The cold fog began drifting in from the ocean. Wick Farrington felt as bleak as the mist-shrouded landscape just outside his window. His father drove with great care down twisted roads through the tree-studded hills. Wick watched as the forest thinned, then gave way to sharp cliffs which dropped off onto the beach.
Beside him, his ten-year-old sister, Rindy, gave her red ponytail and excited toss. “We’re almost there, aren’t we, Mom?” she asked, with an excited sparkle in her brown eyes.
Before Mrs. Farrington could answer, the car circled around the last hill and from its wooded peak, they could look down onto Sea Edge. The rambling wood and stone house would be Wick’s and Rindy’s home for the next three months. Built on a knoll, a wide stretch of beach and white sand dunes separated the house from the surging sea. The twisted cypresses and tall pines on the steep hill behind formed a picturesque background for the sprawling structure.
Wick gave a sigh as he looked at his uncle’s house. He was tired from the long drive to the California coast. Rindy and his parents were glad to see the end of their ride. But he didn’t want to stay at Sea Edge while his parents went on to Massachusetts and New York. He wanted to be with them! He had never traveled farther east than Colorado and New Mexico. It just wasn’t fair!
He had many interactions with Les. He already convinced himself that it wouldn’t be any fun to stay with his cousin, Les Shelton, and his family. Les wasn’t any fun. Les was always sick or had his nose stuck in a book. Wick sighed again.
“What’s the matter, Wick?” his mother asked.
“I don’t want to stay here,” Wick said, trying one more time to persuade his parents. “Why can’t I go with you? I’ll never have another chance to see all those historical places in New York City and Boston. Besides, we don’t like the same things. Why can’t just Rindy stay at Sea Edge? I’m old enough. Why can’t I accompany you?” He pleaded in desperation, then started chewing on his fingernails.
“For heaven’s sake, Wick!” his father exclaimed in exasperation, turning the car down the hill. “We’ve been over this many times already. This isn’t a pleasure trip. My trip east is for work. There won’t be time for sightseeing. I’ll be involved with work while your mother will be busy caring for your Aunt Dora, who will be just getting home from the hospital. It’s fortunate that my scheduled trip came at the same time as Aunt Dora’s illness. Your mother will be a great help in getting her back on her feet..” Mr. Farrington glanced at Wick in the rear-view mirror. “And Wick, please stop biting your fingernails. It’s time you break that horrible habit.” Mr. Farrington wheeled the car around the last curve as the road dropped to the straight stretch which ran in front of Sea Edge.
“But I still don’t think Les is any fun,” Wick said, his tone as gray as the ocean.
“How do you know?” chirped Rindy, leaning her freckled nose out of the window to take a deep breath of the brisk sea air. “We haven’t seen him for two years.”
“Aw — I remember him.” Wick subsided and rolled his window down to take a deep breath of his own.
In the gathering dusk, the sea had taken on the cold, slate-gray color of the approaching fog. A fringe of white eddied along the shore as the waves ran over the sand near the black rocks jutting out of the water.
Minutes later, they arrived at Sea Edge. The car turned onto the long, curved driveway, which curled away from the road. Low juniper shrubs lined both sides of the drive to the house. A cluster of bright flowers accented the shrubbery against the brick wall of Sea Edge. Wick admired the shallow brick porch, which fanned out from the front door in a semicircle.
As he took in the view of Sea Edge, the front door flew open. Les rushed out, exuding an energy that was infectious. Wick couldn’t help but smile, his first positive reaction since they’d set off. Aunt Marian, carrying Les’ little sister, Laurie, and Uncle Ed, came just behind him, more sedately.
Mr. Farrington slowed the car to a stop. An excited Les stuck his head with its blonde crew cut in Wick’s window. “Hi, Wick! Hi everybody! Jeepers, I thought you’d never get here. I was afraid to leave the house all afternoon, afraid you’d arrive while I was gone.” He bobbed his head so much, Wick feared Les’ glasses would slip from his cousin’s well-freckled nose.
There was a lot of laughter and excitement as the two families met. Uncle Ed rumpled Wick’s hair with great affection. “Hey, you’ve grown up, my boy! What have they been feeding you these last two years?”
What a difference two years had made, Wick thought to himself as he followed Les and Rindy down the hall to the bedrooms. Les, like Wick, was twelve years old, but his greater height gave him a strength that Wick couldn’t ignore. Wick watched as Les handled Rindy’s heavy suitcases with ease. A warm admiration soon replaced his previous indifference. Wick couldn’t help but admire his cousin’s tan, especially next to the pale color of his own skin. He would have to be careful not to get sunburned for a while.
Les opened the door to a small but cheerful bedroom. “This will be your room, Rindy.” The large west-facing window looked out over the ocean. Rindy shook her red head in delight as she scrambled towards the window.
“Look at the view!” she exclaimed.
Leaving Rindy to enjoy the sight of the ocean crashing against the rocks, Les opened another door off the hall. “This is my room — our room,” he corrected himself. “I’ve cleared some space for you.” Wick noticed the neatness of the drawers, the thoughtfulness in Les’s gesture. For the first time, staying at Sea Edge seemed less daunting.
Wick looked around with interest. Like Rindy’s room, the windows faced west, overlooking the ocean. Wick noticed some glue and parts to a model Thunderbird Les was building on a desk in the corner. An elaborate feathered Native American headdress and a Scout cap hung on the wall above the desk.
Above the chest of drawers, which Les had shown him, hung a small framed oil painting of a Spanish galleon.
