I only watched him walk away for a few seconds before following Amanda towards a large group of people. My parents had been watching TV with Angela when Amanda and I had left. They had warned me not to drink and here I was with a beer in my hand after it had been passed to me. The same guy that had jumped the fence a week ago had hit me with such force that the both of us had been left on the sand, him on top of me. I shook the thought of his deep brown eyes analyzing my face and the tempting lips that were formed into an "O" as he lay on top of me for far too long, out of my mind. Amanda poked a guy in the back and put her other arm around my shoulder.
"Hey Derek, this is Avery." The name sounded vaguely familiar.
"Hey," he said and I instinctively recognized his voice as one of the four that I had heard a week before. His deep voice didn’t match his long body and skinny figure, or his short frizzy red hair. "How's it going?"
I acknowledged him with a small smile and Amanda continued introducing me to people whose names I would probably forget. She didn't add that I was an outsider or that I lived in one of the doll house beach houses, like most would back in Toronto. Instead she just referred to me as her new friend, Avery.
When all of that was done I separated myself from the group and went and sat down on the cool sand. There was something about the night sky here in Pueblo that had me intrigued. Even when I was back at the beach house, I would sit on the balcony for hours just staring up. A star fell from the sky and if I would have blinked I would have missed it.
“Did you make a wish?” Amanda asked, appearing beside me.
“Hey,” I said. Her eyes went up to the sky as well like metal attracted to a magnet.
“Not your type of thing, huh?” She asked without looking at me.
I shook my head and looked down at the cool sand that was covering several of my bare toes. I ran a finger through the sand, drawing little meaningless symbols.
“You know,” she began while pulling her knees up and resting her chin on them. “They aren’t so bad once you get to know them. I know that right now that might be hard to believe, but just give them a chance.”
“Who was that guy?” When she looked at me I rephrased my question. “The one who bumped into me, who is he?”
Amanda smiled as if she understood. “Alex. He isn’t usually like that with people he doesn’t know.”
“I met him before.” I said quietly, causing her to look over at me. “He jumped that white fence that separates the beach to get a soccer ball that had hit me on the head.”
“Oh,” her eyes widened. “So he knows that you’re an outsider. That explains everything.”
‘”How?” I couldn’t understand why there was such negativity towards the tourists in the town. My family usually spent their days in downtown Pueblo, exploring the surroundings and from the silence of the other beach houses I guessed that they kept to themselves, never bugging anyone.
“Well, not all outsiders who come here are like you, some are,” she paused for a moment as she searched for the right word, “well, some are messed up.”
I continued staring at her, waiting for her to continue.
“There was this one outsider, he was gorgeous, even more than Alex,” she smiled suddenly and winked at me. “I know you thought he was cute too from the way you looked at him.”
I blushed, but I silently scolded myself for being so immature.
“Well, anyway, there was this guy who came in here from Washington D.C., thought he ran things, you know? Just ‘cause his dad was some general or something.” She waved her hand to emphasize her point. “All the Pueblo girls went insane because he was so amazing. Low and behold, he had a thing for Alex’s girlfriend at the time. One thing led to another, and well, Alex and her weren’t dating anymore after he got through with her.”
“Wait,” I pulled my legs in until they were under me. “She cheated on him?”
Amanda nodded. “That and then some, but, like every other outsider, this guy had to leave and who was left with the anger and the bruises? Alex.”
“So he hates me for being an outsider.” I said simply.
“It isn’t that he hates you, he just doesn’t trust you.” Amanda corrected me. “It’s also the fact that you all come here and live in your mini mansions without a glance over the fence.”
I felt her words sting and remembered my many afternoons the last week sitting alone on the beach protected by the white fence.
“Before the contract that was made for the houses came in, that side of the beach was equal to this one. This place was the same throughout the whole length of the beach, and then it got taken away from us. A lot of the kids here hold that type of grudge, even if it couldn’t be avoided.”
“I see,” staring off into the ocean I remembered the look that Alex had shot me over his shoulder as he yelled back to his friends. My stomach had been screaming at me with nerves. My natural reaction of being rude to him was a reflex to protect myself and now he probably thought I was the rudest person ever.
“So what’s your story?” Amanda asked so suddenly that I was snapped out of my thoughts. When I looked at her, my face surely contorted by confusion, she smiled. “What’s your story? Where do you come from, why do you like to be alone so much?”
“You noticed that.”
“When someone walks away from a group of such accepting people questions of the sort tend to pop up.” She smiled expectantly and when I didn’t say anything she playfully hit my arm. “Come on, I won’t bite.”
As I stared at her I took in her features. She was thin with slightly muscular arms, her eyes were an oceanic blue and her nose was a bit too long, but it fit her well. Her red hair emphasized the freckles on her face and she had a tooth that overlapped another near the corner of her smile, giving it more personality. “It’s complicated.”
“Try me,” she smiled, revealing the two teeth again.
“I’m from Toronto and I’m staying until the end of August.” I began. “I like to be alone because…”
She looked at me, silently urging me to continue. I didn’t know what I was saying until I heard the words leaving my mouth. “My boyfriend, Jacob, died in March.”
There was a sharp silence after I exposed my deadly secret and I forced myself to stare straight ahead at the moonlit waves of the ocean. A mixture of seagulls and other birds sang and cried overhead and several clouds began to cover the moon in the distance. The music in the background became slow and serene and I could almost hear the footsteps of couples falling into each others’ arms.
I felt the urge to apologize, to explain that it had just slipped out, but a part of me knew that she didn’t mind. Barely knowing this girl gave me a sudden freedom. I could be honest with her without feeling the need to over-explain myself. It was refreshing, freeing; something new.
“You came to the right place to heal.” Amanda commented with an air of finality.
I looked over at her and smiled and out of the corner of my eye I saw Alex. He was talking to Claire in a hushed voice, and as I watched on I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a long time: a skip in my heart beat.