The Beach Scene
The night sky was as black as coal. It was cold and unforgiving. The full moon was the only source of light for miles in any direction. It was soft and dim, but it spread across the horizon for as far as the eye could see. The steady thunder of the agitated ocean roared quietly all around. The many waves rolled fiercely toward the shore before overcoming themselves to gently reach as far inland as they could. The strong breeze whipped spontaneously in circles and then raced down the shore to repeat its jolly reel.
Conner slowly strolled down the beach, lost in thoughtlessness. He closed his golden eyes and allowed the activity to enshroud him. He parted his lips just enough to breath in the salt that weighted the air. He shivered ever so slightly as the wind danced up his pant legs and carelessly ruffled his sandy-brown hair. The fingers of the sea just managed to clasp the very edge of his wingtip shoes. They fearfully retreated to his left, wallowing in defeat, but only for a moment.
Conner was the only soul to be seen. He walked and walked. He had no idea how long he had been walking or how far. He had no idea when he would stop, and it didn't matter. He just had to keep walking…listening…breathing.
A particularly fierce gust of wind blew his dull tie in front of his face. The tan cloth smacked his ear and then continued to flap around his head in a pattern-less movement. His jacket quickly joined in the taunting dance. He hadn't realized how much he had ached inside for his home, how much he had really missed his ocean. He felt a subtle pain brewing inside him, a sudden fear of having gone too far to belong here again. And yet…he felt such a relief. He was home.
Deep in the recesses of his mind, the sharp cry of a gull in the distance ahead echoed dully as if from a dream. Conner was stirred from his hibernation just enough to look up into the dark sky above him. He didn't see any bird, but he knew the call. It had been a gull, hadn't it? Slipping back into his mindless revere, Conner ignored the source-less noise. Aimlessly, he walked on.
Abruptly, Conner was jerked into reality as his face hit the ground...hard. The unique taste of sand filled his mouth, and the coarse grains stung his eyes. Spitting and sputtering, he knelt on his hands and knees. "What in the world!?" he choked out, doing his best to get rid of the wet sand. But sand isn't easy to rid oneself of.
"Mmmhummuhhuh!" a soft voice moaned. Conner whirled around to see that he'd tripped over a young girl.
"Are you alright?" he asked, chiding himself for not paying more attention, "I'm so sorry." He leaned over to help her up, only to see that thin, white ropes bound her hands and feet securely. He saw that she had been so tightly gagged that the white cloth bit into the corners of her mouth. Another cloth protruded from within her mouth. She whimpered, her eyes pleading for him to help her.
Quickly, he attempted to release her from the ropes, tugging and pulling at them, but to no avail. He moved to her gag, but the knot there was just as impossible. That his fingers were slippery and wet only made the struggle worse. A muzzled whimper of despair escaped from the girl.
"No, don't give up," Conner spoke quietly, "I'll figure it out."
Suddenly, a freezing cold wave hit Conner and he realized that the girl was shivering. She'd been sitting here on the edge of the shoreline. Had she been left to drown?! Conner squatted in front of the girl and put his arms around her.
"Don't be afraid," he whispered, "I'm just going to get you away from this water." He lifted her up and carried her inland. Gently, he set her down in a sitting position. He took his jacket and draped it around her shoulders. "Better?" he asked. Stunned, she nodded slightly, never taking her eyes off of him.
"What happened to you?" he mumbled to himself, thinking of how to free her. He stood up and began to pace. As soon as he turned away from her, he heard the panic in her muffled yell. He turned around to face her again. "I'm not going to leave you," he said, "I'm just thinking." He slipped off his socks and shoes, and rolled up his pants. He knew there would be permanent wrinkles in them, but he didn't care. He dug his toes into the gritty sand; that had always helped him to think more clearly before.
He continued to pace back and forth in front of the girl, deep in thought. Suddenly, a stabbing sensation raced up his leg. "Oww!" he bellowed. Looking down, he noticed the protruding shell that he'd stepped on. Instantly, he realized exactly what he needed to do. He frantically began to search around him, clawing at the dark sand. A moment later, he found just what he knew that he would. Smiling triumphantly, he picked up a somewhat small and very sharp piece of broken shell. It was rough and worn from its long life on the beach. This particular kind of shell, he knew, was often found broken, but it was tough. This shell had outlasted the waves, the sand, storms, and pesky tourists. It was a conch shell, commonly found on the beaches here.
