Oak Island Chapter 1: Reunion on Oak Island

Oak Island Chapter 1: Reunion on Oak Island

A Chapter by SweetNutmeg
"

Reunion on Oak Island (Originally Tinder Island)

"
This is a work of fiction. All of it, characters and places, are pure invention on my part, including every detail I give about Columbia, South Carolina. Except Piggly Wiggly. There really is such a grocery store and it would be beyond me to think up a name so ridiculous. But all else is a figment of my imagination. 
 

Chapter One


There is something about moisture rich air that brings out an intensity of color. The greens and browns of the foliage glowed as we entered the road leading to the center of the island. We were surrounded by oak trees, pines and palm trees. Under the forest canopy were smaller palms, grasses and various bushes I could not identify.


Ezra and I had been driving for two hours, from Mantville to Oak Island, South Carolina when he looked over at me. “How long has it been since you were here, Cassie?”


Oh, ten years at least. I think the last time Aunt Pam packed us all up and drove here was when I was 11 or 12. I don't know how she handled seven children, all five of my cousins, me and Leo.”


Who is this Leo guy? You've mentioned him before.” Ezra sounded disgruntled.


Leo Lansing was my best friend in childhood. I didn't have any siblings, so Leo was like the brother I never had. He lived down the street from me. I haven't been back to Pine Street since... I was eighteen.” I laughed. “I still remember his family's phone number. Leo and I went to the same school and the same summer camp. We sort of went our separate ways once middle school started, but before that we were inseparable.” We hadn't seen each other at all since I left for Cornell. I had left a lot behind when I left for Cornell.


"Who else will be there?" Ezra asked.


"Janine said over a dozen people will be there.” Janine had organized this whole event, a weekend long, five-year high school reunion.


Ezra slowed down in front of a tall, narrow house with a very high front porch. “Is this the place, Cassie?”


Spanish moss wept from the oak tree shading Mrs. Musgrove's house. It was all as I remembered it. The same tall pines, the same white shell driveway, the same worn brick path.


This is it.”


Ezra parked and climbed the long flight of steps up to Mrs. Musgrove's front door. He was in charge of the financial aspect of this trip and Mrs. Musgrove handled most of the rentals on the west beach of Oak Island.


I sat quietly in the car. The smell of the ocean reached me and I twined my long, curly red hair into a loose bun. The humidity was making my hair go wild. When Ezra returned, I was rubbing sunscreen onto my cheeks.


Why did you put up your hair? I love it down.” He kissed my temple, running his hands down my bare arms. He worked his way down to my ear and traced the line of my cheek bone with his lips, until he encountered the sunscreen. “Yech, that tastes awful. What is it?”


I displayed the tube of sunscreen. “My delicate Cassie, do you really burn so easily?”


I'm going to get a sunburn no matter what, it just depends how bad it will be.”


He squeezed me to him, saying, “We must be careful with you.”


When he released me and got the car in gear, I asked, "Which house do we have?"


"High Tide," he said. "Do they all have names?"


"Yes, and we got the best one! It's the very last house before the wildlife preserve starts, and it's really big."


From the outside, High Tide was an A-frame house perched on stilts with decks running right around the entire house. The interior was a well worn, lived in, comfortable space. Sliding glass doors in the living room looked out onto the ocean.


After dumping our luggage and provisions, I hurried to get out of my shoes and down onto the beach. By the time Ezra was at the top of the steps, I was calf deep in surf, the sand shifting under my feet like a live thing. The tide was going out, pulling the wet sand with it and sucking at my ankles. I was balanced and grounded as I had not been for months. Stress drained out of me.


I ran up from the water's edge to where Ezra was planted. He still had his sandals on. I took him by the hand and pulled him, saying, "The water's wonderful. We should go for a swim."


"I'm still putting away the groceries. Which bedroom do you want?"


"How can you resist this, Ezra?" I gestured to the sand and the water, the birds and the salt air.


"We need to unpack."


"C'mon, come for a walk with me. All that can wait. The others won't be here until tonight."


