I laughed and stepped back. The ocean was vast and beautiful. Gavin turned to look at me, and we smiled. This was our future, our goal, our home.
My belly heaved and suddenly I threw up into the bag. I yanked it away, panicked, disgusted, but in awe at my body, resisting me, making me do its will.
Finn’s picture clattered to the floor, but didn’t break. I snatched a shirt from the bed and wiped my face, sucking in air. I would survive this. I would make it home.
To the sea.
I felt ridiculous sitting in class listening to Professor Blowhard yammer on about comets. Corabelle’s seat was too empty, like there was a hole in the room. Her friend Jenny watched me sympathetically from the end of the row, between flirty waves to the TA. They were so going to get busted for dating, or whatever it was they were doing.
The only salvageable thing about being there was taking notes to help Corabelle. I concentrated on the page, scribbling them the old-fashioned way because typing while I tried to listen made me crazy. I would still swear he was taking the entire class lecture out of a children’s book about space.
After an eternity, he shut down the projector and we were free. Jenny picked her way around knees and backpacks to stand by my seat. “How’s Cora?”
“Much better. Talking, awake. I think she’s through the worst of it.”
“I’m taking her shifts, so I haven’t had a minute free to go over there again. You going now?”
“Probably not until late. Her parents are there.”
She moved aside to let another student by. “I bet that’s going just grand.”
“They haven’t had me arrested. I’d say that’s a win.” I stood up, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. “You’ve talked to her boss, right?”
“Yeah, they’re supposedly sending her a care package. Probably leftover coffee and stale strudel.” Jenny fell into step beside me. “Why do you think she walked into the water? I mean, I knew she’d been upset, and this was big shit going down, but that’s huge. She’s no drama queen, and trust me, I know drama.”
I’m sure she did. But I had no answer for her. Corabelle was different now, parts of her as unreachable as the shadows on the moon. We headed for the stairs. “I’m betting the hospital is going to try and drag it out of her,” I said.
“You think they’ll say she’s crazy or something?”
“She’s putting on a pretty good act of being normal.”
Jenny rushed to keep up with me, her pink ponytail swinging. “Are we talking about the same person? Because the Corabelle I know couldn’t fool a kindergartner.”
Our footsteps echoed in the stairwell, and I had to resist the urge to pause on the spot where Corabelle and I talked for the first time after discovering we were on the same campus. “She’ll rise to the occasion.”
“Well, fooling the shrinks is all well and good, but both you and I know the real deal. She went into the ocean and wasn’t planning on coming back out.”
I stopped on the bottom step and turned to face Jenny. “Look, we don’t know what Corabelle was thinking, and we don’t know she has a problem. She’s working it out now, and she’ll either fool the social worker or she won’t. I don’t think she’s in any danger, and I would rather us be supportive than speculate.”
Jenny held her hands in the air. “Whoa, dish boy’s got a burr up his ass.”
I whirled back around at that. This conversation was pointless.
“Hey, Gavin, sorry.” She grabbed my arm. “You know I want what’s best for her. That was a tough scene out there.”
I yanked the door open. “Why the hell did you meet me there anyway? Why not any other place?”
Jenny halted. “That’s a very good question. It’s what she wanted.” She twirled a pink lock around her finger. “You think she planned it? That doesn’t seem like her.”
I shook my head. “No. She’s sentimental. We had some moments on the beach, that’s all.”
Jenny passed through the door. “I’m sure you’re right. But even if she does escape the sanity police, we should keep an eye on her.”
“I plan to,” I said. “Once she’s discharged, I’m not letting her out of my sight.”
I only managed to work a half-shift at the garage before Bud sent me home again. I was too distracted and sheared off a radiator hose on a routine maintenance job.
I stopped by Corabelle’s apartment to look around before heading to the hospital and facing her parents. They had probably been there all day, and I hoped they’d be ready to leave, if not already gone, before I arrived.
The butterflies I re-created from Finn’s crib mobile still hung in the trees outside her door, although a little more sparse than I had originally laid out. A few lay on the ground and I scooped them up.
Her apartment was stuffy and airless. I left the door open to let the cool inside and sat on her sofa, remembering how tense I’d been that first time I came over, when she’d asked for me.
Why had she texted me that night? There were so many things about her I didn’t know, places she’d been that I’d never go or understand.
I caught a whiff of something foul and moved to the kitchen, pulling the trash bag from the bin. I spotted a plate I remembered from our apartment, a ceramic fish painted by a neighbor. I set the bag down and picked up the plate. Corabelle wouldn’t serve fish on it, saying it was cannibalistic somehow, but I could picture cookies stacked on it, and orderly rows of crackers and squares of cheese from when someone came over to study.