As the sand flew by under Cami’s feet, her mind returned to last night’s conversation with Mongoose. A part of her soared with gratitude that the whole Andrews family cared enough to call him. But some resentment stirred also. She was used to her solitary life and didn’t like others questioning her decisions. Wasn’t she showing faith and trust? She’d been intimidated enough to abandon her home for Paige’s but that was it. She wouldn’t be bullied into suspecting innocent students of stalking, too.
Grant made it clear he wanted to talk some more today. He’d let her off easy last night because of the rotten day she’d had. She turned at the tide pools and slowed to a cooling off walk as she headed back to her Tahoe in the parking lot.
A familiar silhouette appeared down the beach. She could see Petey straining at the leash. Grant shifted it and a bag to his left hand as they waited.
“Good morning,” she said to Grant, while patting Petey. “Hi buddy. How’d you know where I was?”
Grant answered for the dog. “Paige told us you’d gone for a run.” He hefted the sack. “Have you eaten?”
“I’m starving. What did you bring?”
“Juice, granola bars, and string cheese. All portable.”
“Perfect. Do you want to sit in my car?”
“Let’s go down to the sand. You’ll be more comfortable if Petey’s not trying to sit on your lap in the front seat.”
They reversed, walking in the direction she’d come from, the dog still pulling at the leash. Cami held him back and offered to take the bag from Grant.
“I’m okay.” He slung the bag over his good shoulder, and then paused. “On second thought, here.” He handed her the food and sprinted across the parking lot, returning with a blanket.
“No sling?” she asked as he spread the denim patchwork quilt over the chilly sand.
“I’m trying it a few hours at a time.” They settled themselves as Petey flopped down next to Cami, inching his head onto her knee. Grant handed her a stick of cheese and a foil-wrapped granola bar. With his teeth, he pulled the orange strip off the lid of a juice bottle then passed it to her.
She took a gulp. “Thanks.” The silence lengthened. Was he waiting for her to say something?
Grant broke the quiet. “I want to talk to you about two things that happened last night.”
Another lecture. She swirled the plastic bottle, watching the waves of orange coat the inside. “What?” she asked.
“Before I tell you my news, we should discuss Mongoose some more. He called after I got home.”
She set her jaw to hide the dismay rushing in like the tide at their feet. She placed the juice bottle on the sand, twisting it down a little, making sure it was stable. Then she pulled a long string of cheese out of its plastic casing, making sure she could keep her voice even before she started to speak. “It was nice of him to come by, but I - ”
Grant interrupted. “He’s a professional, he does this kind of work all the time. If he says you’re in danger, we have to listen to him. I’m more concerned now than I was before he talked to you.”
“Just the fact he paid attention to your story is enough to scare me more than any doctor I’ve seen this spring.”
Resentment simmered. So Mongoose was one more person to guard against. Not only a rapist and a stalker, now this… this PSYOPS was trying to run her life too. Her anger won the battle and she stood. “I didn’t ask for his advice. I didn’t ask your father to call him. And I don’t have to listen to him.” She looked at Grant, expecting to see his usual expression of concern and tenderness. The raw anger there instead shocked her into silence.
“You’re right,” he said, his voice tight. He got to his feet, too. “I’ll drop Petey’s things off at your house later today.” He turned and strode down the beach.
Cami opened her mouth to call after him, but shut it without saying anything. Fine, let him be mad. He might stop nagging. She gathered up the scattered plastic and foil wrappers from their snack and folded the blanket, shaking out the sand with crisp snaps of her wrists. “Come on, Petey.” She pulled the dog toward the parking lot. “We don’t need him or his meddling family. And especially their smug friend.” She walked a little faster now, her steps keeping pace with the building anger. Some people were so arrogant.
“What kind of name is Mongoose, anyway? Makes him sound like a rodent. And what do rats know about profiling?” she muttered, as she reached her Tahoe.
She put Petey in the SUV, and then noticed Grant sitting in the Volvo in the next aisle. He was gripping the steering wheel and it looked like he was talking to himself. She turned around and climbed into the car.
Within a few minutes she pulled into traffic. In her rear view mirror, she watched Grant leave the parking lot, but he turned in the opposite direction.
Fine, let him be that way. How childish to strut away from her like that.
Okay. She squared her shoulders. Time to get to work. She needed to look at some model homes and submit a bid for finishing some of the rooms.
Grant had said he wanted to talk to her about two things that happened last night. Wonder what the other one was. She shrugged. It must not have been important. Quit thinking about Grant. Think about work.
She should clean up a little. And be dressed in something other than workout or paint-stained clothes to make proposals. And probably not take Petey.
Her knuckles turned white on the steering wheel. How dare Grant think he could treat her like this, like a possession instead of a thinking person? Stop it, Camille.
She headed toward Agua Vida and her cottage. She’d only stay long enough to clean up. But Petey could stay home while she looked at the new job. Then she’d get him and go back to Paige’s. As much as she hated to admit it, she did find the idea of going home alone to an empty house unappealing. So maybe Grant was right about this one thing. She’d stay with Paige a little while longer.
As she turned the corner onto Sierra Vista, she must have been going a little fast. The stack of file folders, sample boards, and catalogs shifted in the passenger seat. She glanced over and the corner of a demo cd from Kennie caught her eye. She fumbled with it as she started up the freeway onramp. She gave the Tahoe a little more gas and merged, ignoring the angry looks from other drivers. Kennie wanted an opinion about this group she was thinking of signing. Since Cami was nearly tone deaf, the rationale was that if she liked them, they must be good.
The only class Cami ever came close to failing was glee club in the seventh grade. Her teacher finally accepted an extra credit report on the life and death of Glenn Miller that edged her final grade up to passing. Kennie knew the story and liked to use it to back up her trust in Cami’s ability to pick groups and songs with commercial possibilities.
The first track started slow, an instrumental intro, then the verse. Oh yes, In Christ Alone. They sang this in church sometimes. The melody was familiar even if the arrangement was a little different. She listened, relaxing into the seat and stretching her shoulders. The words about Christ alone being her hope, her light, her strength washed over her.
Did she really find her hope in Jesus alone? Check. Through the dark time after the rape, she never complained or asked any “why me?” questions. Paige begged her to open up, and accused her of hiding her true feelings. But Cami had dealt with the emotions during her follow-up counseling.
And did she find her strength in God? Check again.
She was doing better than she thought. Correction: better than Grant and Paige thought.
This was a good song. She pushed the repeat button on the cd player.
Twenty minutes later she pulled into her driveway. A corner of her consciousness noted the red station wagon parked across the street, so she turned to get a good look at it as she let Petey out of the back of the Tahoe.
The driver’s side door of the wagon opened and a man got out and headed across the street. Toward her. What was he doing here? She gripped Petey’s leash. Could she make it to the front door? Should she jump back in the Tahoe? Could she run him over?
God, help me. It’s Patrick.