Ezra turned and climbed the stairs without a word. I sighed and turned back with him, rinsing my sandy feet off at the dribbling spigot by the door.


We took the bedroom upstairs that looked out on the ocean. I was glad we had first pick. As Ezra put away all our dry goods, I unpacked our suitcases. I left our swim clothes in colorful pile on the bed. As soon as I was finished with my task, I got into my ultramarine suit, then began applying sun block. Ezra joined me and donned his own navy and orange trunks.


Do my back, would you Ezra?” I asked, and pulled the trailing wisps of hair that escaped my bun up and out of the way. He took the tube of cream from me and squeezed a bit on my back. He was very thorough, getting under the straps of my suit and right up to my hair line.


As he finished, he murmured in my ear, “Cassie, you are too lovely to share. Are you sure you want to go out?” I leaned back into his embrace.


***


I turned my head, Ezra's warm skin against mine. His face was rounder and softer without his glasses, but his hair remained a black and severe contrast with his pale skin. I kissed his cheek, slight stubble against my lips, and stretched.


Ezra, let's get down to the beach.” Dressing was simple. I quickly pulled on my suit. As I checked my bun, Ezra stirred, eyes still closed. I threw his trunks onto the bed and went downstairs to the living area, to look out the sliding glass doors at the white line of breaking waves as I waited.


By the time we got down to the beach, the afternoon had begun to cool. We took a walk instead of swimming. I splashed about in the small waves as Ezra walked on the packed wet sand. We turned east for our walk and when we retraced our steps, we were walking right into the setting sun. I pulled my floppy hat down to shade my face. It was a spectacular sunset. When the sun was an ember on the horizon, we went back inside to change out of our swim suits.


I was drying my hair when I heard others arriving. Janine was in a rush when we formed our plans, and I still did not know who would be sharing the beach house with us. Curious, I came down in a long white skirt with a peach camisole, my hair in a loose french twist.


Marie Mangano was in the living room. Petite with black hair and black eyes, Marie looked much the same as she had five years ago.


Cassie, it's so good to see you.” Marie gave me a tight hug. “This is my husband, Donnie Ricci.”


A handsome man with dark hair stepped forward to shake my hand. “It's a pleasure to meet you. Marie has told me all about you.” Judging by his last name, it looked like Marie had married Italian as her mother fervently wished she would.


Who else is here?” I asked Marie.


Cheryl Bonright and her husband. Leo is coming later. I think that's it for our place. There are four bedrooms, right?”


When I poked my head in the kitchen, I found Cheryl. She had dark tomato red hair sticking up in spikes. In high school, she loved changing her hair so much you could never identify her that way. Tonight, I recognized her by her fine sharp nose and delighted laugh.


Pulling me to her side, she introduced her husband, Ted. He was a blonde, athletic looking man with rugged features. He reached out to shake my hand.


Ezra was on a stool by the counter, drinking red wine. Tall and narrow, he somehow seemed to take up more space than Ted, although Ted was the larger man. Ezra's black hair was precisely styled into a fashionable shape and his glasses focused his sharp features, making him look even leaner than he was. He was perfectly turned out, looking quite the Ivy League man he was.


When Cheryl released me, Ezra poured me a glass of wine. As if we were alone, he wrapped an arm around my waist and kissed my neck, saying in an undertone, “I love your dress. You look beautiful.” I felt a flush rising that had nothing to do with embarrassment.


Once the other guests stowed their belongings, Cheryl called Janine. Janine's beach house was full too, with two more couples in addition to Janine and Henry. Everyone was there except Leo. We arranged to meet for dinner at the Greek restaurant, The Dolphin.



***


After our boozy dinner, wanting to reminisce more, Cheryl, Marie and I collected more beers from the fridge and took over the living room. We shooed away the men and they went to bed. Ezra looked mutinous, but Ted said, “Gotta let the ladies do their thing.”


Once they were gone, we settled on the three wicker sofas piled with cushions and pillows. Marie looked around and, seeing the men were all upstairs, leaned forward and asked, “Where did you find such a catch, Cassie?”


