Here’s the second installment of So Beautiful.
You can read the first installment at http://lauramchaleholland.com/fiction-2/so-beautiful/.
Kelly spreads a blanket on the sand as her son, Jason, dashes barefoot to the shore. “Stay close,” she calls to him, though she is not worried. This little bay is a spec of calm beyond which wind surfers navigate rough waters. And five-year-old Jason never wades in deeper than his ankles unless Kelly is beside him, holding his hand.
Jason’s sister, Coco, fusses in her stroller. Kelly unbuckles the tyke and lifts her up. The child squeals and coos and slurps. Kelly marvels at the array of sounds one little baby can make and feels grateful for the flexible work schedule that allows her to hear her daughter’s language unfold.
Kelly sits down, Coco on her lap, and pulls a jar of mashed sweet potatoes from her diaper bag, along with a baby spoon and napkin. Keeping an eye on Jason, who is now at work on a sand castle, Kelly feeds her daughter. Coco giggles as food dribbles down her chin. Kelly wipes the tot’s face and then puts the food away. She won’t force Coco to eat, for the babe is plump and rosy-cheeked—unlike Jason who was born premature at 28 weeks. His first two years were a rash of incisions, tubes, monitors and transfusions. Kelly fretted constantly because he was underweight and slow to develop. But now, ready to start kindergarten, Jason is normal in every measurement, with scars beneath his clothes the only reminders of his struggles to live.
Jason calls out, “Mommy! Mommy! Come see this itty bitty sand dollar.”
Kelly rises, picks Coco up and carries her to the spot where Jason is busy shaping turrets atop a rectangular mound. He shows her the smallest sand dollar she has ever seen, about half an inch in diameter.
“It’s perfect, Jason. Absolutely perfect.” She says.
“Hold it for me?” He hands her the treasure.
“Sure. I’ll put it in my bag.” With Coco on one hip, Kelly strides back toward the blanket. Along the way, she notices Marcie on a bench, tossing chunks of bread to a flock of pigeons at her feet. Kelly sees the woman here often. Last week they greeted each other and exchanged names and a few words about the weather. Kelly imagines she, too, might spend afternoons feeding pigeons when her children are long gone.
The wind picks up, and dark clouds come into view on the horizon. Shivering, Kelly wraps the sand dollar in a napkin and tucks it into the padded diaper bag. She fits Coco into a jacket that used to be Jason’s and settles her on the blanket with a set of plastic blocks. Then she holds up her son’s cardigan. “Come get your sweater,” she calls. “I don’t want you to get chilled.”
“Can I just finish the moat?”
“Sure, Honey Bear, but don’t take long.”
In the light dancing at the water’s edge, it looks to Kelly as though Jason sports a golden halo, like an angel. She expects she’ll tell her husband about this over dinner, and they’ll agree her sleep-deprived eyes are playing tricks on her. But she can’t imagine wanting to trade places with anyone, ever, no matter how often she’s awake in the night, rocking her babes back to sleep.
The third installment is coming next week. In the meantime, I will welcome your feedback.
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