Under (Luna's Story Book 2), page 1
Also by Diana Knightley
Also by H. D. Knightley (My YA pen name)
About me, Diana Knightley
Copyright © 2018 by Diana Knightley
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Created with Vellum
For Isobel, Fiona, Gwyneth, and Ean
Please, always, roll the wagon back up the hill, your friends will help.
“Hi,” Luna’s voice emitted from the radio.
“Yes, but the weather was good, the wind at our backs. We made it to camp and now we’re eating.”
“How many people are there?”
“Over twenty—” Her voice broke and Beckett lost track until, “— not sure yet.”
“I’m sorry I lost you, what aren’t you sure of?”
“Who’s coming to the mainland with me.”
“They might not go? What will they do?”
“Adapt. But don’t worry, I’ll come.”
“It’ll be okay Beckett. I’ll see you in two weeks right? That’s what you need to focus on. Where are you headed?”
“North. Away. The opposite direction.” Beckett exhaled a deep breath. “I can’t wait to see you, really see you. The next two weeks are going to be long.”
“Did the doctor look at your hands, are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m okay, the dip this morning didn’t hurt me. At least not physically. My reputation around here may have taken a hit.”
“Speaking of your reputation, everyone here wants to say hello.”
A loud chorus, “Hi, Beckett!” erupted from the speaker.
“Tell them hello, tell them if they go with you to the mainland, we can meet for real.”
Luna giggled. “That might convince Sky. She’s seen enough of you to follow you anywhere. All she talks about is your ass. Right, Sky?”
Sky said, “Were you saying something Luna? I was thinking about Beckett’s ass.”
Luna giggled, “But me most of all. It really was a nice departing gesture. I’ll have motivation on my paddle.”
Beckett chuckled. “Well, if it gets you to paddle faster, I’m glad I exposed myself to everyone today.”
“I’ll paddle fast enough.”
“I’m glad you’re safe. I’m glad I found you. I still can’t believe it.”
“Me neither, but you did, and like you said, it means something all that finding. I have to go, Beckett. We have a lot to talk about the group and I and . . . I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“You’ll leave in the morning? I need your coordinates. Where do you think you’ll end up?”
“I don’t know what time I’ll leave yet, or where I’ll land. It looks like we’ll have rain tonight. We’ll weather it here in camp and then I’ll take off, after it’s over.”
“But we’ll talk tomorrow, right?”
“At sunset, or 7:30 your time.”
“Okay, I love you Luna.”
“I love you too.”
The radio went silent.
Beckett stared at it, still, quiet, dead.
It was great to be able to talk to Luna, to know she was okay. It also sucked, to talk to Luna from this far away.
The next night at 7:15, Beckett entered the galley, assembled the charts and the radio, and took a deep breath. Before he could begin though, Dan, followed by Sarah, Rebecca, and Jeffrey, clamored down the steps. Dan and Sarah slid into the seat opposite him, Rebecca shoved him with her hip to give her a place to sit beside him. Jeffrey leaned over the back of the adjoining booth.
Beckett said, and hoped it didn’t sound as surly as he thought it did, “I might want to do this alone.”
Rebecca said, “Sure, but this is Luna, paddling on her own, and we’re all going to wait here with you until we know. Then we’ll go.”
Beckett took another big breath and turned the radio on.
He adjusted the dial for their most recent channel and asked, “Luna? Luna Saturniddae?”
Static greeted him. He twisted the dial and repeated, “Luna?”
Emerging from the static, faintly, “Beckett?”
Everyone in the galley cheered and then quieted.
Beckett adjusted the volume, such relief in his heart. “Luna, I’m here, Luna are you good?”
Her faint, barely heard response, “Yeah. I’m good . . . paddled all day with a bright sun overhead . . . . . . have excellent weather until midweek—”
Beckett couldn’t hear the end of the sentence over the cheering and clapping of Dan, Sarah, and Jeffrey. Rebecca hugged him around the shoulders.
Beckett said, “That’s great Luna, really great, I was so — that’s great. The crew here wants to say hello!”
Luna’s voice called, “Hi Beckett’s friends!”
They all joyously yelled hello and goodbye and raucously clambered to the deck leaving Beckett alone.
He said, “First give me your coordinates.”
