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Fiction Drama Sad

As I unrolled my blue beach mat—too large for one person—on a “safe” part of the beach, my mind stumbled over all the seemingly unimportant but critical details it usually stumbled over while I meticulously set things up. Of prime importance was the time because if I missed the 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. window when the sun was still in a pleasantly warm avatar and not yet a fire-spitting demon, I would not able to see anything because my mind would be preoccupied with avoiding death by dehydration while my exposed skin would turn into a red, itchy hell.

To avoid being run over by little scampering feet, my toes being slashed off by whizzing Frisbees and my nose being smacked by a ball, I chose a corner of the beach away from the flurry of romping children and youngsters, who—devoid of pedestrian concerns like dehydration and sunburn—spent all days frolicking on the beach and splashing in the water. Blocking out the high-pitched shrieks and the excited yells was easy as I plugged in my headphones and switched to the sounds of the gently rolling swells of the ocean and water lapping at the seashore, which combined with salty tang carried by the balmy breeze to create perfect verisimilitude. 

As I was generously rubbing the sunscreen lotion on my exposed body, I realized I didn’t have much cellulite for a forty-nine-year-old woman, who has, more often than not in the past five years, chosen destructive indulgence in food and liquor to deal with her troubles. I knew when I moved to this beach town after my marriage ended, people who didn’t know me very well assumed I’m moving on after all the years of pain and suffering. They had no idea I moved here for a very specific reason and not once in the past 730 nights had I left my home during the night for anything other than work.

I drank gulps of water and settled down on the mat—our nearly tattered, old family beach mat that I couldn’t get rid of. Too many memories as fresh as firm ice cream on a sweltering day. And as sweet too, I thought as I lay down on my back and closed my eyes, the gentle sounds in my ears blocking out all the external noise.

I began the routine as I usually did, focusing my attention on my toes, willing them to relax, and in a slow cadence, moving my attention to my feet, my legs and upwards toward the rest of my body, one body part at a time. This was critical because not relaxing enough gave me a superficial experience and not the immersive lifelike sensations I was after. I focused on the warmth of the sun on my skin as I mentally traversed each body part and it relaxed me further. My breaths were deep and even, and my heart rate significantly slowed.

I visualized myself entering a monumental edifice with a glass exterior in which I caught my reflection. I was in my twenties, a healthy glow of youth and happiness on my face. I briskly entered the building and advanced toward the elevator, which opened immediately, its sensors alerted by my arrival. I entered the elevator and pressed key number 10. The keypad was inverted of course with 0 at the top and 10 at the bottom. The elevator noiselessly started descending one floor at a time and at each floor, I reminded myself of going deeper and deeper into my subconscious mind, urging myself to relax. I counted from 1 to 10, a heady feeling of weightlessness pervading my body as I drifted deeper and deeper into the depths of my subconscious mind.

On the -10th floor, the elevator door opened into a cavernous room with an enormous screen facing a comfortable couch, where I took a seat and began watching my life unfold on the screen. The day I suspected I could be pregnant, but those feelings had arisen many times before, disappointing me with false hope each time. This time though, I knew. Even before the test showed a positive, even before I saw her on the ultrasound, before I heard her heartbeat for the very first time, I knew. My daughter. She arrived hale and hearty and screaming her tiny lungs off.

I recalled her sleeping on my breast, curled up like a beautiful bud that would soon blossom into a lovely girl. Through ages of one to three, she gave me a hundred kisses—literally a hundred kisses—every day. Steadfastly loyal to me, she showed me in her little ways how much she loved me and what I meant to her. Like when I had an argument with her grandmother and she refused—adamantly refused—to eat the cake baked by her grandmother simply because Granny made Mommy sad. It didn’t matter she didn’t fully comprehend the words we spoke or the thing we argued about, she was always firmly on my side. Even though I told her to eat the cake, she wouldn’t. Her refusal to eat the cake was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

I caught a glimpse of her seventh birthday party when—it was the peak of the pandemic—her Dad and I had brought home a petting zoo. Dressed in a new blue party dress, she’d held her hand out to a yellow-headed parrot. She’d loved the albino python as it slithered on her lap and finally settled for a nap in a cosy corner. But most of all, she’d enjoyed watching the turtle with the distinctive and attractive shell markings as it walked with its webbed feet over the length of her arm.

At ten years old, she was accompanying us on hiking trips, the ardent adventurer and outdoorsy girl that she was. Her reading proficiency was advanced and she had already devoured the entire collections of Harry Potter, The Famous Five, Nancy Drew, and anything to do with adventure, dragons and beasts. By fourteen, she’d tried and enjoyed bungee jumping, rock climbing, river crossing and rappelling. She was bright, fun and kind—my golden child.

