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She called it Paradise Bliss, that tiny island. The one with the green furry palm trees swaying in the warm summer breeze, shaking their shaggy lion manes claiming that one little spot they rested under the hot island sun. We would go their every summer; mom, dad, Echo and I. Not anymore though, after Echo got sick, mommy and daddy sold our island, our Paradise bliss. I remember the war it sparked between us, tearing our family farther and farther apart in a time long ago where every second was precious and should not have been wasted on silly disputes.
I remember how we would run all day long back and forth on the fine thin edge where water touched sand, fire meeting ice. Running through the cold salty foam spraying up around us as we stampeded down the final stretch shrieking and laughing from the joy, the bliss, the high we got off our freedom. With the wind whipping our hair back, we felt as if we were flying, soaring on our little island in the sea. Far away from the tortures of school and all the drama from our friends, free of all the worries and cares of the world with no curfew’s or homework or even the threat of human predators to hurt us which was constantly on our eleven year old minds.
We would lay for hours on the sun baked sand, tanning evenly in our new bikinis and burn the soles of our feet as we raced back to our island home. Our mornings were full of waking up extra early and playing with all the sea stars and urchins until the tide came back covering the little pools in which they rested, a tiny spark of color amidst a sea of rolling light blue. If you climbed a tree the water would be full of color and you could see blues and greens and purples for as far as your eye could see coral hidden deep below hiding other marine life. It was a place of magic and enchantments where your wildest dreams came true and wishes granted. It was paradise, pure bliss that no other beauty could even begin to compare to, not anything in the world.
For three short months we lived feral on our island in the sea, three months out of twelve, a quarter of our lives for eleven years. When the sun would rise, she would fill the skies with vibrant reds and yellows and oranges, alighting the waters a fire. The miracle of dancing flames on liquid salt was seen on the sand, the white cold sand before turned hot under blazing heat and light. Our thoughts were fuzzy, our eyes unbelieving, yet our minds themselves could not deny the amazing spectacle that took place before us every morning three months out of twelve.
At night you could see the stars, finally revealed hundreds of miles away from all the pollution and smog a big city like New York could produce. They were so clear, so bright; they filled the island with unearthly light turning all color to silver. Sometimes we would sneak out and go dancing, it was naïve and foolish but filled our hearts with so much joy and carefree abandon that we did not care; there was nothing around us for miles, no sight other than each other and the tumultuous sea constantly moving never sleeping or resting. The night was brought to life and her beauty was magnified by a hundred.
Days were filled with laughing and exploring, we would stalk the ‘lions’ under the protection of their shaggy manes. Collect hairy brown bowling balls for mommy our efforts rewarded with their sweet water juice and creamy thick milkshakes. Sometimes we would see little lizard creatures wriggling about on the dappled ground, as we collected or birds talking, squawking at us to go away. One time we stumbled on a black snake hissing and spitting and barring our way, his black eyes glinting fangs wet with saliva or poison, I couldn’t tell which. Even though he was scary and dangerous, there was also a gracefulness in the way he arched his neck, the onyx of his scales, it was almost as if he himself came from the belly of our island; part of the magic and lore, bringing caution and danger into the game, adding to the mysterious mystery of our Paradise bliss.
After the snake incident our island became haunting and illustrious, our friends wanted to visit, our parents wanted us to stay home the next year. But of course Echo and I won like so many of the battles fought with our parents, so it was to be, Echo and I would go back, little did we know it was the last time ever.
The beginning of our vacation was spent the same as always, our lasting routine never boring or tiring, catching up on sisterly talks and bonding deeper. Though we were twins we seemed to get tired of each other when school came, but island time? We were inseparable and so close it was almost like we could read each other’s minds. The island brought us close, it solved problems and granted health and an escape from the stifling routine of city life.
One day, early like normal to watch the sunrise, Echo wouldn’t wake up, she wouldn’t move. Mommy came in and took her temperature, said she was sick and that she couldn’t play today. It was the one of the most horrible loneliest days of my miserable existence; I watched the sunrise alone, gathered the coconuts, ran on the beach, but it wasn’t the same. Life wasn’t the same, Paradise bliss was turning into a living H*ll. The next day was the same, and the one after that too; on the fourth day Echo was airlifted to the nearest hospital and our island went up for sale.
By the time we arrived at the hospital she was in critical condition, Malaria, that’s what the doctor said she had. Now I remember vividly how we were looking for the snake in the coconut trees when a mosquito bit her on the arm, it was the one time we ever ventured out without bug spray into the belly of Paradise. One week after she was admitted, she died. The very same day, Paradise bliss was sold.
Our beautiful spectacular island of freedom and joy was gone, and she left with it, a distant memory belonging to the past. Dreams filled with running in salty sea foam, dancing under the moon, love, joy, happiness are all that’s left. A Paradise so sweet and pure filled with wonderful glorious impossible feats; flames on water, fire turning to ice, little sea creatures, palm tree lions with shaggy manes, talking birds, an artists snake. It was every bit its name and more so, I only wish I could go their one more time. To run one final time in the sand, touch a hairy bowling ball, talk with the talking birds, dance under the eerie unearthly light of the heavens, and roast under the blazing island sun. Just visit the place she called Paradise bliss we left so many summers ago, and prowl unknowingly under the lions belly, one last time. To say good bye and forever leave the Paradise and bliss behind.