Looking back, I see this silhouette of a little girl on the sand, bucket and shovel in her hand; digging a hole to catch the tiny crabs near the edge of the sea. The small waves almost reached her tiny feet, the wind gently brushed her face, and her ponytail fluttered in the breeze. Her eyes smiled, her heart was thrilled, and had anyone else been around they might have overheard her giggling quietly to herself. The seagulls, as always, made themselves heard from above. Endless treasures for a little child; thousands of sea shells in different shapes and colours, infinite numbers of stones of all sorts, every shape and structure; some very smooth, others more rough. After a while her bucket was filled almost to the brim with shells and stones.
Then she built a little sand castle behind the hole, tiny hands decorating the castle walls with shells and stones all the way around. And finally she’d dig a canal so that seawater could flow into the hole and fill it up like a moat. Then she would sit down and hope for a crab or two to stumble into the hole and be trapped, or she would catch a few herself and put them there. Soon after the tide would come in to demolish the moat and the castle, and she’d wave to the crabs and smile at them as they climbed out of the hole and walked home again into the sea.
Then it would be time for her to go home; a brown, curly-haired Lakeland terrier would come to greet her, and she would bury her face in the soft fur, get a big wet kiss on her nose and they would find their way home, the dog and the barefoot little girl, her hands full of sand, fingertips wrinkled from playing in the water; she would stop and turn around to catch a last glimpse of the sea, wishing she could stay longer in this little Paradise of hers.
She would go home to face her fears, to wonder if she could blend in with the walls, become invisible and hide under her duvet, be quiet and not disturb her adoptive parents, making them happy in that way. She always hoped there would be something to eat, maybe a freshly baked bun; she always hoped but it rarely happened, yet those few times that it did she might get a smile and a few kind words, if mummy wasn’t drunk.
She always had to give them each a mandatory hug, even though it meant nothing; mum and dad always expected it, even if she’d been beaten or yelled at. Then she would go straight to bed and just be thankful that there was no beating that day, because she had come home in time, because they had found nothing else to be mad at her for. She used to pray to God and wish that he would send her home to her real father, so far, far away. “If only I could go there, to where I came from, so my parents here wouldn’t be bothered by having me here anymore,” she cried out. At last she would fell asleep and dream about her next trip to the beach, where her heart could be free.