Secrets That Children Keep (Book 2 of the Secrets on the Walls series)

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Chapter 23

1839

Ocean waves caressed the sand and stole my footprints from the shore. The sun dipped into the water and its glow melted off like golden paint. The remaining light caught onto Hugh’s gray eyes and I looked at them with admiration. We walked together by the shore for some time in silence.

The seashell necklace he had given me dangled about and I touched it with much fondness. The swirling design and color of the shell was a stark contrast to my mourning dress. Though it had been a month since Jonathan passed, I was still bound by social standards to a colorless gown. I lifted the hem of my dress so sand wouldn’t get caught in it, and I walked barefoot so I could feel the sand’s warmth.

“Sometimes this world can be so beautiful,” I said, looking over to the golden ocean. “Thank you for taking me here, I needed time away from everything.”

“You’re very much welcome,” Hugh agreed, “have you ever been to the beach before?”

“This is my first time, actually,” I admitted. “It’s silly, I know, but I grew up fairly sheltered, I didn’t go out much unless I begged to the point I got on my parents’ nerves,” I chuckled a bit pathetically to myself.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be, it’s fine,” I said. “Things have changed. . .I made a new life with you.” I smiled and turned back to the ocean. The ocean gently tossed and turned like fabric over an undetectable spinning wheel underneath. I imagined the spinner having vigilant fingers, working her way to create a magnificent masterpiece to surpass all other works of nature. The sun attempted to compete as he melted into the horizon and showered it with a wealth of color. Purple, orange, gold and blue mixed together so well that it was a shame that it was only short lived.

“I wish I could create something as beautiful as this,” I mumbled, but said loud enough for Hugh to hear. “No, I need to. . .I need to set my mind apart from that dreaded past of mine. But it’s hard. It’s hard, Hugh. . .”

“I know.” Hugh drew me into his arms and I rested my head under his chin. “You will get through this, Emma. I know you will. Think of the wonders that you want to create, and it’ll come to you. The beach, for instance. . .think of that.”

I nodded and broke from Hugh’s embrace to focus back on the ocean. I bent down and lent my hand into the water. It was cool to the touch, but a comforting sensation. I wanted to just run into the water, strip away this heavy dress and get lost in those golden waves. I wondered if Hugh thought the same. . .running into the water as well.

No one would find out, we were the only two on the private beach, and I wanted it to stay that way. It was like we were the only two in the whole world. The beach was ours. The sea was ours. The sky was ours. In the brink of twilight, everything was just for us. However, there was still a lingering in the back of my head, wanting to pull me out of the water and set me straight. I couldn’t fully let go of the past. I couldn’t.

“The beach,” I repeated, keeping my hand in the cool water. “Yes, I’d like that. . .I’d like that very much. It’ll be perfect, but. . .is perfection even possible?”

“I believe you can do it.” Hugh picked my hand out of the water and gazed down at the engagement ring that I still had on. Jonathan’s ring. Hugh looked so disappointed that I still had it on me. He stared into my eyes. My blue eyes met his. The sun’s light was still lost in those hazy pools.

“But you have to let go first,” he added. Hugh didn’t sound angry as I thought he would. Rather, he remained calm just like the gentle caressing of the waves at my feet. He released my hand and I traced over the extravagant diamond that didn’t shine as much as it used to.

“I know,” I agreed in a whisper. I slipped off the ring and a small weight was lifted, but the weight in my heart didn’t cease. My heart ached when I examined the ring, but even when I bent down with the ring just floating in my palm as the water balanced it, I couldn’t release it.

But then, a wave swept in and brushed it from my palm. The ring disappeared within the melted gold and it was now an addition to the spinner’s work. The spinner continued to spin as if nothing had occurred, but for me, it was if time had stopped and I was standing there, staring at that water, wondering if the ring was still being carried off or if it was sinking into the sand.

“Emma?”

Hugh had lent his hand out, and I gratefully took it. “Let’s head back.”

I nodded and we strolled back towards the beach house. The house sat on a hill with a small garden at its side. Plants nestled on the windowsills, and flowery vines draped over the white stones. White curtains covered the windows except for one. I could vaguely spot the chandelier made from seashells within it.

I curled my hand around the necklace and smiled at Hugh who smiled back at me.

“You can stay here as long as you want,” Hugh said.

“I’d love that, thank you.”

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