Daughters of the Sea
Daughters of the Sea
ISBN 978-1-889199-13-9
$14.00 trade paperback
237 pages


Excerpt from Daughters of the Sea

By the time the moon rose high enough to brighten the darkness, Veronica Legacy had been driving nearly eleven hours and was so tense that the tips of her fingers had begun to go numb from clutching the wheel.

"I'll drive if you're tired, Mama," her daughter Simpson said for the twentieth time.

For the twentieth time, Veronica shook her head. She'd stopped only twice since they'd left the South Carolina coast this morning and didn't mean to slow down now. The only way to get where you're going, she reckoned, was to plow on.

Eleven hours before, Veronica had left her husband, Guy, for the third and final time. Her first major departure, more than eighteen years ago, was one she rarely allowed herself to think about, and her second, a year later, had lasted only a week. This would be different - permanent. The third time was the charm, she'd always believed.

"I hope you're not just mad because Dad wants to move again and get another job," Simpson had said this morning as they'd packed the car. "He stayed all winter in Beaufort like you asked him to. You knew it would be time for him to go."

Well, of course Veronica wasn't "just mad." Looking for another job was something Guy had done three or four times a year, even before Simpson was born. Nor was Veronica leaving because Guy's behavior was so irritating or because they'd fought so much this past year. Veronica was going because she'd watched Simpson, in cap and gown, walk toward them after her high-school graduation last weekend, and she'd seen a grown woman standing before her, tall and slim with lips that seemed sensuous but not pouty, and a strong, pretty jaw that looked determined without being stubborn. Veronica was leaving because she'd realized that if her daughter was a woman, then she herself must be approaching forty (thirty-eight to be exact), and what had she ever done with her life except follow an itinerant carpenter from town to town?

Not that she hadn't tried to make a stable home. Oh, she had. But she'd failed utterly. Last August, after twenty years of wandering, Veronica had finally insisted they remain in one place an entire school year so their daughter could graduate from the same school that she'd entered in the fall. Veronica had chosen the most scenic, charming setting she could find-Beaufort, South Carolina-and had rented a duplex only ten minutes from the beach. Guy and Veronica were both nicer if they could see the ocean whenever they liked. The duplex had big windows, nearly new furniture, and was so close to a Laundromat that the air was always sweet with the scent of soap.

You'd think after all that, Guy would have managed to settle in. But no! Not two months had passed before he'd begun complaining. "Beaufort's small. There's better work in bigger places. Foreman's jobs, project managers."

"Guy, you promised."

By Christmas the atmosphere around them had been so thick with tension that they might have been walking through a maze of spiderwebs. By spring, Guy was speaking of moving in such a strangled, restless voice that you would have thought happiness was in the next town, the next room. But he'd stayed - until one day after Simpson's graduation, just long enough to take the girl out to a celebration dinner, get a good night's sleep, and gas up his truck.

Watching him drive off in search of some other coastal town with plenty of construction work, probably a few hundred miles north of Beaufort where the summers weren't so hot, Veronica had no choice but to face the truth she'd been avoiding for more than twenty years. Guy Legacy would never settle anywhere. He'd wander from town to town until he was an old man nobody wanted to hire, never keeping a job or a house even half a year. Unless she acted, Veronica would settle into her role as an aging camp follower who couldn't provide a secure haven for her only child.

"We're leaving, honey," she'd said to Simpson. "We're going somewhere we can settle for good."

"What about Dad?"

"You can wait here for him if you want, but he'll just be off again somewhere and wanting to drag you with him. The sensible thing is to come with me."

"Where are you going?"

"To stay with Ernie Truheart," Veronica had said.

"The one who sends the Christmas cards? The one who lives in Maryland?"


"But you hardly know her," Simpson protested. "A Christmas card is not a relationship. What's going on, Mama? This isn't like you." Simpson extended a hand as if to check Veronica's forehead for fever.

"I'm not sick, honey. I'm doing this to keep myself well. We can't live like nomads all our lives. I'm finished with working in every cheap T-shirt shop in every beach town on this coast."

"You did it this long. You never minded before this past year."

"Oh, I always minded."

This was just like Simpson, sounding so logical. But Veronica had only shrugged, because she knew it was impossible to explain to a nineteen-year-old what it was like to reach the very middle of life - thirty-eight! - married to a person who insisted on wandering the countryside, never living a neat plait of life but always a wild and unruly tangle, a thousand strands blown in every direction by the slightest wind.

"All I can say, honey, is that my mind's made up and it would break my heart if you didn't come with me." Veronica had seen that Simpson thought she had no choice.

So at dawn this morning they'd finally locked the trunk on what looked like pathetically few possessions to show for twenty-one years of marriage. Pathetically few. She motioned Simpson to get into the car. She couldn't bring herself to speak for the entire first hour of the drive north.

By the time they crossed the Cooper River at Charleston, she'd begun to revive. Before long they were gliding along on what was now an older, more rutted section of road. Every ten minutes or so, Simpson cast a furtive glance in Veronica's direction. She was almost relieved when her daughter finally blurted out, "Tell me the truth, Mama. Daddy called you from somewhere, didn't he? He found a new job and we're meeting him. Tell me the truth."

"I did tell you the truth. We're going to see my friend Ernie. She's been asking me to come for years. What makes you think we're meeting Dad?"

"This is exactly the way he would have come."

And it was! Veronica was following Guy's path not out of nostalgia-certainly not!-but by force of habit, having traveled this way so often. How pitiful.

"This is ridiculous," she said.

"Of course it is, Mama," replied Simpson in her nurse-in-an-insane-asylum tone. "We need to head back to Beaufort right now.

"Never." Veronica switched on the cruise control and headed for the highway. This trip would go exactly as she'd planned. She was finished forever with sleazy apartments in beach towns they couldn't really afford. She was finished with T-shirt shops. She would work in the big garden on Ernie's farm, maybe have a garden of her own. She would put down some roots.

So why was it that, the farther west they drove, the more she kept hearing the lapping, surging, sometimes pounding of the surf in the recesses of her mind? Why did her hands feel drier and more chapped with every mile they traveled? Was it just because she was nervous? Or was it, as she suspected, because every bit of moisture was being sucked from her skin, little by little, the farther she got from the ocean?

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