We met at the wedding of some of our school friends.”


Cornell, right?” Marie was all lively interest. “That's Ivy League, isn't it?”


I was embarrassed. I was the only Ivy League graduate in our group, and Cheryl hadn't even gotten a bachelor's. I downplayed the prestige, saying, “Oh, I only went to Dyson, the business college.”


Well, he's quite an elegant man. He must be from money.”


I opened my mouth, not knowing what I might say to that, but Cheryl jumped in.


I always thought she would end up with Leo,” Cheryl announced. “He's been in love with Cassie since kindergarten.”


Leo Lansing? You guys were close?” Marie asked.


We grew up together like brother and sister,” I explained.


Cheryl snorted. “You might have seen him as a brother, but he definitely had more than brotherly feelings for you.” No, she was exaggerating. I ignored Cheryl's words.


He was pretty wild in high school. He doesn't seem like your type,” Marie said. “I was surprised Janine invited him.”


Leo? Wild? That didn't fit with my memories of him. But we had drifted so far apart, he could have changed a lot and I wouldn't have known. Steering the conversation away from myself, I asked Marie if her mother approved of her choice of a husband. “She was always going on about your Italian blood. Does Donnie measure up enough for your mother?”


***


Ezra was still asleep and a rosy dawn was creeping up when I awoke. I heard the roar of surf and smiled. The salt smell enfolded me in memories of those tiny cereal boxes that, when torn at the perforations, converted into makeshift bowls. In our tribe of children, myself, Leo and all my cousins, they were a special treat only to be had on our trips to Oak Island.


The house was deserted when I emerged onto the deck with coffee. I let the breeze blow into my face, the moisture laden air curling my hair as it streamed out behind me. When my coffee mug was drained, I went inside to change into my bathing suit. I grabbed a granola bar on my way out the door.


I walked east. Still low in the sky, the sun now painted a pale gold path across the waves. Past the beach houses and then past the camping area, I walked on. Sand pipers darted into and away from the gentle waves. The water curled across my toes, cool and foamy. I could feel the salt stiffening my hair, so I twisted it into a loose braid to keep it from becoming hopelessly tangled. Beyond the dunes held down by grasses, tall, slender palm trees emerged from the loose underbrush. It was deserted and untouched. I could imagine the first Europeans arriving and finding the beach just like this.


As I walked on, a small figure in the distance eventually revealed itself to be Leo. His hair had changed since high school. Instead of a huge mess of frizz, he had a mop of short curls. His dark red swim trunks and gray t-shirt were quietly stylish, differing from the old t-shirts and faded jeans he wore when we were kids. His expression was the same though. There was something, not exactly soft, but calm and quiet in his large brown eyes and full mouth.


He was contemplating the clear, unruffled water of a tide pool when I arrived. He looked up and smiled as I came to stand next to him.


When we were kids, we both liked the early morning and were off before anyone else woke. Now here we were again, the first ones up. I gazed into the tide pool as well. Tiny seashells in blue and gray, pink and cream were strewn between the rippling ridges of sand in the crystal water.


When did you get here last night?”


About one. Not too late. It's good to see you,” Leo said.


I haven't seen you since the day I left for Cornell. I should have called you when I got back.”


I should have called you when I heard you were back.” His mild gaze absolved me. “You brought someone back with you. His name is Ezra?”


You'll get to meet him today.” I paused. “How did you know his name?”


Janine. Janine always knows everything.”


A ragged line of seaweed and flotsam indicated the high tide line several feet away from the pool. Leo dipped his fingers into the water and plucked out a dark triangular shape. It was the size of my thumb.


He offered it to me. It was a fossilized shark's tooth. I inspected it closely, feeling the smooth surface, thinking of how long sharks have cruised the ocean, how little they have changed. When I glanced up, Leo was looking at me, not at the shark's tooth. He refused to take it when I tried to hand it back.


"Keep it. To remember," he said.


Remember what? The reunion, our contemplation of the tide pool, the beauty of Oak Island? Leo himself? Cheryl's words from last night came back to me. I shivered.


