Essa watched as the children ran ahead of her. She smiled as they started digging in the sand. “Don’t you wish you could join them?” The snide voice stripped the smile off her face.
“You know I do, Opal,” Essa said.
“Too bad you can’t,” Opal said, and with that the older woman flounced off to corral the children and guide them to the water. She continued to cast smug looks over her shoulder at the young woman sitting with their possessions.
“Don’t let her get to you, angel.” The soothing voice of her father Jason eased some of her tension. “I don’t know what stick she’s got up her ass, but it sure as hell isn’t mine.”
Essa giggled. Opal had been playing the part of the evil stepmother for the past year, ever since the car accident that had paralyzed Essa from the waist down. Until then she’d been mildly aggressive towards her stepdaughter, but nothing overt. Now she took every opportunity to remind Essa of how crippled she truly was.
“Do you know why she hates me?” Essa asked.
“She’s jealous. I spend more time with you than I do with her and her little monsters,” Jason said. “She’d rather I send you to live in some home and not deal with you anymore.”
“You wouldn’t do that, would you?” Essa asked.
“Not a chance, Essa. You’re perfectly capable of taking care of yourself, with a few minor adjustments,” Jason said. “I’m not going to send you off just because your stepmother thinks she’s more important than my own daughter.”
“Jason, you should come join us,” Opal called. “I’m sure Essa wouldn’t mind.”
“Go on, dad. I’m fine,” Essa said.
“If you’re sure.” Jason kissed her on the top of her head before going to join the rest of the family.
Essa waited until they were farther down the beach before pulling a locket out from under her tank top. She opened it and stared at the face inside. Her mother gazed back at her, a smile lighting up her frozen face. Tears dripped down to fall on the photograph. “Mama, come back. I miss you,” she whispered.
“She can’t ever come back and you know that,” a raspy voice said.
Essa looked towards the ground. Hunkered down by the left side of her wheelchair was a gnarled man with black skin and a bright red beard. She didn’t know who or what he was, only that he’d shown up the night after her mother had died ten years earlier. No one else could see him, and she took care not to speak to him in front of the others. Opal had once threatened to send her to a mental hospital if she didn’t “quit talking to herself.”
“I know that. But it doesn’t change the fact that I miss her,” Essa said.
“That woman is causing you trouble again,” the creature said.
“That’s nothing new,” Essa said.
“It’s worse this time. She uses this trip against you. She could make it so you have to go live with others in a place where I don’t dare try to visit with you,” he said.
“What am I supposed to do? Dad loves Opal. I can’t exactly tell him what to do,” Essa said.
“You’re too nice,” he said. He placed a damaged shell in her hands. “Just remember, even broken things are beautiful.” With that he vanished.
Essa turned the shell over in her hands. She ran her fingers over the cracks, held it up to her ear and smiled as she listened. A short while later her stepbrothers and stepsisters ran up to her, dripping wet. Jason and Opal were close behind them, holding their shoes and socks and laughing.
“So Essa, what did you do while we were playing?” Opal asked.
“I spoke to an interesting gentleman who gave me this shell,” Essa said.
“It’s broken,” Juno, her youngest stepsister, said. “It’s not pretty anymore.”
“Yes it is,” Essa said.
“How is it pretty?” Kenny asked.
“Everything beautiful has a flaw,” Essa said. “No matter how perfect you may think it is, you will always find a crack or chip in it somewhere.”
And here’s this week’s vlog: