Celeste stood at the ocean’s edge, toes in the tepid water, her gaze stretching to the horizon where a collection of dark clouds held court. Children splashed in the shallows around her, enjoying the last days of summer freedom, while their parents kept watch from lawn chairs splayed in the sand. Behind her, traffic hurtled past on the six-lane highway, car horns blaring, engines whining. Celeste closed her eyes and tried to listen only to the wilted waves lapping the seaweed shoreline.
She had spent the better part of the past year studying abroad in Nicaragua, living with a host family in a small village that was more jungle than village—mud roads, cold showers, and howler monkeys screeching at dawn.
But now she was back home, back in this city of concrete and crass. She tried not to think about the classes that were about to start, her senior year that was about to take off running—with or without her. She tried not to think about her sorority sisters and the questions they would ask at their back-to-school social: Was it weird living with poor people? Was there even air conditioning? Are Nicaraguan boys so hot? Beneath her eyelids, she watched a ticker-tape flash her parents’ favorite words: grade point average, graduation, law school.
She opened her eyes and took a shaky step into the sea, and then another. The water licked her ankles, her calves, her kneecaps. She walked past the screaming children, each step stronger than the last, letting her body disappear into the sea. When seawater filled her belly button, she stopped. Honey-soaked curls flew around her face as the wind quickened. Behind her, mothers yelled and car doors slammed as families packed up their coolers and beach towels, trying to beat the approaching storm. But Celeste stayed, her feet sinking into muddy sand.
The still water started to churn. A fat drop of rain landed on her shoulder, and another on her cheek. She laid both hands on her belly. They felt cold against her skin, not wide with warmth like Fernando’s hands had been when he’d run them over her arms, through her hair, between her legs. She tried not to think about the silky way he said her name, or the two lines that appeared when she peed on the stick in the beach bathroom, the tile floor streaked with wet sand beneath bare feet.
Water whipped around Celeste’s body, suddenly made small in the presence of high winds, nature’s fury. Her hands dropped like stones at each side, fingers coiling into fists. Very soon, the world was white with rain. She closed her eyes and returned to Fernando’s tiny wooden house, their bodies folded into a bed made by his own hands, raindrops pelting the tin roof like seashells dropping from heaven.
The sky and the sea became one. She, Celeste, also became water.
Lifting her face towards the thunder, Celeste opened her palms and sang with the wind.