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“In an instant, a what you thought to be a perfect world and life can be turned upside down.”
It was August 2002 when Jake and Sophia first met at the local boardwalk fair. Jake was from Chicago and Sophia from Mississippi. They both loved the beach and had traveled with each of their friends to California as a last chance retreat before they had to go back to college. The sun was setting on their second to last night and it was a beautiful sight full of orange, yellow, and pink, with a warm mist from the ocean touching their faces. Sophia and her friends wanted to go on the ferris wheel to see the pretty scene high in the air. Jake and his buds had decided to ride it just for fun. The guys got in line behind the group of girls, all admiring their beauty, but one girl caught Jake’s eye. Evidently, he caught hers too. Because her group had an odd number, she asked if she could ride with Jake so she didn’t have to go alone. They began talking, chatting about where they were from, their college plans, and about anything else that came up. It was a fairytale meeting. They spent the rest of the evening together, talking, joking, playing games, and enjoying each other’s company. They walked on the smooth, warm, soothing sand, a big change from the creaky, uneven boardwalk. They were really hitting it off. At the end of the night, Jake said he wanted to see her again. They exchanged numbers and planned to go out to dinner the next night, their last night there.
All through the night, they dreamt about each other. Jake tossing and turning, not being able to stop thinking about her, and she, sleeping with a smile on her face, so comfortable. They each woke up in their condos, having breakfast with their friends, but distant as they daydreamed about each other. Jake couldn’t wait to see her, and she thought about how she wanted to get to know him better. This was their last day here, and they would be going their separate ways, far apart. How would they get to see and know each other? They pictured each other in their heads. Jake, a twenty three year old, five foot eleven tall college boy. He had crystal blue eyes, almost mesmerizing, with brown hair. Sophia was a petite girl, with long dirty blond, wavy hair. She had full pink lips and greenish hazel eyes. The day went on, both packing their bags in preparations to leave early the next morning. As the time crept to five o’clock, Jake put on a nice yellow and gray polo and Sophia a flowy sun dress. Jake was very nervous because he wanted to make a good impression. He had arranged a casual, outside dinner, but a very romantic one, candle lit in the dark night. He wanted to show her he was serious and that this was something special they had. A connection they couldn’t lose. The night went perfect. They said their goodbyes, Jake giving her a good night kiss. They promised to continue to talk to each other and arrange time to see one another.
Both settling back into their dorms and getting used to their new classes, they texted and called each other constantly, always updating each other about anything new. Jake had booked a flight to fly down and see Sophia over Thanksgiving break. Their relationship was going smoothly. This continued for quite a while, and their meetings grew more frequent, even if for just a weekend. Before they new it, it was summer and they decided to spend their whole time together. Half of the time at Jake’s place, and the other half at Sophia’s, with a few vacations thrown in. Everything was perfect and romantic. Eventually, it was time to go to back to school again, but after this year, they would both be graduating. They planned on getting a place together where they could both find good jobs. All they had to do was get through this year, which wasn’t too difficult. They saw each other every chance they had, which was quite often.
Graduation day had finally arrived and passed. They wanted to pick a place somewhere warm, near their spot, the beach. Sophia had been impressed and became familiar of Jake’s amazing skills of sand sculpting. It became their thing. They picked a cute little cottage in a suburb of Florida. It was ideal. They were hired into jobs of their new majors. Life was great, but they had become busier, both focusing on advancing their careers. The whole year flew past. Their fourth anniversary came around the corner, and they decided to take a trip away and focus on each other. They were in love and they each knew it. Their lives had been a fairytale together, so special. Sophia was a sweet, charming girl. She was graceful, honest, warm, and thoughtful, everything John wanted in a girlfriend, in a wife. Jake was her rock. He was trustworthy, gentle, but strong, and so polite. This was who she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
They went to Oak Island, North Carolina, a dream spot. They spent their days exploring the beautiful scenery, the bright sun shining down upon the green hills, blue water, and gray rocks around them. Their nights were spent at romantic, candlelit dinners and cuddling in their condo. On their second to last day there, representing the day they met, Jake kneeled on one knee on a blanket, and proposed to Sophia on the beach during sunset. Tears rolling down her face, Sophia said “YES!” It was straight from the Disney movies. On their last day there, they talked about how it would be to live there in Oak Island, in a house on the beach. But they didn’t know what they would do about their right now, stable jobs. They were unsure what to do, but they knew they had a wedding to plan.
Upon arriving home, they went straight to work. They told all of their friends and family. Everyone was ecstatic for them, telling them they were a perfect couple. They hired a wedding planner and started designing their, mainly Sophia’s, dream wedding. Yellow, pink, and orange flowers and decorations, colors of the sunset and the theme of their wedding. They would have red bridesmaid dresses and she picked out a gorgeous white dress, fit for a princess. They were going to get married on the beach in August. They had discussed more about moving, and made a trip back up to North Carolina to buy a house. A blue one with white shutters, a little distressed, but that was their dream home, an authentic beach cottage. Sophia had found another job, and Jake had the opportunity to transfer. Everything was working out as planned. They were to move almost immediately after they wed. Everything was set, all the had to do was anxiously wait.
They were driving home on the freeway, their car more empty than on the way up because they had already brought some of their things to leave at their new house. They had already had it picked out, they just needed to sign the papers. They were on a main highway. It was dark and late, but there was still a great deal of traffic. Jake was growing tired. They decided to stop at a cheap hotel for the night to get some rest and get up early the next morning. They were driving on the far left lane, and wanted to take the next exit up ahead, but as they switched lanes, turning signal flashing, the night grew even darker. Pitch black.