He marked them on the charts but before he could finish she said, “There’s a good wind behind me. I plan to get to the Central Bank Outpost tomorrow. I have to sleep in the open tonight, but the wind will be calm.”
“Can we talk in the morning? I
“Yeah, nine o’clock sharp, we’ll talk, tomorrow.”
“Okay, thanks. Was it hard saying goodbye to Sky?”
“Very hard. They didn’t understand why I was leaving. They tried to talk me out of it, but . . . her family paddled with me for a bit singing a song of goodbye . . .” Luna continued to talk but Beckett could barely hear over the flood of relief. She was alive, in motion, meeting him.
He said, “When we get to shore we’ll get you signed in at the camps and I’ll get you signed out and . . .” His voice trailed off remembering all the things he needed to handle when he returned to shore. There was a lot. He didn’t want to tell Luna about all the things he had left undone.
She said, “I’m thinking about resting at the outer Shield Island for a day or two, if the weather is good. It has amenities and is within a day’s paddle of the port. That way we can arrive at the same time.”
“I’d like that. I’ll go with you to register. That would be good.”
“Here’s what you have to understand, I’ve got this. This isn’t anything to fear, it’s simply something to get through.”
“Yes, but . . .”
“Tell me something cool about your house, Beckett.”
“We have gardens all around, and my Aunt Dilly put up bird houses and feeders everywhere. They’re all painted bright colors; it looks like crazy people live there, but it’s really beautiful.”
“It does sound beautiful; I can’t wait to see it. How will we get to your house from Heighton Port?”
“Um, good question.” Beckett’s fingers were gripping and rubbing on his scalp. “I have my motorcycle, but your paddleboard won’t fit — I’ll figure it out. I could rent a truck or something.”
Luna’s faint faraway voice said, “I need to go. I have farther to paddle and then batten down the hatches, except I don’t own hatches.”
“Goodnight Luna, I miss you.”
“Goodnight Beckett. I miss you too.”
Luna paddled. Her eyes locked on the horizon, one thought on her mind. The finish line looming. Two weeks.
She had one aim, Heighton Port. There, the worst of this experience, this trip, this ordeal, would be behind her. The aching muscles, the blisters, the gnawing fear, the desperate loneliness — would be over. Two weeks. For good.
But also, this was everything she had known for so long. Days and days of ordeal.
There had been a short respite with Sky and her group, but that had been preceded by mega trauma and ordeal. A flash of a moment with Beckett. But, oh, the weeks before Beckett had been awful. The kind of weeks someone shouldn’t have to live through. Lonely, desperate, sad.
It was awful being alone, and she did not want to do it anymore.
This whole thing, this big paddle across the ocean, was all because Beckett had promised that she would never be alone again. If not those exact words, it was what he meant, and she believed him. Beckett meant she had someone.
She meant it too.
But she was scared.
She had been telling Beckett that she wasn’t afraid. That there was nothing to fear, but she hadn’t been completely truthful. She was terrified. Just of a different thing.
Beckett was scared of losing her. That he wouldn’t find her again. That she would become lost and never found.
His fear was close to being over.
That was good, she was happy for him.
Her fear was entirely different.
She was headlong rushing into a life that was absolutely different.
She had no idea what to expect and didn’t know if she would like it.
Her whole life, her family, had scoffed at the idea of living on land. To Waterfolk there wasn’t an in-between, you were either — or. Waterfolk or a boring Stiffneck. No one in her acquaintance had ever been both.
Meeting Beckett at a dock, signing in at a camp, riding on his motorcycle to his mountain, living in his house. These things were taking her away from her life, her identity, her essence.
Luna had been truthful (sort of) when she said she wasn’t afraid of becoming lost. She hadn’t been fully honest. She was terrified of being found.
But she loved Beckett.
That much was enough to paddle closer and closer to his shore.
On the fifth day Beckett began their conversation with, “You good?”
“It was a long day. I paddled against the wind for most of it, trying to beat a southern storm to Otter Island.” Her voice broke up.
Beckett scanned the maps. “Did you say Otter Island or Outer Island?”
Luna kept talking, “. . . cut north for shelter . . . . . . an inlet . . . lay low . . .”
Beckett traced his pencil up and around the islands along the northern coast of the mainland, searching for any that matched her words. But his charts rarely matched her descriptions. He asked, “What are the coordinates?”
