Here’s a little peek at our novella project tiled Riptide.
“Are you dead?”
I open my eyes and see a little girl in a red and white striped bathing suit standing over me. Her curly hair is pulled into two pigtails and there’s still baby fat visible around her face. I groan and blink the sunlight from my eyes.
She lifts a Popsicle to her lips and licks it. The sight of food clenches my stomach into knots. I haven’t eaten in almost two days. I shove up from the suitcase and stretch my arms over my head, hearing popping sounds as my joints pull apart. The drooping fronds obscure us from prying eyes on the beach. She must have wandered off.
“You know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers, right?”
The girl smiles and rocks on her heels. “I’m Poppy. What’s your name?”
“Now we’re not strangers,” she giggles. Catching me eyeing her Popsicle, she holds it out to me. “Do you want it?”
I feel stupid taking food from a little girl, but the rock of hunger sitting in my gut couldn’t care less. I gingerly take the Popsicle and take a bite off the top. The taste of strawberries melts over my tongue, erasing the sandpaper feeling.
Poppy waddles forward and touches my head, patting my hair. “Where’s your mommy and daddy?” Her eyes are large and all-encompassing as she waits for an answer.
I chew on the Popsicle slowly. For a kid who couldn’t be more than five, she sure asks a lot of questions. “I ran away.”
She frowns. “Why?”
I lean back, sinking a hand into the warm sand. “Because they didn’t love me.”
“Parents always love their kids. That’s what my mommy says.”
I chuckle at her ignorance as I lick the Popsicle stick clean. “Well it’s a nice thought.”