Leo noticed my shiver and said, “Here, take my shirt. You look like you're freezing.” He pulled it off over his head.


I couldn't deny I was cold. My skin was quilted with goose bumps. “Thank you.” I took the shirt. Reluctantly, because I knew Ezra wouldn't like this act of chivalry. But I took it. Still warm from his body, it felt good when I put it on. The fine cotton was soft and smooth against my skin


We turned our backs on the rising sun, walking back to the beach house.


You studied accounting?” Leo asked.


Yeah. Sort of boring, but I wanted to be financially independent straight out of college. What have you been doing?”


Mine is practical too, I went to Mantville tech for electrical systems. I'll finish my apprenticeship pretty soon, and get my license.”


You went to a four year program?”


No, just an associate's, two years. I got a little side tracked for a couple of years.”


Well, I bet you're making money hand over fist. We will never stop needing electricians.”


He laughed. “I never thought of it that way. But, yeah, I've got pretty steady work.”


We haven't been here together since we were 11, I think. I remember it was the year that you found a Portuguese man o' war jelly fish washed up on shore.”


Yeah, that thing was huge. I'm glad your Aunt Pam stopped me before I touched it.”


And remember that time you almost drowned us both, Leo? We're lucky Anita rescued us.” My cousin Anita pulled a panicking Leo off of me as he clung to me, flailing and dragging us both down.


That wasn't my fault!” Leo said indignantly. “We were both in over our heads.”


No, only you were. I was taller. You were the one who freaked out, pulling me down.”


I seem to remember you freaking out too. We were both crying when Anita got us out.”


Only because you tried to drown me, hanging on me like that.”


We became so absorbed in our memories, I forgot to return Leo's t-shirt before coming in sight of the house.


Ezra greeted me on the deck, saying, “Where have you been? We were worried.” His tone of annoyance broke into anger when he noticed Leo's shirt, and Leo himself. “Take that off.” He didn't even bother to greet Leo, just strode back into the house.


I followed quickly and cornered Ezra in the pantry. “Ezra! How could you do that?” I hissed this so that the others in the living room wouldn't hear us.


I don't like that guy. Why were you wearing his shirt?”


You don't even know him. I took his shirt because I was cold.”


Janine said he was some work man and that he was in love with you.”


He's an electrician and he is not in love with me. We were friends. And it doesn't matter who is in love with me. I am with you, and I'm going to stay that way.” I was getting really mad. “You think I am unfaithful? You think I am a cheater?”


Ezra was abashed when he said, “No, I didn't mean that.”


Then stop being so jealous. You insult me when you act like that.” I glared at him and he looked cowed, so I said, “You're going to go out there and let me introduce you to Leo and you will be pleasant to him.”

It cost him a great deal of effort, but Ezra managed to be civil.


After making the introduction, I fetched my gauzy white cover up and the latest Oprah book selection, Wild. I planned to stay in the shade of an umbrella for the greater part of the day, escaping the burning rays of the sun.


Why don't you go for a swim, Ezra? Janine and Henry are already in the water.” I didn't want to keep Ezra from enjoying himself because of my fair skin.


I came to be here with you, Cassie.”


And Indeed, Ezra stuck to my side like a limpet, only leaving to fetch more drinks for us. He was steadily making his way through the Green Man ale he brought with us. I was sticking to iced tea.


After four o'clock, I ventured out from my shade to swim. The tide was coming in and I held onto Ezra to support myself as the waves pushed me in towards shore. The silky touch of the water, the sand beneath my feet, the salt smell and feeling of limitless space, all joined to create a familiar happiness. Once we were out beyond the breaking waves, up to our necks, we rocked with the gentle rise and fall of the swell.


I ended up with a bit of a sunburn anyway, across my nose and cheeks, and on my shoulders. Up in our bedroom as we changed out of our suits for dinner, Ezra soothed my burnt skin with an herbal gel he had brought along with me in mind.


After sunset, we had dinner at Jack's Shack, a seafood place that offered standard American food... fish sandwiches, fried calamari, popcorn shrimp. Ezra wanted to take me to The Dolphin again, but it was too expensive for the others.


