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Sonora's mother, Azurine, hummed to herself as she chopped vegetables for the evening meal. Looking at the clock, she realized that dinnertime was almost upon them. She needed to get everyone on their way to the table. And she had yet to see her youngest daughter come back home.

"Sierra!" she called out to her oldest.

"Yeah, mom?"

"Have you seen your sister? Your dad's almost finished and I'd like to have dinner. I tried her cell, but the call didn't go through." Then more to herself than her daughter she said, "I really need to get on her case to get a new cell phone."

Sierra felt a little flame of anger ignite. "She doesn't have the budget for a new cell phone, Mom." Sonora's lack of a decent cell phone had caused friction in the family before. As far as Sierra was concerned, her parents only had themselves to blame for her sister's tight budget. 

Their supposed sudden lack of money to help with Sonra's tuition was a sudden change from their over-eager contributions to her college fund. It was just weird. Sierra didn't buy it for a minute.

"Isn't today when she was supposed to stay over at Kelly's?" Sierra said as she reached into the cutlery drawer for silverware to set the table. Kelly and Sonora had been best friends since childhood, and she spent almost as much time at her house as she did her own.

"Oh," Azurine said mid-chop on a stalk of celery, "that's right, she was going there one day this week. Go ask your dad, he may know." As Sierra walked out of the room, her mother called after her, "And tell your dad dinner will be ready in ten minutes."

Stepping out into the garage where her dad, Mike Reeves, was tinkering with the family car, Sierra said, "Dad, do you know what Sunny was up to today?"

He grunted as he tightened a bolt then he said, "Ain't she goin' to the beach?"

"Well, I dunno. I thought she was going to Kelly's."

At that, Mike straightened and scratched his already grease-marked face leaving another mark. "Go ask your grandpa. She was talkin' to him this morning at breakfast."

Sierra heaved a sigh. "Well, this is ridiculous. Why am I the messenger?"

Mike chuckled as his daughter walked away in a huff.

Crossing onto the front porch, Sierra automatically took a deep breath of the salty air. A lingering look at the rolling ocean in front of her calmed her nerves, as it always did. Living here since her birth, it was second nature to her. More than that, the sea was in her blood.

Her grandfather had been a fisherman, had come from a long line of fishermen, though he had retired by the time Sierra was born. It was he who had bought this large tract of land the day before he had married to make a home for his wife. Once his two daughters were settled, he'd also built each of them a house.

Sierra's family home sat between her grandfather's and her Aunt Claire and her husband, Devon. All three houses lined up in a row snug against the ocean with just a country lane and a small beach between them and the water.

The housing arrangement led to an extremely tight-knit family, which Sierra sometimes felt worked against her. But the advantage was that if one of them didn't know where someone was, you just asked someone else. Eventually, you would find the answer, on most days anyway.

Sierra found her grandpa on his front porch, his tall, lanky body almost too big for the rocking chair in which he sat. As he talked with his daughter, Claire, and her husband, he rocked back and forth. His eyes were focused on the tumbling waves of the sea.

Sierra walked up and waited for them to finish their conversation before saying, "Grandpa, we're looking for Sunny. Her calls aren't going through. One of us thinks she went to the beach, the other to Kelly's. Dad said you talked to her this morning?"

"Well now, young one, she did say she was going to the beach. And, if memory serves me right, she also said something about Kelly this morning. But I don't remember if that was today or tomorrow. Maybe someone should give Kelly a call."

"Okay," Sierra sighed.

Leaning forward, her Aunt Claire said, "You know this would be a lot easier if you girls could just use this beach in front of you instead of feeling like you have to run twenty minutes away."

Not to be left out, Uncle Devon said, "Why both of you want to hang out in the water so much is beyond me."

"Uncle Devon, you are a marine biologist!"

"Yes, among other things. And I learned early on it isn't all just play time out there. That's why I went into management. You could take a lesson in that." Devon shook his finger at her as if scolding her, but then gave her a little wink causing them both to laugh. "Seriously though, be careful out there."

"Sure, I know." Sierra turned away from the three of them and leaned on the porch railing as she looked out to sea. Her thoughts turning again to Sonora's education.

This whole college thing for Sonora was crazy. Her parents had always put their children's welfare first, always. Now, out of nowhere, it wasn't a priority? How could that be the case?

She'd seen the guilty looks her parents gave each other when they'd told her sister. They were holding something back. Sierra hoped they would come to their senses, but until then, she had felt she needed to do something.

So she'd been helping Sonora in her efforts to get into some classes. She was excited to tell her they'd finally made some headway. There had been a new professor hired for the class Sonora needed, and he would allow her to take it. He had, in fact, been rather confused on why she'd not been admitted in the first place.

When Sonora got back, she was going to tell her to take the spot and keep it quiet from the family for the time being. To help with the cost, Sierra would give her as much as she could to help get her sister started.

And as far as this bogus lack of money for college story, well, Sierra was going to be checking further into that. It wasn't like the family had unending funds but they did fine and they'd always pooled together when necessary.

For goodness sakes, she thought, Grandpa retired early, we have two Marine Biologists in the family and dad makes enough mom can stay home and work on her painting. Did they really think this story would fly?

Sierra was determined to get to the bottom of this.

Going back to her house, Sierra went back to setting the table. "Grandpa thinks she is at Kelly's too."

A/N: We are back to Sonora and Ian in the next chapter. :) If you are enjoying the story, please let me know with a comment or by pressing the little star. :)

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