The Secrets of Seashells



My first attempt at a novel. Part urban fantasy, part paranormal romance, part murder mystery. If you like it, vote for it here:

Nera looked out over the railing to watch the waves rolling in that rhythmic meditative way she missed so much. Life in the city wasn’t nearly as exciting as she expected it to be. It wasn’t as beautiful as it was here on the beach. Her beach. The place where she lost her first tooth when Bobby Kippeli threw a beach ball at her head, the place where Bobby Kippeli kissed her for the first time nearly five years later. It was this beach that held all her memories and her true self. With the waves lapping in and out, in and out, creating a rhythm that mirrored the beat of her soul.

She watched the birds fly high above, and she imagined the sound of the flapping of their wings. She wanted to be one of those birds, to be able to see far distances into the future. They had a rhythm all their own, flying en masse amongst waves of wind that went in cross currents against her sea and the heartbeat within her chest. The wind, the waves, the wings, and her heart all creating a syncopation of memories inside her.

Bobby Kippeli and his gang of little fourth grade monsters pulling her hair on the playground. Sally Swathmore telling all her secrets in the middle of the cafeteria because Nera wouldn’t give her the answers to the Calculus homework. Bruce Lewis swearing his fealty to her because she stuck up for him when the music teacher accused him of not playing his best. Nera’s parents kissing at the edge of the pier she stood at now while she looked up at them because she didn’t know what to do with her fishing line, and they’d stopped talking to her. She’d been only four and they’d been very much in love then. Bobby Kippeli again, crying about his dog that got out of the yard when they were only 7. He’d made her promise never to tell. And she never did.

A lifetime of memories so far, and each one had a sound, a rhythm, or a whole song to support it. Sally, Bobby, Bruce, Nera, her parents, and Bobby again.

She saw Bobby’s face in her mind, the chiseled jaw of the man he’d become as well as the round, doughy cheeks of the boy he’d been, and the bright blue eyes that twinkled with the light of a thousand stars when he laughed. Oh what a laugh! That joyous sound that filled the world with its deep baritone timber.

She heard his song in her head, the song she always heard when she thought of him, with the deep rumble of his laugh as the starting note that jumped and swayed into their dance. The high school dance, senior year when he twirled her round and round the dance floor and dipped her and kissed her hard on the mouth right in front of one of the parent chaperone’s: her mother.

Nera’s fingers tapped lightly on the rail as she hummed Bobby’s song. The waves rolled in and out, and in and out creating a tempo for her to follow, and the wings of the birds high above beat a nearly silent drum beat with their wings. Even the sun twinkled just right on the waves as she remembered how he tasted on her lips the first time she’d let her lips trail down his neck and chest to come to rest at the top of his waist band while they sat on this very beach and watched, not this sunset, but one of a hundred sunsets that were near identical to this one.

He’d taken her virginity that night.

The memory washed over her bringing with it the sensation of his hands on her body, as he gently placed himself over her, blotting out the image of the last of the birds overhead. His hair had been long that summer. Nera remembered how it tickled her nose as he leaned in to kiss her while the hardness of his manhood pressed up against her. The giggle that escaped her lips almost made him stop. She could see the fear in his eyes. Had he done something wrong? Did she not want him as badly as he wanted her?

Locked in the memory, she reached up and moved his hair to place it behind his ear and then pulled him into a kiss. The sea spray had coated them both with a fine layer of salt; she tasted it now as the song reached the same climatic crescendo they had that night, with gangly teenaged limbs intertwining awkwardly in the dusk on her beach.

Nera closed her eyes as the memory of the spasms of ecstasy overtook her senses. The pain and pleasure of that night wrapped their arms around her as she hummed the last few bars of Bobby’s song.

“Oh Bobby,” she whispered.

“Yes?” came his deep baritone voice, followed by the telltale rumble of his laugh.

