I watched her trace her initials in the cold, wet sand. Her limbs had grown longer since last summer and her knees sprouted out from her board shorts and grazed her chin as she crouched over the letters. The evening wind had picked up, sending others running for cover, people with nothing to hold on to, nothing to savor. Yet we remained, unyielding as the waves devoured the beach and the brisk air sprayed salty water against our legs and grit against our cheeks.
I peeled out of my sweater and draped it over her back. She brushed her hands against her shirt and looked up at me. Her eyes were moist and her nose was red. The freckles that dotted her cheeks and traced her hairline belonged to her mother. Everything else was mine, from her wispy red hair, to the deep arches of her narrow feet.
Waiting for her yearly visit was maddening, like sucking air through a straw for eleven months of the year. It was creeping in on me again. My throat tightened at the thought of it. I ruffled her hair and sat next to her. The sand was cold and solid under us, but she didn’t shift. She leaned into me. I closed my eyes.
“We should head back. The tide is coming in.”
“Not yet,” she whispered.