Jake opened his eyes again, but realized that he was in a white gown, lying down on a pad, with tubes in his arms and nose. He began to panic. A nurse rushed in and paged a doctor. Dr. Brown was his name. He was a short olive skin toned guy, with dark hair, probably Italian. He proceeded to tell Jake what had happened. He opened with you were in a car crash and Jake’s heart fell, the monitors beeping off the wall. All he could think about was Sophia. The doctor said that as he was moving into the middle lane, a semi-truck in the far right lane started to move over also. It completely crushed the side of their black SUV and turned it over into a ditch. Jake had suffered only minor injuries, walking away with a fractured arm and a concussion, but he was sorry to say that Jake’s fiancée was on that passenger side that was crushed. She was dead upon arrival at the scene. All Jake thought about was, “Why couldn’t I have gone with her, why do I have to be alive and suffer?” The love of his life, his whole life, had just been taken away from him. He felt like he had been driven upon like a speed bump. What was he to do now?
He had to stay in the hospital for a few days of monitoring, then was released to the world. Walking out the sliding doors, the sun seemed too bright for his eyes, everything was foggy to him. He was crushed. He caught a taxi, afraid of another accident if he drove. Jake decided to go and stay at what was supposed to be their sanctuary, now his new house, which would almost seem like a cell. After arriving and walking through the door, he realized he couldn’t stay there. It reminded him of her too much, and he new he couldn’t afford it because he wasn’t up to going back to work right now. He sold the house and most of it’s belongings. All he had now was the white t-shirt and shorts he was wearing. He decided to stay on the beach and build a little beach hut to sleep in. Time went by week, by week, and eventually, he had been staying there for three months. He had lost weight. Even though he was only twenty eight, his hair had begun to turn gray from the stress and hurt putting a hardship on his life. He had gotten a dark tan from being out in the sun all day, every day, and had grown a scruffy beard from not being able to shave. He was not the same Jake he used to be. He was now a gloomy, miserable man, who was depressed, confused, hopeless, and full of guilt. He felt like what had happened was his fault. He was falling down into a dark, spinning hole, that no one wants to travel down.
One morning, he woke up to a piece of paper slapping him in the face from the strong winds that morning. He sat up and read it. It said, “Sand Sculpture Contest this Saturday at noon. Grand prize $10,000. For advanced sculptors only.” Since he had lost his job from taking off too many days for grieving, he had no money. He relied on mainly fish and scraps for food. He decided he wanted to enter this contest. He had an idea in mind. He stood up and started to walk down the beach to the registration table location described on the flyer. It was now Thursday. He had two days to fully plan and prepare for the contest. They had twenty four hours, until Sunday at noon, to complete their sculpture and be judged. Walking up to the table with a huge sign hanging down on the front of it, he said, “I would like to enter the contest.” The young lady at the table analyzed his filthy, scruffy look, and nodded her head. Jake continued, “I will be making a house, my dream beach house, in honor of my passed fiancée,”. A huge look of shock crossed her face, not only because that was a huge endeavor, but why he was doing it. Friday passed quickly, and he had gathered up some buckets and sculpting tools left over from visitors and tourists of the beach. The big day was tomorrow and it could turn his life back around forever.
A gun went off at the exact strike of noon, and everyone started, each man for themselves. He worked vigorously all day in the beating hot sun, sweat beads dripping from his head. He had to stop and take frequent breaks because his now fragile and malnourished body did not have much strength or stamina. At one point, after finishing the base, some walls, and the steps up to what was to be the main door, he sat to take a break. It was only three o’clock and he was ready to give up. He was not physically up to doing this. He squatted down against the front of the ground layer. Looking out upon the ocean, he thought about his fiancée and how much he loved her. He thought about the good times they had had and how if she was here, she would be rooting him on the whole way through. He stood up, picked up his largest bucket and shovel, and began to work again.
He worked all through the night, using spotlights set up for the contestants. Before he knew it, the sun was rising. They still had five hours to go. His house was coming together, and even though it was one story, not two like the one they had purchased together nearby, it was looking wonderful. It had areas to represent a kitchen, a bedroom, a smaller area for a bathroom, and a living room. All the essentials in a house. With the sandy color and grainy texture, it looked almost like a stucco house. The hours passed quickly, as the temperature began to rise. Finally, it was completed, with twenty minutes to go. He walked through it, inspecting everything and making sure it was perfect, fixing anything that needed improvement. The bell sounded. It was noon. The judges would begin coming around. They walked up to his little cottage house and their eyes opened wide with shock. He began to shake with nerves. It was amazing and extravagant. After looking over the whole thing, they moved onto the next piece, and all Jake could do was wait. The announcer came on about a half hour later and announced they would be revealing the results. “Third place…” not his name, “second place…” yet again disappointment. Jake began to think to himself that his sculpture didn’t even place. Then, they called out “First place, Jake Milo,”. He had won. He fell to the ground crying, and felt a release of pressure off his shoulders. He had a potential future. He could move on, never forgetting his first love though, and do things in the world again. He had hope, and felt that this was an apology from God, sent by the request of his Sophia.
Jake went on to rent an apartment. He cleaned up nicely and gained some weight back. Still having a college degree, he was hired to start at the bottom of a very big business firm in New York. With his experience from his previous job and after hearing his story, they felt he would bring something good to the company. He had his life back. He did not spend most of the money, putting it away and making a scholarship in Sophia’s name for teen sand sculptors to win in a yearly contest. In all the success and relationships he went on to have, he always knew in the back of his mind, that she was up there, looking down at him smiling, and waiting patiently to see and embrace him again. Everything, no matter how tragic, happens for a reason and all you need is a little inspiration and a wake-up call to get back on track.