A Day at the Beach - a fiction short story
She heard the echo of the waves lapping onto the shore in her ears and the squalk of sea gulls in the hazy blue sky. She smelled the salt air, the sand and the water. It all imbued her senses. She felt the sand squishing between her toes, the water lapping around her feet, the sun setting in the west, the horizon so far away -- all of it filled her eyes, ears and nose.
She cupped her hand above her eyes and looked directly into the sun and the horizon as a sailboat bobbed across the water. The beach and the sea, which had once been her escape, bringing her calmness and serenity, did so no more. Now, it only brought her grief, remorse and sadness. Crushing grief and a dark gloom now hung over her.
"Beep -- Beep -- Beep -- Beep," the sounds suddenly pushed into the grief and dark gloom of her brain. What had happened? How could it have happened? And, so quickly?
As she continued looking into the horizon, did she see dolphins playing in the sea? Jumping and diving, putting on a show? How many times she and Melanie had watched the dolphins performing with Melanie clapping her hands and jumping up and down in the sand joyously along with the dolphins.
Her Melanie. Six years old, sandy blond hair and blue eyes, sun kissed soft skin, her supple, flexible body gliding through the waves that now caressed Vanessa's ankles as he stood at the water's edge.
Again, the "beep -- beep -- beep --- beep" interrupted her thoughts. Why won't these beeps stop? She needed to concentrate. Concentrate on the sea. That's how it had happened. Vanessa had lost her concentration - her focus. She hadn't concentrated on the sea. What was the matter with her? Her brain in a fog -- a misty fog. She couldn't clear her brain. Those blasted beeps -- when would they stop? They were driving her mad! Mad!
The waves crashed ashore larger now and Vanessa swung Melanie in the waves. Bright, beautiful Melanie squealed with delight as she splashed in the waves. Higher and higher, larger and larger the waves hit the shore. Vanessa was smiling and laughing aloud as she swung Melanie through wave after wave and Melanie was giggling as each wave tickled her body. Finally, Melanie screamed "enough!" and Vanessa held Melanie close as she ran back to the blanket, towels, and umbrella on the beach.
Vanessa and Melanie had together weathered the storm of divorce. When Vanessa's husband and Melanie's father had left them unexpectedly, Vanessa and Melanie had bonded even closer to fill the empty gaps and the hole in their hearts for a husband and a father. He had woke up one morning not wanting to be married any longer. He needed his 'freedom and space' he had told Vanessa. Off he disappeared into the night and Vanessa and Melanie began the long goodbye of divorce.
But, the divorce was over now and mother and daughter had survived and were closer than ever. Their move to a beachfront condo had helped to ease the pain of adjustment to a new life, and Vanessa and Melanie spent as much time on the beach as they could. Their home by the sea had brought them peace, calm and serenity after the horrors of the divorce. Their lives had settled into a lovely routine and they loved the busy life of the sea and beach.
"Beep -- beep -- beep -- beep." Again, the beeping sounds were encroaching on her brain. "Stop beeping -- you're ruining my day," Vanessa screamed silently through the fog of her brain. I have to think! I have to concentrate! This is madness!
Vanessa pulled out the cool tuna fish sandwiches from the cooler as water trickled down Melanie's nose. Vanessa kissed her nose and kissed the water drips away as she handed Melanie a sandwich.
Mother and daughter sat in the shade of the colorful beach umbrella as they ate their sandwiches and cold fruit. Vanessa marveled at the beautiful, wonderful and magical day she was spending with Melanie on the beach. How fun Melanie was for a six year old. Melanie was her best friend. Were mothers allowed to have daughters as best friends? Melanie was her favorite person with whom to spend the day. Her sunny personality and engaging mind kept Vanessa entertained for hours.
"Mommy, will you swing me again in the waves after lunch? I love it. It's so much fun!" Melanie exclaimed.
"Of course, darling," said Vanessa smiling. "But, first, build a sandcastle to give your body a rest and time for your food to digest," said Vanessa.
"All right, Mommy," said Melanie as she gathered her pails and shovels and moved to the water's edge. She began collecting shells with which to decorate her castle. Vanessa marveled at her creative and bright daughter.
The darkness again enveloped Vanessa -- the grief, the never ending despair -- "beep -- beep -- beep -- beep." Again, that bothersome beep in her ears and brain, breaking her concentration. And she needed her concentration. Just like her concentration broken at the beach. Oh, how could she go on? How could she have been so distracted? She must be mad!
Vanessa gathered up the waxed papers, napkins and remaining fruit and cleaned up under the umbrella, keeping her eyes on Melanie as she shook wet sand from her pails and constructed the beginnings of a sand castle. Melanie waved and Vanessa waved back.
Vanessa continued watching Melanie play in the sand as she settled back into her colorful beach chair not even noticing the handsome man sitting down close by on the the sand.
"Excuse me, do you have the time? I left my watch at home," said a handsome, dark-haired man standing over Vanessa.
"Oh, yes, it's 12:21," said Vanessa smiling up at him.
"Thank you. Are you alone here at the beach?" he asked.
