THE WIND ROARED through the woods. The trees groaned and swayed, obscuring and revealing the moon in a slow rhythm with each gust. I shivered and pulled my knees up to my chest, playing with the torn fabric of my jeans for a minute before tucking my legs under my sweatshirt in a vain attempt to keep warm.
Jeremey sat next to me quietly, rolling the wooden bat back and forth in front of himself. It made a noise like crinkling wrapping paper as it crunched over the pine needles. We'd both played baseball when we were kids. Jeremey'd hit a home run in our second game. The best I'd ever done was earn a walk after getting hit with the ball. Made sense that Jeremey would hold the bat, leaving me with the flashlight, even though I'd messed that job up pretty royally the previous night.
I picked up the energy drink in front of me, even though I wasn't tired. The can was ice in my numb hands. I'd already lost color to most of my fingers. The tips had faded to a sick yellow-white. I'd heard it was the first stage of frost bite, but sometimes it happened to me if I sat in an air conditioned room for too long, so I wasn't too concerned—just uncomfortable.
I took a sip of my drink. It tasted like chemicals and road trips. I'd only ever been on one, and it was during the summer after we graduated high school. Lydia'd decided that she wanted to see the coast. Not just go to the beach—see the whole coast. So I said "All right, let's do it."
The next day we woke up as the sun rose. We got in my car, and we drove.
We started at Cape May, the southern tip of New Jersey. We drove through Wildwood, parking the car along the beach and walking out towards the Atlantic. The beach was broad and the sand was fine and white. We swam in the ice-cold water, and then Lydia laughed and said it was time to go. I chased her up the sand as the sweltering summer sun slowly seared our skin. We got back in the car, shivering and shaking, the AC blasting us with cool air. Salt and sea dripped off our bodies. We sat on towels to avoid destroying the fabric of the seats.
As we drove north, the beaches grew more narrow. The sand turned from pure white to yellow, and it went from as fine as powder to coarse with bits of shell and stone.
We stopped in Ocean City and Atlantic City. We drove up the Garden State Parkway until we reached Stafford Township, where we turned east, cruising along the strange barrier island that guards most of New Jersey. We stopped for lunch in Long Beach, and then we got back on the parkway, driving past Barnegat Inlet, where the long-shore current diverges, shifting from south to north. We continued on to Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant, and Asbury Park. The sun began to set as we walked along the old boardwalk there, and Lydia had her fortune told.
By the time we reached Sandy Hook, the sun was dipping below the horizon, twilight settling in. We were both getting tired. Lydia yawned as I parked the car at the furthest north beach on the sand spit. Even though we were only halfway up the peanut of a state, I knew this would be our last stop on the trip. After Sandy Hook, the beaches ended, and New Jersey faded into the shadow of New York.
We got out of the car and walked barefoot through the sand, even though it was sharp and the rocks poked at our soles. As the last traces of sunlight disappeared, and the dim light of the moon and the stars took over, Lydia and I swam out into the ocean until our toes couldn't touch bottom anymore. I made a joke about sharks, and then Lydia splashed me.
She said, "I love you," her blue eyes glistening in the moonlight reflecting off the ocean's rippling surface. She kissed me.
I said, "I love you too," and in that moment, it was true.
We got out of the water and walked back to the car, holding hands as we shivered in the cool night breeze roaring in off the sea.
That's the thing about the sea—it's always windy there.
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•• Wattys 2018 Winner •• Wattpad Featured Story •• One day, a wind blew into the town of Millstone and didn't stop. Slowly people moved away. It was like the town was trying to clear itself out, as though it was preparing for something sinister. Whe...