The Shell

December 7, 2010
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Her house is at the top of a cliff that looks down upon a rocky beach. Every summer they would come and stay here. It was always a magical place for her with so many precious memories. This summer was different. This was a season she prayed would never come.

It all started with an accident six months ago. Her mother was late coming home from her job as head chef at a very prominent restaurant in town. Usually, when her mother was going to be late getting home, she would call so that they wouldn’t worry. At home, Marina sat quietly watching television not really thinking about much. Her father, who worked as a local restaurant supplier, was preparing dinner for the three of them. Marina was an only child but she had always hoped to have a brother or sister to keep her company. Sadly that just wasn’t meant to be. After dinner was finished and the cleaning was done, it was pretty late, so she decided to head up to bed and prepare for tomorrow’s school day. Sleep came fast and peacefully until the doorbell rang. She could hear her father’s voice first strong and then breaking into an alarming cry. He has never made a sound like that before. She knew there was something dreadfully wrong. As fast as she could, she grabbed her robe and slippers and headed down the stairs. There were flashing lights and police officers in the hall. Her father turned when he heard her steps. “No Marina, he said. Please go back to bed.” But she couldn’t, she knew it was her mother. “Where is she? Something has happened to her hasn’t it?” Her father broke down and could not speak. A very nice officer approached her. “Honey, he said. Come and sit down and I will explain it all to you.” So she did just that. She sat with him on the sofa as he told her that her mother was driving home in a torrential rain storm. Her car hit the embankment and swerved. She could not stop or control it. It hit the guard rail and went down. There was nothing she could have done. She died instantly. I’m very sorry to have to tell you.”

She was in a state of shock. She could not cry or move. Her world had stopped spinning. Confusion and sadness set in. Her father was unable to help her and there was no one else. Over the next few weeks, generous and thoughtful people came to visit and bring them items that would help them out so they didn’t have to think about all the little unnecessary things. Marina appreciated their thoughtfulness and tried to be strong and brave in front of them all but when they would leave she would render again to sadness and the loneliness she felt.

As the end of the school year approached, she knew the summer season was vastly gaining on her. Summer was a time that every kid looked forward to. It was the free season, the season of no school, no worries and relaxation. All her friends were excited. She should be too but summer brought memories of a different time. It was a time when her parents would take their vacation. Two whole months with her, they would spend. It was perfect. What would it be now? She didn’t even want to think about it. The unknowing is what brought so much pain for her.

July 1. Every July, they rented that big house on the top of a cliff. It was a beautiful house. A dream house one might say. It had everything but somehow now held nothing for her. Her father tried to motivate her to get out and meet some new people. “Go to the beach! Swim! Get involved Marina! It is time for you to move on.” He said. So she made her way down to the ocean’s edge. She hoped the ocean would satisfy her dead senses and temporarily rejuvenate her spirit but the beach was so crowded. The summer vacationers were all over the place packed together with barley room to move. In a way it was good. It was distracting watching kites drift in warm summer breezes, sea gulls flying without a care in the world, observing the kids scamper and swim in the cool water and dogs and people running and playing in the white hot sand. She spent the whole day there watching all of the activities but not getting herself involved. “Maybe later when its quiet, I’ll come back when the sun is setting and the tide is rising.” She thought.

Marina and her dad entertained some guests for dinner and then she politely excused herself to set outside for her evening stroll. The night was eerily quiet all except for the sound of the fierce waves rolling in and out and crashing against the rocks on the beach. She could faintly see the dunes in the distance rising up like giants out of the dark sand. Some people might be afraid to be at the beach at night but not her. She found comfort in the dark. It was like peace that she couldn’t feel during the day. Besides, she grew up here. This was her home away from home or always was she thought until the accident. Suddenly she started to feel the sadness set in again with the memory of that night still refusing to fade but the sand between her toes felt so relaxing. It was like the perfect foot massage. The light from the moon and stars danced on the water like a private show just for her. As she stepped forward, her foot touched upon a sharp object. At first, she thought she stepped on glass but reached down and touched a shell. “What is that?” she thought. “Shells usually wash up at low tide.” It was hard to see the details because the night was dark so she figured she would just bring it home and inspect it there.

Marina liked sea shells. All her life she had collected them. She had so many different and interesting kinds. Shells had always fascinated her in one way or another. Each one of them was unique with its own personal qualities. She reached into her pocket and brought it out to put on the bedside table. How unusual it seemed to her. It had so many shades of iridescent and the shape was sort of heart like. The face of it was so smooth like sea glass but on it was the outline of a foot. That was very weird. Why a foot? Its outer edges were rough and jagged. Something about this shell captivated her. She was entranced with it. Why did it call to her? Slowly she put it up to her ear. “What is that? “She wondered. It was a low whisper, she was positive. There was a distant voice or sound she just couldn’t make out but it was such a long day with so many emotions that she decided closing her eyes would be best at this moment. She put the shell back on the table and drifted off into a sleep that was filled with restlessness and dreams.

When she awoke in the morning the daylight streamed into her room. The sun was so bright already at this early hour. The heat of the day was already rising so rapidly. Then there was the shell. It was calling to her again as before. Marina decided she would try to make the most of the day and take the shell with her. It was so hard to think about having fun. All these people seemed so happy with their families. It was like everyone else had this perfect picture and hers was ripped in half.
How she so wished she could see her mother again. Every day that went by seemed like a lifetime since her passing. She hoped it would get better. She prayed for some kind awakening out of this sadness that engulfed her but this shell, something about it was odd. Once again, she put it up to her ear and listened closely. Yes, it was definitely like someone was speaking to her. There was a voice trying to tell her something important. As I watched the waves roll in and out, she realized it was like breathing. We take breaths in and out like the ebb and flow of the ocean. Holding the shell, she realized how clear her mind seemed at that moment. The ocean reached so far like infinitely. This shell could have come from anywhere and could be as old as the earth itself. There was a reason it was now in her possession. In this warm summer sun, she sat and studied the shell. It came to her suddenly and she finally understood. The footprint on the shell was a sign. She needed to take a step. It was okay for her to move forward. She just needed to know that it would be alright if she did. As for the whisper, she listened again. Yes! Now she could hear it! It was saying, “Be free! Go forward and be free!” This was all so clear but she was frightened to let go. “Will I forget what I knew? I am afraid that if I am not sad, I will not remember.” She questioned. So she held the shell in her hand and felt its smooth top and the soothing but the jagged edges telling her that there will always be pain and always be hurt. This is it then. This is what she has been waiting for. Just a simple small shell to help her go on living. “Should I keep it?” she wondered. How many people has this shell been there for? Would it be selfish of her not to share it with somebody else who needs this revelation? Yes it would, she decided. So she looked out into the vast sea and reached back as far as my arm would let her pull and throw it back out into the deepest depths that it could travel only to wash again onto the shore for the next soul seeking person to find. This is the beginning she decided and turned to that beautiful big house on the cliff to start her life.





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