Conner ran to the girl and knelt behind her. He used the peach-colored shell to saw through the strong ropes that tied her wrists. It was slow going, but she was patient. Finally, he loosed the ropes enough so that he could pull them from the girl's wrists. He moved to her mouth, being careful not to cut her cheek as he pulled at the gag with his makeshift knife. When the gag fell away, he cautiously pulled out the cloth that had been stuffed into her mouth. She sat dazed as he cut away the ropes binding her ankles.
The girl gasped for a full breath of air. Taking Conner's hand, she slowly stood, suppressing a violent shiver as the breeze whipped around her. She was tall for a kid. She can't be more than seventeen, Conner thought. Her brown hair had soft, natural banana curls, and the salty air had caused it to frizz. She had dark bluish-green eyes that were hard to see in the moonlight. They were very similar to the color of the ocean at night.
"We've got to get you into something dry or you'll be sick for months," Conner started down the beach, expecting her to follow. He looked around to see if he would recognize anything that would help them find their way back to the small town that they called civilization on this beach. The girl didn't follow him. Conner turned around to face her, "Come on, we've got to get you out of here. I think I know of an old house that we can go to. It belongs to a friend of mine." When she still didn't come, he tried again, "Please, I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to get you somewhere safe."
The girl cocked her head to the side, "Conner?"
Conner froze. He gathered his words and spoke in a bewildered tone, "Do I know you?"
The girl didn't respond. Conner repeated his question, taking a step closer. She shook her head quickly, backing away in fright, "No, I…I thought you were someone else. I'm sorry. Thank you for all of your help. I should go." Flustered, the girl scolded herself. How would he remember her? She'd been a mere child when they'd last seen each other. He had never known how much she had idolized him, and now was not the time to let him know. If he didn't remember her, she wasn't going to say anything about it.
Conner thought it was a little strange, but he wasn't going to just let her wander off on her own because of it, "Where will you go?" She had no answer and they both knew it. He sighed, "Come with me." Hesitantly, the girl stepped toward him. They started down the beach, continuing in the same direction that Conner had been going to begin with.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Rachel," she responded quietly. They walked slowly. Conner decided not to ask what had happened to the girl. Instead he gazed out at the sea. Conner slowly smiled. The water was shining with what he'd always called "sparkles" as the moon struck the ocean at just the right angle to see them. It was easiest to see the sparkling wave tops at either sunrise or sunset, but the full moon was doing a fine job now.
"What are you smiling at?" asked Rachel softly. She studied his face intently.
He shook his head slowly, looking down at his hands. "This is my home," he sighed contentedly, glancing out again at the majestic sea, "and I've missed it so…"
"Why did you leave?" asked the girl.
Conner considered the question. He had been foolish to leave, but he'd wanted out. He'd dreamt of fame and fortune, of a life of business. That's why he'd gone straight to New York as soon as he'd turned eighteen. He had been prosperous and he had fulfilled his "dream". But it wasn't what he'd needed. It had taken him twelve years to realize that. Today, he'd dropped everything he had worked so hard for and driven straight to North Carolina. Before he could answer aloud, Rachel gasped, grabbing his arm and pointing excitedly out to sea.
"Do you see it?" she whispered, the faintest smile on her lips. Conner glanced out to where she was pointing. Almost directly under the moon was a single dolphin. It was all alone, as opposed to being with his family, as dolphins usually were. He jumped in large arcs, but so very slowly that it was almost torture to watch. Pods of dolphins were always so cheerful and heart-warming it seemed. This poor, lonesome dolphin seemed drained of all his energy. His gray skin fit his slow progress. He didn't seem lost…only misplaced. It was a gloomy and sorrowful sight.
But somehow, it was majestic. The dolphin never wavered, never gave up. He was determined to go wherever it was that he was going. He went in the same direction, never turning to the left or to the right. He continued on his way, slowly though it was. His perseverance was awe-inspiring. While to Rachel, the sight was simply rare and beautiful, to Conner it was much more than that. He felt that he understood the lone creature heading for home. Finally, he tore his eyes from the scene. He turned to Rachel, nodded…and together they kept walking.
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