The guilt was too much to bear, she’d said, just before heading off across the hardened sand, splashing her feet through the sloshing tide without a word to us, without ever looking back. She’d said it to our aunt while shaking her head, making it obvious that she’d never believe otherwise.
Aunt Deidre stood as if to go after her, then glanced back at us in resignation. I watched the big sigh escape her chest, saw her bite her lip as lines creased between her eyes. I wanted to ask what my mom meant; I wanted to know what guilt was. But I never got the chance to find out.
“Come on, Jeremy. Let me help you work on that sand castle.”
I stared out at my sister who’d already abandoned our project, now searching for some unnamed, yet to be claimed object beneath the water’s glistening surface. She teetered back and forth on a loose rock, singing some silly girl song. I’d considered joining her over there before that.
“Um, okay,” I shrugged. I didn’t notice later whenever the breeze rose as the sun began to set. I only noticed the swirling sand that blew up into my face from it. Other than losing its top layer, our castle was looking pretty impressive – especially since it’d been constructed via exchange of very few words and with my aunt obviously distracted, periodically glimpsing down the beach.
“Where’s Mom?” Cindy finally asked, pulling her spindly legs in beneath her ganglier-looking arms, a pronounced chill traveling down her spine.
Aunt Deidre stood and brushed the loose sand from her legs. “Let’s get up to the condo. She’ll be along shortly.” She tried adding a smile to be more convincing.
If shortly was three days later, then Aunt Deidre was telling the truth. Mom showed up in different clothes than the ones she’d been wearing on the beach. I peeked through the curtain, watching her long uncovered legs swing from a convertible car door. Her shorts looked like they’d lost 4 inches from any we’d ever seen her wearing. I didn’t miss her eyes nervously shifting from beneath her large sunglasses or the scarf covering her head. The man who had given her a ride back to our place from wherever she’d been didn’t look like he cared all that much about saying good-bye. But when Aunt Deidre stepped out on the porch with a phone in one hand, her other hand over the receiver and a frantic look on her face, I noticed Mom get in a big hurry to get back to us all. Cindy and I barely got to say a quick hi to Dad before she hung up from his call.
Mom seemed a lot happier that night than she’d been in a long time, especially when she whispered in a sing-song voice to Aunt Deidre at the dinner table that Dad had been held up at work for another week. What was it with girls and singing, anyway? Whatever it was, Mom’s added wink told me that apparently, whatever guilt was, she’d found a new way to bear it.
The Speakeasy is getting ready to go on summer vacation.
But before it does, there’s one Final (get it, Final…exam?) challenge to take – #111:
It includes a creative writing assignment prompted by the image included above, along with the 1st line provided by Karen: “The guilt was too much to bear.” Oh, and a 600-word limit.
Come join in the fun by writing, reading, voting…or heck, why not all 3 for extra credit?!