The Finish Line (The Ravenhood #3) - Kate Stewart

Age Forty-Three

Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

“Viens ici, Ezekiel,” Come here, Ezekiel. I walk over to where he stands, his hand lowered, a round, brown seashell with a flat bottom resting in his palm. When I go to take it, he moves it out of reach.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” What is it?

“Un clypéastre, un dollar de sable. Lorsque tu en trouveras un, garde-le. Et lorsque tu seras prêt, alors tu le casseras. Mais tu dois le faire bien au milieu pour pouvoir en récupérer son trésor.” A dollar of sand. When you find this, you keep it. And only when you’re ready, do you break it. But you have to do it right down the middle to claim the treasure.

“Quand serai-je prêt?” When will I be ready?

He ruffles my hair. “Tu le sauras.” You’ll know.

Standing on the shoreline, I skip rocks along the foamed waves flooding in at my feet. I never recalled the whole conversation from that day my father brought me here; only the look of the sea, a glimpse of sand, the flash of early sun peaking behind him, and the strange shell in his palm. It was on my last visit to the institution that he recalled our discussion verbatim during one of his rare and lucid moments. He told me the story of his son, Ezekiel, and repeated our exchange that day with surprising clarity just minutes before he asked me to search for him.

Whether it was a sign, or fate, or something else playing a factor, I found a sand dollar on the beach in pristine condition the day I broke ground on the house. Though he didn’t jog my memory until years after, the why of what drew me to keep it when I found it was made clear. Somehow without knowing the details, I knew the significance of it.

It’s ironic and cruel how the mind works, mine especially. Some memories I re-live regularly but would do anything to forget, the details so vivid, so ingrained, it can be torturous. While others, the memories I hold most dear, at times evade me. But it’s my fickle memory that planted a seed that day and instinct that had me hiding that shell—that makes it all the more meaningful. And it wasn’t until I looked up the significance of the ‘treasure’ that I understood his state of mind that day, a state very much like my own mindset now.

We were never close due to my mother fleeing from him because of his temper and mental illness—a diagnosed schizophrenic—but I feel some connection to him now. However, I’ve been fearful since the day I found him decades later, covered in his own shit and rambling frantic French at any stranger who passed him on that street in Paris. Seeing him in that state gave way to trepidation that one day I would suffer the same fate—that everyone who claimed to care for me would eventually abandon me—due to mental illness and lack of control. A fear that crippled me for years and kept me from investing, in believing in people fully.

To me, love was always conditional—until her.

My mother never fully understood the extent of my father’s illness. It’s my belief now that she assumed he’d just gone mad. Although that’s partly true, it wasn’t by conscious decision. It wasn’t as if he’d let some dark side of him take over, which I believe was her stance on him up until the day she died. It was sickness that claimed him and the fear of inherited sickness that’s plagued me for so long.

But at this stage in the game, the odds and my age are in my favor that I will never suffer his fate.

Retrieving the sun-bleached stone from where I hid it a lifetime ago, I start toward the winding cliff-side staircase that leads to my finish line. It’s more apparent than ever that it was never the house I was waiting for. It was today, this moment of clarity—a day where my head and heart are no longer at odds.

If I had to sum up my life, my journey in one word, it would be today. I did it all for this moment. The irony is, I never knew through my plotting and scheming a day like this could exist for me. Fate threw me the cards while Karma had its wicked way with me. Luck was never factored in, but it came through for this opportunist enough to know that at times, it was present, and others it had abandoned