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Distant Shores

by Rosy Gee 7 months ago in Short Story
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What did the girl on the beach think about all day long?

Photo by George Girnas on Unsplash

Mai had wanted to travel for as long as she could remember. Her tutor was always trying to get her to concentrate instead of daydreaming the whole time.

Collecting shells along the tropical beach where she lived was something she did every day of the year. She would arrange them in pretty patterns, sometimes symmetrical, others random. She loved patterns.

Mama was always cooking, cleaning, or ironing for the rich folk and her Papa scraped a living by tending to their fancy gardens. Mai yearned to stay on the island but she wanted more than scratching by. She wanted much more.

At school, she had loved art, and aged seventeen, she left to fly to the mainland to study Fashion Design. After she qualified, she was taken on by a big fashion house in London. A few years later when she opened her first store on New Bond Street, she couldn’t believe what people paid for her designs. She could have bought a house back home for the price of one dress. It seemed wrong to Mai that some people had so much money and others barely had enough to put food on the table. That was life, and she didn’t like it or agree with it.

Mai flew her parents over to London as soon as she could convince them that it was safe and they wouldn’t get mugged while walking along the street. She even hired a bodyguard to keep an eye on them from a safe distance. She spent as much time with them as she could during their two-week stay but was busy working on a new collection. She will never forget the look on her parents’ faces when she told them about her plans to become a Fashion Designer. It was a mixture of joy and disbelief; could their little girl be that talented?

On the last day of their trip, she paid a final visit to the lawyers and the papers were all signed. She could relax now.

When her parents landed back home on the island they were met at the airport by a limousine and driven to the better part of the island. There they were given the keys to a mansion with stunning views across the bay. They could see the beach where Mai collected seashells every single day.

Mai visited home as often as her busy schedule would allow but at least now she knew that Mama and Papa could rest easy without having to cook, clean, iron, and tend other people’s gardens. Now, they had their own cleaner and gardener but of course, they both helped out because that’s what they had always done. They made sure to pay their staff well and were very respectful of them.

Everybody on the island knew the story behind the elderly couple whose daughter they watched every day collecting shells along the beach. Then again, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise to them. As her Mama and Papa worked long hours, she used her time wisely and worked at creating patterns in the sand, everything was in the detail. That was important. It was all in the detail.

Mai had worked sixteen-hour days, seven days a week and when she was commissioned to sew thousands of seed pearls on a dress, she never wavered. She kept repeating the pattern over and over, hoping and praying that her diligence would pay off. And it did. That was when she had got her first big break and had never looked back since.

Mama came to collect her from the beach today; Papa came for her yesterday. She had been collecting shells for nearly six hours. She was almost running out of places to put them on the soft, white sand, into the endless patterns that she created.

“Come on Mai. It’s time to come home now.” Tears stung the old woman’s eyes as she watched the young woman carefully placing shell after shell in row upon row on the beach.

Mama took her daughter’s hand. They trudged in silence up the dunes to the old house they still called home and when they got there, Papa had laid the table for supper. Saltfish, plantain, and eggs, Mai’s favourite.

“What do you think goes through her mind while she plays on the beach for all those hours?” he asked his wife.

“Who knows, honey. Who knows. I’m damned if she’s spoken a word for the past thirty-four years, so whatever’s goin’ on inside that pretty little head of hers, stays right there, inside her head.”

* * *

This story was first published on Medium, where you can find more of my work. Why not get a weekly update from my village in England by signing up to Rosy's Ramblings?

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Short Story

About the author

Rosy Gee

I live in rural Shropshire, England & write about relationships, life lessons, short stories and poetry. My debut book is available on Amazon here. I have a weekly blog called Rosy's Ramblings: rosygee.substack.com Come join me!

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