I started writing this back in 2010. It started out as a joke and remains one to this day. I might pick this story back up someday but until then…here’s a taste.
Mair Fairchild was expecting more when the airport taxi pulled up in front of the house she’d only seen in pictures. Maybe a hand-made “Welcome Home!” sign and a dozen colorful balloons tied to the mailbox. Or maybe the man she’d only ever really seen in pictures holding the balloons and greeting her with a warm, welcoming smile. But there was nothing. No sign. No balloons. No father waiting on the porch to greet his only daughter and welcome her to her new home.
It was completely different than the picture her mother, Daphne, had given her in childhood. Mair opened the flap to the leather satchel that sat shapelessly in her lap and took out the picture. She glanced at it then at the house several feet away and marked the differences between the two. The picture showed a small but well-kept house with the waves from the beach behind its property line crashing in the distance. What was beyond the rain splattered glass of the taxi’s window was something she could only call a shack. The house was somehow smaller than it appeared in the picture with wind-worn blue paint exposing the splintered timber underneath. The grass was overgrown and the many potted plants that once lined the narrow path leading to the porch had been commandeered by rogue weeds. The windows’ shutters were crooked and the roof was missing more than a few shingles. Two lawn chairs sat under the veranda with lumpy faded pillows.
Mair waited for the pang of nostalgia she thought she would feel when she laid eyes upon house’s spotty white door. She hoped for a connection much like the one she felt when she thought of Georgia and the sixteen years she had spent there. She closed her eyes and was almost able to feel the warmth of the sun tanning her pale skin the perfect bronze. Suddenly, the all-to-familiar hollow feeling returned to her chest. She clenched to her eyes tightly to combat the tears beginning to well in them. Mair had no connection to Yachats, a small town on the coast of Oregon. She was a Georgia Girl born and raised. A child with hair the color of its red clay and eyes the same vibrant blue of its skies in August. She didn’t feel anything when the taxi pulled up here. No connection to blue house with chipping paint and very little to the person that dwelled inside.
“Miss, is this it?.” The cab driver asked, his breath filling the air with hints of smoke and tuna salad.
Mair fished around her bag for her pocket-sized black notebook. The last four months were a hazy blur. With everything in a constant state of change, she found it was much easier to remember things if she wrote them down. She opened the notebook to the page that had a bright pink Post-It marking it important.
“This appears to be it,” she said looking at the address she had written in pink ink. There weren’t any other houses on the gravel road that trailed off into a path leading into the woods. She had little room for error.
The cab driver turned off the engine of his dark blue taxi and tapped his finger on the black block attached to his dashboard.
“Thirty-three sixty,” He announced the red digital numbers on the display.
“A moment ago, the meter said thirty-two even.”
“Twenty-five cent per minute waiting fee.” He tapped a red sign taped next to the meter with a list of charges printed in white.
Mair was sure she had not spent a dollar sixty worth of time looking at her father’s house but she didn’t feel like protesting. The trip had drained her. She had traveled nearly eight hours–through three times zones—and was a bit tuckered out. She just wanted to curl up in whatever bed that was designated as hers and rest.
“Here,” Mair handed the man two twenty dollar bills.
“Change?” He asked, his eyes hopeful she would leave a tip.
“Yes.” She said sharply.
He mumbled something as he counted out a few bills and handed them back to her.
“This is only three dollars.”
Mair caught the obscenities he muttered as he handed her the rest of the amount she was due. She took the money and stuffed it into the pocket of her denim jacket.
“Thank you,” She said.
“Need any help getting your things?” His tone told her he didn’t really want to help.
“I’ve got it. Can you please open the trunk so that I may get the rest of my stuff?”
He pressed a button and she heard the trunk pop open. She slipped the strap of her satchel around her neck and flung open the car door. She grabbed her duffle bag from the floorboard and hoisted herself out of her seat.
“Miss, are you alright?” The cab driver unbuckled himself and ran around the car to help Mair off the ground. She took his hand and pulled herself up. The weight of the bag had brought her down with a thud.
“Yes,” she said brushing sand and small rocks from her jeans.
“Are you sure? That was quite a tumble.”
