Crystal sat under the pier with her bare feet in the sand holding her daughter and watching the tide slowly come in. The sun was beginning to hang low and orange on the horizon above the sea and the water got darker as the evening came down like a heavy curtain. She watched her son play in the waves. He would chase the receding water, yelling and waving his arms and pretending that the ocean was retreating before him. Then he would turn and run squealing the other way, being chased himself by the next incoming wave.
Above them, on the boardwalk, the summer evening was quickly coming alive with people and music. The rides were active again and she heard people laughing and screaming with joy. Tonight it was good to be alive, she thought. Crystal smiled. She knew it was not always so, certainly it had not been for a long time, but for right now everything was going to be OK.
Rachel sat on her knees and swung her arms back and forth deliberately swatting her mother with each twist. They had been there for hours and the child was bored. Brock loved the water, and it could be difficult to drag him away from the beach. She knew this from experience, and decided to let him tire himself out. Rachel could learn to be patient.
Life had not always been so good as it was right now in this moment sitting on the beach watching her son play in the water, and it would surely not always be so. She felt her mind wandering to other places, darker thoughts, and she made herself come back to the sun setting over the water.
She would not allow herself to remember the disgusting apartment they had been evicted from days before, a filthy nightmare – and she couldn’t even afford that. She made herself forget the pile of overdue bills that were stuffed into the glove box of her rusted old car. She would not allow herself to think about what would happen in the next few days when the children grew bored with moms new game and decided that sleeping in the car was not so fun anymore.
It got darker and the boardwalk became louder above them. Rachel complained that she wanted to go home. Crystal shushed the child and looked back to Brock. He was slowing down finally. He must be tired now, she thought. He would sleep good tonight. They all would.
She stood up and took Rachel’s hand. “Let’s go get your brother and we will all go home,” she said. The child ran ahead, her little feet throwing sand as she went to meet her brother at the water’s edge. Crystal walked down toward the kids, spared a look around the empty beach and knew that it would never get any better for them than this beautiful moment tonight. There was a calm feeling that accompanied her realization. The bottom is not so bad, she thought to herself. She much preferred it to falling, which she had been doing for a very long time.
She put her arms around her children and picked them up, holding one on each side. She walked out into the dark water. The kids laughed and kicked. Mom never got in the water with them to play. This was fun. She stood in the water where it was up to her stomach and quickly dunked both the kids.
She held their heads down. They did not struggle for long. Rachel was quite small and Brock was very tired from playing for so long. Crystal had always been a strong woman, stronger than her petite frame would suggest. She let their little bodies float away, and then swam out to be with them. She was uncomfortable at first. She had never learned how to swim well and so she never went in the water. She got out further quickly though, relaxed and stopped trying. Nobody on the boardwalk heard a sound and the summer night went on with the noise of the rides and the sound of people laughing and screaming with joy.