“Shit,” Candace said to herself. She forgot about the kids playing in the water. How could she forget about the kids playing in the water?
Panic flooded her body as she jumped up from the lounge chair. She scanned the shore frantically but couldn’t see them. Even the families down the beach were now absent. It was like she was the last person on Earth.
Her phone clanked off the metal arm of the chair and landed with a near silent thud in the sand. “Lacey! Jacob!” she screamed, running toward the water.
When she came to the mark where the wet sand began she met a faded pair of footprints leading out to the deep water. The dark clouds on the horizon had moved closer and the waves were beginning to intensify. This was accompanied by a stiff, cold breeze.
She told herself to stay calm but her maternal instincts had taken over. It was no longer a feeling of panic that gripped her, but dread. Then she saw something neon green floating about 30 feet out in the water and her heart sank like a stone.
Without hesitation, she dove into the water and began swimming. Flashes of her son’s warm smile went through her mind and she swam harder. Then the image of his lifeless body in her arms caused her to move faster than she had ever done so before. She was no longer present in her movements. All action was now out of pure instinct.
As Candace closed in, a wave crashed down heavy upon her head—sending her to the rough sandy floor below the water. Her palms pressed against the rocky bottom as she fought to get back to the surface. And when she broke through to the fresh air above, she was hit with a violent coughing fit to loosen the water from her lungs.
After a few moments, she composed herself and was treading water. Still stunned, she was now facing the shore and saw two small people staring at her from a distance of about 50 feet. Somehow the current had pulled her farther out and she found herself right next to the neon green object. It wasn’t Jacob, it was a half-deflated innertube.
“Don’t move,” she yelled, catching another mouthful of seawater in the process.
With great effort, Candace swam back to the shore and collapsed on the warm sand.
“You went far, mommy?” Jacob said.
Breathing heavily, Candace looked up with relief at Jacob and Lacey’s confused faces. “I thought,” she paused to catch her breath, “told you to stay where I could see you.”
“Jake had to go number two,” Lacey blurted out with a giggle she couldn’t contain.
Candace turned her head with an exhausted flop and noticed that the restrooms were not far behind where they had setup their beach chairs.
“Okay. Time to go.” Her heartbeat was finally returning to normal.
“But I wanna play some more,” Jacob insisted.
Just then, a cold droplet of rain landed on Candace’s cheek. The black clouds had arrived at last and were moving in front of the sun, casting a dark shadow across the beach.
“We gotta go. Lacey, grab the chairs. Jake, take the towels.”
Candace got to her feet as a steady rain began. The kids were disappointed but they knew there wasn’t anything they could do now. And as they turned to go do as they were told, Candace stopped them with a hand on their shoulders.
“I love you both very much. Never forget that.”
She pulled them in close for a hug, then they packed up their stuff and loaded the car. Since it had started raining Candace didn’t bother having the kids rinse off in the community showers. Once they were in the car and ready to go, she blew the remaining sand off her phone.
7 sound good?
She stared at the text while thinking about the green innertube bobbing up and down in the water. How that innertube could’ve easily been her son’s lifeless body—drug out to sea where he would’ve disappeared forever—all because she was too enamored with her social life to watch her kids.
I have plans with my kids tonight
She shut her phone off and chucked it in her purse. “Who wants ice cream?”
The cheers from the backseat brought a much-needed smile to her face. Maybe she didn’t need an escape from life after all. Maybe she just needed to remember what’s truly important in her world.