Time To Go Home
Alex dug his feet into the white sand. It burned, but he didn’t care. Not so long as the waves crept closer, licking away the sand from beneath his toes and easing the sting. He waited for the water to chill his body, but even the ocean was bath-water warm.
The wind stroked his hair. Like his mother’s good night kiss, it blew across his cheeks. The tears came in earnest, then. Oh how he missed his mom. His dad. Even his baby sisters. So what if his friends back home would call him a girl for crying, he wanted them back.
“Stupid truck driver!” Alex shouted in the wind. He raised his fist and beat the air. “Stupid truck,” Alex sobbed until his lungs hurt. When the tears slowed, he ducked his head and sniffed away the last of them.
“I won’t cry, Dad, not anymore.” He swiped his arm across his face.
Lifting his head to the sky, he watched the light dim as the sun ducked behind the clouds. Maybe his sisters were jumping on top of their fluffy wisps. Alex pictured his mom scolding Anna and Mariah, as she urged them into bed. She tucked the girls in between layers of cloud dust. And then she brushed her lips across their foreheads, said a goodnight prayer, and told them to have sweet dreams. Waving from the edge of the cloud room, his father blew them a kiss and warned them about bed bugs. But the girls knew better; they’d giggle at daddy’s warning before they snuggled deeper into their snow-white beds.
“Good night,” he whispered to them. For a moment he imagined them waving back at him, blowing good night kisses to earth. His heart ached for the want he had to join them.
“I miss you,” he said. “I even miss Mariah’s milk slurps and Anna’s bad jokes. Momma, I’d even clean my room for a year, if you’d come back.” He struggled against the lump that clawed at his throat.
A hand slipped across his shoulder. He glanced up and saw the wrinkled face of his grandma smiling down at him. Red splotches marred her cheeks and red lines streaked her eyes which seemed more watery than usual.
“Sweetheart,” she said, “let’s get you inside, yes?” She gave his shoulders a squeeze.
“But Grandma, I don’t want to leave them. . .”
Alex gazed into the blackening sky as the sun fell into the ocean. The water at his feet finally cooled, sending a chill through his bones.
Grandma’s fingers slid over his suit coat, making a scratchedy sound. He felt her sigh through her fingertips.
“I miss them, too, darling.” She crossed her arm over his chest and rocked him while they watched the stars come out. “Your daddy loved to watch the stars when he was your age.”
Big, round eyes craned back to see her face. “He did?”
“Yes, darling, he did. Why I had to holler nearly every night to get him to come inside.”
“Did he get into trouble?”
A laugh rumbled through her chest. “A bit. Why do you get into trouble?”
He brought his eyes to the toe he jammed into the sand. “Once. I took Ana’s blanket and used it as a parachute. It didn’t open, but it did get muddy. Momma washed it up, but Ana still got mad. Dad told me not to use her blanket as a parachute anymore, so I used it as a tent cover instead.” He shrugged.
“Mm-hmm. You are a lot like your father, darling.”
Alex slipped from her grip and turned to face her. “I am?”
She bent down and brushed her knuckles along his cheek. “Yes, darling, you are.” She extended her hand, which he took. “Why, there’s a little bit of each of them in here,” she said, poking his chest.
“Will they stay there?”
“Yes, darling, I promise.”
“Grandma, I’m cold.” He shivered for good measure.
She nodded again as she led him up the beach and over the sand hill. It was time to go home.