Nera’s eyes popped open as she whirled around to see Bobby Kippeli walking toward her, as tall and as slender as she had remembered. His dark hair was shorter now, with his curls tamed with some sort of hair product, made to stay in place in some staunch grown up style, parted deep on the side like one of the characters from Mad Men. Those blue eyes twinkling, just as she’d envisioned while locked in the memories of their many yesteryears.

“What are you doing here?” Nera asked, not quite sure if she was seeing him, or still locked in a memory of before. The hair was different, this was true, but his gait, and the tilt of his smile, even the way he grabbed the rail as he turned to stand next to her, leaning on the rail as she was, all the same.

“I live here; you’re the one who doesn’t quite belong,” he said.

“You live here? On the beach?”

“Sure do. I bought that house we used to break into each summer, when we used to do such things,” he sighed, caught up in memories of his own. “I was trying to finish some work before dinner, but I couldn’t focus. I decided I needed to take a walk down memory lane. I just didn’t expect it to be such a literal walk with literal memories!”

He laughed again.

Oh how she had missed that laugh. People in the city didn’t laugh like that. In the city, the men laughed with a deep tone, but the feeling was shallow. You could sense that they didn’t quite mean it. The men she’d met in the city wore their laughs like they wore their suits: neatly pressed, with just the right amount of stiffness. But Bobby’s laugh ran through him and burst free from the confines of his chest filling the air around him and everyone near him, engulfing them in genuine happiness.

Yes, she had missed that laugh, and in spite of the doubts and fears that had brought her here, she smiled.

“I was going through a few memories of my own,” she said. Nera felt the blush creep up into her cheeks as she remembered the way their flesh had stuck together, coated in both the salty spray of the ocean and the sweat of their love making that night. Her eyes darted down below his waist of their own accord, and she felt the heat rise up through her until she could feel her ears burn. She imagined steam floating around her head in the cool sea air.

She could see the outline of his manhood there beneath his wind shorts. Even soft, it was an impressive bit of equipment, one that she had rarely seen equaled in the numerous men that had flocked to her when she first moved to the city.

Bobby had kept himself in shape, and perhaps that accounted for his confidence. Not many of the pudgy men in the city, not even the ones her own age, would be caught dead wearing the same outfit that Bobby wore with that cocky pride that comes from being the biggest fish in a little pond. His shirt clung to his body, as if every inch of his very fit, tanned chest was fighting to free itself of the confines of the cotton material. She counted each ripple of his abs as she tried unsuccessfully to bring her gaze back up to his eyes again.

He laughed again, and the sound made his manhood twitch. Just a small movement, but enough to make her realize how much she had missed him, how much she had wanted him to show up.

“I’ve missed you,” she said as her eyes finally came back up to meet his eyes.

“I’ve missed you, too,” he said.

She recognized the look in his eyes then. She’d seen the look before, the look that said she was going to possibly hurt tomorrow, but it would be a delicious kind of hurt, that hurt that comes from hours of naked play, as they explored every inch of each other.

He placed his hand on her back and spun her around so that they were face to face instead of side by side. With his feet planted firmly, he picked her up so that her mouth could reach his, and for an instant, all the troubles that had brought her back to this beach washed away. All that mattered was how he tasted of the salt and a tiny hint of bourbon, and that there was a bit of stubble that she hadn’t felt there in their time before.

He kissed her deep and as she wrapped her legs around him, for a moment only remembering how good they’d been together in their youth, she felt the length of him go hard and rub against her. She was wet already. Just the memory had been enough to spark the fires of lust within her, but she hadn’t hoped to see him. For him to actually be here was almost too much for her to handle.

Her senses came back to her then. She remembered why she’d left in the first place, and while every inch of her wanted desperately to rip his clothes off and pull him deep inside of her, she had business to attend to.

Nera pulled back, the sudden force creating an awkward smacking slurp of a sound as their lips parted. She could see the fear in his eyes, just as she had on their first night together, but this time she had to put a stop to it. She untwined herself from his frame, first one leg and then the other, and used the railing to steady herself, the desire washing over her making it hard for her to think straight let alone keep her balance.

