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Barefoot This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Dusk was coming slowly. A languid mantle of dusty blue crept over the orange sky, soon to overtake the sun as it sank to the horizon. Wind was tussling with ocean waves and blankets and tent flaps and hair, one final attempt to amuse itself before the day vanished at the edge of the sea.

And at the edge of the sea, a barefoot little girl yawned. (The sky was already darkening – had she been there that long?) She was curled up luxuriously in a purple poncho, her hood hanging over her eyes. She reclined easily between her parents. As little as she was, she was bigger than the moon, taller than the mountains. The wind played with her hair only because she let it, and if it rained, she would yell at the sky until the clouds moved on in fright. And as little as she was, she was a princess, and an imperious one at that.

Today she was enjoying the beauty of the sea, its constant beat against the ivory-gray sands of the quiet beach, and the watercolor sky that never failed to obey her.

It was years later, but not many, when things changed for her. Things may not have so dramatically changed in reality, but even so – she learned that she might rule over many things, but not over the whole world. That particular day had been preceded by a rather violent storm, yet she had insisted that they go to the seaside anyway. It had become a family tradition to drag everyone down to the shore at that time of year, as it was correspondent with Mother and Father's anniversary, and the girl would simply not let a force of nature diminish her family's enjoyment.

Yet now she stood, clad in a pale gray windbreaker, her umbrella hanging over her eyes, as salty sand bit her cheeks and chapped her lips. Her still-bare feet sank into what remained of the sand – faded sand, super-saturated with rainwater. Her favorite beach had been torn away from the seaside, and the water, once blue and steady and dreadfully reliable, now pounded and churned. It was no longer blue, but deep black from debris and cold white from foam. The sky, always in her memory as periwinkle and peach and glowing, was drenched in watery coffee today, with a few scattered stains masquerading as clouds.

The tide stretched icy hands toward her toes, and her exposed ankles shivered together as their chill passed over them. She was not pleased. So she threw down her umbrella and pulled down her hood, about to open her mouth and chastise the sea and sky and rain for being so disagreeable – until the wind caught her hair and pulled. It did not pull playfully, and did not merely tussle. She had not given it permission.

And at the edge of the sea, the barefoot (not so little anymore) girl realized that the wind's perceived deference to her was a delusion, and that the watercolor sky did not change colors at her command. The drum of the ocean would march on without her, and she was not a princess, at least not one who ruled over the natural world. And she realized that she never had been.

Today, and tomorrow, she would merely be its observer – applauding it when it suited her, grumbling when it did not. Other than that, she was powerless.

She began wearing shoes at the seaside.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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