I ran down the beach, the wind blowing through my hair. My T-shirt flapped about me, the wind toying with the white cloth, as my feet hit the sand, spraying about in my wake. It was sunset, and the sky was painted with brilliant hues of violet and indigo, all leading to a great glowing sphere seemingly suspended in the sky. The sea rushed towards me, trying to capture my feet, but I leaped over a wave that had daringly come closer than the rest. I slowed to a stop and gazed off into the distance. I loved the sea. The salty air, the frigid ocean, the beautiful shells, and the cry of seagulls. I had grown up here, but soon I would be here no longer. I had learned to accept that fact in the past months, learned to stop denying my future, as there was not a possible course of action that would change it. I would go to high school like any other teenage girl, paint my nails, go to the prom, and do mounds of homework.
But even though my mind told me that there was no way I could possibly stay, my heart disagreed. It pulled me toward the sea, reasoning with me, begging me to come and swim within its waters forever. No, I told myself. With Mom working and Aunt Sharon moving away, I had to leave. Had to go. Idaho couldn’t be that bad. Other than it being landlocked. Even though I knew that I would be happy there, or as happy as I could be, I still had the deepest desire to stay.
Finally, my heart won. I pulled off my sundress, revealing an ocean-green swimsuit underneath, ran through the shallows, and dove into the ocean. I came up gasping. It was cold. It was springtime, April, but the coolness of the water still surprised me. I looked down at my feet, through the rippling, swirling water. I couldn’t feel my toes. The soft, seemingly silk sand was a comfort though, and I didn’t mind. I ducked under again, letting my eyes adjust to the semi-murkiness. I knew I’d have to swim out farther before the water would get completely clear. A small, silvery fish darted in front of me and then disappeared. I swam out farther, toward the setting sun, alternating between backstroke and breaststroke.
Years ago I had started swimming lessons on the beach and had taken to it immediately. I soon passed the other four-year-olds in my class and was swimming with children three years my senior within six months. After telling her of my accomplishments, my Aunt Sharon, who had taken my mother and me in when my father died, called me her little dolphin girl, and for good reason. I could swim for hours, taking only short breaks, and I knew the names of almost every fish in this part of the ocean.
Half of my day was spent on the beach, half doing the schoolwork my mom gave me. She had homeschooled me from day one, but that would soon be changing. Once, I even went so far as to carry my books down our long boardwalk that led from our Cape house, the creaking boards littered with sand that my calloused feet no longer even felt. I would carry that stack of schoolbooks through the dunes, past the beach grass, and out onto the white sand. My scheme, however, did not work for long. A few weeks after I had begun doing this, my mother, coming home from work, discovered sand and shells between my algebra homework and asked me how it had gotten there. I, of course, explained, which led to me being grounded from the beach for the rest of the day. From then on I did school on our deck, overlooking the ocean. I was not allowed on the beach until I finished my schoolwork.
However, what my mother didn’t know is that, often, I would wake early, around five o’clock, two hours before she awoke, and take a walk on the beach to watch the sunrise. Sometimes, if I was lucky, Adam would be there. Adam seemed to be the only one who understood me. We weren’t dating, it was way too soon for that, we were only twelve after all, but we had grown up together. Oh sure, we had our share of fights and misunderstandings, but we always regained our friendship in the end.
He too lived on the Cape, and wanted to be a marine biologist. I had dreams of that, but with the money situation we were in now, there weren’t many chances of that happening any time soon. Public high school was the only option for me at the moment, and I was dreading it. I wanted to go on living on the Cape, the sun in my face, the wind in my hair, not caring whether I was part of the popular group, or which teacher I had for science.
I floated on my back for a while, letting my hair spread out underwater in a flowing golden web. After a moment, I sat up and, treading water, found that I had swum quite a ways from shore. I turned around and leisurely backstroked toward the beach. Upon arrival, I ran, shivering, toward the boardwalk, where my towel hung from the railing.
“Annalise, wait!” I heard a voice. I turned. There was Adam, the sun casting a long shadow across the beach, lengthening his already towering height. His dark, semi-curly hair was mussed by the wind, and he wore a striped polo.
“Adam!” I cried, running toward him. “You’re back! How was California?”
“Beautiful,” he replied, grinning. “But not as beautiful as our Cape.”
Our Cape, I thought. Our Cape. Soon it would no longer be home, the thing we referred to as ours, but his Cape. My “old” home. I sighed.
He looked at me and noticed my slight change of expression. That was the way with Adam. He could read my face as if it was a storybook, and we always knew what the other was thinking.
“You’re upset about the move, aren’t you?”
“You guessed it.”
“Listen, Annalise,” he said, in one of the most serious voices I’d ever heard him use. “Tell me why you don’t want to leave.”
I blinked, confused. “But you know!”
“Tell me anyway.” He sat down on the sand. “Here. Sit.”