When I was in my subconscious mind, I didn’t have total control over what my mind showed me next, which was why I was trying hard to steer my thoughts away from the point they were hurtling towards. The day my world shattered. Stage 4 intestinal cancer that had already metastasized to her lungs, liver and the lining of the abdominal cavity. The image of her tiny body ravaged by surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy was seared into my mind. During the last two months of her life, I spent every waking moment with her, telling her how much her Dad and I loved her and what wonderful times we’d had with her. I made her promise to let go when the pain became unbearable for her. We made promises too. Her Dad promised he’d quit smoking, which he did after he’d been smoking every day for twenty-six years. I promised I’d open my own restaurant, which I’d been successfully running for two years now.

But we couldn’t stay together, her Dad and I. Every time I looked at him, the gaping hole in my heart began to ache for her and I could only find refuge in alcohol. Every time he looked at me, he wondered how heartless I was to move on so quickly after the death of our only child. What he didn’t know—and I could never tell him—was that to fulfil my promise to her, I had to pick myself up and go to work every day. To do that, I had to focus on things other than the gaping hole in my heart. To do that, I met my daughter every day in my subconscious mind. The sun—yes, the sun—enabled me to enter a profound state of visualization, in which I met my daughter every day. Our special time. I relived our memories and sometimes, created new memories as I pictured her graduating from high school with her gang of friends, celebrating her twenty-first birthday, marrying a wonderful man, having three babies, one of whom she named after me.

It was her last night, just a few minutes before. I was lying next to her on the hospital bed, caressing her forehead, sniffing her hair, hugging her tight, whispering words of love in her ear, going through the worst sort of pain any human being can experience. The wretched helplessness of watching your child suffer and not being able to do anything about it. I was already eyeing the eleventh-floor hospital window through which a light summer breeze was blowing in—the route I would take to follow my daughter to wherever she was headed. I didn’t want to live in a world she didn’t breathe in. I couldn’t.

“Mom,” she said, breathing raggedly.

“Yes, sweetheart,” I said, sitting bolt upright. She wasn’t much up to talking these days, understandably so.

I saw what a struggle it was for her to even lift her face to look me in the eyes, her long eyelashes forming dark shadows over her hollow cheeks.

“I’m tired,” she whispered, closing her eyes.

I knew it was time. I called out to her Dad, who was dozing on the nearby chair. He scrambled to her bedside, his eyes bleary.

“Dad,” she managed to say.

“Yes, baby,” he said, kissing her hand.

She opened her eyes and looked at me. “I love you both. I... I want you to be happy,” she said, looking at her father.

At this, her Dad broke down, covering his face with his hand.

“And Mom,” she said, looking at me. “There’s a kid in the water. He’s drowning,” she said, her voice laced with urgency. “Can you help him?”

“What?” I whispered. Her Dad didn’t seem to have heard anything. He just kept sobbing into his elbow.

Her eyes were now alert. “The kid in the water, Mom. Help him.” I heard her as clearly as if she’d spoken in my ear.

My eyes flew open. This was not usually how I woke up from deep visualization. Generally, I entered the elevator and counted from 10 to 0 and opened my eyes only when the elevator reached the ground floor.

I stood bolt upright, blood rushing to my head. There was nothing bizarre around me. Just families having the usual summer fun. My gaze skimmed over all the little kids, trying to remember if I’d seen anyone before who wasn’t around anymore. The boy in the shark swimsuit. There were two of them, identical twins around five years old. Now, I could only see one of them.

I began running towards the water, my mind scanning the surface of the waves for any sign of a child. And then I saw him, his brown hair shimmering in the sunlight, his head bobbing in and out of the water as he tried to stay afloat. I dived into the water, its pleasant coolness permeating my body, and I swam as hard as I’d done anything in my life. I swam to save the life of the child, whose parents were probably still unaware that their boy had waded into deeper waters. I swam hard because my daughter had spoken to me today, the first time in three years she’d shattered the boundary between possible and impossible, and appeared in my subconscious mind, urging me to save a life. Even now as I swam towards the drowning boy, I could hear her beseeching whisper in my ear.

Save the boy, Mom. Save him!

My concentration slipped and my airway was flooded with salty water, which I coughed out fitfully. I was close now, less than thirty feet away.

Come on, Mom! You can do it!

 I scooped the little boy in my arms and raised his head above the water. My heart sank on realizing he was unconscious. Supporting him with one hand, I swam towards the seashore as fast as my exhausted limbs allowed with my daughter urging me to go faster. Even over the lapping of the water, I could now hear terrified screams coming from the seashore, which grew louder as I rapidly approached the shore. Through my peripheral vision, I could spot a bunch of people wading into the water towards us. They grabbed the unconscious boy and quickly carried him to the seashore, where someone, presumably the boy’s father, began CPR while I collapsed on the sand, my limbs finally crumbling from exhaustion.

