Bittersweet Beach

 Written in one of my classes for creative writing in 2013.

Bittersweet Beach
     It was something I avoided for months. The pain in my chest grew and devoured, the kudzu-like vines suffocating my heart at each mention, thought, or vision of her name. Countless times we’d vacationed here—laughing, spending, relaxing—yet the recent past lingered, shadowing our every move. The innocent brown eyes staring up at me had no clue why everything had suddenly gone silent. Yawning and wiggling, she stood in my lap, placing her large paws on the window’s edge to look out in wonder at her new surroundings.
      I should be excited. A first beach trip! The sand, the sun, the water, and my pudgy bulldog running through the surf. Cute overload! Pictures for grandma. A fun family memory.
      Sigh. I should be excited.
      The squeak of the driver’s door pulled me to reality, sending a ball of nausea to my gut.
      “You ready?” Brandon asked as he leaned against the door. Nodding, I pulled the now heavy handle and set Aubie out the open door to explore.
      Sniff. Sneeze. Sniff. Sniff. Scratch. She explored the sand as though it was hiding a yummy treat beneath its depths. A warm breeze hugged my body as she lifted her flat nose to smell the ocean air.
      She sniffed the new scent and tugged at her leash, pulling me to the big pool she desperately wanted to taste. Her tail wiggled and feet danced as she begged me to hurry and follow.
      I quickly handed the yanking leash to Brandon and watched the two make their way slowly toward the whispering waves. Tossing my flip flops into the floor board, my feet hit the pavement and I drifted toward a sea of memories.
      I could feel each grain between my toes as my feet sloshed through the sand. Sand flew up as the bounded toward the water, her nose to the ground with every step. Finding the perfect point of view, I dropped upon the warm blanket of beach with camera in hand. I spotted them many feet down the beach, drifting between water and sand as Aubie tugged to each new fascinating sight and sound. The brick-like device in my grasp magnified their actions and the pressure in my chest with each snapped moment in time. Turning back towards me, I saw the twinkle in Brandon’s eye and the excitement in hers. A silent exchange. Clap! Bark! And they were off. As feet and paws sailed swiftly over wet sand and incoming surf, every click of the shutter brought forth a similar image and memory from months past.
      “Aubrey,” Brandon laughed as she dragged him forward, the two streaking toward me full of smiles and out of breath. Two feet and four paws cut through the lapping waves with splash after splash. The pounding of his feet and gentle thump of hers echoed through my ears as they raced down the beach. As they came closer, she took a sharp left toward the water.
      Whack! Splash! Water splattered my face and lens. It was a snapshot of my memory: dog dry on the sand and man wet in the water. My lips tasted the salty liquid with each gasp for breath.
      Aubrey stood panting, mocking the soaked, dripping man struggling to wring out his clothes. Huffing as though I was part of the race, I felt the lines in my face as though they’d be permanently etched. The taste of saline water and wind stained my throat while I tried to calm my amusement. The innocent brown eyed wrecker walked over, asking for his forgiveness with a big lick. I laughed harder.
      I dropped back onto the sand, covering my eyes and vibrating in attempt to hold in the hilarity bubbling up my throat. Suddenly, hands wrapped around my ankles and began dragging my body over the lumpy beach, slobbery jowls sliming the fingers I tried to use as anchors in the sand. A double team! Cool water rushed up my back and itching sand gathered in my clothes. Kicking and shrieking, goosebumps covered my limbs while a warm little tongue warmed my face. A satisfied smirk covered his face, my legs now free to drift with the waves.
      Laying my head down, the gurgling water filled my ears, such easy sound lulling me to silence. Lumpy white sky screened the sun, leaving the sea’s breath to cool uncovered skin. My fingers drifted softly over silky ears.
      Wind dried our wet skin as we sat side by side on the snug sand. Petting her soft head, her tongue reached out for a quick kiss every few passes. No sound but the crashing of waves met our ears, but inside our minds were screaming. In only two days we’d be waiting by the phone while they attempted to find out why she’s so sick. Why she was skin and bones. The peaceful moment was anything but.
      Tears fell silently toward the water as I opened my eyes. A wrinkly face peered down at me, soon met by a paw on my shoulder. My face took a life of its own as those etched lines returned and a giggle escaped my lips. A little pink tongue assaulted my chin, reminding me of the present. Of the happy pup that captured my broken heart.
      Lifting from the surf, I rung out my clothes and headed to the car with Aubie in tow, our feet kicking at the sand during our race up the beach. The dry towels became a game of tug and growl while I rubbed and scrubbed at her soaking fur.
      We spent the last few moments sitting together on the sand, Brandon and I silently stroking her head and back. The clouds overhead drifted past allowing the sun to dry our damp clothes while Aubie lay between us, our healthy girl sleeping soundly after her busy day. The sight made me smile. A new memory was made. A bittersweet beach now holds more than pain.
      We made plans to visit again soon and a promise to take advantage of every given day.
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