The small girl sits by the sea, listening to waves wash up and die down. Smooth round rocks lull her to sleep as she rests in the red and green rust of her bench’s saltwater legs. She dreams of an orange octopus who reaches out of the sea and lightly touches the tips of her fingers with his suction cups. He lures her into the cool water, tears blending with waves as she sinks to the depths of his home. It is safe. The girl buries her face into the curves of his malleable skin, eyes closed tight to the sea. Her swollen thumbs rub incessantly over a single suction cup, trying to recreate the warmth she knew she had once felt. The sea is cold. His skin is smooth. She does not leave.
The small girl wakes to her father’s hand on her shoulder and the cold wind of the evening brushing her thin hair across her cheeks. “Elizabeth,” is all he says to her. The sun was still up when she had drifted off.
The two walk back to the car where her mother is waiting and Elizabeth sits in the backseat. Her mother says nothing. Elizabeth unties her damp shoelaces and wiggles her feet free from the salty sneakers. She lies down across the backseat. Her mother sighs. The engine starts up and her father begins to pull away from the rocky parking lot. Elizabeth is rocked to sleep by the sound of the windshield wipers and of NPR playing quietly from the radio. She dreams again.