Into the Sound by Cara Reinard
She straightened the emergency supplies she’d picked up at the store, adding them to the storm kit—four gallons of distilled water, about a dozen flashlights, batteries in all shapes and sizes, candles, matches, canned goods, one battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio, and of course, the bottle of vodka she stashed under the sink behind the floor cleaner.
There was no way Holly would survive a storm stuck in the house with her husband and two children without it. Mark rarely tolerated her drinking because of her family history, but if the power went out, his nerves would force him to focus on other things besides the slip of clear she’d sneak into her coffee cup.
“Did you make sure they aren’t the matches you got last time?” Mark asked. “Those snapped in half as soon as I tried to strike them.” Her husband paced the laminate floors made to look like wood. Holly secretly wished their house would flood just a touch from the storm. Not so much that the rainwater reached the stairs, just the floors, so she could buy new—real—hardwood.
“Yes, they’re Penleys. The long ones. We only had leftover matches from a restaurant last time, and I think they’d gotten wet.” Holly took the new box of matches and slid off the cardboard top so Mark could see the contents. His eyes ignited with the promise of all the fires he could light for days with those matches. Just one more boy in the house she had to placate.
Yes, Otto, you can participate in the Speedway Demolition Derby at sixteen if you’re still interested. Fast cars and destruction can all be yours in six short years . . .
Tyler was the easiest one. At seven years old, staying up an extra half hour past bedtime was a thrill.
“A wet matchbook to fight Sandy. That was our first mistake.” Mark frowned at the mention of the monster storm that had taken out much of Long Island several years earlier. After reading an article about flooding and electrical shocks, he’d made them unplug everything that wasn’t necessary for survival. Fortunately, their town hadn’t been decimated like Long Beach. Sayville was a coastal town, but their house was inland. “You know they’re calling this one another superstorm.”
Mark began the ritualistic process of clicking on and off each flashlight to make sure it still worked.
“Well, at least we’re prepared this time.” The news made everything sound worse than it was, but it would only give Mark more anxiety if she told him that she’d been following the anticipated surge patterns and they didn’t appear to be nearly as large as the last storm’s. It was best to say as little as possible when he was in one of his states.
“He only wants to protect your family,” her sister said whenever Holly tried to complain about how overbearing Mark could be, and how could Holly possibly be upset by that? Vivian’s husband was much less attentive, but sometimes Holly thought that was preferable.
An alert sounded on the television with the same warnings that had already been scrolling across the bottom for hours. “Oh, wow,” Mark said.
Holly refrained from rolling her eyes and thought about how good that first sip of vodka was going to taste when she could finally drink it. “Did you get dinner? The boys already ate. Grilled chicken and cheesy potatoes?” she offered. Holly moved toward the refrigerator to fix him a plate.
But Mark was standing in the living room, face inches from the TV screen. “No, I don’t want to eat now. Let’s see what this thing does first. How can you think about food?” he asked.
Logic would have it that he might want to heat up dinner while they still had electricity, but logic didn’t live in their house right now.
“Are you still subscribing to that premade-meal company?” Mark asked with his back turned to her. He’d applauded her new meal choices until he’d learned they were someone else’s ideas.
“Yes.” She rinsed a plate and put it in the dishwasher.
He grumbled, “Because going to the store is such a struggle, we have to pay someone to do it for us?”
“You want healthy meals during the week, that comes at a price.”
Before she’d subscribed to the service, Mark had complained about the occasional fast-food runs she’d make after the boys’ activities. Holly was beginning to think he just didn’t like anything that made her life easier. He had the false impression that she had nothing but free time just because she no longer worked as a journalist. But Holly had never intended her maternity leave to last forever. She was ready to reenter the workforce now that both kids were in school—and this meal-prep service was a first step toward that goal.
“It’s funny,” Mark said darkly. “My coworkers’ wives produce healthy meals without a service.”
Holly yanked on the faucet, turning it off, but she held her tongue. It wasn’t worth the fight. “Look at all the closures on the TV already,” she deflected. The boys charged down the stairs in a tandem of light-saber fervor.
