Up ahead, Drum Island draws closer. None of the other people who launched at Remley’s Point are stopping there, continuing down the river in the direction of downtown Charleston. Which makes it perfect for me, because my plans definitely don’t need an audience. In fact, they’re probably illegal and that’s the main reason I refused the guide’s help. With the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge traffic rumbling in the distance, I paddle up onto the shore and climb out, grumbling when my bare feet sink down into mud. Tugging the kayak behind me, I continue to walk until I find more solid, grassy ground. I take my backpack with me and sit down, legs outstretched, the river spreading out in front of me.
“Shit, that’s pretty,” I breathe, unzipping my backpack. A second later, the “urn” holding my grandmother’s ashes is in my hand. A nifty little zap tickles up my arm and I huff a disbelieving laugh, setting the statue of Mrs. Claus down between my legs. “So…” I swallow the lump that builds in my throat. “Come here often?”
If possible, the empty island grows even more silent around me.
“You don’t have to answer me. Actually, I’d prefer if you didn’t. I’m not a huge fan of ghosts.” I bury my heels in the earth. “Not that I don’t want to see you or anything. Although would you recognize me now? Not so sure. It’s been a pretty long time. I’m sorry it’s been such a long time.”
A gentle wind passes me, ruffling the grass, so I run my fingers through the fine green threads. “I just…I don’t know. I came to tell you something. Or maybe I just needed to tell someone out loud, so I don’t back out.” I search for the right words to say to my grandmother, who may or may not be listening. “So I fell into the same trap as…Mama.” God, I haven’t called her that—haven’t called her anything in so long—the word tastes acidic on my lips. “I fell for a man who I can’t have. But I want you to know something. I’m going to make things right. Instead of just running away, I’m going to weave everything back together, the way it’s supposed to be. At least, I’m going to try. When he’s around me, I don’t seem capable of anything but praying he can’t hear my heartbeat.
“I understand Mama now. I’m not mad at her anymore, but I’m…I want to be better than her. I don’t want to be someone’s regret.”
I’m not sure how long I sit there, laying my path out in front of me, brick by brick, but when it’s solid and I can see the finish line out in the distance, I just kind of slump back into the grass and stare up at the sky. Oh God. This is going to hurt.
“You know, I was going to scatter your ashes here today, but I don’t feel ready yet. Is it okay with you if I wait for another day? Don’t answer.”
Using the ground as leverage, I stand and shake life back into my legs, surprised when I check my cell phone to find out two hours has passed. I only have one bar of reception, but today has given me a buzzing sense of adventure. So I don’t think. I just use my measly cell coverage to pull up my contact for Lydia and dial her number.
“Hey,” she answers on the second ring. “I thought you joined the circus.”
Her voice is warm and familiar against my ear. It also makes me think of Elijah, but I shake off his image. “Um. I tried, but they’ve already filled their freak quota.”
Lydia’s laugh tumbles down the line, static intercepting some of it. “What’s up?”
I square my shoulders. “I was wondering if you wanted to go grab a drink tonight?”
I stand outside the apartment, turning the key over and over in my hand. The tip sticks in my palm and I let it bite deep, trying to get rid of the queasiness in my stomach. It has been there all week, simmering, reminding me of the week before Basic. Being stuck in limbo while anticipating the unknown. I’ve never been the guy who collected friends—I’m more of a few and fierce kind of man—but hell if I haven’t been…lonely, even while surrounded by reporters, staffers, a transition team, constituents and interns.
I’ve been living in the Dewberry for a week and haven’t set foot inside Addison’s place, except that time I used my lunch break to steal her shoe shelf. There was that. But no significant amount of time has been spent here. Not like usual, when my whole day is working toward the moment I can walk through her door.
There have been droves of interviews and meetings and appearances since election day and I’ve needed the comfort of this apartment more than ever. Just a place where I can check out and not be prodded every ten seconds for solutions. My kind of solutions don’t happen over night. They’re not quick fixes and they’re built to last, but that’s not what the press wants to hear. So I smile at their impatience and work twice as hard. Plowing through paperwork until I’m exhausted has suited me just fine this week, because getting stuck in a quiet moment like this is when I think too much of other things.