“Beach! Beach! Beach!” I’d called Courtney just to scream the word in her ear as fast as I could, standing at my window and beaming out at the sunshine outside.
“Geez, Mariah! Fine. No exploring this time, though.” She hated getting into trouble, and I tended to be a trouble magnet. I’m not sure how we stayed friends for so long.
We met halfway and sprinted the rest of the distance to the beach. When we crested the hill, I spotted a little sand bar and made a beeline for it.
“Gahhh! Mariah! I’m not coming with you…” Court’s voice trailed off as the sound of my feet kicking up sand grew louder. I squealed with delight as my feet hit the shallow water, splashing it onto my legs, cooling me down instantly.
I turned around to see Courtney plop down on a bench. I almost looked away when I saw a beautiful woman striding past my best friend. The woman’s hair was pure gold, and even from the distance I could see that her eyes were bluer than the calm ocean. Around her neck dangled a Jewish Star of David on a delicate chain.
Courtney cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled something to me, but I couldn’t make out what it was. Suddenly, the lady opened her mouth, and though the space between us was still great, I could hear her words clearly. “She wants to know if you’re ready to go home.”
I shook my head. The ocean is like my second home; I stay as long as I can as often as I can. I smiled at the woman; she smiled back, a graceful motion of her hand accompanying the expression. Content, I bent over to retrieve a pretty rock from the bottom of a shallow pool, and when I stood back up the woman was standing beside me.
I jumped, but not out of fear, just surprise.
“Have a good day,” she said, smiling still. “Make every day a good day. Make the most of your youth.”
My scarf fell off my shoulders as I took her hand. A warmth spread through me as I nodded my silent agreement.
Courtney was calling me again. With a sigh, I turned to run towards her, then realized I’d dropped the scarf. When I turned around, the woman was gone. A scan of the beach showed that she had completely disappeared.
Courtney was lying down on the bench when I arrived. I poked her side, positioning my scarf back on. “Court, wake up. What did you want?”
She didn’t answer. I prodded her again. “Court?”
Two hours later, I was napping fitfully next to Courtney, who was draped under light sheets on a hospital bed. The doctors told her mother that she’d fainted, but they had no idea why.
Courtney stirred. I awoke and took her hand. “What happened?”
“A lady…she visited me. In my dreams.” Her voice was croaky from dehydration. “She said…she would always be there to protect you, even when I couldn’t be.” Something like shame was making Courtney flush. “I guess…I guess she thinks I don’t do a very good job.”
“It’s nothing like that,” I said soothingly, stroking her forehead. Inside, I was a whirlwind of emotions. Was the woman a guardian angel? Did I have my own beautiful protector?
Since that day, I haven’t seen her in the flesh again, but she visits me in my dreams. We talk about deep things, things that should be frightening but aren’t, because though they are only things that can be done after death, she has done them first, and shares her knowledge with me.