Hoping for an ally, Taylor called out: “Hey, Lisa.”
Swigging from the vodka bottle in her hand, Lisa sauntered along the deck, headed for the shadows. It seemed she wanted to drink and brood. “Have fun,” she said.
That left Taylor and Steffie staring at the dark ocean. Taylor was hypnotized by the lapping waves, soft salty air, the breeze, a million bright stars. For Steffie, the sight of the magnificent Milky Way confirmed her belief that the Universe, that Great Mother, gave her children all the gifts they might need. What the grieving Taylor needed right now was comfort.
“Such a sad look on your face,” Steffie said. “I can tell you’re thinking about your mom.”
“Well sure. Every day.”
“It’s hard for you to be out here, I know.”
“It was her favorite place, so. Happy and sad.”
The sheriff’s deputy had found his mother’s surfboard. Taylor knew exactly where it had washed up, all dinged from its pounding on the rocks.
“I could get the Ouija board.”
“It won’t help.”
“She was doing what she loved, Taylor. How cool, that you had a surfing mom.”
“You don’t have to be kind, Steffie. I’ve heard all the rumors. Sharks. Riptides. Maybe she had a heart attack while paddling out there. Maybe she ran away with a surf bum to start a new life in Peru. Maybe she got hit by a speedboat. Maybe somebody murdered her. The tongues never stop wagging.”
“Don’t listen to them. I don’t.”
That was not true. Gossip thrilled Steffie. The rumors about Liz Burns had gotten soap-opera crazy. Liz had been banging surf bums half her age, people said. She’d had a years-long affair with Marco the ferry captain, they said, screwing in the wheelhouse after the night’s tie-up. The nastiest gossip held that she’d re-lit an old flame: the notorious jailbird Butchie Block.
Surely some of those rumors must have found their way to Taylor’s ears. Poor boy. Steffie mussed his hair, put an arm around him.
Taylor could talk about it more easily with women than with men. “At least I was grown up,” he said. “It’s harder on my little cousins. She’s like a mom to them. The kids haven’t lost hope and sometimes I … until they find …”
“Poor sad boy. Let Steffie cheer you up.”
She kissed him.
“I’m on the rebound, Stef. I don’t want you to …”
She put a finger to his lips, led him inside to the couch. She pulled the Ouija board out from Artie’s stack of games, and held it in her lap. She lit a candle, closed her eyes, and the flame flickered in the breeze, casting odd shadows. The crashing ocean waves sounded like a background symphony.