Arthur was Mommy's husband, and Sarah loved it when he helped her build sand castles Sandcastles were always better then; bigger, taller, and mommy made the best flags out of the tiny twigs and leaves she found laying around on the beach. This one, Arthur said, needed sea shells for windows, and sea weed for doors, and hhe'd sent her off with her pink bucket to bring some back.
"Stay where I can see you!" her mommy, laying on her beach towel with wide white rimmed sunglasses, shouted after her, and Sarah turned and grinned and waved at her. Silly Mommy, she thought. I can always see you!
She was not allowed down by the water by herself, and so she trailed the dunes, digging her pink painted toes into the dirt and giggling when they disappeared, and giggling when she found the shard of a sand dollar and put it carefully into her bucket.
There were not many sea shells here, and no sea weed. Certainly Arthur wouldn't mind if she went a little farther? Sarah looked over her shoulder, saw Arthur talking with another man she didn't know, and thought that no, he wouldn't mind; he wanted sea shells, after all, and it was her job to find them.
She trudged off over the dune, slipping once on the loose sand, and onto the other side where the beach opened up from the private resort water fronts to the local piers, the white sand filled with people that laughed and played loud music and played Frisbee with their dogs. She found three more shells, and a long string of slightly dry sea weed that she placed into her bucket. She glanced up from her bucket to search the sand again, wondering with a small hand on her hip if she'd found enough shells yet, and saw someone she recognized.
Sarah glanced over her shoulder, eyes searching for Arthur, and saw just the top of his head over the rise of the sand. She grinned and turned, feet kicking up sand as she ran toward the pretty woman who had come to her birthday party, laughing excitedly as she shouted, "Karen! Hi, Karen!"
Arthur grinned and nodded a farewell to Johan Valshitz, the man a colleague here with his son and wife.
"Nice to see Johan," Melissa said from her place on the towel, lifting herself up on her elbows as she smiled up at him. "I hadn't realized his son had grown so big!"
"Junior High next year," Arthur said with a nod, and glanced around, searching for a tiny girl with bouncing brown curls and pink bathing suit. When he did not immediately see her, he frowned, worry niggling like sharp glass in his gut. He looked at the water, fear immediate in his eyes as he searched the waterline and out into the gentle undulation of waves, but did not see her.
"Sarah!" He called, cupping his hands to his mouth to amplify his voice. Around him, several couples who had been lounging, nearly asleep on the sand, lifting their heads to glare at him. He paid them no attention as he started off in the direction he'd last seen her go, worry growing into frantic fear when he did not hear her answer.
Melissa frowned up at him and scrambled to her feet, taking her sunglasses off as she shielded her hands with her eyes. "Oh, God, Arthur, I don't see her," she breathed, then shouted, "Sarah! Answer Mommy!"
"SARAH!" Arthur bellowed, and took Melissa's arm with a shaking hand. "You go that way, I'll go this way." He took off running toward the resorts without waiting for her answer, as Melissa ran toward the dunes.
"If he asks me what day of the week it is, I'll be sorely tempted to answer 'orange'." ~Chang WuFei,