The Setting Sun
She had lost her wedding ring in the sand just as dusk turned the beach into silhouettes and shadows. Furious, her husband made clear his immense displeasure at yet another of her incompetent acts by saying absolutely nothing and staring icily into the sky.
He wondered how anyone could be so stupid.
They went back and searched the beach in the gathering darkness, but to no avail. He finally said something and stormed off, leaving her to wander back and forth alone, desperate and frantic as the waves crept higher up the shoreline with the advancing tide. Finally, she sank down onto the sand and stared at the faint glow of the almost-forgotten sunset. There were no tears. Just an enormous feeling of emptiness.
She did not want to return to their room at the Grand Coast Resort Hotel. She did not want to experience the wall of hostile silence she knew was awaiting her. She had not lost the ring on purpose. These days, it could easily slide off her fingers, what with all of the weight she had lost due to the surgery and chemo therapy. Of course, that was his point exactly, she should have known better. Instead, like always, she just did things without thinking about the consequences. Like marrying her husband.
They both had wanted to end it all at times, to dispose of these past 30 years of marriage and say goodbye to the one person who could make them feel worse than anyone had right to feel.
Maybe he would get struck by a car while crossing the street on the way back to the hotel. Maybe she would stumble into the surf and drown. Maybe they would both have their secret wishes answered.
And then the light appeared at the end of the walkway. He was returning with a flashlight.
She stood and dusted the sand from her clothes as he approached. Most likely, he would still be angry. Most likely, she would remain deeply saddened. But together, they would struggle to find the ring, before it was swept out to sea or submerged under the swirling sand by pounding surf or passing feet.
It was, after all, very valuable.
And neither of them could bear the thought of losing it after all these many years.
For as long as things have been written down and recorded for future generations to remember, no one had ever written what Alta was about to write.
It was morning, and Alta had awakened like everyone else to find a bright summer day filled with bird song. A breeze moved the curtains of her bedroom, causing the sunlight to move in gentle waves across her face.
She rose quickly, went to a backpack sitting in the corner, and removed a pen and notebook. Although it would have seemed innocuous to an observer, had there been one, this event would be remembered for thousands of years to come, chronicled in history books and taught in schools to countless children of Alta’s age and known throughout all of future history as The Moment.
Folding back the notebook cover, she flipped through the pages of childish scribbles, drawings and school notes until she at last found a fresh blank page that would record her words. The breeze stopped and the curtains settled, leaving the room bathed in the warm glow of thin fabric backlit by morning sun. She picked up her pen.
“I was standing with momma, but she wasn’t dead, and she bent over to kiss me. She was crying, but not because she was sad, but because she loved me so much. I could see the mountains in the distance, and they were a brilliant blue. I do not know why, but this is what happened while I was sleeping. I am happy and yet sad at the same time.”
For the first time ever, in all of the time that her people had been living, Alta had experienced what none ever had.
Alta had dreamed