It was just after 9 AM when Penny, Kemena, and Leigh finally reached the beach at the south end of Cape Lookout. The surf was still a bit rough from the storm that had come through last night, guaranteeing that there would be few people in the trail head parking lot above and even fewer who might be slightly interested in whatever they were doing.
The reason for starting out early was simple: Penny wanted to leave a cash of items for her mother—which included clothes, cell phone and battery, and money—about two thirds of the way down the trail. She also wanted to find a good location on the beach itself where they could hide her mother’s clothing so that when she returned she wouldn’t have to spend too much time walking around naked. Finding places and setting them up took about forty-five minutes, but once they were finished they were convinced that someone simply passing by would not find the items.
Once they were finished there was little else to do except to prepare for Leigh’s departure–and there was little that needed to be prepared. The trio had already spent two days in the Portland area and had spent the night before in a hotel in Tillamook. All the things that Penny and her mother were going to say have been said during the last month, and during their last night together as a trio they discovered there was nothing left to say—
Leigh scanned the surf while Penny and Kemena flanked her. Penny waved out toward the onrushing waves. “You gonna have any trouble getting through that?”
“No.” Leigh shrugged before smiling at her daughter. “I’ll transition here in shallows and pushed through at no time. At worst I might catch a hard downwash and scrape along the bottom a little. Not a big deal for me.”
“We could have picked a better day for you to leave.” Kemena looked up at the sky which still seems somewhat threatening. “At least the sun could have been shining for you.”
“The sun is shining for me, Kemena.” She turned and faced both girls. “I’m proud of you both. You said you’re going to take over the business in five years and you did. I have nothing to worry about while I’m gone.”
Penny took her mother’s hand. “Not a thing, Mama. It’ll still be here when you come back.”
“Yeah, well…” Leigh sighed and grabbed the bottom of her long sleeved tunic. “No point in dragging this out.” It took her less than a minute to strip completely out of her clothes and hand them over to Penny and Kemena, who proceeded to stuff them in a large, waterproof bag that they would hide in the cash at beach level. She swung her arms a couple of times against the chill of the beach air. “I better get moving before I catch cold.”
Kemena felt tears welling up in her eyes. “Goodbye, Leigh. I hope you have fun in the pod.”
Leigh wrapped her arms around the lovely Mexican girl. “I’m going to miss you, girl.” She pulled back and there was tiny streams of tears running down her cheeks. “You take care of Penny, now. See to it nothing happens to her.”
It was all Kemena could do to speak. “I will: don’t worry.”
Penny took her mother’s hand. “I’ll walk you down to the surf.” She looked back at Kemena. “I’ll be right back.”
Kemena saw Penny and her mother walked down to the very edge of the surf and even stand in it so that water was lapping up to their ankles and lower thighs. They stood close for about a minute not saying much, just touching and keeping their heads bowed. Finally they embraced and after a long hug they kissed each other on the cheek. Kemena took three steps back up on to the beach as Leigh turned and ran into the surf. She dove into a wave stayed submerged for about fifteen seconds; when she popped up she gave the girls a wave before turning and flipping her tail high in the air. She vanished from sight but a minute later she leapt high into the air and flipped over in a somersault, much as Penny had done twelve years earlier.
And then she was gone.
Penny walked back up the beach and joined Kemena. She stood by her side for about twenty seconds before she began sobbing. Kemena took her in her arms and held her for close to a minute, letting her best friend cried herself out.
When she was done Penny gave Kemena a hug and then motioned with her head for the trail. “Let’s go.” Without another word the two girls left the wave crashed beach behind.