Western Waves by Brittainy Cherry

Prologue

Stella

Six Years Old


“This isn’t our problem,”Catherine said from inside the house. I sat on Kevin’s back porch swing with Grams beside me. Everyone else called her Maple because she was so sweet like syrup. Mama always said Grams was like a grandmother to the world because she took care of any and everyone who needed it. I was the luckiest girl, though, because Maple let me call her Grams—since she was pretty much like a grandmama to me.

For the past few days, she’d been taking care of me because I needed it, I guess.

We sat there staring out at the ocean as the waves crashed against the shore. Kevin and Catherine’s house was my favorite, and I always loved when Grams let me come with her to work. When Kevin was a little boy, Grams was his nanny, and after he grew up, he kept her around as his house manager. Kevin met Mama when she started cleaning his house. The two were only a few years apart, and they became best friends. I ain’t ever known a life without Kevin or Grams in it. They were both there the day I was born at St. Michael’s Hospital, too, Mama once told me. Kevin and Grams were the two people outside of Mama who meant the world to me.

I even had Grams’s nickname as my middle one.

Stella Maple Mitchell.

“What do you expect me to do, Catherine? Stella is family. Sophie was my best friend, for goodness’ sake!” Kevin hollered at Catherine. I’d never heard him yell before. I didn’t even know he knew how to.

“I’m supposed to be your person! Your partner!” Catherine shouted back. I wasn’t surprised by that. Catherine was always yelling when she wasn’t too busy doing her makeup and stuff. “And I do not feel comfortable raising a girl who isn’t my own.”

“We wanted a family,” Kevin told her.

“Yes, our own family. Not someone’s leftovers,” Catherine yipped back.

“Bitch,” Grams muttered, shaking her head in disgust.

“Bad word,” I told her.

She smiled over at me and nodded. “Yes, sweetheart. But sometimes in life, bad words are the only way to express how awful something—or someone—is.”

“Is Catherine mad at me?” I asked as I played with the seashell necklace she made for me. Grams was a collector of seashells, and ever since I could walk, we’d go up and down Kevin’s property, collecting seashells as Grams told me stories about the ocean.

Grams knew a lot about gods and goddesses and always told me all the stories about them. The gods of the land and the gods of the wind, and the gods of fire. I liked all those stories, but my favorites were the ones about Yamiya—the goddess of the ocean.

Grams and Mama both believed in gods and goddesses. When they met, they loved sharing their traditions and beliefs with one another. They taught me songs and dances of Yamiya at a young age, and we’d always bring the goddess offerings of love and light to the ocean.

Grams said I liked Yamiya the best because I was a water sign like her and Mama. I didn’t know much about what that meant, other than Grams going woo-woo weird during the full moon and new moon each month. But since my birthday was in March, Grams said that’s why I felt called to the water.

Sometimes, I think it was just because I liked to splash a lot.

Grams shook her head. “Oh, no, sweetheart, she’s not mad at you. She’s just…” She narrowed her eyes as she listened to Catherine scream and cry from inside. “She’s just…”

“A bitch?” I asked.

Grams laughed and nodded her head. “Yes, but let’s keep that between the two of us.”

I lowered my head and looked at the necklace. “I wish Mama was here.”

“I know. Me too.”

“You think she misses us?”

“Oh, sweetheart. More than you’ll ever know.” Grams reached into her purse and pulled out a giant seashell. “Here, listen to this.” She placed the shell against my ear. “You hear that?”

“It sounds like the ocean!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, it does, and that’s where your mother is now. She’s now a part of the ocean, of the other realm.”

I frowned. “Can she come back?”

“Not in the physical, but when you step into the water, I swear you can feel her. Remember how I told you about Yamiya? How she protects us all?”

I nodded.

“Well, your mom has joined the goddess in the ocean, and whenever you need to feel her, you can go stand in the water and breathe in her love. Plus, you can make wishes in the ocean, and they will help make them come true.”

I narrowed my eyes. “I can feel her in the ocean and make wishes whenever I want to?”

“Whenever.”

“Like… now?”

Grams hopped up from the porch swing, then held her hand out toward me. “Right now.” I took her hand, and she pulled me up from the chair. She lowered herself until we were eye to eye. “I’ll race you to the water. The first one who gets there gets to pick their favorite dessert for us after dinner tonight.”

“What’s your favorite dessert?”

“Liver and onions.”

I made a face. “Ew! I don’t want that!”

“Then you better run fast. One… two… three… go!” she shouted.

I took off running toward the water as the sun began to get sleepy and the sky looked like cotton candy. My arms flung in the air as I dashed as fast as my legs allowed. I fell into the water. It hit my toes, then my ankles, then my knees. I swung around as the waves splashed against me, and Grams joined me not long after. We laughed and danced and felt Mama’s love as the water moved with us.

Maybe Grams was right. Maybe Mama was a part of the ocean. That made me happy because that meant I could talk to her whenever I needed to just by walking into the water. Plus, Grams said I could see Mama when I looked at myself, too. From my natural coiled hair to my brown skin. Every piece of me looked just like Mama, even my eyes and nose.

We stayed in the water for a long time. It wasn’t until Kevin came walking toward the shore that we stopped our splashing. He seemed tired and a little sad, but he’d looked that way for a while now, ever since Mama became a part of the ocean.

Grams said he was sad because he lost his soul mate in Mama. Even though they weren’t married like Kevin and Catherine, Grams was convinced that a soul mate could be a person’s best friend. And when a person lost their best friend, it felt like their own heart stopped beating for a while, too.

I hoped Kevin’s heart would beat again.

I didn’t like him being sad.

Kevin wasn’t wearing any shoes as he walked through the sand. His white button-down shirtsleeves were rolled up, and his hands were slipped into the pockets of his blue pants. He gave me a kinda-smile. A kinda-smile was when a person tried to turn their lips into a full smile, but they got tired halfway through, and it fell down into a kinda-frown.

Grams and I stood in the water as Kevin’s kinda-smile looked our way.

“Is everything okay?” Grams asked.

He nodded.

Grams raised an eyebrow. “And Catherine?”

His kinda-frown turned into a full frown. “Won’t be a problem anymore.”

“I’m sorry,” Grams said.

“I’m not,” Kevin replied. He turned to me and gave me a real smile. “Hey, kiddo. I have a question for you.”

“Shoot, buckaroo!” I shouted as the waves knocked me back and forth.

“What do you think about staying with me forever?”

My eyes widened, and I felt as if my heart was going to explode. “Really?”

“Yeah. I think you and I would make a good team, don’t you? And Grams, of course, staying in the guesthouse?”

Grams nodded. “If you’d like me to stay, I’ll stay, Kevin.”

“I’d love that,” he replied. “I’ll need you.”

“All of us will be living here?” I asked. “Like a family?”

“Yes. A family. What do you say about that?” Kevin asked.

“Forever?”

He nodded. “Forever.”

I didn’t even have time to give him any more words because I ran toward him and leaped into his arms. Grams joined us in a big group hug, and I held on to them both as tight as I could.

“Thanks, Mama,” I whispered as I hugged Kevin.

Grams and Kevin didn’t know it, but when I was in the ocean, I wished for a family again. That was how I knew that the ocean really did have powers—because my biggest wish came true.