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Short Story 55



He wondered if it could be called a beach if there was no sand. You couldn’t make a sandcastle and if you tried to make a ‘pebblecastle’ it would all fall apart into a pebble mountain or maybe a hill. The water was cold here and because of the channels in the rocks the waves water was wetting the hem of the towel. Not that the towel could do much good for anyone, no one was planning on swimming on an overcast day like this one and every stone could be felt through its bristly hairs.


The wind rolled over in a long chilling breath. A cardigan made of wool wouldn’t have been enough to cut through the icy gasp as it soared past and met the indented beach, cluttering across the pebbled surface hitting the steep cliff face behind like a wave tossed back out to sea.


There was no point in fighting the fact that he was freezing and miserable. He couldn’t control that. That was just the first thing out of his power, the second one was highly influenced by his current circumstances. He couldn’t put on a happy face. He couldn’t pretend he was having just such awfully good fun. More like an awful time. Just stick to awful, it is the best depiction of how he felt at that moment.


However even in this, it was good to feel that out there somewhere there was a place that felt just the way he did. He wouldn’t say that this romantic pebble beach was feeling much better than he was at this moment, and he was positive the sky wasn’t either.


“How long have you been out here?”


He didn’t turn to look at the person approaching, “Long enough.”


The approaching figure sat directly on the rocks beside him, “What are you doing out here?”


“Thinking about how stupid our names are.”


“Really?”


“Yep. Doubtless and Trip really are very unique, aren’t they?”


A laugh, “Well, at least their practical.”


“Yep, you can even use them in a sentence. So incredibly practical.”


“You’re in a bad mood.”


“Not at all, this is me in a good mood, can’t you tell?”


“Oh yes, I forgot.”


A mist spit up by the breeze fell like small bits of shrapnel, the droplets needles to the flesh. It was a wonder anyone would be out here on a day like this. But, it was the perfect moment for the likes of him. The perfect environment.


“So Doubtless, how long you going to sit out here?”

He said nothing at first watching another wave pull up and lick the edge of his towel, “Well, I wasn’t the one that wanted to come here, and this being the only worthwhile attraction I thought I should appreciate it. If I go in too soon someone might think I’m ungrateful.”


“I think vindictive comes to mind a little more than ungrateful.”


“Well, why don’t you go back inside Trip. No need to suffer discomfort when you’re not even into it.”


“Who would be into this?”


Another chilly breeze struck them. By now all the hair on Doubtless’ body was standing on end, turned into instant goose pimples. Trip gave a pathetic shiver, gathering his legs closer. In his obstinance, Doubtless raised his hand to signify an answer.


“Stop being so emo, it’s really too much.”


“Is it, is it too much? I think I could put a whole lot more energy into it.”


“Well, I guess in that regard it would be nice to see you put energy behind something.”


“If you just came down here to bother me then you can go away.”


“What are you so upset about?”


“What am I… come on Trip in a few short hours we’ve become nothing more than imaginary friends. She doesn’t even see us anymore.”


The wind blew. The waves moved irritably. They just stared at each other.


“Doubtless, Emily was bound to grow up.”


His eyes diverted to the ocean, “Yeah, she grew up alright, right out of us.”


“Have you ever thought it’s a good thing?”


“For whom?”


“For everyone involved.”


“I can’t believe that.”


“You can’t or you don’t want to?”


The towel was a fourth of the way wet, with every lapping breath of water more was drawn in. In the distant clouds there was the gentle movement of lightning, still too far away to hear.


“Come on Doubtless. This is our last day, don’t spend it out here staring at clouds. She might not be able to see us anymore, but that doesn’t mean our job is any less important. As long as we’re here we’re sworn to protect her. And besides, it would be sad to lose this last day, don’t you think.”


Doubtless picked up a stone, running his thumb over the soft surface. It was perfect. It fit just into his palm and was oddly flat. With a sigh he stood the towel disappearing from beneath him as if it had never existed.


“Let’s get this over with before I change my mind.”


Trip sprung to his feet, stuffing his hands into his pocket with a shameless smile, “I knew you’d give in.”