“Take that.” Tyler jabbed at his brother’s side with the glowing plastic sword. Otto didn’t strike back. He only pointed at the TV screen. “No school!” he cheered. “Look.”
Holly glimpsed at the chyron again to see that all the area schools had already been canceled. Great. The boys started flying around the house like wild monkeys, hanging off the stairwell railings, making awful sounds.
“Quiet,” Mark barked. He reached for the remote to turn up the volume and glared at Holly as if it were her job to silence the children.
“Boys.” She tried to shush them, even though she hated how she’d grown up and had always encouraged her sons to express themselves freely. She and Vivian had been raised by psychology professors, and heightened emotions were best expressed in the confines of their writing assignments. Verbal exacerbations were highly discouraged, reserved for emergencies.
Holly could hear her phone vibrating on the kitchen counter. She turned and saw her sister’s name flash across the screen. Vivian worked at the library in town, and Holly wondered if she was calling to warn her to stay off the roads. She glanced through the windows, where the wind whipped the trees like streamers in a jet wave. The rain blasted the panes of glass, splatting sideways in the harsh torrent.
Holly answered. “Viv?”
She thought she heard water on the other side—a rushing sound—but then she realized it was her sister, breathing heavily into the phone. “Vivian, what’s wrong?”
Mark turned his head her way, a questioning look on his face.
“You have to come get me.” Vivian’s voice sounded battered, breathless, like she’d been running. Her older sister was always so put together, the definition of the quiet, poised librarian. Maybe the storm had already gotten worse than she knew.
“Where are you?” Holly asked. She’d ask the why later.
“What?” That was nowhere near the library. Holly plugged one of her ears, but either the connection was bad or Vivian was standing in a downpour. Holly held her breath to drown out her beating heart.
There was more muffled noise, the sound of her sister trying to speak to her above the noise of the storm. “Come get me, Holly. Bay Shore Marina. I’ll explain later. If you make it here in time . . .” There were more rushing sounds.
“Otto. Stop and close your mouth,” Holly hissed. Her son halted his celebratory school-cancelation dance, mid–Fortnite Floss, and Mark looked at Holly like she was positively terrible. She never talked to her sons like that, but something was wrong with her sister, and she needed to focus. “Bay Shore Marina? In this storm? Vivian, call the cops.”
“I had to get away. No police.” She sounded desperate. “Holly, please come get me; I need to talk.” Vivian gasped. “There’s somebody coming—”
The line went dead. “Hello?” Holly’s body prickled with chills. She hit “Redial,” but the call went straight to voice mail.
She shoved her phone into her pocket. What mess had Vivian gotten herself into that she couldn’t call her husband or the police? It didn’t make sense, and it was out of character for her sister, an ordered human. Holly grabbed her coat.
“You’re not going anywhere.” Mark’s voice was firm. Anyone else might chalk it up to husbandly concern, but Holly heard the threat threaded in his voice. You will not go anywhere.
“Vivian needs me. She’s in trouble,” Holly said.
“So call the police,” Mark said, scowling.
The boys had remained frozen in place from her last outburst, waiting to see what would happen next. Mark stalked from the living room to the kitchen. He picked up her purse off the island. “You can’t go out in this storm.”
Her car keys were inside the purse. She imagined trying to pry it from his six-foot-three frame without success. Her sister’s heavy breathing and her words—“there’s somebody coming”—were frightening. She didn’t have time to delay. “Vivian wouldn’t ask me to come unless she had no other choice.”
Mark’s sneer indicated he wasn’t going to let her go.
In that moment, Holly thought two things: she needed to get to her sister. And she needed to show her boys that men couldn’t order women around and hold their belongings hostage.
Without thinking twice, Holly grabbed the keys to Mark’s SUV off the kitchen island and sprinted for the door.
“Don’t you dare!” She could hear his dress shoes smacking the laminate floors, running after her, but she was faster. By the time he made it onto the porch, she was already in his vehicle. She heard him scream something that ended in the words wasting gas. She quickly eyeballed the gas gauge—full—then she stuck the SUV in reverse and floored it.
