Original Work: You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home, Chapter 11, Part 5
Chapter 11, Part 5
For a minute, we just stood there, listening to the waves crashing onto the beach behind us and gulls screeching overhead and children shouting and playing in the sand. A part of me felt like I could stay in that exact moment forever, standing beside Joshua, watching his face to try and figure out what he was thinking with the sounds of the beach all around. The beach, where I had never been, no longer seemed like the most exciting thing around.
Finally, I broke the silence with, “So what’s your favorite thing to do when you come here?” I turned to look out at the sea and the waves. We’d taken family vacations to the city and to visit my dad’s sister once on her farm in Virginia but we’d never made it to the beach. The wind was strong and smelled like salt and fish and twisted my hair around my face, making me thankful for the first time that it had been cut short. I couldn’t imagine trying to keep my long hair under control.
“Well, usually when I come here, I come with my little brother and he loves building sand castles and looking for sea shells.” Joshua replied, squinting against the sun as he looked at me. I could easily imagine Joshua taking his younger brother here, playing in the sand like he was any normal teenage boy and not a multi-platinum selling recording artist.
“I could bury you in the sand if you wanted.” I grinned, imagining Joshua in a hole with only his head sticking out. The paparazzi would have a field day with that picture. Though, knowing Emilia’s reputation, they’d probably say I was trying to bury him alive.
Joshua gave me a doubtful look, almost as though he was thinking the same thing. “I dunno, you might make me into a mermaid or something.”
I gave him an appraising look. “You might look good with a tail.”
“How ‘bout we take a walk instead?” Joshua suggested, taking my hand and pressing our palms together, pulling me after him. I hoped that my hand wasn’t too sweaty in his because I liked the feel of his fingers against mine too much to want to pull away. It was funny how happy just holding Joshua’s hand made me in that moment, how perfect it seemed to make everything else around us. I guess The Beatles really did know what they were talking about when they sang “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” I wondered if Joshua liked The Beatles and realized that there was still so much that I didn’t know about him, so much that the magazines didn’t bother to cover in their interviews or sensational cover stories.
“So, tell me about your brother.” I requested, pulling wind swept hair away from my face as I looked up at him. “The little one, the one who builds sand castles.”
Joshua smiled. “Grayson, that’s his name. He’s ten but he acts like he’s twenty-five sometimes I swear.” He seemed to be smiling at some private family memory and I could tell how much he loved his little brother. Last night at dinner, I’d seen how protective Joshua was over the older brother that Emilia had tried to drag through the mud. It was easy to see how much he loved his family and that seemed to make him so much more real to me, someone more than just a locker pinup or a blurb on a magazine cover. It was strange in a way to think about celebrities doing things that were never mentioned in magazines. “His favorite thing to do is build these crazy structures out of Legos. He just throws the directions away and builds whatever he wants. He’s a big fan of yours, you know.”
I remembered his reference to his brother the first time we’d met. Obviously, he hadn’t been talking about Stephen. “Even after all the trouble I caused?”
“He said you were just doing it for the attention.” Joshua smirked. “He used to get in trouble for that a lot, so I think you had a sympathizer.”
“That makes one person.” I mumbled, mainly because I didn’t know anyone in the world who sympathized with Emilia and her bad decisions. Though I doubted my sister would be interested in the sympathy of a ten year old. Maybe that was part of her problem.
When Joshua gave me a funny and slightly confused look I realized he’d overheard my comment and probably had no idea how to take it. I couldn’t explain exactly what I mean, so instead I stopped abruptly and bent down, pulling my hand away from Joshua’s in order to feign interest in the shells under our feet. Quickly, my interest became real as I shifted through the sand and cracked shells, looking for some that hadn’t been destroyed by surf or feet. I could feel Joshua watching me and I wondered if he was still thinking about my comment. The last thing I wanted him to think was that I had sympathy for Emilia’s smear campaign.
Finally I found a shell that was all in one piece. So what if it was the color of dirt? I’d found my first real sea shell and I straightened up to show Joshua. “Look what I found.” I held it out to him proudly.
Joshua smiled and studied the shell like it was a piece of artwork. “Very nice, you’re a shell finding expert.” He slipped the shell in his pocket. “You must have a lot of practice.” I couldn’t tell if he was teasing me or not.
I decided to go with not. “Actually, I’ve never done this before.” I knelt down and started picking through the shells again. I found another whole one and it was a definite improvement over the one I’d given Joshua.
Joshua knelt down beside me. “You’ve never looked for shells before?” He sounded slightly incredulous.
I guess I needed to get better at thinking before speaking. Emilia frequented the beach and I was sure that she’d looked for shells with Linda when she was a little girl. But it was too late to back out now; I would probably look even more like an idiot if I started to contradict myself every time I spoke. “My mom was always busy.” I was getting better at lying (or as I was starting to refer to it: inventing) on the spot but I wasn’t a professional yet. “We didn’t get to come to the beach a whole lot and then, when I started recording, we had even less time to do stuff like this.” I added a few more shells to my pile.
Joshua picked up a shell and handed it to me. “That’s too bad.” He seemed genuinely sorry for me, or rather Emilia, because of the story I’d just told. Which made me feel sorry for telling it.