Excerpt from Breakwater Bay


Alden wasn’t supposed to take the dinghy out today. That’s the last thing his dad said when he left for work that morning. “Don’t go on the water.  There’s a bad storm brewing.”

He’d only meant to be out long enough to catch something for dinner, but the storm had come in too fast.  Now the water boiled black around him.  Already he could hardly tell the difference between the black clouds over head and the black rocks of the breakwater.  Knives of rain slashed at his eyes and slapped his windbreaker against his skin. The shore looked so far away. He knew where the tide would pull him before he got there.

He was scared. His dad would kill him if he wrecked the dingy. A huge wave crashed over the boat, throwing him to the floor. One oar was snatched from his hand and he barely managed to grab it before it slipped from the lock.  And he forgot all about what punishment he would get and prayed he could stay alive to receive it.

He threw himself onto the bench and started rowing as hard as he could.

And then he saw her. A dark form.  Standing on the rocks.  At first he thought she must be a witch conjured from the storm.  He tried to wipe his eyes on his sleeve, but he couldn’t let go of the oars.

She waved her hands and began to scramble down the rocks.  And then she slipped and disappeared.

He stopped trying to save himself and let the breakwater draw the boat in.  He knew just when to stick out the oar to keep from crashing. Held on with all his strength. The dinghy crunched as it hit, and he flung the rope over the spike his dad had hammered into the rock years before. 

He couldn’t see her now. He clambered from the boat, slipped on the rocks. Called out, but the wind snatched his voice away. 

And suddenly there she was, lying not three feet away.  Motionless.

He crawled over the slimy rocks grabbing to whatever would keep him from sliding back into the sea, and knelt beside her; shook her.  “Lady? Lady, you gotta get up.”

She didn’t move.

“Lady. Please. You gotta get up.” He pulled on her arm, but she only turned over.  She wasn’t a lady  She was just a girl.  Wearing jeans. Not that much older than him.

He grabbed under her shoulders and tried to drag her toward the boat. She was heavy, heavier than she looked, and she wouldn’t help.

And he just kept thinking, Please don’t be dead.

Then she moved.  Her eyes opened, and they were wide and scared.  She grabbed hold of him, nearly knocking him over, but together they crawled to where the dinghy bucked like a bronco in the waves.

He didn’t know how he got her into the boat, or how he rowed to shore, or pushed the dinghy to safety on the rocky beach. He was so cold he couldn’t feel his fingers or his feet.  And she’d closed her eyes again. This time he didn’t try to wake her; he ran, not home, but across the dunes to Calder Farm. Burst into their kitchen and fell to his knees.

“The beach.  Help her.”  And everything went black.

When he awoke he was lying in a bed, covered in heavy quilts.

“Go back to sleep. Everything’s alright.”

Gran Calder. 

“Is she dead?”

She patted the quilt by his shoulder.  “No, no.  You saved her life.  You were very brave.”

His lip began to tremble.  He couldn’t stop it.

Then somebody screamed and she hurried out of the room. He pulled the covers over his head so he wouldn’t hear, but he couldn’t breathe. Another scream worse than before.  What were they doing to her?

He slid out from the covers but he wasn’t wearing anything.  Someone had taken his clothes.  He pulled the quilt from the bed, wrapped it around himself and dragged it out into the hallway.

Only one light was on, but a door was ajar at the end of the hall. He crept toward it, trailing the quilt behind him. 

The girl screamed again. Then stopped.

He stopped, too, frightened even more by that sudden silence.

Then a new, smaller cry filled the air.


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