She had told her mother, Susan that she would take a cab from the airport to the beach. She was in no hurry to see anyone. Besides, she had just seen her mother and family at graduation a month ago so the usual sense of urgency she felt to be with her, the excitement of those initial moments of grabbing each other's eyes, had been satisfied. She was home before the longing could begin again. As all mothers do, Susan frequently drove her daughter to the edge of what she could endure but the truth was Beth loved her mother no matter what and more than anyone in the world.
Like most mothers and daughters, their relationship was naturally complicated by simply living and lately by the many small acts of letting each other go. But theirs was different in that it was scarred by the pain of tragic loss. To be completely honest, the loss was epic to Beth but she felt it was less so to her mother. That single fact marked the beginning of a worrisome divide between them. Beth was not exactly sure of all the reasons why she felt so burdened but she sometimes staggered under the weight of the sea of emptiness she carried. She felt like her mother had tossed aside her share and left her to flounder for herself. It wasn't fair or noble.
Then there was the matter of expectations, ones Beth would never meet much less surmount. It was impossible to be the oldest girl in the next generation of Hamiltons/Hayes and ever expect raving accolades from the lips of her elders. She might have looked for some measure of satisfaction from them but she would never expect a parade in her honor. There was no excessive flattery to be found.
Her aunts and uncles owned the past and they still thought the future was theirs as well. Beth begged to differ. She felt they were wrong about so many things that she was embarrassed for them, one more reason she had planned to continue to build her life elsewhere.
The distance between Beth's college and Sullivans Island had allowed the rest of her relatives to revel in their shared hallucinations of perfect family. College had spared her four years of their self-congratulations and she thanked everything holy that she had not been there. If she had been on that porch or around that table peeling shrimp with them, she would have said that what they actually were was very far from perfect. They would not have valued her observations. In college, she had developed a tongue.
It didn't matter now. She was not going to be the one to point out that their conservative ideas had never advanced their family's name one inch. She was going to try to be the good daughter, the responsible niece, the one who came and did her duty. Why? Because even though they all practically bored her to death, Beth loved them with a fierce passion she doubted she could ever duplicate in another relationship. But that's how they were, the Hamiltons and the Hayes, bonded by loyalty and an unseen force.
Beth suspected what everyone else already knew. That unseen force, that Lowcountry Force, the Goddess of the Island Gamble, if you like, was waiting for her. That's why surrender was the only choice. She guessed that any other course could be met with some strange but actual version of Universal Mockery until she gave in and became a willing player in the game. Welcome back to the chessboard! Get in position! Let's see, that would make Beth a pawn.
But, she thought, in spite of everything, it would be very interesting to see how the year would unfold. A year was a long time. Her intention was to avoid any and all controversy and every kind of chaos.
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