Sights and sounds along the boardwalk this evening leave the little girl gaping in wonder.
The bright lights of the ferris wheel spin in the darkness, and barkers call out to each passerby- “step right up!” There are hundreds of flashing bulbs around the arcade filled with bells and shouts.
Oh, and the smells!
Hot, buttery popcorn, and spicy sausage surrounded by peppers and onions. Sweet cotton candy, and salt water taffy. The girl wishes for a red candy apple, or a towering ice cream cone, but the family continues down the boardwalk leaving the noisy midway behind.
The crowds thin, and once again the sound of the ocean, hidden behind the dark curtain of night can be heard. Flames dot the sand from bonfires on the beach. The girl can hear the the strum of a guitar in the distance.
The family stops at a jewelry shop, and the mother and father talk quietly before the mother slips into the cool store. The father stands watching his wife through the glass display window while the children talk, and tease one another.
The girl wanders a short distance away. She sees two girls sitting on the boardwalk looking down at something between them on the rough boards. As the girl inches closer she sees one girl pick up a white shell and begin to paint it with pearly, pink Cutex nail polish. The second girl is fanning the wet shells on the boardwalk. The first girl looks up from her task and asks, “You want to buy our pretty shells? Only one dollar each.” The girl shakes her head “no,” and continues to stare at the girls.
The girls ignore her and continue to work. Another couple walk up to the girls, and smile when the girls try to hawk their wares. Suddenly the little girl remembers her family. She turns and looks, but they are no longer in front of the jewelry store. The girl’s stomach tightens, she can feel her panic building. She runs towards the store, dodging legs and bicycles. She looks around her, then stands on her tip-toes to peek into the store window.
She sees her mother sitting in a chair and a man standing in front of her with a silver machine that looks like a space gun. He holds the space gun to the side of her face and her mother flinches and grimaces. The little girl bursts into tears and cries out. She wrenches open the heavy door to the shop and runs straight to her mother, burying her head in her lap.
“What’s wrong? Where is your Father? her Mother asks as she strokes the girl’s hair away from her face.
“Don’t know,” the little girl answers, her throat thick with tears.
“What do you think?” the Mother asks the little girl. She lifts her head out of her Mother’s lap, and looks at her face. Both ears are bright red with a gold ball in the middle of each lobe.
“I got my ears pierced!” the Mother exclaims.
The little girl bursts into tears and buries her face again.