I glanced sideways. The child’s mother was already sobbing, clutching her other child, while the father was frantically compressing the child’s chest and intermittently checking if the boy had started breathing. My eyes were drawn to the infinite blue sky above me, splashed with amorphous white clouds. I closed my eyes and began praying to God to spare these parents the grief of losing their child. I was once again praying to a God I had turned away from in these past three years because what kind of a God allowed a sixteen-year-old to die of intestinal cancer? 

And then I heard sputtering and coughing sounds coming from the little boy. The family erupted in joy. The boy was—or was likely to be—okay. I heaved a deep sigh and closed my eyes as a tiny tear escaped my left eye. I had received my answer. The same God who saved a five-year-old boy from drowning. 




June 20, 2021 09:36

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73 comments

Melody Frost
01:12 Jun 28, 2021

This is such an amazing story. I nearly cried.

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Kanika G
12:34 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you so much, Melody. I'm glad you liked the story. :)

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Melody Frost
13:00 Jun 28, 2021

Your welcome.

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Gaurav Thakur
03:49 Jul 13, 2021

Wow....story telling in a flashback. Glad she finally found the silver lining after three years. Such stories bring hope and strengthen the belief in the ways of God 👍🏻

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Kanika G
14:29 Jul 13, 2021

Thank you so much, Jiju. :) I'm glad you enjoyed this story.

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Babika Goel
17:15 Jul 09, 2021

Well written till the end. Great work.

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Kanika G
06:19 Jul 10, 2021

Thank you so much!! :)

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Cassandra Levone
11:04 Jul 06, 2021

Nice work!! Just like all the other stories you write, this one flows well with me, and is clearly a very good story!! Way to go!!

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Kanika G
06:40 Jul 10, 2021

Thank you so much, Cass! I'm pleased you liked it. :)

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T.H. Sherlock
22:09 Jul 04, 2021

Oh my Kanika! I'm a bit behind on Reedsy at the moment and I can't believe I'm only just reading this now. The way you portray the lead character's grief is beautifully done and very believable - the descriptions of the child's potential as she grows, the promises the parents make when she falls ill and the 'gaping hole' left behind afterwards. It's heartbreaking. Each time I reread this I spot something else which makes my eyes prickle with tears. It's a powerful depiction of the pain of losing a child - but what I also like is the way it...

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Kanika G
01:40 Jul 05, 2021

Thank you so much! I'm pleased you liked this story. When I started writing this story, I realized it's not a typical story; it's more of a flashback and then a bit of action. I wasn't sure if it would come out well. I think what I wanted to show was that no matter how bleak or dire the situation (and there's nothing worse than losing a child), there's always a silver lining. We may not see it immediately and sometimes it may take us years to see it, but it's there and sooner or later, the silver lining shows itself. I think to be mentally ...

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Kevin Schenk
07:25 Jul 04, 2021

I liked the flow of the story and how it was easy to visualise myself what you had written. It pulled at my heartstrings which showed how the girl had so much character after only a few paragraphs. A nice connection created between the daydream and the now.

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Kanika G
01:30 Jul 05, 2021

Thank you so much, Kevin. I really appreciate your feedback. :)

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N K
06:23 Jul 02, 2021

This was so amazingly written! The narrative voice here was beautiful - I liked the sense of humour in the beginning and I thought it dealt really well with the trauma of losing a child. I think the visualization technique adds a really interesting dimension to the story and does a great job of depicting the character's grief. Everything was extremely realistic. And I loved the ending - it was so beautifully written! That last line really knocked the breath out of me because I think everyone can relate to that experience of having lost fait...

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Kanika G
10:12 Jul 02, 2021

I loved this comment of yours, Natania! Thank you so much for such a well-thought and articulated comment. You've really highlighted all the strengths of the story. By the way, I've just left a comment on your story - part 1. I'll check out part 2 soon. It was an interesting, engaging story. Well done!!

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Mari Swindley
04:24 Jul 01, 2021

Wow! I know I'm still a novice with my own writing, so don't expect to do more than have submissions accepted at this stage. But when I read your story, I thought 'no one has a chance against a story like this.' So very well done!

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Kanika G
09:22 Jul 01, 2021

Wow, thank you so much for the wonderful comment! I'm really flattered. Thank you! :)

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Stevie B
12:35 Jun 30, 2021

Kanika, I really appreciate your very talented writing style and have gained so much from reading your work. One of the many thing I love about these Reedsy writing prompts is how it gives us all the opportunity to learn from one another about writing.

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Kanika G
14:03 Jun 30, 2021

Hi Stevie, thank you so much. I'm very pleased on reading your comment, in fact all your comments. You're a very talented writer and it's great to know you like my work. Totally agree that Reedsy teaches us a lot through reading the work of others. I will check out your story soon. Thanks :)

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Stevie B
14:22 Jun 30, 2021

It's equally pleasurable to read your work as well as to communicate with you, Kanika G!

