Kristine sat on the sand with her legs stretched out in front of her, mesmerized by the sunset that reflected off the surface of the water, and the contrast of the orange glow of the water that washed over her legs and the almost blue tint of her pale skin. The air had grown warmer with spring, but the water was still cold as ice, and her toes had been numb for hours. Every now and then, the foamy water would reach up to her thighs, and she would feel the icy sting course through her. She shivered and pulled her sweater tighter around her torso, but she did not withdraw from the water and kept her legs straight, allowing the foamy waves to reach up to her knees. The last few weeks had left Kristine off-balance, as though even a light breeze might blow her away, but the water and sand that seeped between her toes made her feel present. Grounded.
Life had never felt stable. She had never known the family or security that grounded others. She had lived at sea with her father most of her early life, and the instability of his life had become her own. But, like the sunset in front of her, change was on the horizon. After all these years, she would follow in her father’s footsteps.
But she was doing it her way. She tried to think of when it all started. When did she become her father’s daughter?
She laughed to herself, “Aw, hell! What does it even matter now, anyway? It’s done!”
She laid back on the sand, laughing at herself until her stomach hurt and tears marked her cheeks.
“It’s done,” she said resolutely.
She looked at the sand next to her where her sandals and phone lay. And next to them was the book. The little, black notebook that was destined to be hers.
She looked at it now with something new growing within her heart. It was what had gotten her to this point. That book. She closed her eyes and wrapped her fingers around the frayed and faded binding. She could almost imagine what it was like when it was new, the crisp smell of new pages, and the sounds her father would have heard as he unwrapped it from its plastic covering. She was there with him at the airport when he had bought it. He had said it was going to be for her, but she didn’t see it again for five years. And she never saw him again.
A fishing boat caught her eye in the distance, breaking her trance. She followed the boat until it was too dark for her eyes to see, and then she finally stood up. Pain surged through her feet as the blood began flowing into them again. She bent over to retrieve her sandals and notebook and paused to grasp a handful of sand. She watched as the sand flowed through her fingers.
She clenched her fist around the sand that remained and closed her eyes. Soon. Soon, she would have the answers she had sought for so long. Raising her fist to the sky, she closed her eyes and smiled before releasing the sand to the wind. She watched as it danced and whirled in the air. Her turn was soon coming. She had a plane to catch.
She turned toward the dunes and walked to the boardwalk that led to the parking lot beyond. She placed her hand on the rail and turned to take one last look at the water. She would never see the sun set on this ocean again.
As she walked to her car, she once again replayed the day’s events in her mind. She had been so nervous that she arrived at the café three hours early and sat at a table in a quiet corner, slowly nursing her coffee. Sitting on the table next to the coffee were her only two valued possessions. The flip phone that her dad had gotten for her before he left, that she refused to upgrade, and his notebook.
She had sat at that table in a black, peplum dress and lace-up ankle boots, her legs were constantly bouncing beneath the table, and her hands impulsively flipping her phone open and closed. She would occasionally become aware of the people around her looking annoyed and would cease fidgeting temporarily. Inevitably, though, she would resume her nervous ticks.
She knew it was him the moment he walked into the café. He was younger and more attractive than she was expecting. He paused at the doorway only for a second to scan the tables before he saw her. He nodded and walked right over to her. Kristine felt her whole body go stiff at the sight of him walking toward her so purposefully. She was not ready for this.
“Miss Reese?” He asked with a thick Irish brogue.
She winced at being called that, “Er... Yes, Kristine,” she said, hesitantly taking his outstretched hand.
“Kristine,” he smiled and sat down across from her, still holding her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She noticed him look her over and scan the items in front of her on the table, finally fixing his gaze on her. He never let his smile fade.
She finally responded, “Yes. Nice to meet you.” She then tried to figure out where to rest her eyes before finally meeting his gaze steadily.
“Well,” he began. “I’m sure you have a million questions and concerns, but before we get into all that, would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions?”
He never moved his eyes from hers, and she could sense that he was testing her out. She looked away from him briefly to gather courage.
“Of course,” she finally said, feigning confidence.
His smile widened, and he reached into the briefcase at his ankle. As he leafed through the case, she took a moment to examine him. She knew he had deep pockets, and his expensive clothes were proof of that, but his manner was warm and casual. He was not like the very wealthy men she had known.
She wondered what situation brought her father and this man together. What was their relationship? She had so many questions. They would have to wait.
