He watched her die slowly in his mind’s eye. Imagining the temperature of the water, of the look on her face. Was it windy? Was she tired?
Everyone else stared blankly, avoiding the pain and confusion within his eyes. Instead, they studied the wood grain of the floor boards, or the unfinished knitting of the caretaker. How did she come to die so young, he heard someone say. Who was she, and why should it matter you might ask?
She had hair of the softest yellow melting into a warm golden cinnamon at the tips. Her eyes were the blue of the tide rushing onto the beach. Not a true blue, but a blue with a hint of a cloudy grey. Her hair lay in damp curls, framing an oval face while a few strands got in the way of her apparent serenity.
In death she appeared to be an angel, in life she had been more of a demon, he knew. Her laugh cut through the miles of his memory like a hot knife cuts through a pat of butter, efficiently, and ruthlessly accurate.
For all her sharpness and uncontrollable anger, he found himself missing her. She was the sea that kept life from becoming an endless horizon with nothing to look forward to.
She was life, in all its irony and bitterness. In death, she was like a forgery. She was somehow fake; unreal like a child’s life size doll. This wasn’t her. This was a mannequin dressed in her clothes, wearing her make up, wearing her knowing, sly smile.
Everyone else in the room had known her, or thought they did at any rate. They knew of her, surely, knew she loved orange sherbet ice cream, and that she hoped to get a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and that her favorite color was purple. You know, just like a million other girls’ her age.
No one knew her quite like he did. They saw an innocent friendly smile, not the sly mischievous smile of one who knew they knew, and loved the fact that you didn’t. But they didn’t really see what was behind that. The forced nature of it, the fact that it actually meant, “I know nothing. I wish I knew what you know, but know that I can’t.”
Her coldness wasn’t cool. It was hot, tempestuous; interesting. It wasn’t coldness. Not really. It was passion. She was very lonely, this girl. She thrived on her imagination. Everyone else came and went around her, but she had her own reality which stayed the same, until the end, of course.
At the end, it must have all come crashing down, the blue skies, the white Christmases, the rose colored glasses and the yellow walls of sunshine. It all came crashing down, and it took her with it.
Life without her isn’t life, but the xerox copy of a copy of a copy of what it once was and never would be again. He sighed. Everyone else shifted uncomfortably at the ongoing silence. A cough was heard, and a quiet murmur. Perhaps a prayer for one who never prayed?
The water of the sea near the lighthouse was cold. It must have made her cold as ice when she dived off the rocks into the brutish water below. It invaded her nose, her mouth, her body, until it turned her a sickly pale blue green color. They called him then, after pulling her ashore when the lighthouse attendant who happened to take a late night stroll on the beach saw her.
The local ambulance was called immediately of course, but it would be a while before they arrived. Family was called and she was carried into the lighthouse, seeming heavy and blue. Her mother would ask why, but no one answered. Why? Why not?
She had so much to look forward to, someone said. The line was a tired one, and didn’t much alter the mood in the small circular room. The rocks had scraped some skin off her shins someone noted. A kid’s injury, not the injury of the dead, he thought.
Despite the hand wringing and solemnity, she was just another lost soul, another person who gave up before they even started.