“That’s the type of ship which sailed to the Monterey area from Mexico when the Spanish first explored this part of California,” Les explained, following Wick’s glance.
Wick’s brown eyes swung back to the west windows.
“Do you think we can go to the beach?” Wick asked, his curiosity sparked by Les’s enthusiasm.
“Why, sure!” Les nodded his sandy-colored head. “We can’t stay for long, though. It’s almost time for dinner. But if we hurry —.” He dashed across the room to get his jacket. “Better put your coat back on. The wind is coming up, and it’s pretty cold out there now.”
Calling to Rindy, they hurried down the hall. “We’re going to the beach,” Les explained as he poked his head into the living room.
“Don’t stay long,” Mrs. Shelton called back. “We’re going to eat soon.”
Within minutes, the children were hurtling down the steep steps leading to the dunes. The wind-blown salty air stung Wick’s face, but he took in a deep breath, anyway. In the gathering dusk, the light deprived the warmer blues and greens of the ocean into cold gray hues. The fog was coming in fast. Wick noticed that the hill he was on when first saw Sea Edge was now almost hidden by fog.
“Beat you!” Rindy tossed the words back over her shoulder. Her red pony tail flying in the wind while she raced across the dunes. Her short legs were brisk as they carried her across the sand, and Wick and Les scrambled after her. They paused at the top of the last dune. The long beach stretched on and on below them. Near the shore, in the middle of the beach, huge rocks jutted into the sea.
“At low tide, you can climb out on them,” Les said. “Anemones, little crabs, and other marine life are everywhere.”
“What fun! When is low tide?” Rindy took a deep breath of the fresh sea air as she turned her face into the wind.
“It’s quite low right now. Tomorrow morning at about eight o’clock it will be low again.” Les explained as he plunged down the dune. The other two children followed close behind.
A few minutes later, they arrived at the beach. The tide was still going out. The water eddied close to Wick’s feet as he played tag with the spent waves. Racing along the water’s edge, he forgot about the chilly wind and the gathering fog.
Les threw a broken piece of driftwood into the water. It bobbed in the receding wave as it moved towards the open sea. An incoming wave caught the weathered piece of wood and carried it swirling back closer to shore once again.
“Look at all the shells!” Rindy exclaimed as she lowered herself for a better look at the gathering dusk.
“There are all kinds of shells on the beach,” Les said as he ran towards her.
Prompted by Les’ own fascination, Wick found himself drawn to a small shell, its perfect form evoking a sense of wonder he hadn’t felt before. The interior of the ashy pink shell was beautiful, with distinct brownish-red rays that paralleled each other on the outside.
“That’s a keyhole limpet,” Les explained, taking off his glasses and using his shirt to rub the mist from the lenses. “There are all kinds of limpets. They are one of the most common shells we have here.”
“It’s getting dark, so we’d better scurry back to the house,” Wick said. He surprised himself as he looked forward to exploring the beach further, drawn not just by the shells but by the possibility of future adventures with Les.
“We’ll come back down here tomorrow,” Les promised. “Maybe Mom will let us roast hot dogs and we can have a picnic.”
“Look at the fog!” Rindy exclaimed in surprise.
Wick scrambled to his feet, shaking the sand from his jeans. He could now see that the fog had closed in from all sides. The fog had hidden the huge rocks at the far end of the beach and the wooded hill behind him.
Sea Edge disappeared from view as the fog swirled around the sand dunes.
“Jeepers, we’d better be getting home,” Les exclaimed. “I’ll bet Mom is mad if she has dinner ready and waiting for us to get back.”
As they ran towards the dunes, the wind pierced through Wick’s jacket. He heard the low moan of the foghorn on the point.
“The fog is in for the night,” explained Les, stumbling over a piece of driftwood in the half light.
Suddenly Wick stopped, the others almost falling over him.
“Somebody is watching us at the top of the dune,” he whispered.
Rindy and Les jerked their heads upwards to follow Wick’s pointing finger.
A shadowy figure in the dark scrambled to its feet and vanished down the side of the dune. Rindy and the two boys raced up the steep, sandy slope. The mysterious figure ran down the dune and disappeared into the fog.
“He’s going towards the woods at the end of the beach,” Les panted. “I’ll run along the beach and head him off.”
Wick and Rindy sped over the dunes after the fleeing figure. “We can’t catch him,” gasped Rindy, her feet sinking into the sand as she clawed her way to the top of the rise.
Wick raced down the dune, leaving Rindy behind. He was an adept runner, hindered by the loose, slipping sand. He gasped for breath as he reached the large dune at the end of the beach. From there he could see where the shoreline narrowed to a sandy strip and the cypress-wooded hill rose steep above the ocean.
He had to make it. If he could just speed up a little more, he’d catch the person. Wick took a deep breath of the wind-chilled sea air, filling his bursting lungs.
Les loomed suddenly out of the fog. “There he goes!” he panted.
The mist-shrouded figure sprang down the last dune and dashed over the sand towards the hill. Desperate, Wick and Les sped down the beach.
“We’ve got him!” Wick gasped in triumph.
Then, without warning, both boys stumbled over a half-buried log lying in the sand. For a moment, they laid there, their breathing synced following the thrill of the chase. It was in this moment that Wick realized, to his surprise, he was enjoying Les’ company. And, in the precious seconds it took them to regain their feet, they saw their quarry advance through the hills. The silhouette disappeared into the trees, swallowed up by the fog and darkness.