Between the Land and the Sea - By Derrolyn Anderson



My father always used to say that there were times in life when your personal happiness was of little consequence, and you needed to make a sacrifice for the greater good. I’d never really given that sentiment much thought before, but I suppose that this would qualify as one of those times.

Dad was leaving to work on an important project overseas, stubbornly refusing to take me along despite my most heartfelt pleading. I was to live at my Aunt’s for almost an entire year, and I wasn’t very happy about it. I’d always traveled alongside my father, and I was having a hard time understanding why he was suddenly being so obstinate. He refused to budge, making it clear that no amount of wheedling, whining or outright nagging would sway him.

It wasn’t that I had anything against visiting my aunt and cousin– too much time had passed since we’d last seen them. I had vague memories of happy childhood times spent in the small beach town of Aptos, random impressions of the sun illuminating waves, faded snapshot images of building and demolishing sandcastles with my cousin. A trip down the coast was long overdue, but did it have to last a whole year? I didn’t want to live in Aptos and I really didn’t want to attend the local high school.

To be honest, what bothered me the most was the prospect of the separation– I was to be cut adrift and live apart from my father for the first time in my entire life. His work was taking him to a remote and rugged part of the world, safe enough for him, but apparently not for me. He used to joke that we were a family of two rolling stones, moss-free and happy, but now I found myself being banished to Aptos as he rolled away without me. In my opinion, it was totally and utterly unfair.

“Marina, I’d bring you along if I could,” he had calmly explained, “but Afghanistan is far too dangerous right now and no place for a girl your age. I won’t get any work done if I’m constantly worrying about you... Besides,” he looked at me with pleading eyes, hopeful that I’d capitulate, “You should be in high school with other kids. You need to be around people your own age.”

“Nonsense,” I protested, arguing my case to the bitter end, “You know I’m perfectly capable of looking out for myself. And I prefer to attend on-line school. Don’t you want me to have more time to work on my art?” I met his gaze levelly.

“Aunt Abigail has enrolled you at Aptos High. I fly out this evening. Decision made.” When I saw the stubborn set to his jaw I knew the verdict was in and my fate was sealed. Court was adjourned, and I had been sentenced to a year.

I glumly packed my bags and sulked over to Aunt Evie’s, seeking a sympathetic ear. Our apartments share the top floor of our San Francisco high-rise, and her place has always served as my refuge and retreat. She’s not technically related to us, but Evie likes it when I call her Aunt, and I adore her, for she’s the closest thing to a mom or grandmother that I’ve ever known. Aunt Evie has lived right across the hallway from us for as long as I can remember, and some of the happiest hours of my childhood were whiled away poking around in her luxurious rooms.

When we’re not traveling for my father’s research, he lectures at the university and we live in the city, but I suspect that he only suffers it in order to support his field work. I can tell he’s at his happiest outdoors in the fresh air, up to his elbows in dirt, engrossed in his experiments.

Consequently, I’ve been living out of suitcases all over the world, completely comfortable with our rootless nomadic existence. As long as Dad and I were together, home was anywhere we happened to be, and we even nicknamed our San Francisco apartment “base camp”.

That would make Aunt Evie camp director, staff, and head counselor all rolled into one.

Evie has always served as my touchstone, a constant reassuring reference point. Each time Dad and I returned from a stay abroad she’d be waiting with open arms, eager to shower me with love and attention. She shares her immense apartment with Fifi and Pierre, two tiny white poodles that she spoils almost as much as she does me. I knew