Day 2: Wednesday, October 22
“Marisa…wake up. Marisa . . . ”
Dad is sitting on the edge of my bed lightly scratching my back, his special way of waking me up ever since I was little.
“Is something wrong?” I whisper. I shiver and pull the covers closer around. Again, I feel the tug of missing my ‘real’ house—the one we’d all lived in together on E. 14th Street. Living on this houseboat is like being in the water instead of just on it. The ancient heater either delivers hot, dry air or it hardly works at all.
“What time is it?” The tiny window facing the bay is still dark.
“It’s just six. Tal phoned. He wants me in early,” Dad says. “Apparently a bunch of whales are swimming around in the inlet. Seems people have been calling and leaving messages since last night to reserve boats.”
Yes, I know. I saw them.
Since Dad took a job working for Tal Reese at the Mud Bay Kayak center, it feels as if he’s always going in early or staying late. Sometimes I wonder if it’s to avoid these awkward silences we seem to have more and more often.
“Pretty cool, huh?” He hesitates. I shake the sleep out of my head and try to think of what to say. “Hey, I know it’s a school day, but what’dya think about coming along?”
I can tell he’s smiling without even looking. When he realizes I’m not going to answer, answer, he sighs. A long few seconds pass. The silence between us is so thick now you could cut it with a knife. Then—
“Whales, Marisa, here—in the inlet!” Silence. He tries again. “Hey—remember that camp you went to up in the San Juans a couple of summers ago?”
He’s all excited now, caught up in the memory. I lie there quiet in my cold bed.
“You came home pretty psyched about whales.” He chuckles to himself and talks on. “Plastered your walls with pictures and those pod genealogies….all sorts of stuff.”
Has he forgotten who really loved whales? Who would have been crazy with excitement
if she were here?
“I kidded you no end that you must have been a whale in a previous life—shiny black hair, white skin, just like—” he stops, realizing where his talk has gotten him. “Anyway, you up for it?” he finishes, his voice flat. He starts rubbing my back again but I squirm out from under his hand and roll onto my side and face the wall.
“I don’t think so,” I mutter into my pillow. “Today’s our science unit exam,” I lie.
“Well…I think it’d be okay. This is science in action.”
I shake my head no. Please, just go to work.
After a long minute, he bends down and kisses the top of my head and I feel myself stiffen. I know he won’t argue. Dad never argues, not even when Mom said she really needed to leave. Not one fight. I still can’t believe how this all happened without any fights.
I shift my body, restless. And the same angry thought that I’ve had a hundred times since Mom left pushes itself back into my brain. I can still see them standing there, holding hands, both of them telling me everything will be okay. Trust us, they said. Mom just needs some time. Did they think I was really that stupid to believe that everything was going to be okay? To believe that they were telling me the whole story? And again—for the hundredth time I’m certain I must have missed something. Mom says she has to leave. Dad says sure, fine. And that’s it? It doesn’t make any sense. I pull the covers closer around me. Maybe they did all the fighting when I wasn’t around. Or maybe—maybe it was something else totally, something they just couldn’t tell me—
“Eat something, OK?”
Dad voice startles me. I’d kind of forgotten he was still here. I nod my head.
“Maybe they’ll still be here later,” he says, finally standing up. “Will you ride by after school?”
The question hangs in the air between us, unanswered. He won’t leave until he finally gets an okay nod from me. When he opens the front door to go a gust of even colder air hits me. The boat pitches and sways as he steps outside, then slowly settles back, rocking me in my bed.
I lie there in the dark remembering that summer of two years ago. Mom was so excited when she found that whale camp—she’d checked out everything offered within a fifty-mile radius of Seattle looking for the “perfect experience.” The camp was where I first met Lena. We’d spent three weeks, kayaking and studying marine biology—and becoming good friends. It all seems like centuries ago now, when there was money for things like sending me to summer camp. Before Mom left—and everything changed. Before Dad let her leave.
Getting up quickly, I skitter across the narrow hallway into the kitchen and prop open the door to help the struggling heater push warmer air towards my bedroom, then climb back under the covers.
This is all so messed up. If Dad finds out I’ve already seen the whales and didn’t tell him—that I was one of the first to see them—he’ll never understand. I don’t even understand why I couldn’t tell him. But the thought of sharing something important with Dad is almost impossible right now.
I stretch out my legs towards the foot of the bed. My toes are freezing and for the hundredth time I miss my old cat Blackberry. I try to push away thoughts of whales and camps and Mom and Dad. But I have as much luck as the houseboat heater. They’re not going anywhere.