published on Burning House Press
May 11, 2018
A flash of light catches my eye, shimmering like an emerald amid the waves. Foam-tipped saltwater crests fall and rise, the tide tugging against earth below. I step into the shallow water and feel sand tickling between my toes, across the pads of my feet and caressing my heels.
Behind me, farther up the stretch of sunbathed sand, Dominic stretches his caramel skin beneath the rays. No one else on the beach for miles. I touch the bulge of my belly and smile.
Our child grows stronger inside me every day.
The shining emerald drifts in toward shore and ebbs back out, carried by the current. Sun glints off the water’s surface, reflecting its glory. Slipping the cotton dress over my head, I leave it on the damp sand.
I’m naked facing the ocean, my breasts heavy.
I wade into the ocean to my waist, shivering as the shock of cold water slides between my legs. It grows warmer as I submerge my body further. The ocean beckons, sucking me deeper. Its tide fondles my hips and water wraps around me until it’s above my shoulders. Sea foam is bright and stark against the deep blue. The seafloor feels perfectly smooth with an occasional broken shell poking my feet. I open my arms and allow the waves to carry me. They sweep over my body like the caress of a lover and I relish the salt clinging to every inch of me.
That spark of light which first caught my attention shimmers in the corner of my eye. I dive for it without thinking. It’s deep and my head sinks under murky water. My fingers grope against soft sand. The object brushes against my fingertips, its edges jagged and untouched by the rhythm of the sea.
I grip it in my palm and bring it above water, a large piece of broken glass reflecting every pinprick of light. The center is smooth and polished with a blue tint.
Memories crash over me like waves, gaining momentum and dragging me under. I take a deep breath and go under again, the noise of the world shutting around me like a lid closing. Seaweed-choked brine encloses me in every direction. The ocean roils overhead, and I can hear the crash of the waves colliding against shore growing muted. Bubbles float to the surface as I expel air. Out here, I am nobody. Not an ex-con, not a wife, not a mother-to-be. None of the expectations and responsibilities. The shoes I cannot fill. A bitter, salty taste clings to my tongue and when I open my eyes to the sting of the ocean, all I see are floating, morphed shapes like tentacles reaching for me. Dull pressure blooms in my chest as my lungs cry for air.
I swim deeper, away from the light streaming down. Away.
Featured photograph by Nsey Benajah