Thirty-SixthMature

THIRTY-SIXTH

Her toes curled as her feet sank into the warm sand. She blinked, her blue eyes gazing out at the water. The wind blew and she closed her eyes. She heard the seagulls caw above and smiled. This felt nice, peaceful.

“Mommy, look!”

The little girl’s voice broke her concentration. Opening her blue eyes, Tessa turned her head as her daughter came running at her, her big, green eyes wide and bright. “Daddy and I built a sandcastle!”

“You did?” Tessa smiled, crouching down. “I bet it’s fantastic.”

Elise grinned and tugged on her braid. “It’s the best,” she replied. “Come see.” She wrapped her hand around her mother’s and pulled her forward.

The sandcastle was well away from the water. Tessa’s husband, Aaron, was trying to make a moat when they arrived. She chuckled. Since she had known him, Aaron had always liked building things, it didn’t matter what it was.

“Hi,” he said as she sat beside him. He leaned in and kissed her softly. “Got any gull shit on you?”

“Aaron!” Tessa hissed.

“Oh, sorry,” he murmured, glancing at Elise, who was too busy with her side of the castle. “She didn’t even hear me,” he assured his wife.

Tessa merely grumbled at him.

“Doesn’t it look good?” Aaron asked.

She nodded. “Elise told me it was the best.”

“Well, it is.” He gave her a lopsided grin, his shaggy brown hair windswept. “Do you see any other sandcastles around here?”

She shook her head. It wasn’t even the lack of sandcastles that suddenly worried Tessa. It was the lack of people. It was just the three of them, sitting in the sand, the sun beating down on their backs, warming them.

Suddenly, Tessa’s chest tightened and she squeezed her fist against her body, closing her eyes. “This is wrong,” she whispered. “What’s going on?”

Aaron’s lips twisted. “What do you mean?” He continued to create, barely looking at her.

Her eyes opened and widened. “Where is she?”

Her husband shook his head. “Where’s who?”

She bit her lip, halting the urge to cry out, and looked around. “Where is Elise, Aaron? You were supposed to be watching her!”

“Oh,” was all he said.

Tessa bolted up, almost lost her balance, and started down the beach. She called out for Elise. When she had come to a familiar looking dock that outstretched over the water, she knelt down, her hands wrapped around the wood.

She looked down and screamed.

A hand touched her trembling shoulder and a voice said, “Look closer.”

Before she could even utter another word, the scene dissolved. It changed so fast that all she felt like she was being catapulted somewhere. When her body finally stilled itself, she was thrown back into something.

Lights of every color slithered by as she blinked, her eyes adjusting, her brain remembering. Rain thundered down on the hood of the car and someone wailed from the backseat — Elise.

“It’s okay!” Tessa shouted, turning her head. “It’s going to be okay, baby.”

Aaron was shouting at the traffic before he tried to stop the car and it fishtailed. It whipped all the way around on the street.

“It’s okay.” He smiled at them.

A horn blared but the truck slammed into them, not having time to stop. The vehicle hit the driver’s side, glass and blood everywhere. When Tessa managed to crawl out of the wreckage, she heard the sirens and saw a figure crouched next to her, their green eyes full of worry.

“Stay still,” the voice murmured. “We need to get you to a hospital.” The stranger lifted her and she felt warmth against one side of her body. “What’s your name?”

“Tessa,” she whispered. Just before she lost consciousness, she heard his name.

Alex.

The End

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