Written for a contest in 2013, this didn’t place but it was still a new and fun experience.
Wind blew, heavy and long gusts carrying the smell of a coming summer from deep within the ocean depths. The water reflected a setting sun. Sky and sand were cascaded with an ochre hue. It had traveled from shore to beach to the wood of the old beach house deck. A single beach house in a long spanning beach front, covered by old plant life and cobwebs, creaking with the wind.
Natalia moved carefully onto the weathered panels, each step protested by time. Sand granules slid between her toes and clung to her skin and the wind picked up her long golden hair, tossing each tress wildly around her face. A chill made the hair on her arms stand. She moved cautiously to a splintered and bowed chair rocking on its own and taking her hand to the rear of her dress, she sat – almost dropped – into the seat.
A breath escaped her lips. “The wind is too cold,” she muttered to herself, crinkling an envelope between her fingers. Her eyes fell to the white folds and carefully she lifted the back.
Running her fingers along the edge of the yellow letter nestled neatly within, Natalia forced a smile. Seagulls called out from pillars in the sand and the waves stretched towards the stairs of her home with each return to land. Her heart settled, a tiny ache agitating her. Spiders had made their home on the railing next to her. She looked at the web, clinging dearly to the frame as it was thrown about in the breeze.
“I sat there when four, five even. It was my favorite place. You could see the fireworks so clearly on the Fourth of July, it was as if they were shot into the sky just for me,” Natalia spoke. She followed the memory with her eyes, smiling softly. “My dad said I would fall, but I never did. He always held onto my back.”
Leaning back in the chair, it cracked and creaked with the floorboards, startling her from where she sat. Natalia looked at the floor with wide green eyes and pressed the spot with her toes. She had felt it bow beneath her. The natural wood color was faded and scratched. It had once been a beautiful, almost peach shade and now it was grey and looked as if it would splinter at any moment.
“Twenty years can be so cruel.” She knelt down, her hand still wrapped loosely around the envelope. Her empty fingers traced the air above the wood. “I dropped a can of soda here once. Somewhere,” she said with a chuckle, looking about. “Dad built this house; he had just finished staining the floor with my brother. Mike was so angry that he had to work!”
The smile on Natalia’s face turned sour. She lifted herself from the ground and shrugged her shoulders before readjusting the straps of her yellow sundress. She moved cautiously off the porch and into the sand. The plants around the front of the house were overgrown and brown. They were nothing like she remembered and it made her grimace.
“Mother would cry if she saw these,” she uttered, touching the dried leaves. “She’d spend the first three days out here, just picking weeds and trimming plants. She never added anything colorful, just these green … things. I even helped her plant a Palm Tree, here-“. The spot was empty. “It must have died…”
Natalia breathed in deep and held it until she turned and faced the home. Soft yellow paint had faded and chipped away. Brown bamboo shingles had cracked or fallen and the gutter clung by a single screw. The deep blue shutters were gone and the windows were made of plastic sheeting now.
In the midst of a strong wind and stronger waves, she could close her eyes and still hear the sounds of her mother humming, knees in the sand, digging in the garden. Her father and brother playing checkers on the porch and their small Pug, Rocky, yipping at the Seagulls that landed too close to the house. It was a warm and beautiful home, always brimming with the smell of freshly baked pie.
“The wind’s strong.” Natalia rubbed her arms to settle the goose bumps that had crept up on her. “Hurricanes still happen a lot out here.”
She dug her toes into the sand and returned to the chair on the porch. Daring the floor to give way, she rocked back in it again and eased into a slow rhythm. Breathing in the salty air once more, Natalia reached into the small pocket of her dress and pulled a pen out. She bit down on the pen, flipping the envelope over and lifting the flap. She pulled a photo from it and smiled.
“We took this that year, right in front of our house. That morning was so warm, Mom promised us popsicles for lunch.”
Natalia slid the picture back into the envelope and turned it over. Pulling the pen free of its cap, she set the deep black ink to the crisp white paper and wrote: Dear new family, please love this house like we did.
She set the envelope in the door frame and pulled it tightly shut. She stepped from the porch and dug her feet into the sand once more. Smiling, Natalia ran up the hill behind the home and embraced her husband before they climbed into their car and drove away, the house fading away in the rearview.