She got it now. After Sandy had hit, there was no gas available for two weeks. People missed work, and it was complete madness. Mark had tried to prevent her from leaving during a superstorm not because he was worried about losing her or about Vivian’s well-being but because he was concerned about preserving the gas in their Yukon.
“Asshole,” she whispered.
Holly looked behind her and saw Mark still standing on the porch. Someone had to watch the kids, and there was a storm. He’d stay put.
Water was heavy on the road, causing the Yukon to skid. Bay Shore was across town, closer to where she and Vivian had grown up. When they were teens, they used to take the Bay Shore ferry on summer jaunts to Fire Island, just the two of them, a brief reprieve from their life under their parents’ observation. It always felt like a time of magic—the short boat ride across the bay to the island, where people walked barefoot everywhere, not just the beach. No cars allowed, no behavioral patterns for their parents to research, just the horseshoe crabs Holly and Vivian chased along the thirty-or-so-mile stretch of skinny sand. Vivian never wanted to leave at the end of the day.
What the hell was Vivian doing out there? It made Holly sick inside that her sister had called her in distress from this familiar spot. The mix of nostalgia and fright felt like a scab being picked off an old wound.
All along the road, cars were pulled over with their hazard lights on, and Holly was glad she’d stolen her husband’s big-ass SUV for this voyage, because it was powering through, whereas her minivan might’ve lost traction. She could hear the storm sirens going off, see the waves cresting the docks as she approached the marina. She shouldn’t be out there, but fear for Vivian kept her going.
The parking lot at the marina was an empty paved square surrounded by a raging sea, a postage stamp of cement trying to hold down a beast. Holly noticed a car that had been parked with its lights on, but it left in a hurry as she approached. Holly squinted through the night, which had turned from an aging bruise, black and slate blue, to a wicked gray swirl. The white swells of the waves slipped over the wood and flooded the dock.
And then—Vivian’s car. It was parked as close as possible to the water, so close it looked like it might float away. The ferry was docked there, bobbing wildly.
Holly parked, grabbed the heavy-duty flashlight Mark kept in his SUV, got out of the car, and ran. Her tennis shoes squished with all the water on the wooden dock, rain blasting her face. As she approached Vivian’s car, a wave leaped over the rail, icy inlet water pushing its way down her hooded sweatshirt, knocking her onto her knees. Her flashlight slipped out of her hand. She immediately found it, the only light in a spray of misty hell.
“Oh my God.” She was in a crouching position, shining her light on the car. She wouldn’t dare direct it at the ocean, where the lashing of the autumn storm tides threatened to take her down again.
Holly fought to steady herself as she stood. She had to hurry. The storm was picking up speed and she was afraid she’d be swept away.
She wiped the water out of her eyes and shone the flashlight along Vivian’s car.
“Vivian!” she called, but her voice was swallowed by the wind, a squeak in the middle of Mother Nature’s mighty howl. Holly’s curls whipped around her head, blinding her. She had to hold them back as she approached the vehicle. A piece of random debris hit her knuckle, drawing blood.
“Ouch,” she yelled, but her voice was snuffed out again.
When Holly made it to Vivian’s little black Mercedes, she gripped the handle, further splintering the skin on her finger. She yanked on it, and the door clicked open. “Vivian?”
The interior light popped on, but there was no one inside the car. Holly checked the back seat—nothing.
“There’s somebody coming—”
Vivian had told Holly to hurry, that someone was after her, but Holly was too late.
“No.” Maybe someone else had picked her up. Perhaps the person screeching out of the parking lot had offered to give Vivian a ride. But then why hadn’t she called Holly to tell her? Maybe Vivian hadn’t noticed Mark’s SUV pull in.
As Holly turned around to fight her way back to her car, she saw a glint of something near the tire of Vivian’s Mercedes. She reached into the frigid water that was pooling at the wheel, shining the flashlight on the metal with her other hand.
It was a piece of jewelry—a broken tennis bracelet.
Vivian’s broken tennis bracelet.