The sand is cool and coarse beneath my feet as I walk closer to the crashing waves. The shells are bigger there and more exquisite, in the rough waters where children haven’t dared to go. I will go there, though. I know they will be there.
I can see the wave tumble shells of striking colours. Had they landed on the soft sands further up the beach, they’d be quickly snatched for souvenirs.
The waves retract and I dive my hand down, missing the flash of purple I desire, instead bringing up a handful of tiny, broken pieces as plain as the sand itself. I toss them back and move out of the path of the next wave.
The purple shell comes rolling back to me. I throw my hand in, not willing to let it escape again. Chill water hits my hand and drenches my sleeve. My fingers fumble through the spray, grasping.
No, not quite.
Nothing I could have done. Or so they said.
Another wave smacks my legs. I dive my hand down as it recedes. I can’t see anything in the white wash.
I pull out the most vivid yellow shell.
A wave crashes and recedes and I swim in. I filter through the pieces in my hand in search of my prize.
It’s not here.
I try again.
Wave crashes. Recedes. Hand dives down.
I find one in the deepest of magical blue hues.
The light starts to dwindle before I catch my final prize in coral pink.
I hold the three precious shells in my hand. Each one so captivating, each incredibly unique and the tears fall for these hard fought for little ones.
I line each shell atop a rock. Blue, yellow, pink. Side by side. Picture perfect.
Finn would be blue, of course. Yellow for Auggie. And sweet dainty June takes pink.
I take my phone out and take a picture. Then a few more, plus a video. I make sure to get every angle.
My heart aches again. It’s cathartic and right, but it’s hell.
‘You can’t take these home,’ a voice in my head says. ‘These are not for you.’
‘But couldn’t they be?’ I argue, even though I know it must be this way. This letting go is the missing link in my healing.
I scoop up the three shells – the most beautiful shells I’ve ever seen – and I delicately place them back in the water.
I leave the beach with nothing more than sand on my skin.
Months later, my daughter splashes at a beach. She races over to me.
“Mummy! Look at this! Look at this!”
She places a small purple shell in my hand and we carry it home.
Later, I watch the bright dye run across another pregnancy test. Two lines. My heart swells. It anxiously rejoices. Maybe this one we’re bringing home.