After an hour and a half drive, Mom pulls Gretchen’s SUV off the highway. “Welcome to Milford!” Gretchen exclaims as she hangs up her phone for the first time this trip, slipping it into her oversized pocketbook.
I peer out the window as we begin driving through a neighborhood I can only describe as “quaint.” Big colonial homes mix with little cottage-style houses along roads framed with lush green lawns and perfectly manicured flowerbeds. Skyscraping oak trees filter down the honey sunlight so that it blinks and sparkles against the white fences and shiny new cars.
I hate to admit it, but so far Connecticut seems, well, pretty. The entire ride from the airport, I had gazed out the window at the thick curtain of pine and dogwood trees that lined the highway, lost in my thoughts, while Gretchen chattered nonstop on her phone and Mom tried to grab my attention by pointing out random landmarks and facts. “Look at that beautiful building! I think it’s from colonial times.” “Honey it’s 80 degrees out! Perfect weather!” Finally, I had put on my iPod and closed my eyes, trying to sort out the last few days in my head. Things were happening so quickly, and up here in Connecticut, I already felt detached from everything I knew and understood. But surprisingly, I felt OK about that. Relieved, even.
Yet as we make our way past one storybook house after another, I feel myself giving in to the nagging feelings that have been pushing on my chest since I left Fort Myers. I begin wondering what Brandon is doing at this exact moment, and what drama Katie has gotten herself into since I last talked to her. And then, with a sinking feeling I’ve been able to ignore until now, I wonder if whatever they’re both doing, they’re doing together...
Just then our car rounds a bend in the road, and I’m quickly pulled up from these sinking thoughts. Right in front of me, as if from a dream, the neighborhood disappears and is replaced by a small, shimmering stretch of sandy beach.
“The ocean...” I breathe, pressing my face against the tinted glass.
There it is, gray and thick and foamy – exactly like it looks in Fort Myers on my favorite overcast days. The coarse brown and gold sand is nothing like the white powder of home, but it creates a beautiful, shimmery ribbon of beach along the road, disappearing around a rocky outshoot in the distance. Tall dry grass shoots haphazardly out of shallow sand dunes, and families with little children spread out on checkered blankets and order ice cream from a tiny whitewashed pavilion. In the distance, sailboats bob and sway on the choppy water.
“Not exactly the ocean. Long Island Sound. But close enough.”
Gretchen’s voice pulls me from the beach back into the car. She turns to my mom. “Take the next left. We’re right up on the top of the hill.”