Petey Smith turned from the road onto the sand of Lindsey Point Beach. The tires of his ‘55 Chevy sank into it at once, but he eased her through the soft spots, and after a few minutes of careful maneuvering, he came to a stop a few feet from the water. Now this was heaven. From here he could see clear across the bay, down most of Main Street, and to the point of land that jutted out into the blue waves. He settled his head onto the seat and dug a Marlboro from his front pocket. This was the best place for bringing a girl, watching the sunset, or, as Petey was about to do, taking in a smoke before heading to his after-school job.
He rolled down all the windows and let the good ol’ June sunshine flood the car with warmth. Over by the lighthouse, he could see a few kids from school, but he didn’t bother to honk the horn or join them. The one person he wanted to see wasn’t there, anyway. She hadn’t been at school all week, and even though her friends kept telling Petey she was just under the weather, he had a horrible feeling that Miranda Johnson might be dying. Why else wouldn’t he have seen her in almost six days?
He took a long drag, and his heart did that fluttering thing inside his chest it always did when he thought about her. They’d grown up together, and he’d never so much as looked at her as anything special until two years ago, when she showed up on the front steps of the high school wearing a pink skirt and a white shirt with the top button open and a band in her hair that matched the blue of her eyes.
From that moment forward, Petey was totally and completely in love.
He took another drag on his cigarette. Sometimes at night he wondered if he’d ever get up the courage to ask Miranda on a date. Take her to dinner, bring her to the beach afterwards, watch the stars light up her eyes and kiss her until more than one button opened on her shirt and she slipped her hand inside his --
“Hey, stranger, can I have one?”
Petey sat up so fast his knee slammed against the steering wheel. “Shit.” He clapped one hand over his mouth. “I mean, shoot. Hey, what are you doing here?”
Miranda had already climbed inside the passenger seat of the Chevy and reached for his crumpled pack of Marlboros on the dashboard. “Playing hooky.”
“Is that what you’ve been doing all week?”
She shrugged and held out a cigarette for him to light. “Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I’ve been sick, the way everyone says.” She gave him a sidelong glance that seared him right in the gut. Today she wore jeans with the cuffs rolled up and a shirt without sleeves that showed the pale skin of her arms, covered with tiny freckles.
Petey wanted to taste them.
“Actually, I was feeling sick for a couple days, so Mum let me stay home.” She blew a long stream of smoke out the window. “Then I decided I liked staying home, and I started thinking maybe I wouldn’t go to school at all anymore. Maybe I’d do something else instead, like move to Boston or take a cruise to the West Indies or something.”
“Why would you do that?”
She shrugged again. “I don’t know. It seems more exciting than being in school. Seeing the same faces every day is kind of...I don’t know. Boring. Monotonous. Don’t you think?”
Petey kind of liked knowing what every day would bring. “I like school,” he finally said. “Feels like the rest of the world, work and all that, is gonna be here before we know it.”
“You’re probably right.” Miranda turned to face him. “What do you think you’ll do when you graduate next year?”
“Go to college, I guess.”
“But for what? What do you want to study?”
“I don’t know. Probably business. That’s what my dad says I should take.”
She reached over with the hand that wasn’t holding the cigarette and tapped his knee. One finger, the slightest touch, and his head spun. “Your dad’s not the one going to college. What do you want to take?”
Petey looked across the sand, at the view he’d seen almost every day of his life. Even if someone blindfolded him, he could recreate it inside his mind’s eye, the placement of every tree and rock and bend in the path that led from the lighthouse to the point. His heart did that funny thing inside his chest again. “Can I tell you a secret?”
Miranda inched across the bucket seat until she was only inches away. “Ooh, yes please. I love secrets.” She swiped an X across her chest. “And I won’t tell a soul until the day I die. I promise.”
“I wouldn’t mind just staying here in Lindsey Point after I graduate and being the keeper of the lighthouse.” He pointed at a little stone house a few yards away. Martin Olson, the current occupant, was almost eighty, and Petey had heard that he was looking to retire. “I’d like to live there and make sure everything’s in working order. Keep the beach and the bay safe.”
She didn’t answer right away, and Petey wondered if he’d said something dumb. He’d seen her going around with Wilson Nickerson sometimes. The Nickersons owned a drugstore and laundromat in town, and Wilson didn’t hide the fact that he’d be heir to both of those someday. A future as a business owner was probably a lot more glamorous to someone like Miranda than a solitary life as a lighthouse keeper.
He stabbed out his cigarette in the ashtray and cursed his stupidity.
Then she turned those liquid blue eyes on him, and everything in the whole world went away except for the small, living, breathing space inside the Chevy. “I think that sounds amazing,” she said. “Original and daring.” She bit her bottom lip as her cheeks turned the tiniest bit of pink. “And I think that’s what you should do. Forget college. Be a lighthouse keeper, Petey Smith.” She caught his hand in hers. “And I’ll be your second in command, how does that sound?”
“I thought you were gonna move to Boston or go to the West Indies,” he said, his voice gruff. Her hand was warm inside his, the perfect fit.
She shook her head. “I’ve decided I’d rather help keep the bay of Lindsey Point safe. If you’ll let me, that is. It won’t be boring or monotonous with you, I know that much.” Without warning, she leaned in and kissed him, right on the mouth. “Will you let me help?”
“I’ll let you do anything you want,” he said before he could help himself, and Miranda laughed, but the sound filled him up like a helium balloon, and he took her face in both his hands and kissed her again, until she stopped laughing and went breathless against him.
When they finally broke apart, her eyes shined, and her lips looked like bruised berries. “You know what I think, Petey Smith?”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “I think you and I are going to have a marvelous adventure together.”
That night, long after Petey had finished mowing Miss Fortunado’s lawn, trimmed her juniper bushes, and carried her garbage to the curb for next morning’s pick-up, he sat on his bed at home with a notepad and pencil. He hadn’t told Miranda all his secrets, one of which was that he also hoped to write songs one day. He had a guitar handed down from one of his older cousins, and sometimes he messed around with it. He loved listening to the new artists on the radio, like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. He knew he’d never be as good as them, but he bet he could learn to play a pretty decent song, especially if Miranda Johnson filled his dreams the way she had been lately.
Song lyrics were harder for him than chords, but some nights they came easier than others. This was one of those nights. He thought about Miranda’s hand in his, about the freckles on her arms and the way she’d kissed him without abandon, then laid her head on his shoulder and fallen asleep in the afternoon sun. He’d never seen it coming. Now he knew he could never live without it.
There’s something else I want to tell you, he’d thought as he’d watched her sleep. Someday I’ll be richer than Wilson Nickerson. I’ll own something that’s bigger and better than any drugstore or laundromat you could imagine. But it won’t be brick and mortar. It won’t be something you can touch, at least not like that. It will be something infinitely better.
And he would share it all with her. A marvelous adventure together? He only hoped Miranda was right. Petey put the pencil to his notepad and began to write.
Caught between the stars and the sand,
Between a view of the sky and the sea,
I reach for the moon,
I cast its light in your eyes
So that forever after you will remember
How it was the first moment I loved you…
Haven’t yet read the story that takes place over 50 years later? The mysteries in Beacon of Love trace their roots from this moment with Petey and Miranda. And the book is on sale this month just for you, readers. Enjoy!
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/BeaconofLoveNook