A young woman of undeterminable age—she could be sixteen or twenty-four; either way she is young and rather pretty, with eyes that seem to reflect a sadness that only a person far beyond her years could have collected—stands at a gloomy dock staring out at the sea. She is sopping wet, and drops of saltwater drip down from her dark hair onto the wood underneath her bare feet. It is cold, so cold, and in the midst of her tangled thoughts she wonders if it is, in fact, December.
Her lungs feel full and heavy; there is still water to be expelled from her system. She coughs, and it hurts her chest at first, but soon she can breathe again.
She is awfully cold.
A small town rests behind her, the town the dock belongs to, but it is dark and empty and not a single light flickers in the windows. She doubts that there is anyone living here anymore.
To either side of her is the seemingly endless beach, the coastline of which she finds terrifyingly familiar.
She closes her eyes and hugs herself tighter, not only for solace from the biting cold but also in an attempt to ease her mind as she tries to remember how she came to find herself suddenly deposited upon these abandoned shores.
Images, sounds, feelings—they flash through her head like distant memories; rocks of immense size looming right before her eyes, and then pain and screams and crashing waves, and three desperate faces calling her name. Violet. She remembers them and she remembers herself; she is alone and she should not be. Klaus, Sunny, Beatrice. Her eyes flutter open as she feels a sharp pain right where her heart beats, unsteadily, unsure.
You were supposed to take care of them.
She feels numb, and it isn't just because of the weather.
Her heart skips another beat, and then two.
How could you have let yourself drift away?
She is still not entirely sure of what happened, but she knows that it is her fault, because it was her duty to protect her siblings and Kit's daughter, christened in honour of their very own late mother; it was her job, she had known that, and she had let them slip out of her grasp.
But she has survived. Maybe they will, too. She latches onto that one glimmer of hope, her one ray of sunshine in the infinite darkness. Perhaps the ocean tossed them to where they needed to be, like it did to her. She swallows her uncertainty and tells herself to believe it, for if it weren't at least a plausibility, then she would no longer have any reason to live.
So what to do now? Her only remaining family is lost out at sea, or on the shores of distant lands—maybe together, maybe separated, but whatever has happened they're all most likely be miles and miles away from where she now stands. The baby could be crying as the tide washes her into a merchant's boat in an Arabian port; Klaus and Sunny could still be in the middle of the ocean clinging for their lives onto pieces of their broken ship.
After several moments of contemplating this, she takes a deep breath and begins to tug her dirty worn ribbon off her wrist—still with her after years of wear and tear—ready to tie her hair up and go through the age-old routine. She needs to think.
Halfway through the motions she hears the soft thrum of a car engine as a taxi pulls up beside her.
Violet jerks, spinning around as the vehicle's front bumper nudges her gently and then stops. Her eyes are wide and she has a feeling that she would look rather like a deer in the headlights, had the taxi's headlights even been on.
Why aren't they on?
The question can wait. For now there are many more important inquires running through her mind, such as, what is a taxicab doing in a deserted town in the middle of the night? Who is driving? And what do they want? The situation isn't pointing much in her favour at the moment—strangers at nighttime are dangerous, and are made all the more dangerous by cabs.
No one exits or enters the car, but she hears the engine shut off. Whoever is inside is prepared to wait. Wait for what? For her? No one could have possibly known she was going to be here—not even she could have foreseen their boat crashing; her landing upon the beach where she heard the news of her parents' death was mere coincidence.
Or was it?
Scrambled thoughts run through her brain in a frenzy, tumbling over each other and giving her the most conflicted of emotions. Hope, confusion, bewilderment—and the most prominent is terror, and it is blinding.
Yet there is nothing she can do but hunt down her fear and twist its neck, and throw it away to chase after her later like it's done for what now seems like most of her life. She pulls herself together with the words of her late mother—if every decision you can make is a bad one then you may as well go through with one anyway—and finishes undoing the knot on her ribbon, which has been dangling from her wrist since the taxi arrived. As calmly as she is able—her hands are shaking—she pulls her soaking wet hair back and in a single movement that can only be achieved by years of practice, ties it up.
The man in the taxi sees her do this in the darkness and he closes his eyes and leans back against the seat and remembers the words of his late lover. If every decision you can make is a bad one then you may as well go through with one anyway. His fist tightens around the envelope he has been clutching.
Most would deem it impossible for him to know that Violet Baudelaire was going to end up at Briny Beach this very evening—but the phenomenon is not entirely inexplicable. Oftentimes, one will have what most people call a gut feeling, and while nine out of ten it is simply an unexpected bout of common sense, the particular gut feeling that this man had that afternoon came from the connection he had long shared with the girl's deceased mother. When she died in that fire, he had felt it, and he remembers sitting there riddled with pain and regret and he had no idea why until he received a phone call from an old friend with a terrible cough.
And when the sixteen-year-old inventor was tossed through a storm clinging to the remnants of an old, old ship heading straight for place where everything changed, he felt that too.
Violet, still dripping, and still trying to summon up every bit of courage that she lost when she found herself on the beach without the three sole remaining members of her family, walks as fast as she can towards the car, and she pulls open the passenger door and sits herself inside and slams it shut with the force of someone who has just realised that they are very, very angry.