She stood at the edge of the sand, the white foam of the waves washed over the top of her toes. The ocean was slate gray with rough, choppy surf. The salt in the air was so thick, she could feel it against her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Giant pieces of driftwood rested along the beach -- whole trees, their bark smooth and soft. She whistled for her dog, who ran through the waves that broke against the shore, his black fur shiny and spiked. The two of them picked along the stretch of beach that curved inland like the back of a giant letter “C.” The wind was cool as it whipped her hair across her face. There weren’t many people out -- a couple sitting on a piece of driftwood holding hands, a woman who lived down the street from her jogging with her headphones in. The dog ran ahead and then doubled back towards her to hurry her along, wagging his tail and panting with excitement. She had adopted him from one of the shelters only a few months ago. They had insisted that he would be small, but she had her doubts. He was already thirty pounds and only a puppy.
She hosed him off outside the public restroom, rinsed her feet before slipping her flip flops back on. The rain started as they walked back to the house. It was cold and hard and they were both soaked by the time they reached the gate. She stripped on the front patio as the dog shook himself, tongue swaying back and forth. Inside, she turned off the window units and opened the windows to let the rain-cooled air in. It made everything feel damp and alive. She left the lights off as she made herself a pot of coffee and listened as the rain pounded against the roof. The dog sat in the kitchen, waiting for his treat. She threw him a biscuit from the tin on top of the fridge and sat down at the kitchen table. She had grown up in Oklahoma and had never lived by the ocean. When a friend from school moved here, she followed him. He was a surfer with lean muscles and a wide smile that made her want to kiss him. She had thought she loved him until he shattered his knee on a rock and had backhanded her across the face when she told him that he would find something else to love as much as surfing.
She warmed some half and half on the stove and poured it into her cup of coffee. She loved watching it explode across the top of the mug. She flipped through an old mystery novel someone had lent her, fairly certain that she had read it before. It had been her idea to buy a house that could become her project even though she knew nothing about home repair. She had told her mother on the phone that between contractors and YouTube, it would be easy. Her mother had laughed and wished her luck, reminding her that she could never change the smoke detector batteries properly. Her latest project was the wooden deck attached to the back of the house. The beams had become bloated and warped from years of salty ocean air and every time she went out there, she was afraid she would put her foot through a soft spot and end up with a broken leg. So far all she had done was buy plywood and cover it with a huge blue tarp to protect it from the rain.
When she first moved here, she had had her palm read. The woman had run her fingers along her lines across hands and then whispered to her that if she wasn’t careful she would end up alone. She had laughed at the time, but the look in the woman’s eyes had chilled her. Now she thought that maybe she had been right. The man she was seeing now was kind and thoughtful; he brought her wine and cucumbers from his garden. He would lay with her in the mornings, settling her head into the crook of his arm while she dozed and he watched the news on mute. Whenever they went out, he would open the car door for her and press his hand against the small of her back. He was separated from his wife but still wore his wedding band. When she had asked him about it, he had shrugged, told her that he never took it off, and they had left it at that. He was helping her with the renovations in the bathroom and had already helped install new cabinets and hardware in the kitchen. She had a feeling that when the job was done, they would be done too. It made her sad, but not enough to try and change anything. He was coming over later that day to lay tile and show her how to make ravioli from scratch. She had bought all the ingredients the day before and they were piled up in front of her on the kitchen table.
The dog whined, shimmied his backside to let her know he wanted attention, so she moved to the couch and let him sit next to her, his damp fur against the side of her thigh. He fell asleep with a gentle snoring sound and she ran her hand down his flank. She sat there with him until the rain stopped, and then she moved the boxes of tile in the entryway to the bathroom, the bucket of grout and its special spreader with its bright red handle.