The look could kill. I've come to expect it now, almost as if it were a permanent fixture in this small town. I see it everywhere I go, no matter what the situation calls for it. Really, the only place I don't see it is when I'm at Clyde's. He's the only one who really looks at me lately. Even when I'm with my mother I feel it, but only when I'm looking away. But at least I know her look is because she worries about me. But everywhere else, at the Bike Shop, on the boardwalk, in the mirror, at the Last Chance, I saw the look.
Eventually, even the touristy girls know, if only because of the gossip rate in this town. I glanced at the moon in the sky and sighed, it was probably only past midnight. It was still too early to go to Clyde's, by this time there were generally a few crazies poking around, who were better avoided.
I walked along the boardwalk, my hands shoved deep in my pockets. I began walking along the boardwalk, and then along the beach. I saw the blaze of a bonfire and realized that I was closer to the Tip than I had first thought. I decided to go check up on Jake then, make sure he wasn't passed out somewhere, alone, among the dunes. I was about on the path when I spotted the back of a skinny, dark haired girl.
I walked closer, quietly, hoping to walk past her without much incident.
"On your right!" A voice yelled, I glanced up and saw the approaching figure of a person on a bike. I recognized the voice but I couldn't confirm who it was zooming past. The girl, who was on the bike path, jumped out of the way just before being run down, which I was glad for. I've seen, firsthand, what it looked like to be in the path of an oncoming bicyclist.
The girl was on the path again when I heard two more bikes approaching. She saw them as well and jumped back, running straight into me. Instantly I felt myself restrict into myself. I could barely glance at her as she apologized, a knee jerk reaction I supposed. I nodded quickly before sliding my hands back into my pockets and walking down to the beach.
I passed Jake talking to Leah and Esther standing by the keg. They stared at me, their eyes bugging out slightly at the sight of me. I didn't look at them either as I continued down the beach. I saw with my peripherals the girls whip their heads past me at the sight of something far worse than a monster's unwanted appearance.
I continued to the surf and sat down just out of reach. I watched the moon reflect against the waves and listened to the sound of the waves with my eyes closed and head back, not really thinking at all.
After some time though, I was tired of feeling the cold, moist sand on my feet, without the fortitude that Clyde's coffee brought me. I got up and brushed the sand from my jeans and walked along the dunes. I wasn't expecting to run into anybody so when I heard my brother's voice, I was surprised. I walked further and saw my brother in the moonlight, pulling his belt on while his shirt was rumpled and I could see the sand in his hair.
Then, I saw the girl with dark hair from earlier walking away, stumbling and hunched. When she was out of sight, Jake shook his head and followed her path back to the fire. But I could tell that she wasn't going back to the fire, she was carrying a weight on her shoulder, a weight I could recognize from miles away. It was guilt.
I wanted to follow her, show her was real blame looked like, but I didn't. Instead, I looked back at the moon and decided that only Clyde and his pie could fix this night.
Later that night, or early the next morning, I was practicing on the boardwalk, like I did most nights (Mornings?). I was on the boardwalk, at the point where it opened up to the beach. I wasn't following any sort of set practice regime, I was just getting back the feel of the bike, the thrill. I was getting better at not seeing his face every time I touched the handlebars. But this time, for me, was when I was finally able to stop the images in my head, where I could stop reliving the looks of his family and friends every time I blinked.
Suddenly, a person was standing right in front of me. I skidded to a stop, watching the girl from the night before. She had seemed closer before, but in reality she was about ten feet away, a stroller with a baby in it at her side. I couldn't find the words that I should have spoken in a situation like this, I was mesmerized by the expression on her face. It wasn't the look, it was awe, amazement. The look I used to get while I was on the bike.
She was just as shocked as I was, I could tell, at being caught staring. She looked like she was about to bolt, not even caring about the baby at her side. But then, that very same creature started wailing.
Surprised, she glanced down at the stroller, her face shocked as she remembered that she had the baby with her. I, of course, recognized the stroller from the many times that Heidi pushed it through town on her way to do something, always running herself ragged. I recognized this look from the many new mothers that would make their way to our house as kids, my mother the guru that could solve many unsavory inquiries (with a shudder I thought of all of the things I walked into as I went to get a drink from the fridge).
Now I knew who this was, Heidi's step-daughter. I heard her talking about it, loudly, with the girls from the shop the other day. Her name was odd, like Autumn. I remember because I wondered what her parents named her other kids, Winter? Spring?
I was still watching her as she glanced up, flushed. "She's… it's been a long night."
I thought back to the night I had, all of the errands I had run. I don't know why, but I said, "Aren't they all."
She looked up at me, her glance quizzical. I didn't think I could stand to make much more small talk, so I turned my bike and began zigzagging all the way down the boardwalk.