“Shut up and start walking. Uh, what kind of world is this that I have to spend eternity with someone like you.”


“A pretty good one I’d say.”


“I’m sure you would, you’re the lucky one, you have me.”


The house was warm, with a perfect view of the beach, set back just near the cliffs edge. The windows in the wide great room stretched the extent of the wall, with only a warm fireplace interrupting the scene. It was here where Emily sat near a bustling fire.


It was difficult not to notice how much she had changed. She had thinned out over the summer, though she was still a little girl in general shape. Her long black hair had been trimmed to her shoulder in expectation of her thirteenth birthday, in answer to the desire for a fresh grown-up look.


Trip crossed the room stopping halfway when he noticed he hadn’t been followed. Doubtless stood in the arching open mouth between the living room and the kitchen staring at her as cold as the weather outside.


She was reading intently, her eyes on the pages of the book she had brought with her. It was some new thing her mother had picked out. It was easy to remember a time when he would enter the room and she would look up and smile at him or get so irritated she would throw her book right at him.


“Why are you just standing there?”


“What does it matter to you? It wouldn’t change anything if I sat on her.”


Coming forward Doubtless fell on the couch his stare just as cold as the icy wind they had left behind. Trip sat on the hearth near her glancing at the pages she was reading. Emily kept on as if nothing had changed, as cold and impassive as the stones on the beach. Doubtless slumped, leaning against the armrest, squeezing the rock he had brought with him.


The sound of a car pulling up caused Emily to glance away from her book. Taking the marker from off the blanket that had been covering her lower half she placed the slender piece of leather between the pages, shutting the cover. Springing to her feet she ran to the door of the garage letting her parents in.


There was a pleasant commotion. Father and mother returned with quick provisions, placing them in the kitchen. All was laughter and conversation. Trip and Doubtless stood back watching the affair. Trip with the appearance of satisfaction, Doubtless a moody guarded spirit. The family ate and chittered just as the first rolling thunder began.


The night went on perfectly, as if nothing at all was missing. They played games. Drank hot chocolate, discussed the past. Talked about their plans for tomorrow. What they would do if the weather stayed stormy.


In Emily’s room Doubtless stood near the window looking out on the blackness through a slit in the curtains.


“So, didn’t it feel good?”


“Didn’t what feel good?” Removing his fingers from the slats he turned to Trip who stood near the door.


“Seeing she doesn’t need us anymore.”


“Oh, I forgot to take joy in that. Sorry, I don’t know what I was doing.”


“Your sarcasm is a bit much don’t you think?”


“Really you think so, because I don’t.”


“Stupid me for thinking you would.”


Doubtless squeezed the rock, “It isn’t fair.”


“What isn’t?”


“Our having to leave all the time. It isn’t fair.”


“We’re only guardians, there is no reason for us to remain when we are no longer needed, and when they stop being able to see us that is when our usefulness ends. You’re making this larger than it needs to be.”


“You would say that. Why did you bother me at all. Why didn’t you let me enjoy the last day the way I wanted to?”


“Because you would have regretted it.”


“And you know that because you can see the future.”


“I know that because you’ve acted with Emily the same way you did with David.”


Wind blew against the house, the pressure could be heard through the windowpanes, rattling in the walls.


“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


“Playing dumb doesn’t suit you, it’s okay to say there are special children. Those that leave their mark on you, even if you won’t be remembered by them.”


His fingers grew white around the rock, “What do you know.”


“Fighting again?” Emily walked into the room, hair damp from her shower, floral pajamas replacing her jeans and t-shirt from earlier.


“You can see us?”


“Try not to sound so surprised, Doubty. Of course, I can see you, though you guys have been keeping out of sight rather well. What have you been up to I wonder?”


“Oh, nothing to worry yourself about Miss Emily.”


“There’s that smile, you’re hiding something from me aren’t you, Trip?”


“He’s not.”


“Since when are you ever on his side, so suspicious. I should reprimand you both for lying to me. But, as it is the eve of my birthday, I will show grace and refrain.”


