Allison Brody bought a beach house.
She was thirty-two years old.
Sick of everybody and everything.
All she wanted to do, more than anything, really, was swim.
The beach house was small. It was in North Carolina, advertised as in foreclosure. She had put cash down, emptying her accounts, everything that she had. She used money saved from waitressing, money saved from a small inheritance from her father when he died, almost a year ago. She had sold a script, too, and made some okay money from that. A solid chunk. It was a horror script. It would not necessarily make a good film, but a famous actress had agreed to star in it, and so there could be more money. More scripts. Success.
Allison had been seen as a movie producer’s pretty younger girlfriend. She could have been known in her own right. Probably it had been stupid to leave Los Angeles just when her career started taking off and there were so many places to swim. The movie producer, for instance, had a beautiful swimming pool.
Maybe. Maybe leaving had been stupid.
Maybe Allison wanted to create art one day. After she swam. Maybe, one day, she would want to have a cat. The movie producer was allergic to cats.
Maybe she actually wanted to live alone, and certainly not with a man who hit her. It had happened only a few times, exactly three, but it also seemed possible that it could happen again, even though the movie producer had promised that it wouldn’t.
She drove cross-country, doing the speed limit, buying coffees from Starbucks along the way.
And the beach house turned out to be perfect.
Two small bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor with a view of the ocean. A front porch where Allison could drink her coffee and breathe in the ocean air.
Almost all Allison knew about North Carolina was from a long-ago vacation, and it was wonderful, her favorite childhood memory. The road trip had been insanely long. A caravan with another family. They had taken regimented bathroom stops. When she woke, she had been delivered to a house with an oval swimming pool and a view of the ocean. Allison remembered a large, pink dolphin float in the pool, with a cup holder built into it for drinks. All the parents got drunk every night and everyone laughed a lot and the kids were allowed to do whatever they wanted.
Allison had lived in her beach house for a week and a half when the hurricane warning came. Category Five. Orders to evacuate.
She spent a night in a motel.
She drank gin and tonics, her father’s favorite drink, and watched the local news in her motel room.
Her father, she knew, would have told her to buy the beach house. He would have told her, not for the first time, about the beach house he did not buy, years ago, a decision he regretted to his death. Allison’s mother had not wanted to spend the money. Take that risk.
Whereas Allison had bought the house. It would be okay. That was what she told herself.
And, in the end, in fact, the storm was reduced to Cat-egory Three and had turned north. Allison felt grateful to be spared. She got up, only slightly hungover, bought a cof-fee, and drove back to her house. Which was gone. She did find it, but in pieces strewn all over the yard. Wood beams and siding everywhere. The toilet, from the second floor, was upright in the same place, on the ground. The red couch was precisely where it had been, in the living room that no longer existed. The roof lay in the middle of the road. Strangely, the steps up to the now- absent porch were still intact.
When Allison first heard about the storm, she imagined she would weather it. But then the winds picked up and she realized she was afraid.
Her neighbor next door had nailed boards across his win-dows. Allison thought about asking him to help her. Allison also did not want help from men. She also did not like the look of her neighbor. He wore a baseball cap and had large muscles, wore sleeveless T-shirts that said USA.
“Bye, house,” Allison said as she sank down on the front steps, clutching her cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. That was all she could find that morning on the drive from the motel.
“I loved you.”
Allison was not sure what to do.
She thought about sitting on the front steps, but probably that was not safe. She had spent so many good hours on the porch, imagining her future.
The house was insured, at least.
She was not a complete idiot.
“You are an idiot,” Allison said out loud with a sigh.
Allison had a tendency to be unkind to herself.
In this case, it seemed warranted.
Her mother, always a worrier, had advised her against the move. Her friend Lori had also been against it. “You won’t like it there,” Lori had said. “The beach might be good, sure, but think about hurricane season. Republicans. White supremacists.”
Allison had claimed not to be scared of such things.
“Well then you are an idiot,” Lori had said.
Allison often wished that she had a best friend who was nicer to her. Often, it felt like not enough people were nice to her. Her next boyfriend, if nothing else, would be nice.
Allison stretched her arms out to the sky.
She was incredibly stiff, as if all of the tension of the day before was somehow stored in her body. She walked around the foundation of her house, taking pictures with her cell phone. There was one of her sneakers, blown on top of the neighbor’s hedge. The hedges were still perfect. The neighbor’s house did not look damaged. It was a brick house. Sturdy.
Allison’s house, clearly, had not been particularly sturdy.
She had forgone any inspection. She had had to act fast. It was an auction, no time to be careful. Allison had worried, driving cross- country, that there would not even be a house, that she had participated in an elaborate Internet scam.
So the whole thing had not been a complete loss.
Allison’s phone rang, but she did not answer it. It was her mother. The kind thing to do, of course, would have been to answer it. Allison had not even listened to the messages that had started coming in once the hurricane began.
She did not think that her mother would actually say I told you so, but somehow her not saying so would not take away the sting. Her mother had told her so.
Allison was homeless and she was broke.
It was wild how fast the tides could turn.
Part of her also knew that she was fine.
She would make more money. Find a more appropriate home. Allison could write another script. She could even go back to her movie producer boyfriend. She could go back to his beautiful house and swim in his beautiful pool. He had not wanted her to leave. She could get back into her car and do the trip in reverse, make time move backward. She could wait for her insurance money to come in.
Allison stared at the red couch. She had bought it new at IKEA. She had not even hung any art on the walls.
This was not so bad.
Even if it felt that bad.
And it did feel that bad.
Copyright © 2022 by Marcy Dermansky. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.