Tori sat on a sun-bleached log, staring back down the dune the way we had come. “I just need a minute,” she said. “You don’t have to wait for me.”
I shrugged, dropped my backpack in the sand, and sat beside her. We were quiet. Gulls cawed overhead. The wind whisked away our sweat. Finally, I asked, “What are you thinking about?”
Tori’s eyes fell, and I saw her jaw tighten. I had pushed, perhaps too hard. She lifted her head, but deliberately looked away from me.
“I’m trying, June.”
It pained her to say those words, and I felt the pain echoed in my own breast. “I know you are.” I promised, instinctively placing a hand on her knee, desperate to comfort, to reassure, to protect.
“I am,” Tori insisted. Her hands remained in her lap, fidgeting. “I want to get over it. I just . . .”
“I know.” I could feel her withdrawing despite all my attempts to hold her. So, I let go.
I stood, looked up at the crest of the next dune, and said, “We should keep moving. I bet the view’s even better from up there.” Then I held out my hand.
And she took it.