The warm summer winds flew out over the California coast, catching the ocean spray and sending it further into the blue sea. Birds flew on air currents overhead, their calls echoing across the sand. Dark clouds rolled overhead in the deep blue sky, the black current heavy with its watery burden. Slowly, drop by drop, a small drizzle started, just enough to dampen the sandy shore. Low thunder moaned in the distance, its call a lament in the winds. Gulls found their nests and bedded down, ready to wait out the storm. A soft calm settled over the surroundings.
Jason looked up, grey eyes searching the horizon, his short, brown hair waving in the wind. Broad shoulders and a thick neck rolled as he stretched himself once again. The one-time football player was built like an ox, his enormous chest, arms and massive legs hardly proportionate with his seventeen years of age. Athletic and well built, his six and a half foot frame had him towering over most people his age, or older for that matter.
Unconsciously, he reached up and touched his face, feeling once again the old scar left there. Black, running from the edge of his hairline, it cut down the left side of his face, over his eye, and ended a few inches below it. The result of a father's temper tantrum when he was small. The same father who abandoned them. The mark left him ugly and made him more like an outcast, either getting looks of disgust or pity, neither of which he wanted. Pushing the world away, he ended up alone, cared for by no one, and forgotten by all.
Closing his eyes, he sighed. He needed to focus. He needed to survive, to keep them alive. Glancing backwards, he saw his little sister running after him, her seven year old body just a fraction of what he was. Very small, she skipped along, her fragile appearance enhanced by the sprinkling rain. Slowly, he smiled to himself, the crooked, ugly smile his scar caused. Well, forgotten by all but one. Looking towards the horizon again, the smile left his face, replaced by a hard, cold look. He had better not reject them again. Now that mother was gone, he had better not run once again. Jason would have to see to that. He couldn't let Samantha get hurt.
"Jason,"called a small voice from behind him. Turning, he smiled, looking at his sister. She stood proud, holding up a shell she had found. Her blond hair flew in the wind, and her perfect smile grew. “I found a pretty pink one. The animal is gone, though. I saw him go in a hole and he won’t come out. Not even when I offered him chocolate,” she said, her smile fading and a slightly confused and disappointed look spreading across her face. Jason laughed. “Well, it’s a good thing, cause you don’t have any, kiddo,” he offered. “Well, yeah, your right. Jason?” “Yes?” “Can you carry me? I’m tired.” Jason laughed softly and scooped the little girl into his arms, holding her against his chest. “Sure, Sam,” he said softly. She smiled up at him, her face bright. She was the only one who accepted him. The only one he would smile for. She giggled. Her voice fit her body perfectly, for she was one of the smallest girls he knew. Then again, she was one of the only girls he knew. Chuckling again, he started walking easily down the beach.
“Jason?” “Yes?” “Will we find daddy?” Jason stopped walking, glancing down at his sister. She looked up, not with concern, but simple curiosity. “Yeah, we’ll find him, kiddo,” he said, looking up again as he did. “Will he take us? I mean, I know he and mommy didn’t love each other very much, but won’t he take care of us now that she’s...” her voice trailed off, and she became very quiet. Jason felt as if he had been stabbed. Looking down at his closest companion, his heart broke for her. The truth was, he didn’t know. He didn’t know if his father would accept them after turning his back on their family all those years ago. He didn’t know if they would even be able to find the man. Forced to travel alone, mistrusted by all, he didn’t even know if they could survive. And honestly, knowing the odds were against them, he didn’t think they could.
But he had to. He couldn’t say no. As much as he hated to lie to her, he knew that he needed to right now. She needed him to say that everything would be ok. She needed to know that everything would work out. She needed a happy ending. Sadly, he smiled down at the small bundle in his arms. “Yeah, kiddo. We’ll find him.”
Settling back into his chest, she smiled, content with the answer, her world at peace. In her young mind, if Jason said so, then it would happen. There were no questions or doubts. It would happen. Relaxing, she started to fall asleep. “Sweet dreams, kiddo,” she heard her brother whisper. Then she slipped off into a world of fairytales and castles, without a worry in sight.
Jason watched her frail body rise and fall with her breathing. Then, when he was sure she was asleep, he continued his journey down the sand. “You know, I may not have all the answers, kiddo. I don’t know why a lot has happened. But,” he said, continuing in his soft voice, “I can promise you one thing. I’m always gonna be here for you, okay? I’m not gonna let anything ever happen to you kiddo. Nothing bad will ever happen to you.”
Two years later, the storm swirled over the small graveyard, its grass beaten down by the cruel wind. The old place stood seemingly empty, the small town pedestrians trying to duck into shops and restaurants to wait out the storm.
Lightning flashed, illuminating a darkly dressed figure, standing over a grave. A man stood there, grown to massive proportions. Easily over seven feet tall, he stood alone, hunched over and beaten. Another lightning bolt flashed, showing the man’s left cheek and eye, and the black scar covering it. For a while he did nothing, simply standing, staring at the grave marked “Sam”.
The winds picked up, throwing the man’s long, black hair over his face, then whipping it back again. His full but short beard was raggedly cut with a knife, his grey eyes hollow. Wearing all black, his gloved hands hung limp by his side, the fingers cut off to give better traction. And for fights. A black bandanna was wrapped around his forehead, the ends of it running to his shoulders.
For a moment, he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. Then, he opened them again, on his face a look of defeat, discouragement. Bending over, he slowly set a small pink shell on the dark monument. “I’m sorry, kiddo,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper, lost in the wind. Silently, a tear slid down one cheek. Then, standing again, he slowly walked out the gate, turning towards the open country. Walking down the street, his tears ran freely, covered and hidden by the rain. Only curious looks and disdainful comments greeted him from the windows of houses and shops. But he no longer cared. He didn’t even notice. It didn’t matter any more.
Once he reached a spot outside the city, he found himself standing under a bridge, the river running freely in front of him. Silently, he pulled his hand out of his pocket, carrying with it a pistol. Quietly, hands shaking and lips trembling, he placed it on the side of his head. Closing his eyes, he clenched his teeth, sobs rocking his body. “I’m sorry!” he screamed. His hand squeezed the trigger.
A loud crash of thunder shook the night air.