“Bobby…” She turned from him and stared back out at the sea. Her heart felt the tug of the ocean, calling to her to strip and dive in, and just as strong, she felt Bobby’s presence by her side, tugging with memories she wished she could forget.

“Bobby, we’re not teenagers anymore,” she said, trying to push the yearning from her mind. She breathed in the cool salty air, trying to quench the fire of lust that warmed her belly. “I haven’t even seen you in years.”

“God, Nera, I don’t know what came over me,” Bobby said. He ran his fingers through his hair, causing a shower of flaky dried gel to cascade down around his broad, tan shoulders. “I just saw you there, and it was like the first time all over again. You know I’ve never been able to resist you…”

Nera felt more than she heard the sadness in his voice. She did know. And oh how she wished he meant more to her.

“Bobby,” she said again, softer, fainter, almost an inaudible breath.

“I know, Nera, I know. Don’t say it. This doesn’t change anything,” his words sounded strange, lightly garbled.

Nera let the air whoosh out of her lungs in a deep sigh. She hadn’t realized she’d been holding her breath.

“Let me walk you home, Bobby. You say you bought that old house? Please tell me you fixed it up at least.”

“I did.”

“So, no more giant hole in the wall between the bedroom and the bathroom?”

“Nope. I fixed it.”

The clip of his words was a little too harsh, too abrupt. Nera turned her head to get a good look at him. He stood there staring out at the ocean, shoulders just a little too straight as he brushed away the last of the powdery gel. Tiny crevices had formed above his eyebrows making him look much older than his 28 years. His lips had become tight and thin, losing all the vibrant, youthful color in his normally enticing pout. This was a version of Bobby she did not know, and as he smoothed out, his cotton tank top he turned towards her with a grin she’d only ever seen in car sales commercials.

“Well, Nera, my dear, I’d love to have you over sometime, but the house isn’t quite up to spec at the moment,” salesman Bobby said. “I’ve been busy with the renovations in the guest room, and have been neglecting the tidiness of the rest of the place. The lithe young blonde I brought over a few nights back gave me an earful about it. Was afraid I’d have to tape her mouth shut in order to enjoy myself, but then she offered to clean a little for me. I told her she could next time she came over. That seemed to satisfy her.”

He let out a snicker and twisted his mouth in an almost sadistic grin, and then, as if talking to one of his old teammates, he added,” Well that among other things.” He snickered again. “But of course you know how satisfying that can be.”

Nera looked down at her hands resting on the railing. They seemed very small and not quite attached to her person anymore. Of course she did know how satisfying his many talents in the bedroom were; she’d been remembering that very thing when he showed up on her beach just now. Even that first night, when they’d both been so awkward and weren’t sure exactly what to do, he’d been amazing, sending her body into rolling waves of orgasmic spasms with the deep slow thrusts while he kissed her gently on the mouth and the breasts. And he only ever got better.

“I do, but the sex was never the problem with us.”

“Right.” He dragged the word out, his head slowly bobbing in an affirmative motion. “I do remember you telling me that was the only thing we were ever really good at. Thanks for that compliment, by the way. I don’t think I really appreciated how great a compliment that was at the time.”

Why was he talking like that? Even his voice was a different Bobby then she remembered.


“Actually it’s just Bob now. People tend to treat me like a kid when they call me that. I haven’t been a kid for a very long time. ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’ Well, I put away my childish things long ago. About ten years ago, as a matter of fact.”

Ten years. Had it been ten years since she’d seen him last? Or had he been referring to something else?

“Alright. Bob, I’m sorry,” the words crept out of her on nimble whispered feet hoping to find a bridge across the gap that seemed to be forming between the two former lovers.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Nera. The way I see it, you helped me to grow into the man I’ve become,” he said with a broad clownish smile. “I’m a well-adjusted, fully functional, productive, self-sufficient man who owns my own house free and clear before the age of 30 and a bright future ahead of me.”

His words began to race after one another, higher and higher in pitch as he ticked each trait off his fingers. His salesman façade was beginning to slip.

