It is our last day at the beach where it is still early morning and cool enough to enjoy the sun, a perfect time to search for shells tossed on the shore by dark waves while we slept. Our daughter Liza walks ahead of us, at the edge of childhood and that awkward era of change, and all she wants is time to herself.
I’d prefer she stay with us, her constant chatter about her friends and the things she’s read in her books keeping the air around us filled with sound. Instead, it is just Nathan and me and the thick silence growing between us. I’m not sure when it started, maybe a month ago when we both realized our anniversary had been the day before, or maybe it was all the way back to when Liza was born, and the doctor told us we would never be able to have another child. There was no definite day; just a stacking on top of itself until we both couldn’t ignore it any longer, but said nothing because we didn’t know how to give it a name.
“We should try to leave by noon,” Nathan says. “We don’t want to get caught in traffic. I have to get back to the office tomorrow.”
“At least the weather held up. Nothing worse than taking a long weekend off and being stuck inside the hotel room the whole time.”
“Yes, it has been nice,” I say.
“I’m trying, Viv.”
“I’m doing the best I can. We just need time, that’s all.”
I look down at the footprints Liza has left behind, almost the same size as mine, and think of all the years that have passed for them to grow that large. There are sand dollars half-buried in the sand all around us, and I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed them before.
I reach down to pick one up, rubbing off the sand. I start to put it in my bag, but Nathan takes it from my grasp and walks close to where the waves are reaching for the shore. I follow, and watch him dip the sand dollar into the shallow water. He flips it over and holds it out in front of me.
“Do you see the hairs moving? That means it's still alive.” He says it with a smile and looks intently at me. “It's still alive.”
He looks at it in his hand, at the tiny, moving strands, and then I watch him throw it as far as he can into the ocean.
About the Author: Laura C. Smith lives in Chattanooga, TN. She currently works in communications and manages a blog that focuses on locally owned shops and restaurants in the Chattanooga area. Her work has previously been published in The Bangalore Review. Find her on Twitter at @lauracsmith79.