An old woman sits on the edge of a wooden train bridge, her feet dangling high above a green lagoon, looking out at the ocean. The splintered, dark wood of the bridge smells of tar and wet soot. The faint sound of a horn makes the woman look away from the sea and down the tracks. A breeze from the ocean makes her grip tighten on the metal cable she’s been clutching, pressing deep marks into the palm of her hand. With her other hand, she clutches a scrapbook closer to her breast. She closes her eyes and inhales deeply, feeling the sea breeze as it makes her hair, the color of the moon on a fresh snow, dance around her head. The breeze tastes salty in her mouth, and she sighs. She opens her eyes and looks back at the scrapbook. A picture of an older man, her husband, and her at the same beach years ago, knee deep in the water, pants rolled up but still wet, laughing as the picture was taken.
The woman flips slowly through the pages of the book, past pictures and cards that seem to show a long and happy life. In a black and white photo are the man and her, younger; him in a suit and bow tie and her in a white dress with long tails and a veil, which he is lifting to kiss her, as people around them throw rice. There are pictures with her and the man sailing a boat on the ocean. There is another of them holding surfboards stuck in the sand, the ocean at their backs. Many more photos follow, with children and a dog. Then, around a Christmas tree with presents, the children ripping open boxes and emptying stockings, the man sitting back in an arm chair, smiling and smoking a pipe. Another with the couple, older and the children, older, hunting for Easter eggs outside of an enormous yellow Victorian house, in an overexposed color photograph. And more pictures of the children grown up, and their own children. One picture of a boy missing two of his front teeth off the diving board of a family pool, caught mid-air with a huge grin, seconds before he belly flops. Then pictures of the children’s, children’s birthday parties.
The woman stops on a page with pictures of her and the man at a party with banners that say, “50th anniversary!” with many of the same faces. She touches the pictures with her fingers, feels the grooves and texture across the face of the man. Crying, she softly shuts the book and ties the light blue ribbon around it into a bow, sealing it. Setting it on her lap, she looks back out at the sea.
The woman softly places the scrapbook into her bag and pulls it up around her shoulder. She stands up, using the metal cables to help her. She looks out at the ocean for a long moment, taking a deep breath and then takes a step forward. She’s on the edge of the dark, thick plank of railroad wood. A horn blasts loudly, startling her and the woman sees a train about to enter the bridge. She pulls herself close to one of the large vertical columns and clings to the metal cables, almost falling off of the bridge, she holds tight. Her eyes shut, wind blowing, she hugs the column until the tremor and noise have passed. She pulls herself together, bag held tightly at her bosom and turns around again towards the ocean. Nothing is left but the smell of salt and the sound of the crashing waves.
The woman reaches for a miniature urn hanging from a necklace around her neck. She lifts it up and over her head and kisses the urn. She takes off the cap and shakes out all the ashes before throwing the urn towards the foaming waves. She lifts the scrapbook above her head, seeming to consider throwing it into the ocean as well. After a moment, she lowers it, looks at the cover, which has a photo of her and the old man and an inscription: Freddy and Ethel.
The old woman seems to smile. She kisses the photo of the two. She whispers, “I love you” and pulls the album close and hugs it. Taking a final breathe and look around at her ocean and lagoon, she carefully walks off the bridge and back towards home.