The water found her feet, and there was something before and there was something after. She sat on the beach where the ocean met the Grimsands. Her hands dug into the wet ground. But for a scattering of low clouds moving above, the sky was as it would be until some great reckoning burned the blue away. It reflected on the waves, and the waves washed farther inland.
Lulu was older, now. Her skin weaker. Inside, her bones were delicate. She sat with the sun to her back. The shadow she cast shimmered in the water, shifting and dancing as the tide did. Lulu rubbed the back of her neck, and moved her hand to her hair, where she pushed it from front to back, and a breeze from across the ocean caught it. Her golden locks drifted about, as the breeze became a light, salty gust. This wind carried centuries upon its back.
Her memory failed her. There was something before and there was, and would be, something after this. The day had surely begun somewhere, somewhen. She remembered when the water touched her feet and gave her a chill. That was only just now. Lulu lost focus. Her eyes watched the gulls floating over the cresting waves. They looked like buoys, until one opened its wings, and dashed away to a beyond-place.
She thought of the sandhill cranes. She had seen hundreds of thousands of them on a stretch of the Platte River, once. They had filled the sky, making it night when it was day. Lulu watched them fly north.
Well, that was something from before.
Her hands burrowed deeper into the saturated sand. Lulu trembled, while the cusps of her eyelids held back the years she could not recall. She sucked in air, closed her eyes, and opened them, again, to see a gull floating onto the sand with the tail-end of a wave. The bird stood and shook its webbed feet. It darted across the Grimsands, pecking at exposed shells. Most were empty.
Lulu remembered the wonder of her daughter’s laugh. Like a song, with the most perfect, lovely melody. The purest kind of laughter.
That was something from before.
She turned to face the sun. Lulu saw the Grimsands leading to tall, thin grass. Through the sand were her footprints, which led to where she rested. The rolling tide was beneath her, now, and it was taking her footprints from the sand. She eased herself up, and put one foot into a print. Then, the other. Lulu stepped where she had already stepped. And stepped and stepped and stepped. She walked from the ocean. The grass prickled against her legs.
There was a road beyond the beach-grass. Where cars parked and drove past. Perhaps, she had parked along the road. Lulu shielded her eyes from the sun, and there was nothingness for a moment.
She turned over in bed, and there was Benny, snoring and kicking his paws out, deep in dreams. Lulu saw her clock, and the hour was early. Daylight still distant. She lifted her hands to her face in the dark bedroom. The fingers were of a child, and her palms were callused from a spring of tree climbing. Lulu reached out to the beagle, then stopped herself. She did not wish to stir him from sleep. There would be time later – time to run together, time to rustle Benny’s fur and play with his ears, time to do all things, after. For now, Lulu settled under the blanket and let a dream, once more, take her tiny hand.
A gull cawed overhead just as the water found her feet.