Authors: Brenda Beem
Copyright© 2014 Brenda Beem
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: JC Chute
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To my parents, Ines and Claude Cole, the nicest people I know.
Copyright © 2014
Eighteen Hours Before
I’d practiced all summer. I was ready. My breathing slowed. I bounced once, twice, and soared off the diving board. My body became a tight ball, spinning backwards. On the third rotation, my feet shot out. I reached for the water. My body formed a straight line as the tips of my fingers broke the mirrored calm of the pool.
I’d done it
: a flawless dive and my first triple back. I grinned and swam along the bottom. If I dove this well at the meet next week, I’d score some major points for my team.
I glided upward, excited to hear
my coach and teammates’ thoughts. My smiling face broke the surface. There was silence. No clapping. No whoops. No cheers. Instead, the five girls on my dive team stood huddled around our coach. Something was wrong.
shoved her phone into her pocket and stared wide-eyed at the girls around her. “Go home! I have to pick up my kids. The sitter said some kind of disaster’s coming.” She turned and sprinted from the building.
ne of the freshman girls freaked out. By the time I swam to the edge of the pool everyone, even the hysterical girl, had hurried to the changing room.
My best friend had the locker next to mine. She was squinting at her cell when I bu
mped into her. “Mom says we’re going across the mountains to Grandma’s.” She frowned. “What’s going on?”
I searched my phone. There was a text from Dad to me, Dylan, and Cole.
to the boat. Mom and I are getting it ready. We shove off at eleven. Need to get far enough out to sea to ride the wave before it crests.
Wave? What wave? I checked the time. It was almost ten. If I was going to make it to the marina, I needed to hurry. But what was he talking about?
Why go to the boat? School started in a week and I didn’t even have my supplies yet. No way did I want to go sailing.
Dad back, but got a message that all circuits were busy. I tried sending a text to Mom and my brothers. My texts didn’t go through either. I glanced around and saw that everyone was having trouble with their cells.
“Listen to this
.” A senior diver I didn’t know waved her phone in the air. She read a text her little sister had sent earlier. “President’s on TV. She says in eighteen hours, tsunamis hundreds of feet high will destroy the West Coast. Flood the East. Mom’s packing. Get home.”
Tsunamis?” My heart pounded in my ears. I tried my phone again––still no service. I threw sweats on over my wet Speedo and grabbed my bike helmet.
headed for the exit. “Call you later.”
stopped me. “Leave your bike. I’ll give you a ride.”
We stared at
each other. When she and I turned sixteen and got our driver’s licenses, her parents bought her a car. I had to share one with my brothers. This morning they’d driven
car to football practice.
“I’m not going home. We’re taking the sailboat out to sea.” I
broke free and ran from the locker room.
“No!” she cried as the door closed behind me.
as fast as I could toward downtown Seattle and our marina on the bay. Chlorine from my wet hair and suit wafted up and burned my eyes. My blonde hair was probably turning green. I wished I’d taken a few minutes to shower, but I hadn’t wanted to waste a second. I had to be with my family.
hot August sun burst from behind a cloud and blinded me. I squeezed the brakes and slid to a stop moments before smashing into the back of a stalled car. Gasping for air, I leaned on my bike and pulled out my phone. It was after ten and still no cell service. I took off again, weaving through the stop-and-go traffic.
Sweat and pool water dripped between my breasts and down my back. Zipping between cars, I spotted the next narrow opening momen
ts before it closed. All I dared focus on was getting to the boat fast and in one piece.
My family wouldn’t shove off before I got there. I knew that. But sailboats are really slow
If I arrived at the marina late, or didn’t show at all, I didn’t know what would happen. Part of me couldn’t believe what I’d heard in the locker room. I kept hoping it was all some giant joke, but the panicked people I passed were very real.
began to spill into the oncoming lanes. I shrieked as a truck ran a red light and hurtled head first into a taxi. A McDonald’s arch went dark. I glanced at the downtown buildings. The Space Needle’s external elevators weren’t moving.
My leg muscles started to cramp. Ignoring the pain, I pressed on. I
found my water bottle, squeezed the last drops into my mouth, and checked the time again. I clenched my jaw and fought down the tremors that racked my body. I had less than thirty minutes.