So I told him. I told him about the sea, the sand, and the rocky cliffs. I told him about the birds, the fish, and the dolphins. I told him how I would miss my house and miss spending afternoons collecting sand dollars with him. And then I told him my greatest fear. That I would forget this wondrous place. When I was finished, he sat in silence for a while, gazing out toward the ocean.
“You know, Annalise,” he said, breaking the silence, “if there’s one thing in life I’ve learned, it’s this. If you try hard at something, no matter what it is, you can accomplish it. If you’re afraid of forgetting, we’ll figure out a way for you to remember, I promise.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Adam. But how are you going to help me remember?” I put on my best quizzical face, and he laughed.
“You’ll see,” he said, and stood up, brushing the sand off his jeans. “Meet me back here in a week, the day before you move, and I’ll have a surprise for you.”
* * *
That week was torture. I couldn’t stand not knowing what Adam had for me. Every time I saw him on the beach he just winked and said, “You’ll see.”
When the day finally came, I was out on the beach, bright and early. It was Saturday, so I didn’t have to worry about school, and I was on the beach at eight. I would have been out earlier, except for the fact that Mom kept insisting that I shower and pack a lunch first. I grudgingly did so, throwing on a swimsuit and coverup, and carrying a picnic basket packed with enough for two, in case Adam wanted to have lunch with me. I soon found out that he did, for when he finally appeared, it was around eleven. He carried something in his hand, a book, I thought.
“Adam!” I called, waving my hand so that he’d see me among the umbrellas scattered about the beach.
“Lise!” he responded, his face lighting up in a smile. “Hi!” He ran up to me.
“What have you got?” I asked.
“Well you certainly are in a hurry, aren’t you?”
I grinned, wondering what the book was. “I have lunch for you if you want any.”
“Lunch sounds great.” He sat down on the towel I had spread out. “Just as long as it isn’t one of your bologna mustard sandwiches!” he added.
I laughed. “No, just PB&J for you.”
“Oh good. Well then, shall we get started?” He unwrapped his sandwich and began to eat. After a couple bites, he paused and said, “Now. Assuming that you’re still dying of curiosity, I’ll show you what I have.”
“Do you really think that I don’t want to know what you brought? Show me!” I tried to grasp the book, but he snatched it away.
“Not so fast. I want to tell you something. Before you open this, I want you to know that I was not the only one who worked to put together this book. Many other people in town who know you and are going to miss you helped me as well. We all hope you’ll come visit over the summer. And you’d better, or I will personally fly over to Idaho, kidnap you, and bring you back here.”
I smiled. “Definitely. I’ve already begun saving up for plane tickets.”
“So, to show you how much we’re going to miss you, we made you this. I made the book, but the townspeople took most of the photos, and my little cousin, Rose, collected the shells. Everyone contributed a little something. We hope you like it!” He handed me the book.
Upon opening the book, I instantly felt my eyes filling with tears. It was a book with a worn canvas cover, wrapped with fishing net for decoration, and on the front was a photo of Main Street. The silver words on the cover read, “Annalise’s Memory Book of Cape Cod.”
I flipped through the pages, seeing photos that were snapshots of memories I was so afraid I would forget. Adam and me at Scoops, the ice cream parlor; everyone at the Fourth of July picnic; and a picture of me at the library, my head in a book. (I wondered who had taken that one.) I was so focused on the photos I didn’t even notice until the fourth page that there was a different type of shell glued in place on each page, which gave the book a somewhat lumpy feel, with all the shells sticking through the worn pages. There were mussels, sand dollars, all kinds of shells. As I neared the end I couldn’t bear it any longer. I threw my arms around Adam, giving him a great big hug. At first he was surprised, and then he hugged me back.
“You’re welcome,” he said, reading my thoughts. “You like it?”
“I love it!” I said, pulling back.
He picked up the book, placing it back in my hands. “Look at the last page.”
I found that the last page was blank, so I flipped back towards the middle to find the last page that held photos and a shell. On it was a photo of the sunrise, and Adam’s handwriting.
We’re all going to miss you very much, and we want you to use this book to keep your memories of us and Cape Cod close, no matter where you are. Use the following blank pages to keep future memories safe too. Have fun in Idaho, and write often!
Your friends from Cape Cod
Below that were the scribbled signatures of various people around town: Mrs. Moore, the post office lady, Roy, the town policeman, and of course, Adam. All my friends, from the four-year-olds I befriended on the beach to sixteen-year-old Catherine who tutored me in English, had signed too. How Adam had managed to find all their signatures in a week, I didn’t know.
“Adam… this is just… wow… thank you so much!”
He smiled. “I don’t know about you, but, in my opinion, the best way to spend the last six hours of daylight on your last day would be in the water.”
“You got that right!” I responded. “Race you!”
He scrambled up and we ran towards the ocean, shedding articles of clothing until we were in nothing but our bathing suits. We reached the water and waded in to our waists. Then, I turned one last time to grin at Adam, before diving under a wave.