I breathed an agitated sigh and flopped back into the tall weeds. I gulped down the fresh oceanic Maine air and wished to be beautiful like the women in Mama's LIFE magazines. Pin curls and two-piece bathing suits; perfectly porcelain skin and scandalously red lips. I grimaced as my straight auburn hair bristled in the wind, tickling my freckled cheeks and chapped lips. Oh, that horrible Bobby!
It wasn't the things he said about me that hurt so bad. I was used to being called a ninny. I was used to shoving the insecurities and hurt it ignited to the back of my mind. I had to. But the instant Bobby scorned David's brave service in the Navy, I flared like a fourth of July firework. I still wasn't sorry I struck him right in the mouth. I didn't care if it was unladylike. Bobby deserved that slap, and I hoped it bruised him real nicely.
I twisted, reaching to grab my brother's letter just out of reach. It was upbeat and full of interesting things happening on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. David didn't say a word about the Japanese, but I couldn't help but worry that he'd meet them before long. I almost wished he was in the Atlantic. I supposed the Germans weren't any less ruthless, but somehow it would make me feel safer. I could stare and know he was just across the horizon. Now he was so far away, it seemed he was no longer a part of this world.
I needed him back here to help me shut up horrible boys like Bobby Wilkins. My heart cut to my throat as I remembered Mama's remarks. I missed Davy all the more, and I wondered if he still missed Dad. Just like me.
"Hey, Vi," a voice said in surprise, and I tilted my chin back to find the very last person I wanted to see right then. Aside from Bobby.
"Hi," I replied, taking care to roll my eyes as I sat up, ramrod straight.
Sunny-haired Rosie Noyes took two steps forward, her college books tucked under her thin left arm. Her blue eyes radiated unvoiced sadness, and somehow that irked me all the more. I knew who she was missing, and in my opinion, she had no right to miss him too.
We remained in monotone silence for a long moment, she standing with her back to the wind and me sitting with my knees pulled up to my chest. Then my letter from David flapped, and Rosie's eyes caught sight of it. "Is that from David?" she asked, keenly interested.
I frowned. "Yes."
Rosie nodded, stroking the folds of her primly pink dress. "He wrote me, too."
I stiffened. "Oh."
"He said he misses the Atlantic. The Pacific is too foreign." Rosie's voice was soft.
"Oh." I wasn't appeased. David didn't hint at any discontentment in his letters to me, and I doubted Rosie could understand him like I did. I was irked that he didn't confide in me. I would have understood the foreign discomfort. I understood it right now.
The stiffness between Rosie and I didn't soften, but I glanced up at her with critical eyes, taking in her stylishly curled hair and Grecian nose. She looked like Grace Kelly, albeit more childish. I turned my shoulders away from her as Bobby's horrible words taunted my mind. I wanted David here.
"I wish David were here," came a voice echoing my thoughts, and surprised, I turned to Rosie. Her lower lip was trembling as she watched the endless crashing waves, and I, afraid, inched a millimeter further from her as the tears in my eyes threatened to overflow.
"Do you ... think he'll come home?" I murmured in a tone so low it was nearly swept away by the wind. But Rose caught it, and she knelt down next to me, taking care to place her books neatly in the reeds.
I didn't want her comfort. I pulled my shoulders away.
"He is brave and good and strong and full of love," Rosie said with firm conviction. She reached out a slender finger and drew a heart in the sand between us.
Somehow that brought two tears running down my nose, burning my skin as it kissed the salty air. I reached out and blindly crumpled his letter in my lap, holding it as tightly as I could. "I want to scream," I said huskily, thinking of Bobby's awful words and Mama's indifference and David's absence. And the stark, painful question I had asked that still hung in the breeze.
Rosie reached out and touched my arm with her cold fingers. I looked at her flinchingly, and she stared boldly into my eyes. Then she stood, walking toward the water. I hesitated. Then I followed her.
The waves lapped against Rosie's collegiate oxford shoes as she plowed straight into the freezing depths, and I watched in astonishment as she waded in so far that it swallowed her knees and the hem of her skirt. She turned back toward me, an empathetic smile on her face and ghastly tears rolling down her cheeks. My heart beat, stricken. Then Rose faced the horizon and screamed. She flailed out her thin arms and screamed, and I watched in aching wonder at the pristine lady whom my brother had fallen in love with.
Then I splashed out to join her, shivering as the frigid sea numbed my legs, and I screamed, letting my emotions rip my throat. Every horrible memory and haunting fear and unbearable reality sailed out of my mouth, relieving my lungs, my heart, my head. I clenched my fists and shook them in the air, and Rosie caught my hand. We threw our arms in the air and watched as the ocean continued to roll, foaming and biting and singing.
I shivered. The silence that followed didn't hurt, but it was solemn. Rosie looked at me. "Sometimes it's okay to scream."
And we waded back toward shore.