“Jason, sweetheart, just please get out of the car. It may be cold, but it really is beautiful.”
I crossed my arms tighter and sank lower down in my seat. The wind coming from the open door whipped my shaggy blond hair into my eyes.
“Jason David Sagar, you are ten years old, not three. Get out of the car!”
Still sulking, I slammed down on my seatbelt buckle. It gave an annoying little click and sprang free. I gingerly stepped into the cold, and then stomped to the edge of the cliff, as far away from my parents as possible. I could sense them exchanging worried looks behind my back. “Do you want to go play on the rocks, darling? I’ve heard that they have really amazing tide pools.”
“Come on, son.” It was my dad. He placed his hand on my back and practically shoved me down the narrow rock stairs that led to the beach. Honestly, it was very unfair. They force me to come with them to this stupid “rural” town for some “social diversity,” and now they actually expect me to get out of the car (during winter, no less)? I’m pretty sure a week is enough time to see every single tide pool in Bodega Bay. But right now, I just wanted to curl up on my bed with the iPad. I stumbled across the thick sand towards the crashing waves. Dad’s hand was still on me and he pushed me towards a large clump of rocks that obscured my vision of the sea.
“Go climb that, Jason.” He said it in a way that clearly meant: stop pouting and do something to amuse yourself while your mother and I talk grown-up things. Well, whatever. If I got out of their hair maybe they would leave me alone for a couple hours once we got back to the house. Only marine biologists would be perfectly happy with leaving their only son on a pile of rocks while they did science.
I dug my hands into the slippery crags of the rock and pulled myself over the edge. It flattened out into a long plateau, stretching out to the ocean. I walked to the end and sat down, dangling my legs.
“Lovely view,” a voice said behind me, and I whipped my head around. A teenage girl in a Daisy Duke yellow bikini and shorts was walking my way. Her long black braids fell down past her waist, like a Native-American Rapunzel.
She sat down on my left. “I’m Miracle.”
“Jason.” I ignored her outstretched hand. Maybe if I were as rude as possible, she’d go away. My parents had probably sent her in some lame attempt to make me socialize.
“Perfect weather for tide-pooling. Or thinking on top of rocks, I suppose.”
I raised an eyebrow and glanced at her. How could she not be cold? I was wearing two sweatshirts and jeans, and I was freezing. But at a closer inspection, I saw that though her cheeks were slapped red from the wind, no goosebumps dotted her skin. And then I saw her hand. The right one wasn’t even a hand, just a deformed stump with four tiny slivers of nail embedded into her skin.
“What happened to you?” I asked, not being able to tear my eyes away from the strange sight. “How did you even get up here?”
She didn’t answer, and instead stared off into the distance. “Don’t ever take life for granted, Jason. You have to look on the bright side of things. See this beach right here, along the entire coastline?” She swung her stump around. “You may find it cold, or ugly, or even boring. But look closer.” I followed her arm down to the crashing waves. “Look at the way the water pounds relentlessly against the surf. Like it’s yearning so much to just reach the shore, only to fade away once it gets there. Look at the way no one disturbs the beach with trash and dancing and loud music. Look at how beautiful that woman becomes when she steps out of the car, and the wind attacks her hair like a cat with its prey.”
I stared at my mother, trying to push the long blond strands away from her face while keeping hold of her biology equipment. Miracle was right. She looked… beautiful. At least ten years younger. Probably the way she looked when my dad proposed to her, just a mile away, on Goat Rock Beach. And suddenly, I saw the radiance of it all. The powerful waves, slowly grinding the rocks to sand in their desperate haste to reach the oceanfront. The black rocks, so plain at first, but teeming with life at a closer glance. And above all, Miracle, the joy of life shining in her eyes, even though she was deformed, even though she was scarred for life, she still loved every moment of it. And that was the moment I decided to do the same.
I stared out at the ocean, and then looked back at her, to thank her. But she was gone.
* * *
At the end of the week, I looked out the car window at that beach and gave it a small wave. And maybe, just possibly, as we rounded the bend, I saw a flash of Daisy Duke yellow, waving back.