I met Anna in the sweet shop when I was ten. She had just moved to the town with her single mom and every boy in my class had talked nonstop about her. At the age of ten, the boys in Robbin were already thinking about girls in a different way than simply gross kids that were off-bounds.
She had stood in front of the large barrel that held thousands of assorted candies. Her dark blond hair was tied back into a strict ponytail, but her features were made more prominent. Even at the age of ten, Anna had been beautiful. I had stayed in front of the door, blocking the entrance and exit from many of the kids that loved to spend their chore money on the many sweets offered. I must have been a sight, standing there with slightly faded overalls and flyaway blond hair. My grey eyes had nearly popped out of their sockets when Anna'd turned to show me her grand smile.
Beside me now stands an almost exact replica of Anna, her curiosity shines through her mother's bright eyes. I brought her to where her mother had first proved to me that she had noticed me, back to Eddy's diner, and now, to my favorite part of Robbin: the beach.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" I ask and she squints her eyes against the sun.
"It's cold," she says, her voice so low that I can barely hear it over the gusts of wind that the swells are bringing in.
"I know," I say. "You're mother used to say the same thing."
I feel her tense beside me and I quickly move on from the subject. "Do you want to see something?"
She nods and I smile as we walk across the cool sand towards a partially hidden section of the beach. The sun does nothing to warm us and as we reach our destination, the sand dune that nearly covers the spot offers a chilly shadow.
"Look," I say as I bend down towards a small pool of water. "These little guys make it through winter, spring, summer, and fall. Amazing isn't it?"
I watch her slowly bend down beside me and feel a satisfied grin stretching my face. Her small fingers graze the top of the small pool and I can almost hear her thinking.
"Why did you let me stay?" She doesn't look up at me as she asks this honest question.
"At first, I didn't know what to think or do." I say while thinking through my answer. "Then my wife helped me see that I have made enough mistakes in my life and if I let you go then I would never forgive myself."
Our silence is surrounded by the clashing of the waves and the raving seagulls overhead.
"I'm sorry for how I reacted at first, I was surprised and my mind went blank the moment that I noticed how much you looked like Anna." I add in one swift breath.
"I understand," she says before smiling up at me. Tears appear from the corners of her eyes. She is so delicate, but I can tell that she has seen more than she should have at sixteen. "Thank you, Burt."
Before I can answer, her tiny hands begin to wipe the tears off of her cheeks. I put an arm around her small back and silently promise to protect her, Anna's daughter; my daughter, from the world's cruel eyes. We sit beside the small pool by the cool ocean until the sun is cut in half by the horizon. Asteri's eyes never stray from the starfish, sea snail, and sea urchin that invade the small area of water.