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Why was she doing this? Her mother frustrated her, that’s probably the reason why. Nick pawed at her shirt, trying to lift it over her head, but she wouldn’t let him. Not yet. His beer-scented breath pressed against her neck and lips as she yanked off his shirt with reckless indifference. Leigh’s own breath, tainted with the bitter aftertaste of vodka, clouded her ability to think coherently. All she wanted to do was feel pleasure, and release the pain that she bottled inside. She didn’t want any pain. No more grief, no more stress. Yet, when Nick’s tongue pressed against her collarbone, she shivered with revolt. How did she end up in such a mess? How did she end up on the greasy, peeling leather seats of Nick’s battered Mustang?

It took only five minutes, and the deed was done.
Leigh slipped on her shorts and shirt and stumbled out of the car, her inebriation pounding on either side of her forehead. She mumbled a goodbye to Nick and walked home, losing her balance every so often. When she reached her house, she found the front door unlocked. She crept into her bedroom and peeled off her clothes, soiled with the scent of sex. It was accusing, as if she did something horrible. And it seemed like losing her virginity was a horrible thing to do, especially to someone like Nick. In her fresh nightclothes, Leigh tried to forget the moment that just occurred in a car parked at the beach. She was no better than any other sl*t in her high school.

Leigh wept at the stupidity of her drunkenness and the sex she had had. However, she didn’t think it was all her fault. As she drifted to sleep, dreams mixed with reality, Leigh heard her mother’s faint snoring in the adjacent room.

That was the problem.
*
*
*

The coarse apron scratched against Leigh’s thumb as she slid it out of her chest of drawers. Tattered and soiled with permanent coffee stains, her apron of three years seemed older, twenty years older. She went through her mental checklist to make sure she had her uniform. Blue skirt, check. Tacky, white frilly shirt…check. Ballet flats, check. Makeup, to pacify the groping, male customers, check. Ugh, the despondent life of the female workforce.

She strolled into the bathroom, her belongings clutched in her chest, as if she were five and didn’t want anyone else to touch her crayons. From the neighboring bedroom, Leigh could still hear her mother’s hushed snoring that seeped through the peeling, white door. It was typical, all year round, for her mother to never wake up. Leigh shrugged off that notion, unable to even think about her mother for one second before fury boiled beneath her cheeks.

Leigh reached the Grille, her feet throbbing. Though she had walked to this same restaurant for the past three years, it felt even more excruciating than before.

“Ten minutes late,” said Ben, the owner, the moment Leigh entered.

Jenny, her best friend, stood behind the counter and snickered at Ben’s reprimand.


Ben squinted at Leigh—who stood there without an excuse—then shook his head in dismay. He stuffed a chewed pencil at the back of his ear and shoved the crumpled notepad into the waistband of his apron. Leigh pushed through the swinging door that divided the kitchen from the eating area where she found Olivia and Jenny gossiping.
“I hate the rich people who flock to Maine every summer,” said Olivia. Leigh sighed and realized it was another one of Olivia’s tirades about the wealthy East Coast residents who summered up at Bailey Island. “They saunter into our town, and just because they’re millionaires, it means they have every right to do whatever they want? I hate it. And Ben gets all self-righteous. ‘They’re paying customers. The customer is always right.’ Well, what if I don’t want the customer to be right all the time?” She said, her face now tinted crimson.
Leigh and Jenny knew what happened to Olivia. It was the plight of all waitresses that came and went through the Grille. A dashing, wealthy boy from the East Coast summered in Maine and wooed a helpless, working girl. For Olivia, it was Wes Ashbury, a Bostonian, fresh out of prep school two summers ago, destined for Harvard. She fell in love, but he left her damaged and heartbroken. Jenny hadn’t fallen for the spell and Leigh didn’t have a chance to. Guys, proper guys, never seemed to even acknowledge her presence.

“Get to work.”

Leigh glanced up and saw Ben’s gnarled expression, his eyebrows curled around his eyes. Although he was merely twenty, he seemed haggard, reluctant…old-fashioned. Some sort of antique that needed serious dusting.
Leigh left the kitchen to wipe down the tables. As she sprayed Lysol on the vinyl chairs, Leigh’s mind flitted back to Nick. Gross, salivating Nick Rockwell, a boy from the mainland. The event that occurred three nights ago flashed in her mind. Images of his eager, maladroit hands touching her waist and neck invaded all other thoughts. How could she have let that happen?
The bell on the front door tinkled as someone entered. From his appearance, Leigh knew he was wealthy with a collared polo. It was purple, the color of royalty. His eyes roved over the restaurant to find a seat. His face was all too familiar. She knew him. She thought he knew her too. He approached the table Leigh was wiping down.
“May I?” he asked. In her surprise at the sound of his deep voice, she dropped the Lysol bottle. It crashed to the tiled floor where the liquid oozed out and spread like a disease. Leigh heard Ben curse behind her as he threw down a raggedy dishcloth to wipe up the mess.
“Sorry,” she murmured. She swiped her cleaning supplies away and took down the man’s order before kneeling down to the ground to help Ben. “I’m sorry. I just got surprised,” she said. Ben grunted in response while his fervent mopping splashed bits of Lysol onto Leigh’s arm.
In the kitchen, Leigh leaned against a metal countertop and placed her hand on her chest to relieve the pounding that reverberated against her chest.
“What happened?” asked Jenny.

“Nothing. I just saw someone I thought I knew. But he doesn’t remember me, so it’s not a big deal.”

Leigh took the man’s order to him where he ruminated as he ate each morsel. When he finished, he left a generous five dollar tip. But there was something else. Leigh peered at closer and found that it was sea glass.

He remembered her. He did know her!

Leigh always had this insane, unexplainable desire for sea glass. Living in Maine did that to her. The incessant searching, poring over hundreds and hundreds of green-gray stones that deceived her. It could be sea glass and Leigh’s heart would soar just a bit, tighten and loosen, her lips pursed together. But, then, reality would arrive, unwelcomed, unwanted. It was just a stone all along. It was never something greater. It was never something breathtaking.

Yet this translucent, deep blue beckoned to Leigh. She could see the depth of the ocean in the rough, salty glass. She peered at the man who walked to his car. He grew smaller with distance, and she stopped staring at him when his car sped past the Grille. Leigh clutched the sea glass to her heart, inhaling the scent of the briny water. This was sea glass, not a stone.
And it was breathtaking.





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