The morning of the day she died; she knew. Still in her nightdress, she asked to be wheeled down to the ocean. Fused hips refused to walk but muscle memory pulled her through the water, silk ribbons flowing. Slow strokes with the sun on her face. Salt-chapped lips, crescent mooned. Children shrieked as the surf took bites out of the beach.
As an infant, still wobbly on chunky legs she’d pluck pebbles, clasped between uncoordinated fingers and throw them into shallow waves. Watch the ripples eaten. As freckles sprouted, her body lengthened. She’d paddle up to her knees, surrounded by honeycombs of light. Full of incomprehensible games, she’d sprinkle sand. Feeding the sea. A floating feast. Grains caught on currents and dragged down.
By the age of seven she’d learnt how to swim, pushing off from the rippled seabed with puckered toes, slipping through grasping seaweed. The water bit her skin, drank her sweat.
Teenaged, she’d shared saliva and body warmth with the cooling sand, late into the evenings. Spilled tears and cheap beer off harbour walls, a rib cage around the bay, the ocean a bottomless belly beyond. Then she shared blood. The brine lapped sea snakes of russet.
Grown up, she’d moved away, but it didn’t last long. It couldn’t. She was the tide. Always returning.
She rose with each wave. Up and down. The swell, mountains of memories, rolled over one another. Sunburnt shoulders, sand beneath nails, shells pressed into palms. She remembered feeding the sea. Up and down. With stiffening limbs, she turned to float on her back. Her last sigh seized by the savoury spray.
Caught on currents and dragged down. She was swallowed whole.
Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her flash has been published by Sledgehammer, Perhappened, Bandit, Reflex fiction
, Briefly Zine, and Ellipsis among others. Balancing too many projects at once is her natural state. Tweets @poor_and_clean.