She rattled off numbers, but her voice broke. He asked again, she repeated them, with static through most of it. He asked a third time and marked the closest thing he could decipher.
She was somewhere inside a chain called the Sierra Islands. A location that caused Dan to go, “Wow, those islands are notorious for their insane weather, tell her to go fast.”
Well, she wasn’t going fast. Her mark had barely moved from yesterday’s. Here, Beckett was on a boat with a crew of people caring for his health and wellbeing, and what did Luna have?
Nothing. She was on her own, crossing the ocean. The rising ocean.
“I wish you had someone with you.”
“I couldn’t let Sky . . . . . . offered to but I couldn’t let them. To separate them from their group . . . . . . that’s their family. You . . .” Her voice trailed off.
Beckett, head in his hand, asked, “What?”
“Waterfolk can’t make it without their family.”
Beckett gulped. “Luna I’m sorry you have to. You found a family and now I made you leave them. And you’re alone again and if anything happens to you —”
“. . . static . . . didn’t mean it to make you feel guilty, I just . . . . . . somehow I am surviving . . . . . . glad when I don’t have to anymore.”
“Me too. I admire you that you’re so strong and brave.”
“I don’t feel strong . . . . . . this isn’t bravery, most of the time I’m kind of terrified . . . . . . I’m really tired . . . . . . Mr. Wind and I need to have a talk about his timing.”
“God, Luna I’m so sorry.”
“What I need right now . . . distractions . . . . . . grateful for this radio.”
“Describe where you are.”
“ . . . . . . inlet . . . a canopy of trees. The shore has some boulders. I pulled Steve and Boosy and Tree up out of the water and tied them . . . my tent . . . . . . higher ground. I can look out the door . . . ” There was a zipping sound. “I can see Tree, he looks good, which means Boosy and Steve are good.”
“What time did the storm start?”
“It started raining . . . . . . half hour ago . . . direction and size of the front . . . it will last all night.”
Beckett was drawing a spiral around her possible coordinates, darker and darker. “I thought you would be closer by now.”
There wasn’t any reply for a moment until Luna’s voice emerged, “. . . the weather and I’m alone,” faintly, “I wonder if—”
A roaring sound interrupted her. Beckett sat up and leaned in. “Is that the rain?”
There was no response until, “. . . I should go.”
The radio went dead.
“Luna, are you okay?”
Beckett stared at for a long moment, then he studied the charts, tracing a line from her coordinates, to his own, miles and leagues away.
The next morning the H2OPE anchored off a small outer island. Little more than sandy beaches and a rocky interior, with a few scrub trees clutching rocky outc
Beckett leaned on his favorite deck railing while birds swooped and flapped above the boat.
Dan stalked up. “Watch your head these look like poopers.” Bird poop splattered the deck beside Beckett’s foot. Dan laughed and called to Jeffrey, “Good news! Beckett’s hands have healed enough, he’ll be able to help swab the decks tonight.”
Jeffrey said, “Good, because this is one big mess already and we’ve only been here for ten minutes.” They all looked down, there was bird poop everywhere.
Rebecca pointed toward shore. “Turtles, see that? Turtles!”
Beckett peered in the direction she pointed. He couldn’t see anything different from seagulls, pelicans, pipers. Rebecca grabbed a net and buckets and raced toward the awaiting Zodiac.
Dan said, “I better hustle to captain their boat.”
Sarah ran by with more buckets, “Dan, hurry, turtles!”
Beckett’s job was to remain on deck and receive the samples and return by pulley the empty buckets to be filled again. The crew fanned out across the sand, bent over, scanning, collecting, digging, dragging bags and nets behind them as they travelled back and forth to the Zodiac.
Dan was sending two buckets of samples up by pulley. “You good up there Army?”
“How come Army is here on a ship while the ship’s crew is on land?”
Dan flicked his wet hair. He didn’t need to leave the Zodiac, but kept jumping out of it to plow waist deep through the water to collect the samples from the beachcombers. To a stranger it would have seemed selfless that he kept everyone else from getting wet, but the crew and Beckett knew Dan did it because he loved the water. Had to be in it.
Dan said, “You’re not in the water though are you? Always looking for any excuse to stay dry on higher ground.”
Higher ground. That was one of the last things Luna said, she was on higher ground. Now it had been hours and hours since their call was cut off…
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