“Yes. Yes. I’m fine.” Mair insisted. “Just get my things out of the trunk so I can get this over with.”
“I thought you said you didn’t need any help.”
“I’ve braved Harstfield-Jackson International airport, flown across the country, nearly missed the flight leaving from Portland, rode on a cramped plane I thought was going to go down, and was driven by one smelly cab to Middle-Of-Nowhere Oregon. Oregon. Oregon! What the hell is there to do in Oregon? Oh, and my mom is dead. I would just like to get my stuff out of your car and into my father’s house so I can go to sleep and forget about today.”
The cab driver took two steps backward, holding up his hands.
“Today’s been a long day,” She said sheepishly. Her face was beginning to take the red color it turned when she was in the sun a moment too long.
The cab driver brushed past her silently, yanking her suitcases out of the trunk and setting them down at her feet. Feeling guilty, she took the change he had given to her earlier and handed it back to him.
“Thanks.” He said dryly as he stuffed the money into his shirt pocket. “Good luck with life, kid. You’re going to need it.”
He mumbled something else about Mair being a “brat” as he returned to the driver’s side of the car. He open the door, stared the engine, and drove in reverse down the narrow drive until he was able to turn the car around. Mair watched the tail lights of the cab disappear, taking a left headed toward Highway 101 and back to civilization. She sighed heavily, wishing she could return to Conyers and her grandparents.
“Give it a chance,” she said to herself. “You may like it here.” She turned back toward the house and her heart sank. It was going to take a lot more to convince her that she would come to like Yachats. The wind kicked up some debris sending Mair on her way toward the door, juggling her bags and dragging her suitcases behind her.
She looked for a door bell to ring but there was nothing there. She knocked hard on the metal screen door and waited for someone to answer. She heard movement inside followed by the click of locks. A man appeared in the doorframe, his features slightly obscured by the door’s mesh screen but Mair would make out the smile spreading across his lips.
“Mair, my girl!” Phillip Fairchild opened the door.
Mair took a few steps back to allow him to open it wider.
“Lemme look at ya,” Phillip stepped out onto the porch, barefoot with his hands on his hips, making a small circle around her. “Wow, I can’t believe you’re sixteen. My little girl is all grown up. Wow, I just can’t believe it. I remember when you were still in diapers. My-oh-my how time passes.” Mair noticed after years of being away, her father still had traces of a southern drawl.
She gave a small smile, not knowing what to say to him. She shifted in her stance trying to think of something to make this less uncomfortable for her. In the last sixteen years, Mair could count the number of times she’d seen her father—in person–on one hand. The last time was when she was eight years old. He had dropped by to visit while he was in town to catch up with old friends and check on his parents. They had spent the day together traveling through the city like tourists. Though she had been on several field trips with her class to the Coca-Cola factory, that day with her father was the most memorable. He’d allowed her to taste nearly every flavor of soda they had until her stomach began to ache and she got sick all over his new boots. He laughed a bit as he wiped the mess off with a paper towel and took her to the toy store to find her something to make her feel better.
Though time had passed, Phillip looked almost the same as he did that day. His thick, wavy hair was a bit longer and his face a bit fuller but other than that, he still looked like the father she remembered. He even managed to maintain the glow of a healthy tan.
“Hi dad,” She said quietly.
“Come on, girl. Give me a hug.”
She dropped her bags and allowed him to envelope her in his arms. He hugged her tightly, resting his chin atop her head
“Sorry I couldn’t make it to the funeral,” he said into her hair.
“It’s okay,” She said though to her, it wasn’t.
Her father let her go. “Looks like another storm is coming. We better get your things inside.”
Mair looked up at the sky. The rain had stopped during the taxi ride down 101 but the clouds were slowly turning a dangerous shade of gray. Phillip picked up Mair’s two fairly large suitcases effortlessly and carried them inside. Mair followed him.
