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She walked among the waves, the thin cashmere fabric of her white hoop skirt flailing languidly about her pale white ankles. The air was silent, save for the quiet splash of sea foam as it breathed in and out on the shore.
Her feet sunk into the dark, wet sand. Tiny grains clung to her ankles, washed away each time the white froth raced around them. Small bubbles of air appeared on the foam and the sand. Not far off, a small brown crab scuttled out from where it had been hiding, racing off into the early evening shadows.
Across the horizon, the sun was a blazing ball of fire, staining the entire sky blood orange. The color reflected off of the lucid, glassy sea, so that silvery blue mixed with dark, flaming red to create a brilliant neon hue, which was quickly overtaking the blue ocean.
However, most of the ocean still remained perfectly azure, reflecting the blue sky above. Smeared with fluffy white clouds, the sky was tinted cotton-candy pink and light mint green by the sun’s dazzling rays. Beneath the crashing, choppy surface, tendrils of seaweed spiraled towards the surface, held by deep roots to the ocean floor, staining the deepest parts of the sea a rich emerald, still fringed with white sea spray.
She reached behind her head and freed her hair of its messy ponytail, letting her endless sun-gold locks spill over the fabric of her flowing white blouse that tied with a belt to her slim waist. From a distance she looked like a gypsy, walking with such grace that she might have been dancing on her slender, bare feet.
She stumbled over a patch of wispy sea grass sprouting up near the shore. The pale green stalks swayed with the wind, each a fast dancer on a floor of sand. The disturbance awoke a sleeping sandpiper, which leapt away from the girl, its long, thin beak tightly shut, its light brown wings fluttering. It had soon disappeared, just a blot against the surface of the beach.
The air smelled of seaweed, distinctly salty. She balanced across a leg of driftwood, smooth as a pearl from weeks of meandering through the ocean currents.
She looked up, her placid blue eyes darting this way and that. Voices echoed from the shoreline, young voices, high and bubbly.
More sea grass was beginning to appear beneath her feet, and soon she came upon a full sized bush. Its scraggly, pale green leaves blossomed into beautiful cone-shaped flowers, with petals as vibrantly pink as the sunset in the distance. Her fingers found a blossom and pulled it from the light green stem, nimbly evading the jagged red thorns that adorned it. She lifted it to her nose, and the sweet perfume flowed through her veins, giving her strength.
She pushed on through the garden, back onto the open sand.
The voices came from a group of teenagers lounging by the water. They’d spread brightly colored beach towels to shield their tan, clear skin from the damp dirt beneath, and the girls lay with their brightly colored bikini straps undone, showing off their tight jean short shorts, their makeup bleeding slightly at the edges. Music pumped from a black radio, and laughter ran high on the wind. The boys flipped their long hair and bounced a beach ball back and forth.
The girl peeked from behind an ancient divi divi tree, cradling the flower in one hand and clinging to the worn brown trunk with her other. Her lips pressed tightly together, but her eyes stayed open, calm and tranquil as always. The tree’s gnarled trunk leaned slightly to the right, supporting its lush branches. The blue sky shone in patches through its thick green leaves.
She walked forward, slowly, holding the flower and trying to stop her hands from shaking. In that second she wished she could join the others, dance to the pulsating hip hop music and flash stunning smiles at the boys. But somehow, she could not.
“You have always danced to a different music, mi narciso, my blossom,” her mother had said in her rich island accent, sitting on the porch and knitting a brightly colored Spanish quilt.
Her mother’s kind, creased eyes seemed distant now, and the others’ laughing, confident voices impossibly loud. The girl’s heart pounded, but she stepped forward.
The instant the others saw her, the smiles left their faces.
“It’s the gypsy again!” one of the girls said in a brittle, nasal voice.
The sun beat harshly down on the girl’s back. She used the edge of her shirt to wipe the perspiration from her forehead, but could not shake the trembling from her hands.
She looked down to see that she had crushed the pink flower in her tight grasp. Petals leaked through the spaces between her fingers, spiraling down like perfect ballet dancers, where they landed silently on the earth.
Before the tears could start to rain from her eyes, she took a step forward, letting the flower fall from her clutches. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she fixed her eyes on the pink facade of a summer house perched by the outcropping which marked the end of the beach. She licked her lips; they tasted like salt, and sweet lemonade from the fair.
“This is my beach just as well as yours,” she said, whirling around, finally letting the accent tint her words. The others just stared. The only noise was the sound of the sea waves crashing against the shore.
The sea night felt almost alive. Stars began to poke out of the velvety sky, and she could have sworn she saw a shooting star streak across the blackness for a fraction of a second, leaving a fleeting trail of golden sparks behind.
She continued to walk, letting the wind swirl her hair around her, until they disappeared from view.
Then it was just her, and the beach, peaceful once more. A sunfish leapt above the water in the distance, light reflecting off the many facets that decorated its transparent fins. Lights flickered on inside every house. The sky had turned to a deep indigo-purple, a tapestry of colors sewed together by starry needles.
She walked slowly, letting her hands swing loosely by her sides. The evening chill crept upon her, but she remained on the sand, which still retained warmth from the sun’s brilliant rays. The shimmering blue water reflected the round, pale, silver moon, its light a veil flowing amongst tiny stars. Once more, waves whispered at the shoreline, in and out like steady breathing. As she knelt down to run her hands through the water, the sea spray that flecked her arms might have been a brilliant rain, seeping into her skin and washing away the memories of the day. For a second in time, it was just a girl and the dark, velveteen ocean waters, sky purple and gold, the sweet scent of ocean flowers and distant rain hanging heavy in the air.
She turned away towards the reddening skyline, her eyes staring past the soft, hilly landscape, far away to the towering blue mountains. The moon’s candescence seemed to set the sea on fire, sprinkling radiant gold sparks upon some other distant shore.
Her mother called from the house at the edge of the sea. She appeared on the porch, holding a glass of cool yellow lemonade, dressed in a skirt sewn from patches of beach towel. The wind chased her brown hair all about her shoulders.
The girl turned away, and without a backwards glance strode towards her home. Her fingers smelled of sand and salt, but her eyes reflected the moth-eaten porch light instead of the moon. Soon she disappeared from view.
If she had looked behind her, she might have seen a solitary person, one of the boys from the beach, holding the flower she had dropped earlier that day, beneath the golden sunlight. Pale shafts of moonlight illuminated his slim form. He looked up at the dark sky and sighed, and then, still holding the crushed flower, walked slowly along the shoreline, burying his toes in the spongy sand, letting the sea’s foam wash around his ankles.
But the girl and the boy parted ways, and now only silence lingered at the shore. The sea’s lungs still inhaled and exhaled, rhythmically so, as the moon slowly drew the tide forward, until waves covered the entire beach. Their footprints were washed away; all spoken words disappeared under the shallow, icy waves, tinted a bluish jade, and the sun buried itself deep behind the craggy mountains. The night blossomed like rose vines throughout the land. The sea’s cycle resumed its course.
All was silent on the beach—all except for the quiet rippling of a thin grey fish drifting through the waters, the muted singing of a marooned conch shell, and the sounds of the ocean’s lungs, perpetually breathing in and out.