The little girl pushed the sand around, creating a small fence for her sand castle. Ahead, the waves swam gently to the shore and back in an eternal exercise.
“You’ll come for the play, won’t you?”
The woman frowned. She didn’t look up from her magazine.
“We’ll see, honey. You know how busy I am…” she trailed off the cell phone tinkled. “Hello?.. Darling…? How marvellous! We simply must go shopping… it’s been such ages! Thursday?”
The girl’s head jerked up anxiously, her fair pigtails bobbing.
“But Mommy, the play is on Thursday…”
“Oh, for God’s sake, don’t interrupt when I’m on the phone!… Yes, Maurie… Thursday afternoon.. Mm-hmm?.. Lovely… Goodbye, dear!”
The girl pushed the sand harder. The sunlight shone on her suddenly white face.
“Mummy, won’t you come?”
Her good mood restored, the woman replied, “Of course I will, sweetie… I did last time, didn’t I?”
“You didn’t”, the child said whispered fiercely. “Grandma did.”
Something in her voice made the woman look at her.
“That’s right.. I didn’t, didn’t I?… but I had this concert I simply couldn’t miss!” She pulled out a candy bar. “Here you go, for being a perfect dear today.”
The child took the bar and silently laid it next to her, without so much as a second glance.
Her eyes fixed on the uneven walls of the sand castle, she asked, her voice wobbling, “Mummy, you’ll come, won’t you?
“I’ll try, I told you I’ll try…” the woman replied distractedly. She took off her sunglasses, and shut the magazine.
“Guess what I’m playing?” the child asked, hopefully, looking up from her castle.
“Hmmm?” The cell phone began ringing again and the woman answered it with a sudden trill in her voice. “Jenny, honey, Thursday afternoon!” She began walking back. “You must, Maurie’s coming too… Oh, darling, what fun it’ll be!..”
Her voice faded into the distance. The little girl sat quietly, her tiny figure silhouetted against the vast sea, her hands stilled.
“I’m playing Tinker Bell, mommy”, she whispered, her face crunching as tears poured down her pink cheeks.
The candy bar lay unwrapped by her side, half buried in the sand, the $1 ticker on it gleaming in the sunlight.