Thursday night, Delaney went back to the refuge. It was hard since she hadn’t been there in over a week and they asked about her, about Eli. Surprisingly, she was okay with them asking, and she managed to answer pretty well. Without her voice shaking. And it was okay. She even worked beside an older couple she’d talked to briefly here and there. An interesting couple. Married for 36 years. Delaney would have to be ... 68 before she was married 36 years and that was if she got married now, in a few months. To hit a fifty year anniversary, she’d have to live to be 82, which she hoped she would. A 75 year anniversary was out of the question. Other than by some miracle.
With a sigh, she checked her phone again to be sure it was still working and went back to picking up garbage. The same thing on each stretch of beach. Debris. Splintered wood. Bits of rusty metal. Garbage that was just garbage – papers, wrappers, plastic. Old and new. She often wondered, as she picked up wrappers that obviously hadn’t been there long, why she bothered. Kids, and maybe sloppy selfish adults, would still throw their garbage down instead of taking it to a trash area. Why clean up after those people? They didn’t learn. If they could catch them and make them do clean up duty, maybe they would. But they wouldn’t catch them. It was pointless.
And yet she hated her beach being so littered.
Not her beach. She hardly used it. Other than to work on it. For others. Why did she do this? Because it needed to be done. Because she had no reason to be home other than to shower and sleep. Because ... because she wanted the beach and water clean.
Putting her headphones on with Eli’s iPod, she moved farther away from others as she worked. It kept her occupied enough Delaney didn’t realize it was time to go until everyone else headed that direction.
Barely saying anything to Trina in response to ... whatever she said about dinner and there wasn’t much left but there was some of whatever it was, Delaney trotted up to her room, grabbed her old sweats and went to take a long shower. But someone was in there. She waited a couple of minutes and decided she might as well eat first, whatever was left.
Which was almost nothing. And it had cilantro, a ton of cilantro, the way Pat liked it. That’s what Trina had been saying. Probably payback for her making something the other night she knew the kids wouldn’t eat. Delaney left it in the pan and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and took it upstairs.
Closing her door to eat in privacy, she stared out the window and wondered what he was doing. He could at least let her know. Just a text if he didn’t want to talk. Something. A pit began to form in her gut. Something happened. He would never be so rude on purpose. He’d at least have the nerve to say so if he didn’t want to talk to her. How did she find out?
The bathroom door was still closed when she was done with her sandwich, and she knocked hard. “Are you really needing to be in there or can you do whatever you’re doing in your room?”
Tiffany’s cocky arrogant voice came back that she was almost done with her nails. Thirteen-year-olds. She rolled her eyes.
“Do them in your room, like I’ve asked you. I need to shower.”
“I don’t want the smell in my room.”
“And I don’t want you tying up the bathroom.”
“Is there a problem?”
Delaney turned to Pat. “I’ve told her to do her girl stuff in her room. This room needs to be shared.”
“She’s not your daughter. Leave her discipline to me.”
“What discipline? She does whatever she wants. In my house. My bathroom. The only shower I have. I have to have some say in my own damned house. And don’t dare talk about my language or raising my voice. This is my house and I have no say and no privacy and no respect. It’s not fair and it’s not right...”
“Fine. I’ll put my kids in a little hotel room and make them live on top of each other and sleep on the floor...”
“I’m not asking you to leave. I’m asking for cooperation. Respect.”
“You gotta earn respect to have it. Haven’t learned that yet?” He threw a sly grin.
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