We can afford it, honey. I don't want deep fried seafood with a mediocre dipping sauce.”


Everyone is going to Jack's. They have good crab cakes.” When he looked like he was going to argue more, I said, “Please do me the favor. It would make me happy. I have great memories of Jack's.” He relented.


After dinner Ezra and I went on a long walk, west into the nature preserve, away from everyone else. Everything was washed silver by the full moon and we made love in its magic light.


The next morning, Sunday, we went through the hectic process of packing up and making sure the house was in good order before we returned the keys. It had been a nice weekend, spending time with my old friends. Lots of drinking, lots of stories and jokes.


I was clearing out the fridge when Cheryl came down with her bag packed.


Let someone else do that, Cassie. You've cleaned practically the whole kitchen by yourself.”


This is the last thing we need to do,” I said over my shoulder. “I'm almost done.”


We should get together in Mantville. We shouldn't have to drive out to Oak Island to see each other. Let's have lunch.”


Task completed, I went out to Ezra, already in the car.


He was grumpy on the way back to Mantville. Spending time with so many cheerful people made me notice how often Ezra was ill tempered. And possessive. He didn't like the solitary walk Leo and I had enjoyed together. He didn't like me staying up with the girls. He didn't like me wandering off on my own. And I hadn't managed to get another chance to chat with Leo about old times. Ezra pulled my attention away every time Leo appeared. He only seemed content when I was there with him, at his side, totally focused on him.


During one of our spats, about where we would eat lunch, I caught Cheryl watching us. She turned away quickly when she saw me notice her, but I had seen the look of intense dislike on her face.





© 2017 SweetNutmeg


Author's Note

SweetNutmeg
Any and all comments are welcome. I have rewritten this chapter with readers' comments in mind. Specifically I tried to show why Cassie would be with such an ass as Ezra, and shed a little light on her relationship with Leo. Any comments on those two aspects would be very welcome. Do you, as a reader, want more memories shared between Leo and Cassie? Do you have an idea of why she puts up with Ezra?

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I really enjoyed this first chapter. loved the character and the detail as well as the dialog looking forward to the next chapter excellent work so far. also love the length and the spacing making it easy to read.

Posted 9 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

9 Months Ago

Thank you so much for reading and reviewing. This is an old one, from almost two years ago, but I'm .. read more
I like this chapter, you weren't too detail heavy as to bog down your readers, but you weren't too sparse, either. I agree with AliceBarnes, however, the scene breaks get a little confusing, but that might be a personal preference.

I'm definitely going to shelf this and come back to it when I have more time to sit down and read it.

P.S. --- the length (17 chapters so far?) is exciting and I'm so happy to see a very long Book on here. Kudos to you!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

2 Years Ago

Thank you for reading and responding. I was just looking at those scenes when I saw your review. I'm.. read more
One thing I really liked about this first chapter is that you broke it up into several scenes, which subsequently helped you to avoid rambling on and boring the reader. However, while I do think this is my own personal preference, perhaps you could try out fewer scenes, starting in a relatively good place so that you don't have to keep breaking up scenes. But I'm not saying that other people will feel the same, because I do really like what you are doing with the story so far, but I just feel like with lots and lots of scene changes, it may end up confusing readers. Overall, I did really like this, not only did it wet my appetite for what's to come, but it gave enough but not too much detail of what the characters are doing. I have always found that when I am reading detail is good, but it can also be kept relatively short without ruining the experience, as the readers imagination will fill in the blanks. Anyway, really good start, I hope this review did not bore you too much

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

2 Years Ago

Thank you for your review. It did not bore me at all. I had never noticed the many short scenes. I w.. read more
I like the novel first chapter as it portray the image of the nature I am waiting to purchase this novel in book store I would like to advice that you should keep the novel secret

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

writ rajat

2 Years Ago

I will make a film on this when I become w film producer
SweetNutmeg

2 Years Ago

If so, I hope you will ask my permission, as this is a copyrighted work. While it is free to be read.. read more
writ rajat

2 Years Ago

I know that let me first graduate
[send message][befriend] Subscribe
AUU
So I'm not going to be that detailed with this review since it's a re-review. Excuse if this is a little light on compliments, I still very much like all the imagery of the beach, and the tender moments between Cassie and Ezra.

