This is my first jaunt with fiction. Come jaunt with me and any constructive critism along the way is more than welcome!
She stepped wearily onto the weathered boards, leaving the asphalt behind her. As the boardwalk zigged and zagged through the lazy grass, she was careful not to step on one of the fatal cracks. This, of course, reminding her of her childhood romps across these same boards. They seemed bigger then. She had to jump to the next one to avoid any tragedy involving her mother’s back. She was happy back then.
They came every summer. She had wanted to bring her own child, but there had been no time for that.
Bees lived protected under those beaten boards. She saw none today, but remembers them. Despite the stings she sustained, she loved them. They lived here all the time. When they went home, they came here. She envied the bees. When it was time for her to go home, she did not have such a beautiful place to return to. The skies at her house were not blue but grey. The only wildlife was pigeons and rats. But the bees got to see much more. Yes, they got to see all sorts of sea birds, seals, fish, and even an occasional owl.
When she reached the end of the boardwalk she kicked off her well worn shoes. She left them, for she would not need them again. She stepped onto the warm sand and felt it invite her feet in. It was as if the sand had taken all of the stones and broken shells out of her path so that her path would be warm and welcoming. Not unlike what she attempted to accomplish with her modest abode. Plants in every room and plenty of sunlight. She was determined to bring the beautiful Mother Earth inside to keep her company, when there was no one else.
She climbed up and over the dunes using muscles that she had forgotten that she had. She knew all about them long ago when she hiked and skied. She climbed the steepest peaks the White Mountains had to offer. Now, these low dunes took energy. Almost more than she had left. The dunes seemed to almost help her up. They would not let her fail. Not this time.
She came over the dunes and saw the water. The azure Atlantic was calm, yet strong. The sky was cloudless but was filled with birds. They were swooping and diving for their lunch. The ocean was quietly hiding its creatures. The sea did not fail, but did not succeed either. It did what it could to protect its inhabitants, but sometimes the birds won out. Sometimes its protection was not enough, but that gave hope to the hungry birds that depended on it.
She sat softly beyond the sea’s reach. She watched this dance between the ocean and the birds. Sometimes, she thought, your best is just not good enough. She thought about her own failures. Her failure to finish college. But she had met him. She had hungered for him. When he wanted to leave the foliage and mountains behind for the cold paved city she did not have to think twice. He wanted the city and she wanted him. She would find a better school in a more urban area, she had deluded herself into believing.
They met at UVM. She was majoring in Forestry and she loved Vermont, the only place she had ever seen purple mountains. This is where she wanted her children to grow up. But he wanted to go to Boston University. “We can live in Southie,” he pleaded. “There we can live near the ocean, don’t you miss the ocean?” Of course she did. So they moved to Southie where all she had to do was walk down the street and be on the beach. But it wasn’t the same. No, nothing like Plum Island, her childhood getaway. Cars parked right up to the five feet of sand. Even Castle Island wasn’t the same. The harbor didn’t act the same as the almighty Atlantic. And the planes were nothing short of annoying.
But she loved him. And he loved her. So they stayed.
She was stirred from her reverie by a barefoot child running across the beach. The child looked about eight years old. She was wearing a pink bathing suit that was partially covered by her long brown hair. The child was followed by a man and a woman. They were lost in conversation about something that seemed amusing. They passed by without noticing that she was sitting in the sand, which suited her just fine.
She had failed to protect her own child. Her daughter had been only an infant, yet, she did not protect her. She hadn’t known that he had changed. Or maybe she did. She did notice that he was drinking more, but she had just delivered this small fragile life. She was preoccupied and failed to notice the changes in him. She thought that maybe being a new father was just overwhelming. She knew that being a new mother was. Because the infant was breastfeeding, she could not go out drinking, but did not stop him when he went. It never crossed her mind that it wasn’t fair or right or proper. She was doing what she had to do and he was doing what he had to do. Or so she thought.
He began to come home later and later. He always had a good excuse, or good enough, for her. He lost track of time, his phone died, he had to give a friend a ride home. She loved him and she accepted his excuses and apologies.
The quiet waves were inching towards her, reminding her that time was short. She watched the water change from dark blue to greenish to white and retreat back to the blue again. She lamented the short time she had with her daughter.
He was only going out for a quick trip. He wanted to bring the baby to see his mother and she had been tired and was happy for the reprieve. She showered then laid down for a well deserved nap. She woke to the upbeat pop song that was her programmed ring tone. She rolled over and heard the words she will never forget: “There has been an accident.”
That is where the clarity ends. She could no more distinguish those following days than distinguish the many hues of a sunset. The two images that haunt her are the number 0.19, which was his blood alcohol content, and a tiny white coffin covered in the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen. She doesn’t know who picked out the flowers. Maybe it was her mother. She would never know now.
It was getting dark on the island. The birds had left long ago. The remaining fish were certainly homeward bound. The beach was quickly shrinking. She loved it here because she could see the stars. For most of her life the city lights stole them from her, but here she could see them. Her daughter would had loved it here too.
She stood, stretching her stiff legs. She did not brush off the sand that decided to come with her. It was part of her now. She took off her city clothes; shorts, tank top, underwear. She stepped into the chill ocean. She wished it could have been different. She wished that she hadn’t failed; that he hadn’t failed. She wished that they hadn’t failed her, for she was helpless, only a child. With every step she went deeper into the cleansing sea. It slowly washed away her regrets, her guilt, her memories. The farther she walked the more at peace she became. Perhaps in another life she would return to this island and remember the peace that it brought her at the end and she would live her life differently.
She took one final look at the stars and let the ocean engulf her.