Coast to Coast
A Debut Novel
By Lisa Royea
Emerson is about to graduate college and move on into the real world of working. Her long term boyfriend Logan is about to do the same. The difference? He knows exactly what he wants to do and she doesn’t have a clue.
When an internship opportunity arises for Logan, he’s forced to take it and stay in Boston. Emerson must spend the summer in California overseeing a renovation project of her family’s beach house, now without Logan.
While Emerson and her cousin Jessica are helping each other with the beach house, their relationships, and their futures, they keep running into the multi-faceted Shane. He puzzles Emerson and makes her wonder if real love should be calm and comfortable, like what she has with Logan. Or maybe it would be better with someone new, exciting, and unpredictable, like Shane.
While Emerson deals with her possible love triangle, her cousin Jessica has her own issues with her military boyfriend and their future. Before the summer is up, things will change for the entire family. For better or worse, everyone in the Blank family is going to have to deal with the changes. And they all have to wonder if love can survive when the distance is coast to coast.
I slowly start to awaken. I roll over on my other side and grasp the comforter over my shoulders up to my chin. A gentle breeze billows the curtains from the balcony door. It was a warm enough morning, but I could feel a chill that signaled the impending fall. The sheer curtains just barely allowed the first rays of dawn to seep into the room. I look across to the other bed and see Jessica still fast asleep. I hold my breath for a moment and listen for sounds of others stirring in the house. Silence. Except for the waves breaking on the shore outside, I seem to be the only thing alive at this early hour. I lay my head back down on the pillow and exhale. Maybe I’ll just stay here a little longer and enjoy the peace before I’m forced to start my day.
Suddenly, terror seized my body. Memories of last night’s events come crashing through my head. I pull the comforter completely over my head and squeeze my eyes shut. How could I have been lulled by this false sense of peace and serenity for even a moment? I had to go. If I waited too long the others would be waking up and that would mean too many questions. And I couldn’t see any logical answers presenting themselves any time soon. No, I had to leave now. Get back home and start living my new life. I knew things were going to change after this summer anyways, so I should have been prepared. I guess I expected to be able to wade in slowly from the shallow end though, not be thrown into the deep with a force strong enough to drown a person.
I jump out of bed and pull my suitcase out from underneath it. I quickly dress in some jeans and a tee shirt from my dresser drawer. I dump the rest of the drawer in the suitcase. I only need to take some essentials to get me started. I’ll get the rest later. As I pull my hair back in a messy ponytail I hear Jessica stirring. She’s going to hate me for leaving like this. Once again escaping, not wanting to deal with any awkward situations and not even saying goodbye to her.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Jessica murmurs as she sits up in bed.
“I’m leaving. You know I can’t deal with any of this right now. It was already complicated and I was unsure about my decision. After everything that went down last night… well, it’s for the better. Now I don’t have to choose. They made it easy. Now I don’t want anything to do with either of them.”
“You’ve got to be joking. Emerson, you can’t fool me. I know you loved him, and I know you still do. You might try to convince yourself that you don’t, but I know better.”
I glare at her. “Nice try Jess. I don’t even know which one you’re talking about.”
“You know perfectly well who I’m talking about.” She beams a smile at me. “Now, slow down and take a breath. Your flight doesn’t leave for hours. Let’s have some breakfast then I’ll help you pack while we think of what you’re going to say to him. That way you can face the next phase of your life like a grownup, head on, no regrets. Emerson, you’re never gonna make it out there if you keep hiding from every uncomfortable situation you find yourself stuck in. You’re not a kid anymore. You can’t just pull the blanket over your head and pretend the outside world doesn’t exist. It’s time to…”
We’re interrupted by a timid knocking at the door. I freeze. Any courage Jessica just infused in me had immediately flooded out with the sound of his knuckles gently tapping against oak. It was him. It had to be, right? Wait, was I actually excited that he might be here, coming here for me, ready to apologize or forgive, whichever way you wanted to look at it we certainly had unfinished business to deal with. Maybe it wasn’t him. What if it was…
“No, I just can’t deal with him yet, “ I whisper. “Tell him I already left and I’ll call him tonight once I’m back at the apartment. I’m sorry Jess. I’m just not as strong as you. I need that blanket a little longer.” I give her a little hug, grab my suitcase off the bed, and dodge out the patio door to the balcony and the stairs that lead to the beach below. But as I reach the top stair some invisible force stops me from descending. Curiosity gets the best of me and even though I don’t want to talk to him, I kind of want to hear what he has to say. I stand on the balcony, out of view of the glass patio doors, which are still cracked open. Jess answers the door and I listen.
“Is she here? I really need to talk to her. Maybe you can help me. She always did listen to you.”
Wow. Not at all the voice I expected to hear. I really should go in and just face him. I take a deep breath and set my suitcase down. Alright Emerson, it’s time to come out from under the blanket. I close my eyes, take another deep breath, and reach for the door. I pull it open completely and stand in its frame.
“OK, go ahead and talk. Say whatever you need to. I don’t like what’s going on and I don’t understand how it all came to this. So maybe you can shed some light on it for me. Go ahead. I’ll listen.”
Excerpt #1 from Chapter 1
Any of my lighthearted joy about heading to the beach tomorrow had evaporated the second I discovered how drunk Logan was. I found him standing at the kitchen sink shoving potato chips in his mouth. I dug in my purse for some aspirin and poured him a huge glass of water.
