That night, the three of them rode almost every ride in the park. As time passed, more guests started showing up, mostly to secure spots in hotels for the following morning. But at that point, Frankie didn’t care as much as she once had. The fun she experienced wasn’t going away anytime soon.
Umi saw the girls off as they picked their own room to spend the night in. On one of the lower floors of the comfy Reefwood Lodge they wrapped themselves up in thin Makoasis-branded blankets and got the rest they’d been needing. After more than forty-two restless, fearful hours, Frankie finally let herself drift off into dreamland.
When the sounds of the park’s next business day awoke them, the groggy girls sat up in their beds, making morning conversation with their hoarse throats.
“Did you sleep well?” Katie asked simply, the exhaustion not wearing on her optimism.
“Yeah…” Frankie noticed. “I did.”
She didn’t return the question. After all, Katie seldom failed to blackout whenever convenient. Unexpectedly, however, she answered anyway.
“You… what?” A little alarmed, Frankie checked to see that her sister was serious. Sure enough, the more somber side of her she’d only barely met was visibly present on her sighing face.
“I had nightmares.” She said. “That someone was choking me.”
In that moment, the girls both remembered exactly what Katie was talking about.
“Oh, god, I…” Frankie despaired over her sister’s words, innocence fallen from them entirely. “Do you… how much do you remember? You didn’t… go unconscious right away… did you…”
“No.” She murmured. “I was awake when the Ferris wheel fell, and… and when it collapsed with all those people. I remember now. The… the Dreadnought Girl strangling me.”
Frankie ran to her sister’s bed to hold her. She was the only one crying.
“It’s okay, sis.” She told Frankie. “We’re still alive. That’s all that matters.”
“It’s not okay.” Frankie muttered through her tears. “Goddamit, you- you- you didn’t deserve to go through that-“
“It took me so long to remember... It would’ve happened sooner or later. I suppose I was just… pushing it all down. I’m sorry.”
“Shut up…” Frankie rubbed her forehead into her sister’s arm. “You’ve got nothing to feel sorry for. I should’ve protected you…”
“You did.” Katie smiled. “That’s why I’m still here, right? Because you ran after her.”
The sisters held each other for a time, until the doorbell rang.
“I’ll… I’ll get it.” Spoke Frankie.
She waddled up to the door, not giving much thought to who would be behind it. As she turned the knob, the woman behind it was excited to greet her.
“Morning.” Umi smiled. “How are you two… oh? Are you okay?” She noticed the tears in her eyes.
“Fine…” Frankie began, really seeing no need to explain at first. But Umi’s honest face forced her to reconsider. “Actually, I’m not sure. It’s been… god, it’s been a rough few days.”
“Then this’ll be good. I’ve got something to show you two, before you leave.”
“Something to show us?” Katie postured, slowly rising from her matters and stepping over.
“Yeah. It’s for both of you.”
After a quick stop to do their laundry and eat, the sisters found themselves in the interior of Umi’s small, but well-kept car, a vehicle driving down one of the countryside roads that really only the south preferred over the more efficient trolley system that connected the parks.
“Which park are we headed to?” Frankie asked earnestly.
“No park.” The driver answered, raising her voice over the billowing air outside the lowered window. “It’s somewhere else.”
Pulling up to the cinnamon ground, Umi left her shoes in the car as she stepped out, motioning for her friends to follow.
Katie and Frankie walked into the grainy field of sand, their eyes met with an endless blue horizon.
“No parks here.” Umi seemed to continue from the car ride. “What do you think of that, Frankie?”
The ocean was a limitless and flat expanse, nothing like she’d always imagined- it was a simple and beautiful thing.
“Even if all the land in the world is littered with theme parks and people… the vast majority of it’s covered by nothing at all. Just miles and miles of silent water.”
As Frankie witnessed a new dream of hers start to blossom, Katie was similarly awestruck.
“Huh…” she childishly verbalized. “There’s really… nothing here at all.”
“Nope. Just this sand, pushed back over years and years.”
“I’m glad I got to see it.”
“No matter what you think there is to life… there’s always more. If you two keep searching around… you’re gonna find things you never even thought of.”
“That’s awesome!” She jumped into the air, laughing as she ran up to the waves.
“Katie- hey!” Frankie chased after her, soon finding herself in a splash fight at the shore.
Minutes later, the three saddled up to get back in the car again.
“Thanks for everything, Miss Umi.” Katie offered. “We really are grateful.”
“I know you are, don’t sweat it.” She replied. “Keep an eye out for each other.” She tossed their bag in the backseat for them. “I’ll drop you off wherever you need, just be careful out there.”
“Okay!” Katie cheered, jumping inside the ride. As Umi checked and made sure everything was good to go, she saw the one thing she was leaving behind still gazing out to the sea.
The young woman stood at the edge of the water, feeling the tide beckon her time and time again. It was a different tide than the one drawing her to the water before.
Umi approached the girl.
“This big place was… created by a lot of greed, yeah?”
“What makes you say that all of a sudden?”
“Didn’t there used to be… another state, right where we’re looking?”
Umi nodded acceptingly. “That’s how things are. I mean… don’t take this the wrong way, but… do you really want that? More land? More people?”
“No. The funny thing is, I don’t. In fact… I’ve decided. When we’ve got the money… I wanna go there. That flat, giant ocean… I wanna go right to the middle of it, where no matter where you turn… you can’t see a single thing.”
“So you can be alone again?”
Frankie shook her head.
“So that I can have a memory… of what that feels like.”
“You and your sister are exactly the same, you know that?”
“I never would’ve noticed before.”
Umi let herself look out to the water one last time.
“Then go make yourself some money, Frankie. I saw what you were capable of yesterday. And I think… you and your sister could do even more, with a goal as great as this one.”
“…I hope so.” Frankie spoke with the belief that they would.
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