The Twelfth Keeper(9)

By: Belle Malory


They were playful too, dipping their heads into the small waves. They shook out their manes, splashing one another in the process, and then raced each other down the beach, as fast as spaceships. A frenzy of sand smoked around their hooves, then misted back down behind them gloriously.

It enchanted Kennedy, seeing she shared her world with such beautiful creatures. She wondered if horses existed on other planets. Maybe there were planets with creatures even more lovely.

No…she doubted such a thing could be possible. Nothing could be as beautiful.

An ocean breeze swept Kennedy’s hair into her face. She pushed it back and caught sight of Hunter walking across the dune. She dropped the binoculars and waved him down.

He jogged over in his favorite blue swim trunks to a picnic blanket Kennedy laid out. Hunter carried all sorts of curious objects in his hands. As he drew closer, she realized it was a sand castle kit.

“You brought the old-fashioned kind.”

“Thought we could build a fort.”

Kennedy looked through the assortment of buckets and miniature shovels, inspecting each of them. “You’re an overgrown kid, Hunt. You know that, right?” She picked up a star-shaped cutout. “But this fort-building business sounds kinda fun.”

“If you think that sounds fun, look what else I brought.” Hunter reached into the pocket of his trunks, pulling out a set of small smooth, gray stones.

“No way!” Kennedy had wanted a set of skipping stones when she was a kid, back when she enjoyed playing in the water. “How far do they skip?”

“About a thousand feet. Wanna try them out?”

She looked at him like he was idiot. “Of course I do.”

They headed out to the shore. The tide was low, drawing over their bare feet, the gentle hum of the waves filling the silence.

Hunter threw the first stone. It skipped across the surface, creating small ripples that vanished against the unsteady blue surface almost as quickly as they were created. The stone headed off into the horizon until it was too far away to see anymore.

“Don’t worry. It’ll come back.” He handed her a different stone, this one bigger than the other. “Here, try this one. Angle your throw a little. Sort of like you’re throwing a curveball.”

She threw it and the stone skipped into a misty spiral, almost like a miniature version of the waterspouts that rose during thunderstorms.

“Incredible.”

A few moments later, the spout sank back into the ocean. Both stones came skipping back, just as Hunter had said they would.

Later, as they began carving the first level of their fort, Hunter asked, “So how am I doing?”

Kennedy looked the structure over, assessing it. “Looks good to me.”

He shook his head. “No, I meant…how am I doing at taking your mind off of things?”

Kennedy turned towards the ocean. In the distance, she could make out the form of Lady Liberty. She wasn’t hard to miss, painted a patriotic red, white, and blue. The boat didn’t technically belong to them anymore; Ashley was forced to sell it after Kennedy’s dad died. Its new owner was a good friend of the family’s and lent it to them whenever they felt like taking it out. Which thankfully, wasn’t very often.

She turned back to Hunter. “I guess my mind is back on it now. So…not very good, Hunter. You’re not doing very good at all.”

Kennedy let the tense moment last as long as she could before her mouth pulled into a teasing grin.

Hunter punched her on the arm. “Thanks for making me feel like crap.”

They worked on the fort’s bastions for a while, perfecting them into smooth, sandy walls with Hunter’s kit. It was nice, working on this with him, mindlessly allowing her hands to carve, shape and sculpt, without the headache of having to make idle chitchat in the process. The quiet was a relief. “Actually, you’re doing a pretty good job.”

“On the fort or the distraction?”

“Both.”

He considered that for a moment, then smiled, satisfied. “Good.”



~ ~



They were supposed to be back half an hour ago. Kennedy looked down at her brace. Almost 3:30 p.m.

Argh, where were they?

She searched the horizon through the binoculars, wondering what was taking so long. A large wave rolled in, hissing as it fed itself back into the sea, like a warning call.

She stiffened, despising it, the ocean, and perhaps Mother Nature herself. She’d never really been secretive about that, but at the same time, no one really knew the extent of her hatred. Her family knew she feared the ocean, maybe even suspected she blamed it for her father’s death, but no one knew how heavy the resentment she carried truly was. No one knew that Kennedy constantly felt like she was going to fall over from its weight.