"No, no. I'm here with my daughter. That's she at the water's edge building a sand castle," said Vanessa.
"I'm John. John Sanders," he said holding out his hand. Vanessa shook his hand, "I'm Vanessa. Vanessa Summers," she said smiling.
"Mind if I join you?" John asked.
"Please do," said Vanessa glancing to see Melanie playing in the sand. John sat on the blanket next to Vanessa and they began chatting.
Why am I so friendly? thought Vanessa. Why can't I just mind my own business? Why did I say it was okay for him to join me? This mantra began repeating over and over to the beat of the "beep -- beep -- beep -- beep she kept hearing in her ears. How long had they been talking? How had she let him distract her?
Vanessa was enjoying this new friend, John, she had just met on the beach. He was handsome, single, and a great conversationalist. Vanessa told him she was divorced, a single-mom, and carried on a sparkling conversation. Soon Vanessa and John were deep in conversation, flirting, laughing and so caught up in the moment that they barely heard the cries and screams as several people ran to the water and also ran to Vanessa's blanket kicking up sand which got Vanessa's and John's attention.
Suddenly, Vanessa realized her concentration was broken. She looked to the water's edge -- no Melanie in sight! -- she looked out to the sea as John pulled her to her feet. There out in the water, far from the water's edge a child flailed around in the water, not able to stay above the water surface.
"My God -- it's Melanie," Vanessa screamed. Vanessa and John ran to the water, jumped in and swam toward where they had seen Melanie, but now saw her no more. Suddenly, the rip tide pulled Vanessa under. John, stronger than Vanessa, grabbed her and brought her to the surface.
"No, forget me -- get Melanie," screamed Vanessa as she fought the current. She continued trying to swim to her child. John released her and swam in the direction of Melanie. Another swimmer grabbed Vanessa and tried to drag her out of the rough current.
"No, No -- I must get my daughter! Please just get my daughter!" screamed Vanessa.
"Beep -- beep -- beep -- beep!" the sound echoed in Vanessa's ears and brain as the dark gloom once again settled over her. Vanessa struggled to clear her brain as if she again was struggling in the rip tide. "Come back, come back to me, Melanie," cried Vanessa silently with each beep she heard. She struggled to get to Melanie. The tide and the waves and the beeps held her back. The harder she swam toward Melanie the larger the gap between them. "Melanie, oh my Melanie, come back!" Vanessa screamed as the beeps infused her brain.
In all the confusion, suddenly Vanessa was back on the beach surrounded by beach goers and the beach patrol as they frantically gave Melanie mouth to mouth resusitation. But, it was to no avail. When the paramedics arrived, they pronounced Melanie dead from drowning.
Nearby, the waves invaded Melanie's sand castle as it too melted away, the shells floating back into the sea as the castle disintigrated in the watery waves.
In shock, Vanessa collapsed in John's arms and she remembered nothing until she woke up in the hospital the next morning.
A rip tide had suddenly occurred in the sea where they were swimming. Melanie had wandered into the water and gotten caught up in the awful current. In a second she was gone -- pulled under by the current and her tiny body had not enough strength to stay above the surface until someone could get to her. The beach patrol was just starting out to warn swimmers of the awful currents when Melanie was caught up in it.
The next week was a blur as Vanessa made funeral arrangements and buried Melanie. She was unable to find or contact her ex-husband and Melanie's father. She had to bury her precious daughter alone. The grief of losing her daughter was unbearable to Vanessa.
The blur like the blurring of the "beep -- beep -- beep -- beep" was in her ears and on her brain. Her precious Melanie -- gone, forever -- because she had lost her concentration over a man. A man she had just met. How could she have lost her concentration?
Would she hear this "beep -- beep -- beep -- beep" for the rest of her life? It's all I deserve for losing my Melanie to the sea. How could I have taken my eyes off of her? When had she gone into the sea? Why wasn't I aware and watching her. Why was I flirting and laughing with a man?
As she cupped her hand over her eyes and looked into the sun and horizon, her unspeakable and unending grief consumed Vanessa. Her guilt weighed her down. She had taken two white roses with her down to the beach to float them in the sea in memory of Melanie and herself.
Vanessa walked into the water consumed with pain and guilt looking for the right place to lay the roses in the water. Vanessa kept walking further and further out toward the horizon. Finally, she was consumed in the water completely over her head and the two roses floated away. Vanessa floated away also into the watery sepulcher. Would she ever find peace?
The blurred "beep -- beep -- beep -- beep" continued followed by a a long, loud, dull constant buzz with a straight green line across the machine's screen. No more beeps. Finally, they had ceased.
John grabbed Vanessa's hand, put his head down and sobbed as a nurse came in. She found no vital signs in Vanessa and switched off the machine. She called in the doctor who confirmed Vanessa's passing. The nurse pulled the sheet over Vanessa's face and head as John quietly sobbed by her bed.
The beeps had finally stopped invading Vanessa's head. All was quiet now. Vanessa had finally reached the quiet and peace she so desperately sought as she walked toward the white shining light and embraced her daughter, beautiful Melanie, in her arms.
© 2013 Suzette Walker