Trip smiled, “That is very magnanimous of you, Miss Emily.”


“What are you holding there, Doubty? I hope it’s not anything alive, if it is I’m pretty sure you killed it.”


“It’s nothing, Miss, just a stone.”


“From the beach! Did you go down there today? The weather was terrible what if something happened to you?”


“There was nothing to be concerned about, Miss, I came in long before the weather turned.”


“Was it rock hunting that sent you down there?” She sat on her bed letting one of her legs hang over.


“I wanted to get you something. Something you could keep, to remember me by.”


“So, it’s a birthday present?”


He ran a finger against the surface, “In a manner of speaking.”


“Well then, hand it over.”


He crossed the room placing the stone in the palms of her cupped hands, “Wow, this is a good one, would be great to skip, but of course I won’t. Thank you, Doubty.”


“It is my pleasure, Miss.”


“But you didn’t need to get it for me to remember you by, after all the two of you are unforgettable.”


“You flatter us, Miss Emily.”


“It’s the truth, Trip. I’m not just saying it.”


“Of course not, Miss.”


Trip turned down her bed when she went to dry her hair. He was careful to gather her excess pillows and stuffed animals on the window seat. His attitude strangely retracted for its usual. Doubtless strayed near the door leaning against the wall beside it, staring at his palm, the sensation of the rock reflecting there.


“You shouldn’t have said that.”


He looked up at Trip who was still carefully at work, “You would say that. What does it matter if I did or didn’t? She won’t remember tomorrow.”


“Maybe not.” He folded the blanket back, “But you’re playing a cruel game with yourself.”


“Am I?”


“You are.”


“Then let me alone to play. It doesn’t concern you.”


“Doubtless, you and I both know that’s not true.”


Emily paused in the doorway, “You both are hopeless.”


“Forgive us, Miss Emily.” Trip bowed gently, his kind smile back in place.


She went to her bed crawling under the covers.


“Miss Emily, is it alright if we remain with you tonight?”


“I don’t see why not, you have before.”


“Thank you.”


“I guess you’re not going to sleep though.”


Trip took a seat on her desk chair, “Its unnecessary, unless you wish us to.”


“No, its fine. Actually, I wanted to ask you to stay tonight.”


Doubtless pushed off the wall taking a few steps toward the bed, “Is something wrong Miss?”


“No, not really. I just have this weird feeling that’s all.”


“Fear not Miss Emily, I and Doubtless won’t leave.”


“Good.” She turned off her bedside light, smiling at them in the darkness, “I’m glad you’ll be here, to see me come out of my cocoon one more time.”


His hand slid from the footboard. One more time. One last time. Doubtless stepped away, going to the window lifting a section of the hard wooden slats. The weather was still lashing. The rain was pelting the double paned glass.


An hour past, her breathing changed revealing she had at last fallen asleep. Trip stood adjusting the covers, brushing away some of her dark hair, carefully he kissed her forehead.


“Goodbye, Miss Emily.” Standing back, he looked at Doubtless, “It’s time.”


He turned to face them. She slept like a princess in a fairy story there in the darkness. He dreaded going to her, still he went stopping only when he was beside the bed. She was still so small, so delicate. His eyes caught sight of the stone still in her hand, her fingers loosely bent around the surface that was still too large for her grasp.


“Doubtless.”


“I know.”


Hesitantly he leaned, pushing back her hair, he kissed her forehead, faltering as he pulled away, “Goodbye, Emily.”


A flash, and a loud clap of thunder. Emily woke up throwing herself forward in bed, feeling an impact when her hand brought a rock against her chest. She stared at it for a long moment before scanning the room. There was no one there.


She opened her mouth to call out, but she couldn’t be sure who for, or what she had planned to say. The stone. She pressed it to her chest, a rolling thunder shaking her room as her first tear fell.


Please… don’t forget us.



End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt Sentence: He wondered if it could be called a beach if there was no sand.


Word Count: 2460


©DecemberKnight 2023


Special thanks to Colin Fearing from Pexels for the use of the image!


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