From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

Sand Castles

She frantically piled sandpile on top of sandpile trying to build her dream sand castle independently, without her father’s help. Finally, she gave up. With her silk pink ribbon hanging over one eye and sand building up inside her bathing suit, she ran over to her father.

“Daddy, I can’t build my sand castle good enough. Help me!” she demanded.

Her dad scooped the sandy girl into his arms and, with a broad smile on his face, looked pleased that she wanted his help. He carried her over to a nice, flat spot of sand, and together they built a charming sand castle.

When they were finished, he took her tiny, sticky hand in his, and her puffy little fingers clung to his large firm hand. “I love you, Daddy,” she said looking up at his face with large, expectant eyes.

“I love you very much, my little princess,” he replied.

But then the huge majestic waves pulled at her feet like a rope tugging her into itself. She tried to break free from her father’s protective hand so that she could play alongside the waves.

“Daddy, I want to go play in the ocean,” she informed him.

“Okay, but I’ll come with you to make sure the waves don’t pull you away.”

“No, Daddy. I want to go in by myself.” And with that independent statement, she ran into the waves, which welcomed her with full force. They filled her senses with a pungent, salty smell, the foam blinded her eyes, and her active little body became one with the fast flowing water.

Twelve years later, the same girl, now a young woman, had lost her ribbons, but not her assertive independence. Her frilly, pink bathing suit had been reduced to a skimpy, green two-piece. Her long legs glided out of the harsh waves.

A young man with wavy golden hair flashed his magnetic smile at her, and her coy expression met his face. He wrapped her in a towel as he gazed into her deep, green eyes.

As they sat cuddling on the sandy beach, warming their feet in the thick pebbles, she asked him what he was thinking.

“Well, actually, I was just thinking that . . . never mind, it’s deep. Let’s just sit here,” he said uneasily.

“Come on, what were you going to say?” she prodded him.

Her long, slim fingers had lost their puffy, childish features, and now they ran through his rough and wild hair as the wind played between the strands.

“It’s kinda crazy. But, I think . . . I think . . . I love you,” he replied.

Her eyes froze as she looked into his eyes. He looked down at the ground and nervously sifted the cold sand through his fingers.

“I don’t know what to say,” she truthfully told him.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything.”

A tear formed in her eye. She felt warm, and pleasure filled her heart.

Finally, they both got up, and she playfully kicked sand on his legs. He chased her down to the waves. As they landed on the cold, shifty ground, she said, “Let’s make a sand castle like I used to do when I was little.”

He looked at her with a funny expression on his face, but her enthusiasm enticed him to enter into his past. Together, they piled layers of sand on top of each other. But the waves kept claiming their fortress, blanketing the couple’s efforts and stealing the sand back to its ocean floor.

Finally, the two of them lost interest in their failed efforts and walked back to the car, trudging their feet through the sinking sand.

After a few months, she came back to that same spot on the beach. This time, she was alone. Tears slept in her eyelids as resentment rested heavily in her heart. Her brain felt as though it had been filled with sand, and she could not think anymore. She felt dizzy and lonely. She thought of all the dances they had gone to, all the promises he pledged to her, and all the smiles she had thought were only flashed in her direction, although now she knew otherwise.

She collapsed her frail body on the hard and shifty sand. The pebbles were unusually cold as the clouds crawled along behind their mother sun. She desperately grabbed for the sand, for something to hold on to, but it seeped between her fingers. She began to unconsciously pile up sand. As a castle began to form, she decided it was a good idea to continue to build it; maybe it would take her mind off her sorrow.

Somehow, building the sand castle brought her a sense of peace. Something about it comforted her and began to make her feel like a child again. She felt innocent and lighthearted. The feeling of the sand in her hands and the strong scent of dried seaweed brought her back to a time when she was much younger, and life seemed simple.

She began to remember her failed attempt to build a sand castle when she was younger, her father’s smile and his watery eyes filled with love as he helped her build her dream castle.

She struggled to push herself up from the suppressing sand and reached into her pocket for some change. She trudged to the pay phone as her toes wiggled in the wet sand that covered the concrete floor and made her feet unusually cold. Picking up the receiver, she dropped the coins into the slot and dialed the number she had known by heart since she was a little girl.

Her father picked up the phone almost immediately after the seventh digit had been pushed.

“Daddy . . . ?”

“Honey, is that you?” his voice sounded relieved.

“Dad, I just wanted to say . . . I love you.”

There was a pause.

“I love you, too, my little princess.”

As she walked back down the sand to get her shoes, she spotted her sand castle. The waves had not touched it. It stood strong above the rest of the sand, while the waves crashed in the distance.

Jennifer Reichert

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