The exterior of the house did not do the interior justice. While the outside looked as though the property was abandoned, inside was pristine. It looked like it belonged to the house in the picture. The front door opened up into the living room which held a beige sofa with a groove where Mair assumed her father sat to watch the flat screen television mounted to the wall across from it. She wondered how many channels they got in Yachats. Probably one or two, she thought. There was a lamp sitting on an end table beside the sofa. She didn’t think it served much use during the day due to the glass doors on the far wall letting in a large amount of light. Tucked into the corner of the room was a small wood burning fireplace. The dark wood flooring of the house was polished to a glossy shine. A lone portrait decorated the wall–a painting of a seascape that looked awfully like the one beyond the patio.
“I’ll show you to your room,” Phillip lead Mair down the short hallway—passing the small kitchen to their left—and stopped at the first door to her right. He opened it and turned on the light.
“Dad, that’s a bathroom.”
He peeked his head inside. “Well, I’ll be damned. It is a bathroom. How did that get there?” He said in mock astonishment.
He turned off the light and turned back to her. “I just wanted you to know where it was. This one is all yours. Now you have room to do all your girly stuff. Now if you’ll follow me, we’ll continue our tour.” He walked a little further down and stopped at the door on the same side as the bathroom. He opened it, turned on the light and stepped inside with Mair in tow.
“I tried to make if feel as homey as possible with the things your Nana and Pop Pop sent.” He wheeled her suitcases to corner near her closet. “I hope you like it.”
Mair sat her satchel down on the daybed that was pushed up against the longest wall—the same as the door, and looked around the room. The walls were painted a lilac color similar to the color of her old bedroom. There was a desk across from the bed with a purple lamp and a few framed photos arranged on it. Above the desk was a small window that looked out onto the beach. There was also a television stand that housed a small flat screen television and a rectangular black box. Guess they have more than two channels, she thought. Phillip had somehow managed to fit a cherry wood dresser into the room without making the space feel cramped.
“Do you like it?” He asked with hopeful brown eyes.
“I do. Thank you.”
“You can put the rest of your bags down and I’ll show you the rest of the house.”
Mair sat down the duffle bag she carried on the floor and tossed her denim jacket on the bed. Phillip led her out into the hallway again. He pointed to the door at the end of the hall.
“That’s my room.” He pointed to the door at the end of the hall. “That’s where you’ll find me trying to catch up on some z’s when I’m not at work.”
He pointed at a different closed door diagonal from her room. “The office’s in a bit of disarray, but there’s a computer in there if you want to use it. It’s an older one but it still works.”
“I brought my laptop.”
“I don’t have that fancy wee-fee here. Just a plain ol’ connection. It’ll let you check your email and the weather and maybe watch a few funny videos of cats—that’s if you have the patience to wait for it to load.”
Mair was disappointed her father didn’t have wi-fi, she was looking forward to chatting with her friends back home as soon as possible. But she would take what she could get. At least he has internet, she thought.
Phillip led her back into the living room. “And that concludes our tour. I’ll give you a few minutes to get settled while I go try to wrangle up some dinner.” He gave her a parting smile and head back down the hall to the kitchen.
Mair stood in the middle of the room trying to take it all in. Something crashed in the next room.
“I’m all right,” Phillip yelled. There was more clanking of pots and pans from the kitchen.
The television in the living room was still showing early afternoon talk shows, her favorite sitcoms wouldn’t be on for hours so she ruled out settling in on the couch. Instead, she walked outside on the deck.
The clouds were still an ominous gray; it could start raining at any moment.
Mair walked along the wooden boards on the balls of her feet with her arms stretched wide like she was practicing the balance beam. Her calves groaned. It had been a while since they had moved in that manner. She gave up, placing her feet flat and walked down the stairs into the strip of grass that was considered the backyard. She crossed the jagged line where the grass tapered into sand and continued walking until she stood in the midpoint of the shore and her home.
The black choppy waves seemed to go on forever. She watched them for a while, transfixed by their movement until something moved in her peripheral vision. She turned her head in its direction and noticed a figure standing in the sand. It was too far away for her to tell if it belonged to a male or female but by its height, she concluded it could be someone around her age or someone older. It was wearing all black with a hood pulled close around its alabaster face.
“There aren’t any ninjas in Oregon,” She said to herself trying to dismiss the idea almost as soon as it popped into her head.
She waved her hand in a large arc and shouted a “Hey,” at the figure. It didn’t respond, choosing to stare a little longer before turning around and disappearing into the woods.
