Hurt and viciously betrayed, Dakota pours out her heart on a piece of paper, places it in a bottle, and hurls it into the ocean. But it doesn’t quite go where she expects…
Jack Sauvage finds the bottle washed up on the shore and responds to Dakota’s letter. Except what if his straight-laced life doesn’t jive with the free-spirited girl he’s only seen from afar? As Jack creates a persona he believes she’ll love, they slowly fall for each other with each new letter. Now Jack is trying to find a way to make this delicate, on-paper romance happen in real life…without revealing his deception.
First, let me answer your questions. They’re good ones. It seems only right to start our acquaintance there.
When it rains I inevitably think about my best friend, a guy who ODed a few years ago. There was a big thunderstorm the day he died. It was Sunday. I’d just finished watching a movie— Harold and Maude—when my mother walked in with the strangest look on her face, the phone still in her hand. It was one of those moody days when the clouds roll in for hours, ripe and swollen with rain. I remember after she told me, I stood there at the window for a long time, just watching the drops hit the glass, thinking, What a cliché—boy dies, cue storm.
Seven of my favorite words in order (from least to most): pogo stick (does that count as one or two?); Fahrenheit; anti-establishmentarianism; legato; whirl; gravitas; sprezzatura.
The three songs I hate most and why: “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone because, seriously? There’s never an excuse for that much cheese; “Baby” by Justin Bieber. Is this the voice of our generation? It makes me shudder; “Aliron,” a Spanish kids’ song I associate strongly with sour milk, though I don’t really remember why.
And now a question for you: if you could be anything in nature for just ten minutes, to investigate its internal life, what would you be and why?
About your bottle: for several weeks I’ve been traveling in California, and one of my cousins took me out on his boat today. I’m originally from Barcelona, but for now I wander this vast country, seeking adventure. When we pulled in the nets, there was your bottle, sitting amidst the fish and seaweed. When I read your note, I knew immediately that I had to write to you. Because yes, I do sometimes suspect I’m the only one who feels this alone. I, too, wonder where my “tribe” is, as you say, and when I will find them. I only hope my letter can bring you half the comfort your magical message in a bottle brought me.
I do not know how long I will be traveling, but if you would like to reach me you can write to my cousin at the address below. He will be sure I get it, wherever I am.
I sink into a chair, stunned. My fingertips trace the thick paper. This is really happening. He found my message. Alejandro Torres, from Barcelona! It’s almost too perfect to believe. I feel happier than I have in ages, like gravity has no hold on me, and I might just float up into the air. I sit there, my eyes drinking in the pale paper and the black ink, the careful penmanship, the perfect words.
Dad appears in the doorway. His eyes move to my letter. “So, who’s it from?”
“Oh, just something from a friend.” For some reason I don’t want anyone to know about my message in a bottle, or Alejandro, either. It feels too precious, too magical to expose.
“You want to sit by the fire, hang out?”
“No, thanks.” I get up, clutching my letter. I can’t wait to read it again. Maybe I’ll even try writing a response tonight. “I’m super tired.”
“Okay. Well, if you change your mind…”
I give Dad a quick kiss on the cheek. He studies me quizzically but says nothing as I head out the door. As soon as I’m outside, I begin to run, my heart beating frantically inside me. The cool air on my face feels like a caress, and the stars above me pulse with magic.
Jody Gehrman is a native of Northern California, where she can be found writing, teaching, reading, or obsessing over her three cats most days. She is also the author of ten novels and numerous award-winning plays. Her Young Adult novels include The Truth About Jack, Audrey’s Guide to Black Magic, Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft, Babe in Boyland, Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, and Triple Shot Bettys in Love. Babe in Boyland was optioned by the Disney Channel and won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award. Her adult novels are Bombshell, Notes from the Backseat, Tart, and Summer in the Land of Skin. Her plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She is a professor of English and Communication Studies at Mendocino College.
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