The waves lapped gently on the dark, tanned beach. They made soothing sounds as the gulf receded to low tide. Not like the heavy rush and rumble the surf it made when heading for high tide.
Terrie wrapped her heavy sweater tighter around her and stared off at the horizon. Strange how at this time of evening the distant earth and water blended together. Blue to blue—or as it was in this case, gray to gray.
The beach was deserted. It usually was this time of year around the holidays. Oh, yes, some people brought their friends and families down to this part of the Texas coast to celebrate, but they were the exceptions rather than the rule. And although the weather tended to be warmer here than it would be up around the more northern states, December was already proving to be an unusually damp and cold month.
Slipping off her mules, she walked over the sand until she reached the water’s edge. The first lap tickled her toes. The second splashed her entire foot, soaking through her jeans. Funny. The water would be around sixty-something degrees, but with the chill descending from the northwest, it felt warmer.
Her feet started to sink into the liquefying sand. She took several steps back until she reached firmer ground. A light came on further down the beach, drawing her attention. It had to be from that new tenant, the family who’d bought the Hempstead place. They were finally moving in, were they?
Terrie let out a loud sigh. Two years ago she would have known everything about the new family. But the nightmare she’d just gotten over had kept her out of the loop, away from the chatty gossip she would encounter in town at the little bait and grocery store. Where natives like her had open access to all the latest news even before the postal clerk registered a box to the newbies.
A stiff wind tried to reach inside her sweater. Terrie crossed her arms over her chest and refused to allow it to get to her. All during her convalescence she’d held onto her memories of this place like a drowning man with a life preserver. After weeks and months alone in that damn hospital, all she could think about was going back to the gulf coast and to the little cottage she had there. Sell the house in Oklahoma and go back to where she felt welcome. Safer.
Safer. She let out a little laugh. People already thought she was crazy for moving back here. What about the hurricanes? What about the humidity? Humidity she could handle. And as for hurricanes, hell, she would rather take her chances with their infrequent landings than with all the tornadoes she’d encountered back at her old home. At least here there was enough warning before hurricanes touched land.
Besides, if the cancer ever came back...
Terrie bowed her head, struggling against that possibility. It won’t, girl. Chin up! Think positive thoughts! Five years down the road you’re going to get your clean bill of health. You’re going to walk out of Anderson with a straight A report card, and you’ll never have to go back there again!
"Dear God in heaven, I hope so."
Somewhere out on the water a ship sang out. It was so far away she couldn’t see it, but the wind managed to send its forlorn cry back to her.
It was getting late but Terrie didn’t want to leave. Not yet. The overcast sky had prevented her from viewing another glorious sunset, but the water continued to beckon to her. The air was sharp with the tang of salt. Maybe the clouds would be gone by morning. Terrie hoped so. If anything, she loved to watch the morning sun come up from the gulf more than she did the sun going down into the dunes.
Another brisk gust whipped around her. Time to go inside for the evening. No matter. She would fix herself a light supper, then curl up with a cup of hot tea in her papasan chair in front of the big plate glass window overlooking the beach. Maybe she would fall asleep in the chair again like she did last night. Who would know?
"Who would care?" she said to herself.
Exactly. Who would care? Since Philip walked out...
Pain hitched in her chest. It still hurt. Damn him, it still hurt.
"Shut up, Terrie. Go inside before you catch your death. Last thing you need is a good healthy case of pneumonia after all that you’ve been though."
Picking up her shoes, Terrie trudged through the low dunes until she reached the weathered stairs leading up to her bungalow. It would be another beautiful night, here on her beloved beach, no matter what the weather decided to do.