Brakes squealed. Horns blared. Traffic around me came to a complete halt.
A frantic young man climbed on top of his car, searching for an opening. A woman cradling a baby inside the car yelled for him to get back inside. The baby cried. Their car was trapped. I slid to another panicky stop, yanked off my sweatshirt, and tied it around my waist.
, darlin’!” A pudgy old man standing on the roof of his van motioned to me. Sweat darkened the pits and sides of his T-shirt. “Aren’t you a pretty little thing? Come over here for a second, will ya?”
stared at my bike. A shiver ran down my spine and I rode away, fast.
A mile later, I began to slow down, running on empty. I took a break behind a cement barricade. My cell showed I had fifteen minutes. I glanced around. The sign for the Magnolia Bridge pointed to the right. A wave of relief washed over me. I was almost there. A grassy knoll sat at the bend in the road. Deserted-looking homeless tents were pitched on the green. Gulping in air, I pumped toward the encampment, hoping to gather the speed I’d need if someon
e tried to ambush me. But pedaling uphill on grass was too hard. Exhausted, I jumped off the bike and jogged alongside it.
I was passing the first tent when a
Latino girl about my age scrambled out.
“Wait! Please wait!” She waved her arms.
My heart raced. I turned my head from side to side. Was this a trick? Was some guy sneaking up behind me to steal my bike? I started to run.
“Please. Tell me what’s going on!” the girl said. “Nobody will tell me anything. The buses stopped coming.”
I kept moving. I couldn’t take a chance. Once I’d gone a safe distance, I yelled
, “You gotta get out of here. There’s going to be a mega-tsunami. Get to higher ground.”
She glanced up the hill from where her tent sat.
“Nowhere here is high enough. You have to get out of Seattle. The tsunamis will be over a hundred feet high. Go to the mountains.” I swung my leg over the bike and heard a tiny voice.
“Sissy, I’m hungry.”
A little girl, around four years old, crawled out of the tent. Her long dark hair flowed in loose warm curls. Her eyes were large and brown. She was a mini duplicate of her beautiful older sister.
Sissy pulled the little girl onto her lap. “I’ll find us something.” She raised her eyes to me. “I don’t understand. How
I sucked in air.
“All I know is that tsunamis are headed this way.”
Sissy shook her head.
“We don’t have a car or …”
“Cars aren’t much good anyway. The roads out of town are blocked.”
She closed her eyes.
The little girl stroked her big sister’s cheek. “Don’t cry, Sissy. I’m not that hungry. See!” She pulled her shirt up to expose her little belly.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I checked the time. I had ten minutes. I’d lost time talking.
“Damn!” I muttered. “Dad will kill me.”
I spun around. “I’m meeting my family and heading out to sea on our sailboat. It’s moored at the marina below the bridge here. If you’re there in ten minutes, you can come with us.”
Sissy tilted her head. “I don’t understand. Won’t you get killed by the tsunamis?”
“Not if we get beyond where the waves crest. If you close a sailboat up tight, it can ride out any storm. It can even go upside down and come back up again. But it’s a long way to the open ocean.”
She glanced back up the hill. “I—I—don’t know.”
“Your decision. I have to go.” I jumped on my bike.
“How do I find you?” the girl yelled as I reached the top of the hill.
“C Dock, Slip 31. The boat’s name is
There were only a few cars in the marina parking lot––very strange, for the end of summer. I spotted the lime-green Volkswagen my brothers and I shared. They’d made it. I exhaled and realized I’d been holding my breath. It was ten fifty-five.
I rode through the lot, and noticed a red pickup that seemed a lot like the truck Nick, one of my brothers
’ friends, drove. Then I saw a little sports car I was sure belonged to Zoë, my brother Dylan’s girlfriend. What were Nick and Zoë doing here? I scanned the lot. Where was Dad’s car?
I coasted down the ramp to the dock and hopped off
at the bottom. My knees trembled and I leaned on the bike for support. I passed boat after boat along the dock, all secure in their slips and deserted.
“Mom! Dad!” I was so out of breath and thirsty that my voice barely croaked.
A group of people were gathered at the far end of the pier. The closer I got the more faces I recognized. The guys were all from my high school. I shook my head and searched for my brothers. They weren’t around, but in the middle of the crowd, I spied Zoë.