Two days ago I was dressed in my winter clothes, boots, coat, hat, and gloves, breaking ice in a water trough on our ranch, now I had on flip flops and a t-shirt and looked like I was ready to go to the beach. From the backseat of our pick-up I watched as a lush coastal valley came into view, unbelieving that this Wyoming cowgirl was moving to California.
“I thought you said this place was on the beach,” my younger sister complained when no ocean popped into view. My thoughts were similar but unlike her I said nothing, Katy was the one who spoke her mind.
“Aunt Marge said San Luis was inland a bit,” my mom answered from the driver’s seat.
“How far inland?”
“We’ll find out after we get Sarah’s stuff unloaded.”
Katy let out a long sigh then slumped back against the window. Behind me, in the bed of our pick-up sat a load of boxes representing my twenty years of existence. It wasn’t much, just clothing, books and a few personal items, but I didn’t need a whole lot because the cottage I had rented half-way through the school year came fully furnished. My mom followed the directions on her GPS and not long after we passed the college, we pulled up to a large, two-story, Spanish style home. Katy’s mouth dropped. It looked like a mansion from one of the California mission towns we had learned about in grade school.
“Is this place yours?” she asked.
“I think that’s my place in the back,” I said, pointing to a small cottage at the end of the paved drive. My mom backed the truck down the driveway and we all climbed out, stretching our legs before we walked into the courtyard, hedged in by boxwood, and found the key hidden under a potted geranium. Two large potted hydrangeas sat on either side of the two steps that led to the door and the entire courtyard was tiled in adobe tiles that had a deep blue flower mosaic embedded in the center.
My landlords were out of town and had left me a message about where to find the key. I slipped it into the lock and walked through the door of my new home. Light shone through the kitchen window facing the street. A bar separated the kitchen from the living room with cabinets overhead. The couch and coffee table looked new, along with the flat screen TV mounted to the wall above the gas fireplace. There was a tall empty bookshelf that would be full by the time I emptied my boxes. I let myself out the back slider and stepped onto a small wooden porch that had a barbeque and a patio table with four chairs and two lounge chairs. Back inside I found my mom and Katy checking out the bedroom, the only carpeted area in the small home, all the rest of the floors were a dark mahogany. There was double bed with a thick, dark headboard and footboard with matching nightstands and dresser along with a long framed mirror hanging on the wall. Across the hallway was the bathroom, tiled in travertine with an antique claw-foot tub tucked in the corner. The overall feel of the home was welcoming, simple, yet stylish. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The rent here had been a steal compared to other apartments I had found online, yet this place was in far better condition than every other place I had researched.
“I just might dump UW and join you out here,” Katy said as we walked back out to the truck and began unloading boxes. The University of Wyoming was the only four-year college in Wyoming, where Katy was half-way through her freshman year and from which I had just transferred into California Polytechnic State University. I couldn’t argue with her, it had been bitter cold when we left the Bridger Valley on New Year’s Day. It didn’t take us long to get my things unpacked and tucked away into new cupboards and drawers so we decided to head into Pismo Beach, a town ten minutes south of San Luis Obispo. My cousin had recommend a popular clam chowder joint that my mom was excited for, but I couldn’t wait to see the ocean for the first time.
“What do you think, Sarah?” my mom asked as we drove down Highway 101 towards Pismo. I could tell she had been pleased with the home I had chosen during our unpacking, which was good because she wasn’t too keen on the idea of leaving her oldest daughter alone in a strange California town.
“I think it will do,” I said with a smile. A smile, I thought, that hadn’t happened in a while and it felt foreign, I had to fight to not suppress it. I turned my head, still embarrassed by my show of happiness and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window, noticing the ever present dark circles that rested beneath my faded green eyes. The last ten months had taken their toll. I hoped this change of scenery would help rid my nights of insomnia and endless tears shed over Jeremy’s passing. My heart was broken, shattered really, and I was beginning to think it would never heal. I loved Wyoming and hated to leave it behind, but every sunrise and sunset, every gently snow fall and every breeze that rustled through the cottonwoods reminded me of Jeremy. My heart hadn’t been able to begin the healing process with daily reminders of his absence inflicting fresh wounds. Here, in California’s central coast, I planned to escape the memory of my blue-eyed cowboy. Here he didn’t exist. Here I had never existed with him. Here my heart would heal. I hoped.
The sun had begun to sink in the sky when we exited the canyon and I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.