down the other side. "She just has a lot of bad history with outsiders."

"Do you guys really call tourists that?" I wondered as I looked around the beach for any hints of the missing girls. 

"Yeah," she looked me over when I finally stopped searching. "But you're not a normal outsider are you?"

I shrugged and turned my body slightly, signaling my desire to leave. 

"Where do you live Avery?" The question caught me off guard and I knew it would ruin my wish to be unknown. 

"Around here." I simply answered. 

"Cool," Amanda started walking in the direction of the beach houses. "Come on, I'll walk you."

A while later we stopped in front of the gates to the secluded beach houses. I looked sideways at her, curious at how she could guess that out of all the houses in town I could live in one of the ones inside the gates.

"Don't look so surprised," she said with a smile, "you just look the type."

Instinctively I looked down and she laughed softly. "No, I mean, I can just tell. Let's just call it intuition."

I looked up at her, I liked that she treated me normally even if I was who I was. She grabbed a pen out of her pocket and pulled my hand gently. "Here," she said as she began writing a set of numbers on my palm. "Call me at this number before seven tonight."

I nodded.

She smiled. "There's going to be a bonfire on the beach and maybe you'd like to get out a little."

"Thanks," I muttered looking down at the silvery numbers that she had written down.

"Call me!" She emphasized her words by placing her thumb and pinkie finger on her right hand against her face mimicking a phone. 

Staring at the numbers once more I entered through the gates and walked towards the beach house.


The End

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