“I should be thanking you for dumping me and walking away when you did, otherwise I would have just married you and be sidled with a bunch of kids now, wondering how to make ends meet, just like my parents. And we’d probably hate each other, just like your par--.”

The unfinished insult hung between them. All traces of salesman Bobby had vanished, and in his place was the shocked and saddened 18 year old boy she remembered.

“Oh shit, Nera. That’s why you’re in town isn’t it?” he asked, his voice back to his soothing low timber.

Nera managed a nod before the tears started to flow.

Her mind’s eye swung back through to the image of her parents kissing on this very pier when she was but a preschooler. It was the only happy memory she had of them. They had seemed so very much in love then, with their arms wrapped around each other. She could see every last detail, the way her mother had to arch her neck to look up at Nera’s father, and the way he’d used one arm to cradle her neck and hold the hair out of her face at the same time. Her mother had been wearing a blue and green and white sundress, and in Nera’s memory it whipped back and forth against her mother’s slim, birdlike legs like a flag straining against its flagpole in a heavy wind. Her hair had been pinned up with her owl hair clip. Nera couldn’t remember a time when her mother hadn’t had that clip in her hair.

It was a strange little clip. Its eyes seemed to move of their own accord. Nera remembered being strangely frightened by that clip when she was little. It seemed to stare at her with piercing eyes, judging her every movement. When her mother was angry, the clip seemed even worse, with its ceramic feathers seemingly ruffled and puffed, which of course was quite impossible, but it frightened Nera nonetheless.

Nera wondered if her mother had been wearing the clip the day her husband died. Had the clip been angry, or sad? Maybe if she knew where her mother had disappeared to, she could ask her.

“I heard the funeral would be sometime next week,” Bobby said, interrupting her thoughts as he placed his hand on her shoulder.

“It’s day after tomorrow,” Nera whispered, rubbing the tears from her eyes with the back of her hands, like some small child. “They asked me to pick out a suit, but I don’t think he ever wore one. Not that I can remember, anyway. And not that it matters. It’s not him anymore.”

Nera pushed back the image of her father, frail and empty, lying on the cold metal table in the morgue. He’d been covered in a blue sheet, unlike the stark, medical white ones she had imagined. White ones could be bleached. Blue? Didn’t make any sense, other than it was a somber color. It wasn’t even a soothing blue, but rather a pastel blue, like someone had washed their scrubs with the morgue sheets. Perhaps that had been it.

After all, it’s not like they wanted to impress the dead people. Dead eyes don’t see.

Her father’s eyes had been brown, a deep chestnut brown that had darkened through the years. When she was younger he would tell her that brown-eyed people always saw the truth, though they rarely spoke it. It was an old joke; the punch line was that brown-eyed people were all full of shit, though he hadn’t told her that part until she was much older.

Her mother hated that joke.

Of course, there wasn’t much that her mother hadn’t hated as the years dragged on.

“I think I’ll buy him a new suit. It might be the first one he’s ever owned. He deserves that much.”

“Do you need some help?”

Bobby to the rescue. He’d always wanted to be there for her when she needed him. She had taken advantage of that too often in the past, and it had always given him a false sense of hope. Bobby couldn’t disconnect his feelings for her enough to perform a truly selfless act.

“Thank you, but I need to do this myself,” she whispered, not sure if she really could. “Let me walk you home, Bobby—I mean Bob.”

“You can call me Bobby, if you like. Bob sounds strange out of your mouth,” he snickered as he offered his arm for her to lace her own arm through.

Nera hesitated ever so slightly, afraid that if she touched him, all the feelings would rush back, but the waves had changed. As she took Bobby’s arm and walked away from the water’s edge, it wasn’t Bobby’s song or Bobby’s rhythm anymore that the waves played. This was a new song. A song of sadness and loss.

High above, the birds flew in a circular pattern, once, twice, and again before they raced off towards the sunset and then fell like stones to land on a rocky shore just beyond the edge of human sight. 

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