1. Still like the opening paragraph.

2. "Oh, ten years at least." Drop the oh?

3. "Ezra sounded disgruntled." Not sure if you need this. The dialogue can speak for itself.

4. "...in childhood." Oddly correct. Sounds a bit unnatural. Did you do this on purpose to show that Cassie is kind of affluent?

5. "middle school, too." Not sure if you need the comma.

6. "We sort of....inseparable." I think you can rework this sentence with fewer words.

7. I like the paragraph reminiscing about Leo. It sets up Ezra's jealously a little a better and gives Cassie and Leo's friendship some history.

8. "Why did you put up your hair..." This is a pretty standard trope for controlling guys. I like it, but I couldn't help but recognize it.

9. Sunscreen is delicious. Silly Ezra.

10. "...turned back with him..." This read a little awkward for me. I think it was the "with him." Maybe more action? "I left the water and sighed, rinsing my..."

11. "Ultramarine suit." what's that? A blue bathing suit? Marine is throwing me off because I'm imaging a diver suit or something.

12. "I asked." Don't think you need this. As it's plain who is asking the question.

13. "Do my back---Cassie, you are too..." What was your choice in leaving Ezra's dialogue in the same paragraph as Cassie's? Just curious.

14. So what is Cassie? Irish?

15. "Ezra was on a stool by the counter." So this is the first description we get of Ezra. It takes a bit. I understand it's here for Cassie to compare him to the others, a way of showing how he's different. I do think it might help if we get some of his descriptors earlier in the chapter.

16. "I love you hair..."Just noticed. He likes her hair up now? Fine detail. On purpose?

17. Loud mouth gossip Marie didn't want to reminisce with them at the beach house? Or did they not invite her?

18. "Quietly stylish." Opposed to loudly stylish? Maybe stray from the use of stylish after using that word to describe Ezra? I know two people can be stylish. Maybe use "mature" instead because you are comparing his look to that when he was in his teens.

19. I kind of like how they just shoot off in conversation. It's still a little weird, but I buy it.

20. "About one." Were the girls in bed before then?

21."You brought someone back with you. His name is Ezra?" So this line tells me he's interested in Cassie romantically. Most guys I know wouldn't be prying about a girl's boyfriend so directly if he wasn't.

Sure in a perfect world, maybe he's just interested in meeting Cassie's boyfriend, but eh...not a perfect world.

I'm not entirely sure if I like the line. I'd be more interested in them carrying out a conversation of anything else to show the readers about their previous bond.

22. I don't buy the shark tooth thing. I think it's because the "To remember" line. I'm with Cassie. Remember what? My own opinion is that he's trying to be romantic, but comes off kind of foolish.

I don't know if the shark's tooth has a larger purpose, but is it necessary for him to offer it to Cassie? Maybe he sticks it in his pocket? I think the act of him giving her his shirt is fine enough to show that he cares for her without passing along a trinket that Cassie, and the reader have no clue about.

23. I like the conversation between Cassie and Leo. Very natural. Very good.

24. "He relented." I know it was Cassie speaking, but this line following after he dialogue makes it sound like Ezra was speaking.

I think you did a good job with what you set out to do with building the history between Cassie and Leo.

You build this narrative that Ezra has a history of being possessive, so it's kind of odd that Cassie reflect on how she's noticed these character traits in Ezra because of the trip...when we get a sense she always knew he was like that.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

2 Years Ago

Thank you once again for such a detailed review. I've marked my manuscript with changes based on you.. read more

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Added on April 25, 2017
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SweetNutmeg
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I am back and returning all reviews of "Phoenix." I'm here to improve my writing. I love critiques that give me critical feedback, as well as praise. (Although, I do like praise. Gotta be honest.) .. more..

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