The searing rays of the run slowly sink beneath the horizon, making the sky change colours from a range of fiery red to deep blue. As the last ray of light slinks away, the world is shrouded, as night announces its presence.
The air is still humid, a remainder of the sun that was once shining above. Soon, my shirt sticks to my skin and small droplets of sweat carve their path down my neck. I dig my toes in the hot sand as a cool sea breeze whisks my hair.
I pull my legs in and rest my chin on my knees. A lone sailboat sails in the distance, making its way to the pier. Seagulls soar through the air, occasionally diving bravely into the sea with their beaks pointed like swords. One flies out with a small fish in its mouth.
The beach isn’t the ideal place for thinking. Or in my case, for escaping.
I never meant to storm off. I was just sick of her pretending everything was fine. Pretending like she didn’t know today was Father’s Day.
The person in question is my mother.
I love her. It feels wrong to say so after all the nights I’ve spent hiding from her alcohol induced wrath, but I love her. I just-
Sometimes it’s just too much.
A small child, about five or six, laughs as her father lifts her up into the air, spinning her around. She holds her arms out like a bird flying through the sky, her blonde hair flying behind her. I can’t help it. I smile.
A smile is supposed to be an act of joy. This smile is mixed with grief and jealousy. I hate myself for it.
I remember his warm smile and kind brown eyes that always crinkled in the corner when he smiled.
He smiled a lot.
He told me that summer was the beginning of new beginnings, although I never really got what he meant. I would always look forward to the days he brought me to the beach, with a cooler filled with lemonade nestled in ice cubes. A small laugh parts my lips as I remember the time I buried him in the sand whilst he slept. The sun fried him alive that day.
My journey here was quite simple. I slammed the door and let my legs take me wherever they pleased. I didn’t have a certain destination in mind. But I think I knew at the back of my mind where I needed to be.
And here I was.
I remember my last summer with him like yesterday. Of course I do, considering how it was the last moment of normalcy in my life. He was his normal, grinning, Dad self.
Something was wrong.
I could feel it. His eyes never lit up when he told me a story about his days out at sea. He never cracked as many Dad jokes anymore (though he still had an abundance in handy). But most importantly, he stopped being excited about life. He stopped radiating positivity and became the shell of a Dad he never was.
Only he was.
He was my father, my hero, my love.
The dad spinning the little girl sets her down, and she stumbles and falls. He doesn’t help her up, instead, turning his back on her, he looks down at something on his phone. The little girl starts to cry.
I shift my attention to the pier where I used to sit with my father every Saturday night, gazing up at the cloudless sky glittered with stars. On lucky days, we would have matching cones of dripping ice cream in our hands.
The last moment I spent with him was on that pier.
He pulled me in close, breath warm on my cheeks and pointed to a constellation up in the sky.
“Look Aura, that’s your constellation.”
I looked up and saw an array of stars, arranged to form something that could be described as two stick figures holding hands.
“My constellation is a stick figure? Couldn’t The Gods make something more interesting for Gemini?”
He laughs. “It’s the Summer Solstice constellation. And be grateful that I didn’t name you Summer.”
I laugh, but it fades away as I observe him.
His eyes travel far away and his gaze is set on the constellation. He whispers something, thinking I don’t hear it, but I do.
“I’ll miss you, Aura.”
I pretended not to hear him then. I didn’t know what to make of those words.
Now I do.
The father finally looks up from his phone and notices his daughter crying and shakes his head. He gives her an awkward pat on the back, whispers something, and leaves.
The child looks at me with tears in her eyes. I feel a tear slip out of mine too.
I hate thinking this, but it would’ve been better if he left us. Anything would’ve been better than him knowing he was going to die.
A few moments later, a car pulls up to the beach and a woman with the same blond hair as the girl steps out, her mascara smeared with what I can only assume are tears. She sees her daughter and puts a hand over her mouth, running up to the little girl and scooping her up in her arms.
She cries all the way to the car.
When they leave I feel a sense of pity for the little girl. We have the same story, only her father left voluntarily.
Mine didn’t. He saw the storm coming, brewing in the distance, inside his body. He thought he could fight it, he was brave.
But then it took hold of him, and formed into a fierce hurricane, raging and killing every sign of life inside of him. It took his soul, and named itself as cancer.
The waves on the beach grow fiercer, brushing the tips of my toes. The sky gets darker, the sun now completely gone. The temperature drops, and every time the water brushes my feet, it feels like shards of ice are pricking my skin.
I look at the notebook next to me, its pages filled with emotions that could only be comprehended by pen and ink. I grab it and stand up, not bothering to brush off the sand coating my legs.
I take one step into the water, the cold sending waves of goosebumps up my body.
Soon the water is up to my thighs. All sources of warmth are gone, and the faint shadow of the moon peeks through the dark clouds blanketing the sky.
I stand in the center as the raging waves crash around me, sprays of salt water tickling my cheeks. The sea roars and thunders, growing fiercer by the second. I felt powerful, like I had taken control over the sea.
I felt like a goddess cinched to the form of a human. This feeling is was gave me the bravery to perform the action brewing in my mind.
My hands shaking, I take the pen tucked in between the pages and scribble two sentences into one of the blank pages. I can’t tell if the salt I’m tasting is from my tears or the ocean water.
Then I tear the page from the book and throw it into the deep blue water. I watch as it slowly drifts from the air to softly land on the water. The ink bleeds. But the words are as clear as ever.
“Happy Father’s Day Dad.
Can you see me?”
Soon the water is up to my chin, continually rising higher. I felt it dripping into my ear, creeping into my mouth. I took one last breath of air, inhaling the salty smell of the ocean.
I closed my eyes.
Then I let the sea take control of me.