She had collected them over the years, those unwanted jewels, and hoarded them away carefully where no one would see. Fragments of memory buried deep in the sand that she found and took home. She had examined them in the dark, rolling each round and round in her hands, deciding, yes, this I will keep, and this, and this. Milky white pebbles shot with gold. Coral branches stained turquoise and ruby red. Tightly curled conch shells which told her rosy secrets about the sea.
Each precious. Each beautiful.
Now she stood at the shore, the pockets of her thin blue dress weighed down by their burden. A strong wind whipped against her legs and blew eddies on the sand. The tide was in and the dark waters surged close. She was quite alone. One by one she picked them out, her treasures, and, with a practiced flick of her wrist, sent them sailing far out to sea. She counted under her breath and the waves kept time.
Splash. This was a bedtime story she once told herself.
Splash. Here was a bruised knee from long ago.
Splash. There went a torn littlegirl slipper with a rubber butterfly on the strap.
Splash. These were many evenings spent in futile rage.
Splash. This was a poem, hopeful and fragile, written for nobody.
Splash. Here was a white lie that lived in the cobwebs, followed by more of undefinable colours.
A pocketful of fancies of all shapes and sizes, shining with the promise of bittersweet romance. Rubbed almost perfect by her small, trusting hands. Splash.
One by one they flew past the reef, skipped on the water, once, twice, and sank beneath the foam. Her aim was very good. Soon her hands were empty. The sea still thundered and beat against the rocks but she did not stop to listen. As she walked home, she did not look back once.
When she arrived the fire had been lit and a stew was bubbling on the flame. She kicked off her shoes. He passed her a dish and spoon. They helped themselves, scalding their tongues on the hot gravy. They talked, and she told him about her day. He did not ask questions, for which she was glad. The night wore on. The faraway rumble of the tide quietened down to be replaced by a silence that needed no explanation. The moon came out to watch them and lingered a moment on the used dishes, the rusty crates, the tangle of shoes and rope and fishing line. It followed their trail and settled finally on the little pile of pebbles, grey and unremarkable, heaped beside the open door. The moon noted that there was no poetry in them, no colour that she could see. Those two silly creatures had picked the lot up that very morning and carried them away like triumphant conquerors. And here they were now, so very plain, so ordinary. Already worn smooth and warm by the pressure of two pairs of hands.