She looked at her fingers. Or rather, she looked for her fingers. They were buried in the sand, but she could feel them wriggling. They were working their way back to the surface. A cool mist hit her face and the smell of the shore was suddenly all around her. The salted air, hot dogs on a grill, and the faint smell of fish. Not the rotting smell of fish corpses as they were pecked apart by seagulls in the summer heat. But the smell of flounder and crab – raised controlled like, breaded, and served at the seaside restaurant.
A wave crashed only a few feet from her. It would not be long before the water worked its way up the wet sand where she sat. She pulled her right hand out of the sand, particles stuck to her fingernails, surrounding the edges and glistening in the sunlight as if she had dusted them with glitter. She pulled her other hand out as she fell back from her knees and rested against her thighs. The spray hit her yet again.
A child yelled as he ran by her with a football tucked into the crock of his right arm – his left held stationary by a small cast and sling. Poor kid, the summer is not fun with a broken arm. Especially not the beach. She pulled herself to her feet and walked to the crashing wave. Her foot sunk with each step, and she resisted the urge to look down at the water pooling. It was sick fascination, to see the tiny crustaceans as they congregated in the newly formed ponds for family gatherings. Her brothers used to bottle the tiny creatures and take them home. They dumped the bottles on the glass table on their old porch, and laughed as the bodies dried in the sun. The rotting seaside smell was an assault on her senses, and she always imagined they had separated tiny families. Killed mothers, brothers, and grandparents.
Her brothers laughed at her when she cried. They called her a baby. They had been right, she was too sensitive as a child.
She held her hands into the water when it crashed and washed the sand off, even though she knew they always came out almost as dirty. They would be clean enough now that she could eat a sandwich without feeling the grit of the sand between her teeth. The water was at her mid-calf now, and it almost made her shiver. She forgot how cold the water could be, even in the heat. Her aunt took her to the swimming pool at the rec center, and that was almost as cold as the ocean when the heater was broken. Which lately had been most of the time.
She slowly walked back to her aunt, enjoying the way the sand changed from heavy, thick and claiming her feet for partial burial, to the silky smoothness as it dried. The tiny crystals warmed the further from the ocean she got, and she felt eyes on her. Her aunt had allowed her to wear a bikini for the first time since she was a toddler, and it made her feel older than her sixteen years. She swayed her hips from side to side as she found her way back to her aunt’s brown beach blanket. The woman lay under a large blue umbrella, a bottle of water sweating in the sand next to her head.