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Ramona Taylor
07:03 Jun 30, 2021

Such a moving, heart wrenching yet positive, and exquisite story you have written! So descriptive, it feels so real. In a short story you’ve shown the what life is like: the incredible joys, the incomprehensible suffering, the moments of glory. I loved it and I think you just might have a winner here.

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Kanika G
09:38 Jun 30, 2021

I am so pleased on reading your comment! Thank you so much for your vote of confidence. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and thought highly of it. Thank you. :)

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R. B. Leyland
09:24 Jun 29, 2021

Oh wow, this one hit me hard. I think you really nailed it with the descriptions of her attempting to deal with pain... alcohol, losing her faith, pushing her husband away. Anything to avoid that kind of agony. It sort of brought out a circle of life type vibe near to the end, though her child had gone, it enabled her to save the other. So so good, great work!

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Kanika G
01:32 Jun 30, 2021

Thank you so much, Ben, for reading the story and your wonderful comment. I know you've been busy. With this story, I wanted to explore a person dealing with a monumental loss. I also wanted to end the story positively. Thank you so much! :)

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R. B. Leyland
16:08 Jun 30, 2021

You're very welcome! It was a lovely story, despite the pain that was evident in every line. I'll always find time to read your stories, that's for sure!

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Kanika G
09:24 Jul 01, 2021

Wow, thank you so much!! :)

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R. B. Leyland
19:18 Jul 06, 2021

I've read your latest story now too, sorry for the wait!!

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Kanika G
06:38 Jul 10, 2021

Thank you so much for making time, Ben! I've been very busy at work this week. I'm now catching up with all the comments and likes here!

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01:26 Jun 29, 2021

I really appreciate this story. I was able to dive in. If possible may we have writing sessions together?

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Kanika G
01:36 Jun 30, 2021

Thank you so much. I really appreciate your comment. How would you like to work together? I will check out one of your stories soon to get an idea of your writing style. Thank you!

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Kate Winchester
14:38 Jun 28, 2021

Wow! This was fantastic!

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Kanika G
09:48 Jun 30, 2021

Thank you so much, Kate! :)

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Kate Winchester
16:13 Jun 30, 2021

You are very welcome 🤗

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Devi Anil
07:38 Jun 28, 2021

Hello Kanika, wonderful story. I loved it.can you let me know how to make our story public.I have submitted my story but it is not displayed as yours and others in the list of stories, that is to make others read what option i have to enable? Let me know if u can.

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Kanika G
10:05 Jun 30, 2021

Hi Devi Thank you for your feedback. :) The stories that are submitted are approved throughout the week. Your story might get approved on day 1 or 2, or it might get approved on day 7. But all submitted stories are reviewed and approved within one week. Your story will still be available on your profile even if it's not yet approved. Hope this helps.

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Susan Reid
00:20 Jun 28, 2021

Kanika, What a beautifully written, suspenseful, heartwarming story about a teenager's spirit reaching her mother and encouraging her to do what she couldn't for her daughter.

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Kanika G
12:28 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you so much, Susan. I really appreciate your comment. This was a thought-provoking story, for me as well. All the big questions about God and life and death - I've tried to address them here in a small way. I'm glad you liked the story. Thank you. :)

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Ruth Smith
23:33 Jun 26, 2021

What a wonderful and sad story. I feel for the mother. I love your descriptions of the meditation too, very vivid.

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Kanika G
07:07 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you so much, Ruth. Really appreciate your comment. :)

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Ravi Srivastava
05:36 Jun 26, 2021

A very gripping story, Kanika. It beautifully captures the bond between the mother and the daughter, as also the pain of losing the latter. The boundary between the "possible and the impossible" can be shattered when the feeling has been intense and the mind is uncluttered by the mundane.

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Kanika G
07:05 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you so much, sir! Really appreciate your wonderful feedback. Thanks. :)

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Palak Shah
20:47 Jun 25, 2021

This was an amazing and heartbreaking story and I loved it so much because it played with all of my emotions. Great work Kanika :))

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Kanika G
07:03 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you so much, Palak! I really appreciate your kind feedback. :)

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Anneliya Lydia
20:02 Jun 25, 2021

I love the transition from mourning a life to saving one. A beautiful story of healing and mourning while living. The questions she asks about God and the answers she finds are truly moving.

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Kanika G
07:02 Jun 28, 2021

Thank you so much! I'm pleased you liked the story and I appreciate your feedback. Thanks. :)

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23:06 Jun 24, 2021

You touched my heart with this heart-breaking story!

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Kanika G
10:39 Jun 25, 2021

Thank you so much, Mariana. Really appreciate your comment. :)

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