“You can’t hide here forever, honey.”
Isabel sighed. Of course Papa Niall was right. He was always right. She took the hand he set on her shoulder and focused on the softness of the back of the thin hand compared to the rough hardness of the palm and long fingers. Working hands. Even now, although technically retired, her grandpa was a hard worker. He often went to help neighbors with maintenance of their houses or their yard equipment. Refusing pay, he was constantly bringing home fresh-baked pies or garden vegetables. He grew his own cucumbers and squash and lettuce but could never get the hang of tomatoes and was happiest when a neighbor had extra to share.
His soft, understanding voice brought her back to the issue at hand. She’d been there two weeks already, since the day after Libs left. She hated being at the apartment alone at night. One night had been enough. She hadn’t slept. But she was going to have to figure something out. “I know, Grandpa, but I don’t really know where to go from here.”
“Are you still writing?” He sipped overly sweet coffee with his free hand. No matter how much Grandma Meladee fussed at him about his caffeine and sugar habit, he wouldn’t let it go. He figured all of the fresh fruits and vegetables he grabbed from the local markets to supplement his own made up for it.
She sipped the vanilla milkshake he made for her, using real vanilla beans and cream from a local dairy. He’d made it for her every time he knew she was down about something she didn’t want to talk about. “No. I keep trying to start, but the words won’t come.”
“Force them. Write gibberish if you have to. Just write something. That’s what your grandmother does when she’s stuck. You should see some of the gibberish scribbled on scraps I’ve kept during the years. They amuse me all over again when I pull them out.”
“Thanks for the warning. If I write gibberish, I’m burning it so no one ends up laughing at me for however many years.”
“Oh, Baby Girl.” He cupped the side of her head. “You need to learn to laugh more, at yourself, especially. You take things too seriously. We’re here and then we’re gone and the next line takes over and then they’re gone and the next line takes over etcetera, etcetera. Why obsess so much about the right now? Just shrug your shoulders, take a deep breath, and leap to the next whatever’s going to happen.”
“I wish I could do that like you do. I’ve always wished I could.”
“Honey, if you truly wished you could, you would.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Nothing is easy. So what? You’re tough. You’re smart. You’re resourceful. You don’t need easy. You only need to pick up your feet and keep walking.”
Keep walking. It had been a month since she’d been to Presque Isle, because of that creepy guy. He’d told her not to quit singing because of the cretins and then she quit walking on the beach at her favorite place in the world because he’d been there. Once. Coincidence.
Except it was too creepy to be coincidence.
Still, since she’d given up her two favorite things in the world, she felt stuck, blocked, ready to explode at the tiniest thing. She’d even fought with her mother, which she generally didn’t bother to do since it never came out well.
She should have been smart enough to find another job before quitting the one she had. When her mother said as much when she’d dropped by to check on her parents and found Isabel there, she should have just said, “I know, but I didn’t because I can’t even think right now because I don’t know who I am anymore,” but she didn’t because she could never stand up to her mother, and she could never admit weakness in front of her.
Her mother did not understand weakness you had to hide any more than she understood Isabel still mourning her ex. She couldn’t. Jocelyn Dillon-Sanderson – who went by Josie as a kid because she hated the name Jocelyn and yet now only went by Jocelyn so she would be taken seriously – so often talked about a boy who “broke her heart” before Isabel’s father, but only for two days, and that was enough grieving time. If she hadn’t let go and moved along, she wouldn’t have given Isabel’s father the time of day when they met and then Isabel wouldn’t be there. Think about what you might be missing, Isabel May. It’s not worth it.
What she might be missing? Like the way her mother these days only put up with her father because they were married and for no other reason? Why would she want that? Just because her mother was strong enough to live that way didn’t mean she wanted to, or could. She wanted no part of that kind of life.