Photo: Sue Vincent
” … And that is when the sun became the liquid gold …” Marianna tucked the blanket tighter around the child and bent to kiss the flaxen head. The short soft hairs tickled her lips. She hadn’t yet gotten used to the severe buzz cut. She resisted touching her own head.
“…and in the morning?” the little one murmured, half-asleep.
“It will turn itself back into an orb and rise into the dawn …”
The almost translucent eyelids fluttered open once to rest on the flaming horizon, before closing, heavy, onto the small cheeks. The girl’s breathing deepened and slowed in time with the surf, arms secured around a well-loved doll.
Marianna stared at the reflection of molten lava on the water, listened to the murmured rush of the waves, rocked on her heels, and hugged herself.
At least the weather’s holding.
The child turned. An arm slipped out of the protection of the blanket and Marianna tucked the slim limb back under the covers, securing the doll where it could not be seen. It was a forbidden toy, yet Marianna could not bring herself to discard it. Not when so much had already been lost. She swallowed, and her hand rose of its own accord to feel the expanse of her head, the hair no longer there.
It was the least of it. Better they be seen as male, anyway.
The sun sank, gold, into the sea. She thought of the bedtime story and of the simple acceptance of young minds. Of the trust, the effervescent hope. Her own breath deepened as her daughter’s face at rest loosened a coil of tension in her chest into tendrils of comfort.
They’d made it this far. The beach was secluded. The trees and darkness offered their own respite. She, too, needed sleep.
May morning come, she thought. She lay her head on their pack of belongings and spooned the child against her heart. The last of the light licked the dampness from her cheek. May we safely see tomorrow’s orb rebirthed.