This week I am excited to share with you all a sneak peek of Chapter 1 of my novel, The Silence in the Sound. I would Love—Love—Love to hear what you think.
July 6, 2007
I’m exhausted from goodbyes.
A kiss is just a kiss until it’s more, and then everything changes.
Growing up, my mother hummed the song “As Time Goes By” by Dooley Wilson, not occasionally but incessantly. It appeared a compulsion of sorts, or possibly a coping mechanism from having to deal with us kids and my alcoholic father. Nearly every morning, you would find her in the kitchen, doing the previous night’s dishes and making coffee or lunches for the day, and you’d hear her. Initially, it would be a slow hum; she seemed unaware of the beginning of the song’s lyrics. Next, she would break full-on into the song, and then she’d return to the hum of the chorus.
The song replayed over and over in my head as I entered Falmouth, and I heard myself humming. I’d done it for years, a nervous tick passed from my mother that was now ingrained in me. I slowed with the traffic, seeing it backed up at the Palmer Ave lot. The cars began to move, and I stared at the picture of a ferry boat on a sign for Martha’s Vineyard. I felt my heart thump in my chest and looked at the time.
I’d be lucky if I made my ferry reservation, and I prayed that I would. I usually did; although it had been a few years since I’d had to catch the ferry, I figured not much had changed. Hurrying back now felt familiar, but this time was different. I didn’t want to be going back. I had left and put it all behind me. At least, that’s what I tried to convince myself. Running from things—I was good at that; I ran here, but it seems the things you run from always catch up to you.
My palms slipped along the steering wheel, and dampness grew across the small of my back. I put the air conditioner on, wondering why I hadn’t done so an hour ago after my minor panic while leaving the coffee shop in Bourne.
The Jeep glided down the winding road to Woods Hole. I’d driven it so many times before. Heading back to it all now, I couldn’t imagine how I’d face any of it. But I always knew one day I would have to.
I just have to get there.
I’d assumed over the years no one day would be better to return than any other, but I was wrong.
The clock stared at me as I passed the golf course. I had fifteen minutes, and it seemed I’d make it. The tension in my neck subsided, and I relaxed slightly, easing my foot off the gas. The Jeep slowed as I took in my surroundings. I knew every bump and bend in this road and enjoyed the familiarity of it all, forgetting everything for a moment as I looked ahead. It was becoming cloudy; I’d noticed after turning near the bed-and-breakfast on the corner.
Raindrops pelted the windshield, startling me. Sleep had eluded me for days, and I was both tired and wired, living off coffee after getting the news. It’s funny how, though you know something terrible is coming, you expect it and are ready for it, you think, but then it happens, and it blindsides you. You are never as prepared as you think you are, if at all. I’d been here before, and I wasn’t remotely ready. This time was no different.
More drops fell, and my eyes welled as if the rain had somehow triggered me to join it. The sun was bright in the sky ahead of me, past the clouds near the Oceanographic Institute. I slowed the Jeep, pulling onto some open grass on the side of the road. Tears spilled down my face, and I rested my head on the steering wheel, the moisture hitting my legs below my skirt. The rain tapped on the windshield in a loud rhythm, aligning with my heartbeat, which I was intensely aware of in my anxious, caffeine-fueled state. Inhaling deeply, I held my breath, then blew out slowly against the steering wheel.
“I can’t do this,” I whispered, turning my face toward the vent for the cold air to dry my tears. An overwhelming feeling of panic and dread came over me, and I reached for my throat, feeling as if I were choking, and tried to clear it.
“I fucking hate you,” I breathed out, hanging my head and sobbing, clutching the steering wheel as hard as I could. Hobo touched me with his paw. I ignored him, watching a string of saliva fall from my mouth onto my legs, joining the wetness from the tears.
I wiped my mouth, smearing lipstick across my hand, and stared at my legs, feeling numb. A few moments went by; then the Jeep vibrated from the rumble of a truck passing, and I lifted my head. I looked through blurry eyes, seeing the clouds now gone and the sky bright and blue where the trees cleared a few yards up. Suddenly, I remembered where I was.
This point on the road was where the happy and calm came, whenever I’d reach the spot a little further ahead. I put the Jeep in drive, inching along the grass a hundred yards past the clearing, and rolled my window down. Leaning on the opening, I rested my chin on my forearm and looked to the left.
The tiny Coast Guard lighthouse sat on the little patch of land, the whitecaps breaking against it. The dark–blue ocean stretched for miles, and seagulls called to one another as they hovered over the two ferries docked below. The blue of the sea was slightly darker than the blue-gray sky that met it. The contrast of the colors in front of the golden and rust-colored sands of the island’s cliffs several miles from shore was calming and comforting, and I closed my eyes. My lips turned up in a small half smile, and I inhaled the clean, salty air.
There it was across the water—the island, my island, or it used to be. It was a place I’d never wanted to leave. I resented that I’d had to. I resented Dock. The anger built inside me again. I resented the anger, too, and didn’t want to feel that today. The island was mine before all of it. It was mine the day I landed on it that weekend with my father all those years ago. Coming back now, I wanted it to be mine again, but so much had happened.
Ferries pulled in and out, down the small hill at Woods Hole terminal, taking islanders, workers, and vacationers with their cars and bikes back and forth to the island. I drove down the embankment, thinking of my father’s truck bumping toward the boats that weekend we came. Looking ahead, I could almost see him, leaning against the truck, tilting his face toward the sun. So much about him annoyed me then that now makes me smile.
The black from my mascara had mixed with the lipstick I foolishly put on this morning, smearing and making a mess as I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. I was going back today, and for a reason I never wanted. It all seemed like a lifetime ago. I stared ahead at the Islander, her name written in big black letters on the giant hull’s side. People walked down the ramp, leaving her, as I waited to get in line to board. I pulled over, giving my name to the man at the kiosk, catching a look at myself in the rearview mirror. Black half-moons of mascara stared back at me from beneath my eyes. I hurriedly put on my sunglasses to cover them.
I still love him.