“Take this and drink the whole cup.” I put the aspirin in one of his hands and took the bag of chips out of his other. He swallowed the aspirin and chugged half the glass of water. “Now tell me what happened today. Something had to happen to make you get like this. This isn’t like you Logan. Now spill it.” He moved over to the couch and plopped down.
“I blew the interview. It was my last chance and I blew it. I’m done with school and I have nothing. Four years at Harvard and nothing. My Dad’s gonna kill me. He’ll say I wasted an Ivy League education. Good for nothing, just like I always was. I don’t know what made me think I was better than him. What made me think I could ever escape Lemon Cove. All I did was move thousands of miles away and spend thousands of dollars on tuition. For what? Emerson, what was I thinking? Nothing.”
He closed his eyes and dropped his head back on the couch. I hated when he got like this. He’d get all down on himself and there was no talking him out of it. When he was sober he was the most confident person I knew. He could even be a little cocky sometimes. But a few too many drinks and he just kept digging himself deeper and deeper in a hole of self pity.
“Come on Logan, let’s go to bed. You’ll feel better after some sleep. And don’t forget, every dark situation looks better in California sunshine.” I winked my eye and smiled, hoping to get a little rise out of him.
“FUCK that SHIT Emerson! I can’t go running off on vacation with you when I have nothing. This is my life that’s on the line. I need an internship, a job, something. I have to stay here and make that happen. I don’t have time to go play with you on the beach.” My eyes were wide with shock and tearing up. I couldn’t breathe and my heart was pounding. Logan had never yelled at me like that. In fact, I’d never heard him yell like that ever, drunk or sober. It scared me and made me angry at the same time.
“Well fine then Logan. Fuck you too. And just in case you need to be reminded it’s not just your life, it’s OUR life.” I stormed into the bedroom, grabbed a pillow and blanket, and threw it out on the living room floor. “Get used to it. Looks like you’ll be sleeping alone all summer. Oh no, I take that back, you’ll have your ego to keep you company.” I slammed the bedroom door shut, flopped down on the bed, and let the tears flow. How had all my plans changed so drastically since this morning?
Excerpt #2 From Chapter 1
The beach house had been in my family for years. My Grandma had always dreamed of living on the ocean. We’ve been taught that our bodies are 70% water. My Grandma said she believed this because she felt the spirit of the ocean dwelled inside her and the crashing waves against the shore pounded out the rhythm of her heart. My Grandpa loved her more than anything, and although he was actually the one to make her heart pound, he wanted to do everything in his power to make her dreams come true. They got married after he returned from the war. He found a part time job in real estate that eventually turned into a career. When the opportunity finally presented itself, he snatched up a little piece of land right on the beach in the city of San Clemente. He built them a beautiful little home on that land with what money they had left. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was perfect for them. They called it home for the next 60 years.
That little beach house saw many changes over the years. Three girls were born and raised there and with each new baby came a new addition to the house. For their 25th wedding anniversary they built a state of the art kitchen where they could explore all their culinary curiosities. It was pretty elaborate for the 70’s. A few years after that they gutted the upstairs completely to create a huge vaulted ceiling for the main foyer and living room. By then all three girls had moved out, were married, and starting to have children of their own. Brand new bedrooms were constructed in yet another addition so the girls and their families could come home to visit anytime they wanted. And they did. Every summer the whole family came together for a few weeks. For their 50th anniversary they had a new master suite built complete with a master bathroom. It featured a whirlpool tub big enough for four with a picture window overlooking the ocean and shoreline. It was my Grandma’s favorite spot in the house. And while she joked that it took her 50 years of putting up with Grandpa to get it, we all knew she was proud of the house and proud of the life that her and Grandpa had made.
When the upkeep became difficult for them to handle alone they hired help. A gardener came a few times a week to help my Grandpa with the property and a maid helped my Grandma with cleaning and laundry. Grandma refused to have anyone cook for her, but they did take turns running errands or driving them into town. This arrangement worked quite well for a while. About five years ago, it became clear that they needed more help than a gardener and maid could provide. They moved into an independent living community a few miles away and their three daughters took over the beach house.
We continued gathering together at the beach house every summer. Not everyone could make it every single time, but the effort was made. It got more difficult as us kids grew older. School, sports, jobs, and life in general got in the way. Three weeks turned into two, then two into only one. Some family members only stopped by for a few days. When our family wasn’t staying there, we rented it out. My mother and her sisters managed the rental of the property. The gardener and maid had stayed on after my Grandparents left. They were basically the on sight managers and very heavily trusted by my family. Other staff was brought on as well to assist the guests. Again, this new arrangement worked quite well the past few years and even provided some extra income which the families split. But it was all coming to an end.
This would be the last year the beach house was part of our family. It was becoming too much work for my Mom and Aunts to manage as a rental property. My Mom was busy running her own Bed and Breakfast back in Lemon Cove and my Dad was a pilot always on the go. My Aunt and Uncle were looking to retire early to Arizona or Florida. My other Aunt and Uncle already lived up in Northern California and it was too hard for them to manage long distance. So they had hired a general contractor to fix the place up. He was to give it a complete facelift and modernize everything from appliances to drapes. It was decided that my cousin Jessica and I would stay at the house all summer to oversee the work and help make decisions on interior design and such. The rest of the family could come and go throughout the summer as they please. At the end of the summer, when the work was complete, the beach house would be put up for sale.
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