Ellie’s orange roses rest in a cracked blue vase on the table by the kitchen window. The sun shines through the window, making the vase glow, and the sea breeze brings the scent of the roses across the room to where Ellie sits in Gram’s rocker, sipping samovar tea and looking out to sea. She wanted to go pick uutuk, sea urchins, today, but she’s tired, so tired, and so she sits and rocks and watches the sunlight on the waves and the orange roses on her table.
She cut the roses from the bushes in front of Gram’s house. Years of sun and salt have faded the boards, and the tall grass has nearly overwhelmed Gram’s small house. Used to be, Ellie kept the grass cut back, but it’s been too hard, too much work these past few years. Gram’s rose bushes, though, have spread all along the front of the house, inching closer to the sea with every passing year.
What Ellie wouldn’t give for one more day with Gram. One hour. One minute…
Ellie watches the sun glow in the blue vase, watches the light tangle in the crack running through the thick glass. Years ago, when she lived in the city, Ellie’d picked up the vase to wipe underneath it and dropped it. During the split second the vase was falling, she’d prayed at the speed of light and found time to curse herself for her carelessness. She’d nearly collapsed with relief when the vase hit the linoleum and rolled instead of breaking. She cried when she saw the crack rippling through the glass the color of the deep ocean and wiped her eyes minutes later when she tried it and the vase still held water. The roses in it that day had been orange like the ones that grew outside of Gram’s house but made of paper. They’d been placeholders. Reminders. Tiny voices telling Ellie that one day she would return home.
Ellie had done it. She’d survived it all. Nine-to-five and credit cards and ex-husbands and all the other terrors of the city world. She’d survived it all and come home. Home. Where the sea smelled exactly like it did when she was a girl, picking uutuk with Gram and Big Mama, wearing waders and making sure not to slip while standing on the rocks and searching the seaweed. Home. Where the berries were the juiciest and where Gram’s roses grew closer to the sea every passing year.
Ellie tells herself to get up, to put on her waders, but she doesn’t. She sips her tea and runs her fingers over the doily Gram made all those years ago and looks at the waves. She thinks she sees something, maybe a seal, no a whale, she sees its dorsal fin and the spout of its breath. She hears its breath burst into the world and it feels like a blessing, the same way a baby’s breath is. Something about the whale is familiar. Ellie wonders what it is. We used to be whales, she thinks, and she wants to watch the whale longer, but her eyes are so heavy, and she dozes off…
When Ellie wakes, her tea is cold. A thick fog has rolled in and hidden the sun, the shore, her entire world. Ellie’s house is full of fog. It’s so thick she can barely hear the waves. But she hears a voice.
The voice is clear and strong, high and beautiful. It’s a voice she would know anywhere.
Ellie’s stands, then freezes, her eyes wide, staring out the window. It can’t be.
It is. She hears her name again.
It’s Gram’s voice. Gram is on the beach. Calling her name.
Ellie crosses the room faster than she’s moved in years. She picks a rose from the vase, a gift for Gram, and it’s not until she’s outside, her door closed behind her, that she realizes the crack in the vase has disappeared.
She doesn’t stop. Her bare feet are on the path she’s walked thousands of times. She didn’t pull on waders or boots or even step into her slides, but she can’t feel the stones, and now the black beach sand is between her toes, but Ellie doesn’t feel the sand, either. With the fog, the sand should be cold and wet, but she feels nothing.
Gram’s voice. So close now, coming to her over the water. Through a ripple in the fog, Ellie sees the whale watching her, and somehow, she knows. Her feet are in the water now. She turns around, looks behind her, but there is no beach, no house, no village.
Nothing but fog. And it’s okay. It’s time.
Still carrying Gram’s rose, Ellie wades into the ocean. The water envelopes her, buoys her up. It’s all around her, as soft as Gram’s skin, as warm as her smiles, as everlasting as her love.
Prompted by perryville20 (orange roses, whale, cabin).
Leave a comment with an inanimate object, a living being, and a location and I will write a story based on it.
Other Ellie stories:
Alaskan Thigh Highs
A Night in Her Shoes
Photo by Jim Latham