About the Author

Glynis Guevara

Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad. She is a graduate of Humber School for Writers Creative Writing Program and holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) degree from the University of London, England. She was also admitted to the bar of England and Wales and Trinidad and Tobago. Glynis was shortlisted for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. Her debut YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree was published by Inanna Publications in 2017. Black Beach is her second novel.

Books by this Author
Black Beach
Excerpt

Tamera's cell phone rang as she and Jan crossed the street in front of Edgar's half-finished wall. Even before checking the caller id, Tamera knew the call was from Dalton. That Saturday, because of his work commitments, Dalton wasn't able to return to the village to attend the school carnival celebrations. At eighteen, he was one and a half years older than Tamera, having graduated from secondary school the previous June. He'd never missed the school carnival show during the five years he was enrolled as a student, and during his final year he participated in the King of Carnival competition for the first time, placing third.

He usually phoned Tamera at about eight o'clock almost every evening, but he had told her ahead of time that he was going to contact her earlier so she could share the results of the various carnival competitions at her school.

"It's good to know that everything went well," he said. "Sorry I had to miss it this year."

"Yeah, it was really good, except that LaToya's still on everybody's minds," Tamera said. "It's horrible that we don't know what happened to her, and a lot of people are still thinking that she ran away with somebody. Her mother's at home worried sick, and I'm feeling guilty that we were at school celebrating."

"You can't stop living because someone's missing," Dalton said. "The reality is that over half a dozen missing people are still unaccounted for in Juniper and Toledo this year alone, so if we stop enjoying life because a person vanishes, then we will be miserable all the time."

"But it's different when you know the person," Tamera sighed. "Me and LaToya aren't best friends, but she is a decent person, and it's real scary that someone disappeared from a tiny place like this and nobody don't know nothing."

"I know what you mean," he said. LaToya's mother lives next door to my family, and I'm sorry about what happened to her, but I have to live my life, and you have to live yours too."

Tamera waved Jan goodbye as she turned to toward her home, the phone still glued to her ear. Tamera remained on the porch and chatted with her long-distance boyfriend for another ten or fifteen minutes. When she entered the house, her father was sprawled on the recliner that he'd purchased for his wife's fortieth birthday the previous year. Earl, with a drink in hand, looked up at Tamera and gave her a crooked smile. A half-filled bottle of rum was on the floor next to the recliner, and a bottle of cola was next to it. "Your mother eyes were so full of fire when we met," he slurred, emptying the glass in his mouth.

"Ma's okay?" she asked as he poured another drink.

"She had big dreams," he sputtered, then choked as he slugged back the drink. When he stopped coughing, he started to cry.

Tamera had only seen her father cry once before, and that was on the day his mother died.

"Life can give you roses or thorns, and you have to deal with whatever comes your way. You have to make the best of the cards that you draw," he sputtered, and after gulping back another shot of rum, he placed the empty glass at his feet.

"I'm going to take a shower, Pa." Tamera didn't want to discuss her mother and needed to escape her father's presence.

"You can't spare your old man a few minutes?" he whined.

"Sure, Pa, but just let me wash off this gunk first." She returned moments later with a bare face and some clean clothes, and reluctantly settled on the sofa facing him.

"When I asked your mother to marry me, she said no thefirst time, but I didn't give up that easily, and she agreed to be my wife when I proposed the second time." Earl had shared this tale many times before, but Tamera remained silent. She nodded and let him continue with his story.

After listening to her dad ramble for over fifteen minutes, she couldn't get her mother out of her mind. She thought of the previous November when Alison had been discharged from the hospital and how quickly after returning home her mood had begun to fluctuate. Some days she was on a high and on other days she sank really low. At times, she had more energy than a two-year-old and she and her sister couldn't keep up with her. During those times, she acted all- powerful and invincible, operating on less than three hours sleep a day. She painted watercolours for hours as if she had a pressing deadline. Her paintings were mediocre at best, yet she tried to convince her husband and kids that they'd sell for millions. It was during those times that Tamera almost wished her mother would get back to being down; it was so much easier to be with her when her mood was low. They could at least keep her still in one place. When she was high, there was no stopping her, and the whole family would have to be on high alert. Anything could happen.

The following Saturday, Mary and Tamera accompanied their father to the hospital to visit their mother. Children under twelve weren't allowed to set foot in the institution, so Renwick stayed at home with Emma. Uneasy, Tamera stepped through the door, spotting her mother among the inpatients, many of whom had an empty, spaced-out look. Compared to the sparkling sunshine they'd left outside moments earlier, the dull and dim space inside the hospital felt stuffy and stale. Alison sat quietly on a chair, rubbing her lower arm mechanically. Several women in the gloomy room were making large, jerky movements and chattering incessantly under their breaths. Alison must have noticed her family members as they came through the door, because that very moment she slid out of her seat and came forward to greet them with short laboured steps. They met in the middle of the large room and she pawed at their sleeves as they encircled her.

"Hi, Ma." Mary hugged her. "How are you?"

"Good," she said.

"We brought you this." Tamera held up a basket full of ripe fruit.

"You have more than enough to last the entire week," Earl said with a gentle smile.

"Any Julie mangoes in there?" she said, peeking.

"Of course, Ma," Mary said, hugging her. "We know they're your favourite."

"Thanks for coming." Alison said, but she wasn't smiling and her tone lacked inflection.

The mangoes, sapodillas, and bananas in the fruit basket had been harvested from Pa's garden that morning; the apples and pears were purchased from a vendor in the vicinity of the hospital.

When the bell rang, signalling the end of visiting hours, a sudden gloominess appeared in Earl's eyes, and Tamera felt tightness in her stomach. She needed to take one last look at her mother before stepping out of the enclosed area, so she spun around at the door, keeping her eyes on her mom as she torturously stepped away, widening the space between them. She tottered like an elderly person and then sluggishly sank in a low-slung chair that faced the window. Tamera waved, but her mother didn't notice.

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