I stretched my arms over my head as I started down the stairs to the beach, squinting in the already bright sun. Now that the house was done, we spent most weekends here. At the beginning, it had been hard to walk through the door, and I’d cried a lot the first few times, missing my dad. But it was easier now. Even with all the new fabrics and floorings, everything he loved about the beach house—the moose, the fishing poles by the door, his beloved grill—was still there, which made it feel like he was, too.
There were other changes as well. My mother did come down on the weekends, but she always brought some work and her laptop, and her cell phone still rang constantly, although we were training her to let the voicemail pick up once in a while. As for me, I was running again, but now I didn’t pay attention to times or distance, instead focusing on how it felt just to be in motion, knowing it wasn’t about the finish line but how I got there that mattered.
And my mother and I were talking more, although it hadn’t been easy at first. The trips to the beach had helped. While we sometimes had Wes with us, or Kristy, I’d come to appreciate the rides we took alone as well. During the long stretches of quiet two-lane highway, with the sun setting in the distance, it was somehow easier to say things aloud, and regardless of what was said, we just kept moving toward that horizon.
Caroline came down most weekends as well, Wally in tow, and puttered around the house examining her handiwork and musing about other changes she might make. Lately, though, she’d turned her attention to the house two lots down, which had recently gone on the market. It was a fixer-upper, just in need of a little TLC, she told us, as she spread out pictures for us to peruse, and she and Wally had been talking about buying a place at the beach. So many Befores, but I knew my sister. She could always see the After. Of all of us, she was the best at that.
Now, I walked over the dunes, the wind whipping around me. When I looked back at the house, I saw Caroline was out on the porch now, sitting on the new bench, most likely already picturing that chiminea. She and my mom waved, and I waved back, then turned my attention to the short stretch of beach I had to cover to catch up with that figure in the distance. As I started to run, feeling my feet get under me. I listened for the voice I knew so well, the one I always heard at the beginning.
Good girl, Macy! You’re doing great! You know the first few steps are the hardest part!
They were. Sometimes I felt so out of sync, it was all I could do not to quit after a few strides. But I kept on, as I did now. I had to, to get to the next part, this part, where I finally caught up with Wes, my shadow aligning itself with his, and he turned to look at me, pushing his hair out of his eyes.
“Nice form,” he said.
We ran for a second in silence. Up ahead, all I could see was beach and sky.
“You ready?” he asked.
I nodded. “Go ahead. It’s your turn.”
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s see. . . .”
We’d start slow, the way we always did, because the run, and the game, could go on for awhile. Maybe even forever.
That was the thing. You just never knew. Forever was so many different things. It was always changing, it was what everything was really all about. It was twenty minutes, or a hundred years, or just this instant, or any instant I wished would last and last. But there was only one truth about forever that really mattered, and that was this: it was happening. Right then, as I ran with Wes into that bright sun, and every moment afterwards. Look, there. Now. Now. Now.