The moment you think that you have the words to describe everything, you hear music.
The sound of a trumpet off in the distance filled the air as if painting it with brilliant colors, bouncing off of the waves, splashing onto the shore. Veronica stood motionless. Her evening gown dusted in sand and salt sprayed on by the wind and the Gulf, and the translucent fabric clung to her—a violet second skin, shimmering under the moonlight.
“You match the surf!” a voice called out from behind her. “Look at you. Your dress sparkles like the waves,” and the voice was getting closer, but there was no image of him in the dark. Veronica looked down at her arms, and it was true, the violet shimmer of the fabric on her dress was a perfect match to the moonbeams dancing on the waves. “Are you real or a part of the water?” the voice said softly, now coming from directly over her shoulder. Veronica could feel his breath on her neck.
Though startled by the stranger, Veronica didn’t turn to look at him this time. She felt enchanted by mystery, praying that maybe this stranger was from her dream. Maybe he’s the trumpeter, handsome, strong, kind with soft eyes and made of mystery. A mystery she longed to keep secret for as long as possible.
After a few moments of silence, she turned, and no one was there. The buildings in the background were blacked out. It was three a.m. and not a soul seemed to be awake but her. Except, yards away was a beachside motel with a neon vacancy sign lit up out front, blinking in the dimly lit window of an office. The trumpet’s songs resumed in muted tones.
The reality of the buildings, the structures and solid features framing the other side of the beach transported her back to reality with a vengeance. She felt like crying, but the tears wouldn’t come. She felt nauseous, angry, humiliated, defeated, and a wave of despondence overwhelmed her. The three bottles of wine she consumed on her own a mere hour ago seemed to lose all effect. The intoxication was no use in dulling the pain any longer, and Veronica fell into the sand, dry-eyed and silenced as if her emotions have strangled her. She sat alone gasping for air, clutching the sugary white sand that poured out through her fingers.
Just then, something broke. Inside of her, a sharp pain crescendoed as if a glass had shattered and scratched the inside of her skin and began shooting outward, tearing her flesh, just under the surface—she became cold. The beads of sweat all around her body formed from the Florida August heat felt as cool droplets of rain while memories bombarded her brain, and her own breath betrayed her. All she could do was exhale.
Her mind played out the night’s events in vivid frames beginning wither husband, Jason, backstage, waiting for her after the opera. She was a stunning Carmen, with Bizet’s notes carved carefully in her voice—every tone embodied an intense characterization—that emanated a reality, transporting the audience into another world.
After the last curtain call, and the roars of the crowds died down, Veronica was beaming with joy. Seeing Jason backstage, she melted into his arms, snuggling intimately against his neck, then suddenly realized that his arms weren’t even around her, and his head was stiff and fixed forward. She felt as if she was embracing a concrete wall. She was. She grew cold and silent, gathered her things and left quickly behind him, sitting in the car with a knot in her stomach, not knowing why, but she felt immensely fearful just the same.
The next frame was of Jason uttering his only words, which followed a long stretch of silence in the car ride back to the hotel. “Oh, by the way, I’ve filed for divorce. And I’ve moved our money. You won’t find it, so there’s no need for you to contest it. I think you have $4,000 in your checking account. I’ve left you with that. Thanks for agreeing to selling the house so quickly. It would have been uncomfortable if we needed to deal with an arson investigation and insurance settlements. This way, it’s all neat and clean. We don’t even need to talk past this point. Our attorneys will handle everything. See? It’s clean. You should be happy—I’ve made this pretty easy on you. Okay, here we are,” he finished pulling up to the hotel as the valet opened her door.
Veronica sat there staring at Jason, then whispered sheepishly, stuttering a little, “What?”
Next frame—Jason twisted his neck around with his chiseled jaw clenched, eyes stern and black, glaring into hers filled with tears, and he said simply, “Get out.” She did.
Veronica gathered herself up, and she walked to the motel office. No one seemed to be there; the door was locked, and no one answered as she pounded, just needing a place to rest.
She remembered seeing a hammock near one of the motel windows, and she figured that would do until dawn, which was still several hours away.
A sense of dead exhaustion overcame her, and she clung tightly to the old sea grass woven hammock and climbed into it, drifting off to a shallow sleep. The sound of the waves crashing over and over again against the surf took her mind to a place of uncommon stillness—a soft quietness within. A peace she hadn’t known since childhood. And she dreamed in soft colors.
About an hour lapsed, and consciousness swept in, waking her to a sharp pain in her thigh. Her plump flesh pressed uncomfortably against the strong ropes, she shifted her weight over to the left to relieve the pressure, but her foot got stuck. Trying to shake it free, her hand fell through another opening in the hammock, and she found herself twisted and tangled like a dolphin caught in an unforgiving net.
Veronica then thrust all of her weight—a solid180 lbs.—onto one side, spinning her body, leaving her hovering over the sand, face down, still caught in the ropes. The hammock seemed to have won the battle, and as far as she knew, it might have won the war.
No longer feeling too peaceful, and the scorching Florida heat returned with a vengeance, she hung there, sweat leaking from every pour, her evening gown shrunk onto her flesh like plastic wrap. Not a soul seemed to be awake; even moonstruck lovers had found their way indoors for the night. There wasn’t much hope for a rescue, and her handbag was yards away with her cell phone tucked safely inside. Veronica tried to fight back tears of frustration and discomfort, and she failed.
As she tried to wipe her now slimy nose, she managed to finally free her hand from the ropes, and it fell to the sand below onto something that felt rubbery and cold. Curious, she dusted off the sand covering the object, revealing a hand—a dead hand, gray and shriveled, with a gold Rolex strapped to the lifeless wrist, still ticking away.