The wind wisped along the shoreline, snaking its long fingers into the crevices of the cliffs and ruffling the women’s carefully styled hair. On most days, the only creatures that accessed this small strip of beach were the wind and fish, but on this day, the Culpepper sisters made an appearance. It had been a lifetime since they were last here; they could feel the echoes of their childish squeals and broken dreams in the sand as it crunched beneath their bare feet.
The sisters were quite surprised to find the weathered ladder down the cliffside still standing. Were matters less pressing, they may have decided it looked too near collapse to bear their weight, but the thought had not passed their minds until they were already on the beach and they realized that the ladder also had to carry them back up to the realm of civilization the cliff held on its back. Best to unload the bulky bundle in their arms as quickly as possible.
They carried the human-sized roll of thick canvas to the edge of the grey water. For whatever reason, the fish felt called to this beach. Bluefish and flounder circled their ankles in the shallow water.
“Are you ready?” the first sister asked the second.
The wind stole away her reply, but the sisters knew each other’s hearts well enough to forgo verbal confirmation. With a heavy huff of breath, they unloaded their burden into the October waters. The splash only nearly avoided them; the hems of their chiffon skirts floated in the water like petals of silver shadow roses. They watched the waves accept their gift with solemnity. In return, it released for them two tiny pearls, Cinderella-blue in the light of the chilled dusk of autumn turning to winter. For fear of someone divining the origins of the pearls, the sisters left Poseidon’s gift cradled in the sands of their youth and ascended the ladder as if none of this had ever happened. The pearls sit there winking in the dusty sand to this day. The ocean refuses to take them back.