Shelter Me

By: Kathy Coopmans

Chapter One

I sit on my beach looking out at the beauty of Lake Michigan, absorbing all of its exquisiteness while remembering how I used to come here all the time as a child.

This beach, my beach, has always been a safe place for me. Somewhere that allowed me to escape the reality of life.

Even as a child, I felt the hardships of the world. My mother was a selfish person and my father was nonexistent. From an early age I claimed this beach, finding the comfort of coming here late in the afternoon to feel the warmth of the sand between my toes. Owned by the serenity of the softly clashing waves.

As the sun would set and the air became chilly, I would walk into the water and revel in the tickling feeling you get as your feet slowly sink into the wet grains beneath you. I loved escaping at night when the world became too much; lying down in the soft, cool sand to gaze up at the stars. They became my wishing well. I would talk to them; reveal my secrets and hidden thoughts. Ask questions I wouldn’t dare ask the people who could answer them.

This is also the same place I shared with someone I held near to my heart. No, who owned my heart. Someone I thought loved me back with the same intensity. I introduced him to my haven and let him have something I could never give away again... my virginity. But he couldn’t have loved me. Not really. Don’t think about him, Shayne. I wish it was that easy.

I left my beautiful little beach town and told myself I would never return again. Life though, chose a different path for me.

After I left home, I never came back. It was a promise I made to myself, and one I kept. But a week ago, my aunt died at the age of fifty-two from a car accident. Now that she’s gone, I feel guilty and remorseful. I should have come home to see her, should have put my past behind me, and made that leap. She knew my reason for not coming home and never faulted me for it. She actually made the extra effort. I only wish I would have been brave enough to do the same. Every day, I thank God she visited me in Texas. That she was able to spend every Christmas and a few weeks in the summer with us.

My aunt took me in and raised me after my so-called mother decided it was more important to travel the world with her boyfriend. She dumped me on my aunt’s doorstep, deciding I wasn’t worth the burden. Not once did my aunt treat me any differently than she did my cousin, Adam. With only a six month age difference between us, Adam and I became thick as thieves. We were pranksters and stubborn in our ways, but never once did Aunt Judy complain. She took our childish antics in stride and more importantly, lent a listening ear when we needed it the most. She was my rock, my mom, the one person I knew I could rely on.

My mind floats back to memories on this beach with the one and only man I’ve ever loved. The only man I’ve shared my special place with. Luke.

After two years of being together, I woke one morning to a note and a single red rose. The note was heartbreaking, telling me how sorry he was that he had to leave. One note, that’s what I received. No goodbye, no telling of when he may return, just a standard ‘I’m sorry’ letter. I internally yell at myself for thinking about him. It’s been years. Years. Why he still enters my thoughts is beyond me.

According to my watch, I’ve spent two hours staring at the water. The waves crash against the shoreline enticing me to stay, but I can’t. Instead of heading back to my aunt’s house to help Adam wrap up the final details of my aunt’s funeral, I evade.

This is becoming a pattern.

For months and months I searched, determined to find him, the one who would forever plague me, but I never did. Finally, I moved to Texas and went to nursing school after finding a place to settle down. Now I work for a small private practice just outside of Houston. My life is so simple and yet so boring, but I love it this way. My heart is guarded and my daughter is safe from the same heartbreak I suffered.

I shake my head to clear my thoughts and decide it’s time to get my sorry ass out of here. I cross the sandy lot to my car and the sensation of being watched makes my skin prickle. I carefully glance around the beach. Unfortunately, it’s full of people. Being so lost in thought, I didn’t realize how busy it had become. I can’t decipher one face from the next.

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