The beach house was Tanya’s dream and her escape. Whenever life got to be too much Tanya traveled there in her mind and sat in the sun, digging her feet into the warm sand. She reveled in the heat that soaked into her bones and made her glow with serenity.
But then a gunshot sounded and fear returned again. Sometimes Tanya sat on the floor, so she could duck in a hurry if she had to. Sometimes she had to. “When I grow up, I’m gonna to live at the beach. I’m gonna to live where it’s always summer,” she told herself and anyone who would listen.
“Oh hush, child,” her mama would say. “Ain’t no way you can afford to live at the beach.”
Tanya was not daunted by her mama’s doubts but rather emboldened by them. “Am too!” She stamped her little foot and crossed her arms tightly across her bony chest. “I’m gonna get a job and get lots of money and buy me a beach house.” Tanya pulled out one of her hundreds of drawings of the beach house that dwelled in her mind and waved it at her mama. “See here? This is my house.”
But her mama was too busy making dinner and worrying about grown up things. Too busy making that crease in her forehead deeper than it was the day before. Too busy sewing on buttons and patches to clothes that should have been sent to the ragbag long ago. Too busy to duck when the shot sounded.
Tanya waited a long minute before she stuck her head out to see if it was safe. “Mama?” But the house was too quiet for voices to intrude. “Mama?” Tanya’s own voice scared her a little and she felt a tremble start up her foot then race to her chest. She still held the crayon drawing in her hand and the fist she made destroyed it without Tanya’s notice. “Mama?”
A ragged sigh cut through the air like a scissors through construction paper and Tanya saw her mama then. On the floor. Her chest barely raised as she struggled to take in breath. “Ttttanyaaaa…” was all that came out. The blood that oozed was like a cardinal halo that circled her mama’s head and fanned out in surprising and beautiful patterns.
Tanya went to her mama and sat down on the floor beside her. She smoothed out the drawing that had crumpled in her clenched fist and showed it to her mama. “See here, this is the beach house. Our beach house. We live here, Mama. And the sun always shines and keeps you warm and safe. You go there now and rest, Mama. I made it for you. I made it for you so you could always be warm.”
Mama reached for the drawing and pulled it to her chest. She nodded to Tanya and smiled but tears were running down her face like rain on a window glass.
“Ssshhh,” Tanya whispered to her mama, ‘you sleep now. Can you hear the waves telling you to sleep?” Tanya pulled a blanket from the old brown couch and dragged it over to her mama and covered her with it. “Sssshhh,” she cooed.
Then a shot sounded and Tanya didn’t duck. Instead she slept too with her mama and together they went to their beach house and reveled in the eternal summer.