The girl’s dark ponytail spills over her pink over-filled backpack, slapping softly against it as she skips down the road.
“Where are you going?” I ask her, matching her stride.
She looks at me with big, dark brown eyes. My grandmother’s eyes. She knows who I am.
“I’m running away to California. I want to swim with the dolphins.”
“Do you know how to swim?” She can’t be more than five.
She shrugs. “I’ll learn.”
“Can I come?”
She stops walking and turns her little body to face mine. “Do YOU swim?”
I shrug. “I can learn.” I smile, and she puts her sticky little hand in mine.
I look down at our feet and am surprised to see sand between our toes, a surging ocean before us. We run to the waves and dive into them, still holding hands. A family of dolphins swims toward us, welcoming us. The baby nuzzles the little girl’s cheek and she laughs. I can hear it, her laughter, floating through the water. It’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. I see a bright light up ahead…
A car alarm goes off outside, and I’m startled awake. I’m alone in my dark bedroom. I swallow another sleeping pill, hoping it will silence the dull ache in my lower abdomen that has stolen my sleep since the day she left me. I lay back down and pray for pleasant dreams, hoping she’ll come back.