So I'm discovering very quickly...you can't take three Literature courses and not expect to feel some spark of inspiration! :) Today I was composing an essay when I a picture suddenly popped into my mind. I saw an old woman standing at a beach, dropping roses into the ocean swells. From there, I came up with the short story you're about to read. :) My class is studying theme, symbolism, and allegory right now, so fyi, this story is meant leave off ambiguously. It's not perfect by any means, and the writing style itself is extremely different from my usual voice, but I hope you enjoy. :)
I'm not very romantic. But I'm sight of the ocean. That blue, sparkling, rippling vision that seizes my heart and draws me in. I cannot resist its gentle tug as I pull up to the sandy sidewalk, kill the engine, and step outside. The wind whips strands of hair out of my ponytail as the salty wind lathers my lips. It's about five o'clock. The sun is just hovering above the horizon and painting the sky a thousand shades of orange. I kick off my shoes, roll up my jeans, and walk off into the sandy wilderness, feeling the silken grains slip between each of my toes.
I walk, not knowing where I am going, up and down the rugged beach; sometimes jumping a wave or two, sometimes reveling in the way the sand clings to my ankles. What is it about the ocean that makes me want to sing? I don't know. Why does a gull soaring high and free pull the corners of my mouth into a smile?
I rub my hands over my face and feel a twinge of pain beneath my right eye. There's still some internal bruising though the purple color has faded green and the green to my normal skin tone long ago. Yes, the bruise has healed up nicely. And mom believed me when I said I had got it playing softball. I could always make her believe me. She didn't know--about him yet. And she never would, I'd make sure of that. The swelling hadn't looked so bad when I arrived home for the summer. That was the first time in my life I'd been scared to come home.
I sit down on the beach, sand filling my jean pockets, and hug my knees to my chest. There's a large boulder to the side of me and I lean against it pensively. Somehow the abrasiveness of the rock feels strangely comfortable, though it leaves funny marks on my arm. I stare out to sea just thinking, quiet, content in that summer way, inhaling the breeze and the accent of cold that signals night is on its way.
That's when I see her. All alone, tottering toward the water's edge. She's standing about thirty paces from me, unaware of my presence. I'm glad she doesn't see me. I don't feel like talking to anyone just now. But she doesn't seem to want to either.
She stands with her small feet close to the water's edge, with the waves lapping at her shoes like a friendly dog. Her polyester pants have a perfect crease down the center of each leg, and I think she must have spent a lifetime getting them to look like that.
I look down at my jeans and t-shirt. Somehow I feel grossly underdressed. But of course this is the beach, so I'm fine. I look back up at her. She's fishing in her bag now. It's a large, paper brown bag, the kind you get from a small-town market. It's oddly shaped too, like whatever's in it is tubular and thin. I think it might be some sort of urn. Old people dump urns in the ocean, don't they?
I can see her frail and trembling hand reaching in. She must be about eighty years old because her wrist is shaking like a leaf. I squint my eyes, and half-wonder if it's her husband she's "burying." My eyes do a quick search of her left hand. No ring. Maybe it's in the urn. Then I tell myself to stop being ridiculous and watch as she pulls out a dozen roses instead. A gust of wind snatches the paper bag from her grasp. It flitters away in the wind. She takes a few painful steps to chase after it. But it moves too fast, and her legs are too frail. She resigns herself that it's gone, and I think perhaps that same bag will appear on another beach thousands of miles away.
I glance back at her. Her face is pointed straight out to sea, her eyes encircled in thick, plastic framed glasses, looking directly into the sun. She's blind, I think to myself. No one could keep their focus for so long. But I see that she's not, for anyone can tell her look is a deliberate one. She knows what it is she's seeing. And yet the dear old thing appears to be looking at nothing at all. She just stands there like a soldier at attention, receiving her orders from some invisible captain. Is it the ocean speaking? Or does she hear something in the wind? She cranes her head forward.
A rush of deafening noise catches me by surprise! I jerk my head up in time to see a black jet streaking across the sky. My heart is pounding hard, and I swallow a gulp of sea air to steady myself. I look over at her. She's staring after the jet, calm, quiet, and composed, as if she'd never heard anything at all. But I know she has, because all of a sudden, the wrinkled cheek begins to twinkle in the setting sun. She is crying. I can see the shimmering tears slip from the corner of her eye and travel down her short, sagging neck, until they are absorbed into her shirt collar. She holds the roses very tightly now. Her hand is still shaking. I feel I should go over and help to steady them. But I feel I would be intruding upon some sacred ceremony, and so I stay put, a guilty observer.
Then sun has almost set now. It's half teetering on the horizon. I can see her blush in its warm glow, the pink rays overhead enshrouding her old frame. She clenches the roses tightly in her fist, and in the waning light, they look redder and than ever.
I watch as, slowly, she reaches for one of the bunch and lifts it to her lips. She holds it out before her over the rolling swells, hesitates for a moment, then lets it fall. I can see it rock back and forth at her feet before the tide carries it away. She does this eleven more times till a dozen, red roses are dancing in the water. Then she turns and hobbles back to up the dune. I hear the start of an engine. How strange I should not have heard it before. It puckers and put-puts out of ear-shot, and I am left with nothing but the evening sky and a dozen roses sailing out of the harbor.