“That was weird.”
Mair shuttered. She wasn’t sure if it was because of the wind which had picked up considerably—sending the waves crashing closer to where she stood—or the stranger. An uneasiness crept over her, the feeling of being watched. She waited a moment hoping the feeling would fade or the stranger would return and confirm that it wasn’t a ninja or the Grim Reaper. There was a crack of lightning in the distance followed by a clap of thunder. Suddenly the skies opened and a large drop of water landed on Mair’s sneaker. Another on the sand next to her foot. Another on her shoulder. A drop in the center of her head. In a fraction of a second, it began to pour down in heavy sheets sending her running inside.
Mair wasn’t sure what her father was cooking but her stomach let out a violent growl when she smelled the delicious aroma.
“Mair?” Phillip called from the kitchen.
“Yeah, it’s me.” She called back, plopping down on the couch.
“Food’s almost ready. Come on in and grab a seat.”
Mair pulled herself up from the couch and joined her father in the kitchen. The entire room was different shades of the same ugly orange. Cabinets lined the outer walls with spaces filled in by the stove and refrigerator. The window above the sink confirmed it was raining harder than before. Mair could barely see the gravel drive in front of the house.
“Have a seat, Mair.” Phillip pulled out a seat at the table for her and went back to manning the boiling pot on the stove.
She sat down in front of the place setting with the floral patterned plate and plastic utensils.
“Hey, dad,” Mair turned in her chair to face her father who was leaning over a plate, sprinkling something that smelled of onion on it.
“Yes, ma’am.” He called over his shoulder.
“How many people live around here? I didn’t see any other houses when the taxi pulled up. Do you have neighbors?”
Phillip put the dish he was perfecting down on the countertop and turned around. He joined Mair at the table, leaning in close like they were a pair of conspirators.
“I don’t have neighbor-neighbors but there’s a farm a little ways up the road. It used to be a stable run by the Mann family, guy and his son. I think the boy goes to the high school and the dad…I don’t really know what the dad does now. He likes to keep himself since the ‘incident’.” He used air quotes.
Mair was intrigued.
“What incident?” she asked. She could always lend an ear for gossip, even if she didn’t know who the gossip was about.
“I don’t know all the details but there according to talk around town, there’s a video of it on the internet. But you may have to light your computer on fire to clean its browser history after watching it.” He said with a laugh. “Needless to say, Sheriff Dan thought it’d be best if Hugh didn’t spend much time around horses anymore. Since then, catching him in town before dusk is like seeing a unicorn face-to-face—extremely rare. That’s if you believe in unicorn, of course.”
“Do you believe in unicorns?”
“I’m a man in his mid-thirties-er-early twenties, unicorns aren’t exactly my thing but what I do believe is that I better get on with this dinner so we can eat. My stomach is growling up a storm that can rival that racket outside.” He got up from his seat. “It’ll be about another minute or so.”
Phillip went back to the stove and returned with a proud smile.
“And dinner is served.” He put Mair’s meal on her plate.
Her eyes grew wide with terror as she looked down at the hot dog with all the fixings.
“I’m a vegetarian!” She screamed, jumping up from her seat—knocking it over in the process. It crashed to the floor with a metal clank. She closed her eyes trying to block the image of mother’s lifeless blue eyes.
Phillip dropped his hot dog and rushed to her side.
“What’s wrong, dear?” His voice was shaky and panicked.
“M-m-m-mom.” She began crying. “She—she—she—“Her body shook with sobs, making it difficult to string together a coherent sentence.
“What? Your mom what?”
“I know, dear. I know.” Phillip wrapped his arms around her. She buried her head in his chest, her tears staining the front of his t-shirt. She mumbled something.
“I can’t understand you, sweetheart. What did you say?”
Mair pulled away, mascara and black eye liner leaving a wet trail down her soft pink cheeks. She opened her mouth to speak but she couldn’t string together a sentence through the sobs. She wanted to tell him. She wanted to share the truth but she couldn’t. Instead, she brushed past her father and took off down the hallway toward her new room. The slam of the door was accented by a boom of thunder that shook the entire house.