He pulled out a long, yellow folder like she would see in a filing cabinet and rested it on the table between them. He tapped his finger on the folder, drawing her attention. She saw her name scrawled across the top in bold print. Beneath her name was a single word, written in an elegant script -- “Searching.”
She found herself staring at that word for a long time. It struck a chord inside her, though, she did not understand why at first. She suddenly realized that he had been staring at her. She pried her eyes from the folder and looked at him, with raised eyebrows.
“So,” he said. “What are you searching for?”
She sucked in her breath. That was awfully abrupt, she thought to herself.
“Um... I’m sorry, but I do not understand. I thought that this was --”
“What this is, Kristine," he interrupted. "is a chance for you to be honest with me and yourself. It seems you, like your father, are searching for something. So, Kristine, what are you searching for?”
“I’m...” She stopped. She looked off to the side through the window. She thought of her father and the last day she had seen him. She looked back at the table and at the notebook in front of her, remembering the words he had written on the final page. “There’s always more out there, Kristine. Never stop looking. There’s always more.”
To him, nothing was ever enough. Not even his daughter. She refused to be that way. She was only doing this so she could finally rest, finally be done. She looked up at him. He was still looking at her with one eyebrow raised.
“I am searching for something that will allow me to stop searching.”
He just looked at her. And she looked right back.
“Well, all right then,” he finally said with a smile. "Let’s see if I can help you with that,” he said before opening the folder in front of him.
She looked at him with a furrowed brow for a long moment before simply saying, “Okay.”
He leafed through the papers and removed only two pieces of paper before closing the folder and putting it inside his briefcase. He then placed one of the papers face-down on the table before him and the other face-up in front of her. It was the letter she had written in response to his inquiry.
“Is that the notebook, then?” He asked, pointing to the black book in front of her.
She unfolded her arms and looked at the book and then the paper before looking back at him. “Yes. It is.”
He reached over and rapped his fingers on the book. “May I?”
She hesitated. “Er... Yes. Of course,” she finally managed. She closed her eyes as he grasped ahold of the notebook. She and her father were the only two people who had ever read its contents. She opened her eyes and watched him as he examined its pages.
He seemed to be in a trance as he carefully turned the pages and rested his palm over the book. He let out a soft chuckle before closing the book and setting it down in front of her. Without thinking, she grasped ahold of the book, seizing two of his fingers that had lingered. She gasped. “I’m so sorry.”
He was laughing. “It’s quite alright.”
"Well, Ms. Reese. Excuse me, Kristine,” he began before flipping the other piece of paper right side up for her to see. “Here is the offer I am prepared to make you...” He let his finger linger on the paper while she scanned the document.
Her eyes widened as she took in the words and numbers before, finally, she saw it.
She stopped reading and looked up at him. He was smiling again, but this time it was different. He seemed to be smiling for her, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand. I thought you just wanted the book. But this... this is...” she waved her hand at the air in confusion.
“Yes. I know. I do. And, as you can see, I am prepared to pay you handsomely for the book. But I need more from you, Kristine.”
She stared at him for a long moment. “I do not understand. Why pay me $20,000.00 for the book if you don’t intend to keep it? And why do you need me to come with you? Why would I even consider that?”
He opened his palms and exhaled. It was the first time he had hesitated before speaking. “The truth is that your father made me swear to bring you with me. He wanted you to see it with your own eyes. He thought it would somehow --” he let his words trail off.
“He thought it would make up for leaving me behind if I was the one who found it,” she said bitterly.
"No. But he thought it would help you to understand its significance.”
“I doubt it," she mumbled. “I don’t understand how you knew him so well. And I don’t understand why you want to pay me all this money for a book that you don’t get to keep. Why would you do that for him, now? And --” she paused. There were many lingering questions, but as she looked at him, she realized he might be the only one with any answers.
Reading her mind, he said, “I will answer all of your questions.”
He held a pen in front of her, continuing. “But only if you come with me. I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, and if you want your answers, and your money, you will be in the seat next to me.”
She looked at him for a long moment, pensively turning the pen over in her hand, “Alright Mr. --”
“Ian.” She signed her name, and as she slid the pen and paper over to him, she smiled. “Tomorrow.”
About the Creator
Alaskan Grown Freelance Writer 🤍 Lover of Prose
Former Deckhand & Barista 🤍 Always a Pleaser & Eggshell-Walker
Lifelong Animal Lover & Whisperer 🤍 Ever the Student & Seeker
Traveler 🤍 Dreamer 🤍 Wanderer
Happily Lost 🤍 Luckily in Love
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions