all of it real
by not jenny

It's like this, sometimes, a glass of wine and the sand between her toes. Miranda's with Jack, and Rupert's with Trevor, and Laura watches the sun dance over the water alone. It wasn't always like this, solitude and sanctuary in one, but she's stopped looking across the bay for completion. (Or maybe she hasn't. Maybe it's that last glass of wine and maybe she's deluding herself.) There's something brave about Pearl Bay, something bigger than (herself, her job, her). Things end before they can begin here. Some things go on forever and never start. She is definitely drunk.


The sky opens.


One night, soon after moving to Pearl Bay, she sat up all night reminding herself to breathe. Some nights are like that, all effort and heavy and her thoughts moving too fast. She sleeps best with a warm body next to her, regulating her heartbeat to the pulse of another. This is her deepest secret. There's irony in that, somewhere.

"I believe in swimming," Max told her, that night. "I believe in you," she told her daughter, "and in Rupert." The nature of faith.

These are the things that keep her up, nights, watching the shadows for clues. (If a=b, and b=c, then a=c. Velocity. She believes in the big bang, in gravity, in breathing. She believes that pop music should never be an excuse for espousing original ideas. She believes the children are our future.) She believes in many things, none of them true. In nothing, all of it real.


She believes in fear. In flying fish. In curries. Today it snowed for fifteen minutes (between eight and fifteen-past); it is November, and by noon the temperature had risen back up to 30. There is something in that, too, though she's loath to explain it. She tastes failure under the spices, and it tastes like Jack. She tastes loneliness under the fish, and it tastes like Dan. She tastes fear under the alcohol, and it tastes like Max (or so she assumes, having never-).

Her brain is more tangential then they would think, more a wondrous thing than they can imagine, her town. Her town, Pearl Bay is, more and more each day. Which is something, too, she can believe in. Tiptoeing into a tide pool. Her faith, a tide pool, shallow and mysterious and wonderful.

Her children would be appalled (amazed).


Children grow up, that's the crux of it.




For such a tall man, he is surprisingly light on his feet.

"Max, shit, you startled me."

But he holds up a bottle of wine, just opened and red, and that's all the truce she needs tonight. They drink on the beach. They drink under the stars. He proposes a toast to Cassiopeia, and she mumbles a quick "cheers" before finishing off her glass.

She matches her breathing to his. He matches his to the sea. He watches her and smiles.

"What?" His smile widens; she pours herself another glass. (He tastes like bitter wine. Like malt vinegar and sea water and-


-imagination and memory mingle and mix and disappear in the undertow.)


There's a moment, his hand over her mouth and visions of crazed gunwomen in her head, when she stops thinking altogether. This scares her more than any shotgun or revolver ever could. Later, of course, she will remember her righteous indignation, her pride. But that will be later. Tomorrow. The day after that. Today, she breathes in the sea salt of his palm.


The stars continue to sparkle. This should not surprise her, and, yet, it does. She smiles into her glass, over the rim, into his eyes. He smiles back.

"So, any progress on your book?" Which is the last thing she meant to say, and therefore the first to come out. "Any news about finding a new publisher?" "He crouched behind the underbrush, knees cracking and sore, and waited for morning."

She really doesn't mean to laugh, but she does. It begins to rain.


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