Morning at the Beach

Even though she’s standing right beside me, squeezing my hand so tightly that there’s no
denying her reality, part of me is so sure that the body on the beach is my daughter’s. I
feel the knots of pain and guilt building in my chest, my breath clogged in my heart, my
knees wobbling to buckle, but she’s here, she’s right here, she wants to know what’s
wrong, why we’ve stopped, what the police are doing. I step two inches to the left,
pulling her two inches to the left with me, and now she can’t see over the purse of the fat
lady standing right in front of us. “They’re just looking,” I say. “They don’t really know
what’s under the sand, but they just want to take a look. We’ll go get ice cream in a
minute,” I say, watching the foot of the girl who’s not my daughter emerge from the
sand. Her toes are so tiny and white, like porcelain. I look down to make sure my
daughter’s toes are still there beside me, the tiny barefoot feet that belong to my perfectly
alive little girl.