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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Free. For the Moment
by Emma Spires

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Her laughter was my light, her smile my warmth, yet her happiness was my sadness. This was her precious moment, dreams of freedom were no longer unattainable abstract images plaguing her thoughts in hours of darkness and light. But soon, she would once again become captured by sorrow, imprisoned in a heat of chaotic frustration.

I sat on the beach, listening to the waves lapping softly and rhythmically on the shore, as though speaking in a secret code to the earth. I watched her. I listened to her. The more I listened, the more I became aware that I need not look at her, I didnít need to be aware of her continuous pain to understand how happy she now was. Sugary giggles, a sigh of content; a stream of sweet music advancing from an ocean glittering like a thousand dancing diamonds. The sea was her playground, the childhood she craved, the fun she was forced to forfeit. Water gave her the freedom that land could not provide.

I pushed my palms beneath the sandís surface, until my fingers found the cold wet under-layer that lurked deceptively beneath the soft, warm, white powder. Overhead, the sky melted into an innocent pink as the afternoon slipped away, and the presence of night time crept into the air, creating a shadowy chill that bit at bared flesh. Wisps of cloud hung suspended in the sky, as the sun glared a distant shade of red, and dipped into the ocean.

A lulling silence blanketed the beach like a silken veil, providing a canopy of tranquil serenity; it was pierced momentarily by the screeches of a clan of darting seagulls. They rose, soaring in the sky, dancing in perfect harmonious movement with one another, as though a staged performance for those on land.

Grace encompassed her being as she swam, streamlined and elegant, moving with the waterís ripples. The ocean supported her body, lifted her, surrounded her; faithful and loving, encouraging her trust. Her long auburn hair swayed softly behind her, echoing her bodyís movements. But her vibrant content was unable to penetrate my icy dullness. Oblivious onlookers would never be aware of this young girlís reality unless they followed her trail of possessions up the beach; pink shoes strewn into the sand, a small white floral dress that danced with the soft breeze. Her wheelchair, still and unoccupied, abandoned on the land. Here, in the water, she had no need for it. Here, she was free.

On land, in her wheelchair, she wasnít the same. Joy and enthusiasm was replaced by an aching dullness. The happiness that emitted from her being as she moved like a mermaid was a reflection of goodness and purity. She occupied an innocence that was so dangerously vulnerable to the evils of the world.

Darkness soon descended; a bleak velvet curtain falling around the beach. And I was thankful. Thankful for the darkness, for it would mask the expression that would seep into my face as I saw the look of misery emerge on her young delicate features when she knew it was time to leave the oceanís comforting embrace. It was a look that would break my heart, and was why her happiness would always be my sadness.

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