In 2011, I tried my hand at flash fiction. Bethany liked the story, so I framed it for her and gave it to her for her birthday a little more than four years ago. Here’s the story, entitled “Hope.”
He closed his eyes for the final time and then he saw them.
They were at a beach. One was playing on the sand, the other in the water just off the shore. He was sitting on a chair just beyond them.
The one in the water called out to him. “You’re here!” A girl’s voice. A girl, he thought. Her form was bright and blurry, but as she approached him, he could make out what he figured to be her hair: fine, down to the middle of her back; black like he always imagined it; black, just like it was in his dreams. “We’ve been waiting for you,” she said.
He smiled at her. “I’m here.”
She held out her hand and he did the same. But instead of shaking his hand, she wrapped her fingers around just one of his.
“I’ve been waiting too,” he said.
“We know,” she replied, turning towards the water. “Come on.” She tugged on his hand. “Come play with us.”
“No, no. I think I’ll just watch,” he said. “That’s enough for now.”
“Don’t be so silly. You didn’t wait all this time just to watch us!”
“No, of course not.” He looked up at her face then gestured to the empty chair next to him with a tilt of his head. “But I think it would be right to wait.”
The girl looked at the empty seat. “Right,” she said. She placed her hands on her hips and looked back at him. “Well that would be right, wouldn’t it?” She gave a singular, emphatic nod. “Okay, we’ll wait for her too, but I’m going to go back in and keep him company.”
Him, he mouthed. A boy. “Okay. Please — go play. I’ll watch from here. Have fun.”
“We will!” She started back towards the water.
He watched her for a moment and then, as if remembering to give her a message, he called out after her: “I love you.”
The girl slowed to a stop, then turned around. “I know,” she replied. “You said that every day.”
“I did.” He nodded. “I did.”
She ran back towards the water, but paused at her brother to whisper something into his ear.
The boy looked up then turned to him and waved. “Look!” he shouted, pointing to the sand castle in front of him.
“Wonderful,” he said in response. “You’re wonderful.”
The girl ran back to the water and dove in as a small wave settled onto the shore. A moment later she stood, rising up out of the water, the light from above catching the droplets that clung to the edges of her form.
She arched her back and raised her arms to the sky: stretching, smiling, shimmering in the light.