Marina and David walked Tigertail Beach. There was a rotten-egg sulfur and sewage stench in the air. The sea was always filled with the unknown, but since the hurricane in Marco Island a month ago, it was flooded with debris: old furniture, bits of boats, dolphin mailboxes. When the water rose during the storm, the old septic tanks leaked waste into the ocean. Bacteria festered and gave beachgoers rashes, infected their wounds. Two people even died from this invisible hazard, lurking beneath the surface.
“Do you think the island will recover?” Marina squeezed David’s hand.
“Don’t know. It’ll be June before the pool works. Other people have it way worse. At least my parents’ apartment didn’t get obliterated.”
“They’re lucky. And we are, too.” Marina held her hand on her swollen belly. She felt something twitch against her fingers. She wasn’t even halfway through her pregnancy and couldn’t tell if that was his foot, but she knew those flutters meant her son was kicking. It was starting to hurt.
“I was so bored here in high school, trapped with no car, on this tiny island with my sisters doing puzzles,” said David, as he dodged a large hole in the sand. “Watch out!”
Marina walked around the ditch, laughing, “Someone must have buried one of their annoying sisters in the sand.”
They came upon two wooden posts that had been knocked down from the storm, red emergency tape tangled between them on the sand. This was where a sea turtle nest had been or still was, Marina couldn’t tell.
“Is that nest empty?”
“I hope not. I think the mothers bury the eggs, don’t they?” asked David.
Marina heard her mom’s voice from years ago in her head, reminding her to dim the lights in their condo rental, so the turtles wouldn’t get lost. “We should turn out the lights tonight anyway, just in case they’re still there. Some turtle eggs must have survived, right?” Marina asked.
It was a pain to sit in the dark during the nesting season. Marina hoped for the inconvenience, though. It was weird, her worrying about the sea turtles so much. She’d only seen them in real life once, a few years back. Her mom took Marina to volunteer on Marco Island, right before her mother had started her new life with Awful Gus, as Marina and her sister called him, the boyfriend over in Tequesta on the east coast. After the turtles hatched in Marco, she and her mom searched the nests for the hatchlings who had been left behind. They released them in the ocean after dark, so the turtles could avoid their predators and have a better chance of surviving.
Now after the hurricane, after all the flooding and destruction, Marina hoped the eggs were tucked safely in their that the hatchlings would go to the sea where they belonged, the moonlight, and maybe some volunteers, guiding them. She hoped the hurricane hadn’t ruined it all.
“Don’t worry, they’re probably okay,” David squeezed Marina’s hand.
Marina heard the waves crash on the shore, the seagulls squawk. She saw the flaming sun setting behind them. How could Marco Island be anything but paradise, even with all the drowned cars and flooded houses, the smelly sea?
“We’re still in paradise. We are lucky, aren’t we?” she asked out loud, though David was looking the other way.
“Mama, I see you!” David called to his own mother who sat in a beach chair in front of her building. The brim of his mother’s straw hat covered her freckly face. The late summer thunder rumbled, but it was so far away it didn’t feel dangerous.
“Did you have a nice walk? Better enjoy them now, because it might be a while before you’ll get to again,” David’s mom smiled.
“Mom. We know you’ll mind him!” David smirked.
Marina’s stomach tightened. “Ow, these Braxton-Hicks are no joke. This baby really hurts sometimes.”
“Sorry, dear. I wish it were an easier process. Takes so much to make a human!” David’s mom held both of Marina’s hands in hers. “See you up at the apartment,” she said as she smiled at her.
She was kind. Marina loved how David’s mom gave Marina huge hugs and called her “dear”. Marina wished David’s mom were her own, sometimes. David and Marina walked around the broken shells on the beach. They would go up after the sun set.
Marina’s own mom had never been one for affection and these days, she was too busy going to the casinos with Awful Gus to even call Marina to check on her. Her mom still always had time for animals who were suffering. Even her mother admitted she was better with animals than with people. Marina hated to think it, but it was true.
Marina felt wetness on her feet, like ocean water on her flip flops, but she wasn’t close to the water now.
“Why are my feet so wet?”
Blood dripped down her left leg. “Oh my God. I’m bleeding!”
“I’m calling 911!” David yelled.
“Don’t freak out. It’s probably nothing,” Marina said calmly, as the blood stained her feet and the sand.
“Why don’t you sit, honey? The paramedics will be here in a minute.”
The beach blurred in front of Marina. In her head she heard her therapist’s voice telling her that she couldn’t right the wrongs of her childhood starting her own family. Marina folded her hands together, pointing her fingers toward the sky. She hoped she could. Her mother hadn’t been a mother as much as a roommate, who she shared food and space with. Marina knew she could be better than that.
Just then Marina noticed the turtle eggs scattered in front of them, white and round like ping-pong balls all over the beach, hundreds of them.
“The eggs are here. They can’t live out here like this,” Marina said. She wanted to gather them in the bottom of her shirt, like she used to with the colorful, plastic eggs full of candy when she hunted Easter eggs as a kid, in her neighbor’s backyard. She would put the turtle eggs back in the sand, bury them, where they could be safe. Then she could come back when they hatched and help them to the sea. Make sure the lights didn’t confuse them. Release them to the ocean where they could survive.
Marina felt seashells digging in her left hip, poking at her like a knife. She was dizzy from the blood, so she just sat in the middle of the sand waiting, with the lifeless eggs surrounding her. She didn’t know what the damage would be.
Susie Aybar is a Pushcart and Best in Microfiction-nominated writer from NY, who received an MFA from Manhattanville College. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in FlashFlood Journal, Tiny Molecules and Literary Mama. Her poetry has appeared in The San Pedro River Review, The London Reader, Green Ink Poetry and others.