The path was gritty beneath my bare feet as I made my way toward the water. A cool evening breeze tossed my loose bangs across my face, dispelling the muggy, humid August air. A moment later I reached the dilapidated, weather-worn picket fence. I sighed heavily and continued along the path. The sun-warmed sand gave beneath my feet with each step. The briny scent of the ocean filled my nostrils, and despite everything a faint smile touched my lips. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore soothed the ache in my chest the way it always had. I walked all the way to the edge, the cool water lapping around my ankles, my feet sinking into the wet sand.
I cast my gaze out across the water, taking in the fiery colors of the early sunset on the horizon, the light glittering off the water. There, knee-deep in the waves, grinning, my father held a small, kicking figure above the water—me. My eyes traveled elsewhere. There, my friends and I. As small children, building sand castles; more recently, lounging in the sun and eyeing the lifeguards.
Me, fourteen years old, trying to balance on a surfboard and keep up with the cute boy further down the beach. My eyes wandered along the shoreline once more, settling on a spot only a few feet from where I sat. Me, kneeling in the sand, face hidden by my hands. I remembered like it was yesterday. It was yesterday. I’d held my father’s hand as he whispered his last words, then his eyes closed forever. I’d fled the room for the beach. My haven.
So many memories, but now I was leaving them forever. We were moving inland. Tomorrow. Never again would I be able to watch the sunset over the water. Never again would I feel the ocean breeze kiss my sunburned cheeks. Never again. Saltwater stung my eyes. I looked out across the water, now nearly black as the sun sunk below the horizon—taking my light with it.
Home wasn’t the house just out of sight behind the beach grasses where I’d lived and slept and ate every day of my life. Rather, it was the grainy sand that got everywhere no matter how hard you tried, the conch shells that echoed back the ocean waves when I put them to my ear, the white-capped waves that washed away my castles, and the marks left by the shoreline in that scar from a piece of beach glass and the imprints on my heart.
Flash Fiction piece by Cynthia L. Hurd
Cynthia L. Hurd, teacher, writer, adventurer. If infecting students with a desire to see and experience the world through the written word is what a teacher does, then that’s what I am, even if that means I have to drag them into the pages kicking and screaming.