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  • In 1976, I’d graduated high school and gone to live with my former high school boyfriend in a desolate beach town on the Washington coast. He had basically bullied me into it, having gone raving mad with jealousy when he discovered that I’d found someone else after his family moved away in our junior year.

    We were both 18. He was a violent kind of guy.

    It was howling windy winter. We rented a charming little house right on the beach. Well, it was back on the dunes, but there were no houses between us and the beach, just the grassy dunes. In fact there were no houses within sight. And if there had been, they would have been vacant summer homes. We were very much alone.

    My boyfriend had landed a good paying job with the little phone company there. Every morning, he left me alone with no car and no television. I don’t think we even had a phone. There was no one to call anyway.

    He’d come home every lunch break for sex and a sandwich. It was great for one of us.

    There was no walking on the beach – unless you wanted to be an unintended kite. It rained – in true Washington fashion – and it blew and it was cold and dark. Ack. Ugh. Blah.

    The place had been owned by an elderly couple who had recently passed. It was filled with their furniture, which as we didn’t have any... was great.

    Our big social evening consisted of his parents and younger siblings coming over for dinner. I’d cook away, anxious to impress them, and serve and clean up. It was great for one of us.

    Once I’d cleaned everything possible, cooked as many new recipes as I could find, arranged the furniture in several new configurations and was about to go insane with boredom, I discovered the attic access in the ceiling. Hum...

    What could be up there? My imagination went wild. Dead bodies? A trunk full of diamonds? Someone to talk to? Who knew?

    I contemplated for several days. And finally one afternoon, after he’d gone with a satisfied satiated smile, I got a chair, pulled down the wooden access ladder and slowly climbed up to the attic, my heart pounding just a little.

    As I peeked over the edge of the upper floor boards, I could not believe my eyes. I sucked in my breath with wonder, amazement and gratitude.

    Books.

    Stacks and stacks of books. They covered the attic floor and rose to the ceiling in waves of potential.

    Holy smokes. The mother lode.

    I couldn’t tell him what I’d found. He might get jealous that I had discovered a way to keep myself occupied that didn’t involve him. And my boyfriend on jealousy wasn’t something I was eager to see again anytime soon.

    I spent a lovely winter, traveling to Africa, Australia, France. Going back in time and forward. Introduced to writers I’d never see again, but who sustained me then.

    Every once in a while, I’d bring a book to bed or out to the living room while he was doing something else.

    “Where’d you find that?” he’d ask.

    “Oh...” I’d say, “...the previous owners left a couple of books behind.”

    He’d grunt. And that would be that.
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