She sits above the surface of the water, looking out at the golden sea. Her toes skim the waves as she swings gently backwards and forwards.
Backwards and forwards.
She holds onto the rusted chains on either side of her with a loose, resigned sort of grip.
Her favourite dress is stained with salt. But there’s nothing she can do about that now. Earlier in the day she had walked the length of the sun-bleached pier like always and climbed down onto the swing that dangled above the clear blue sea.
She doesn’t know who had hung it there.
But it was her favourite spot in the world.
The chains holding the swing were rusted, and the plank of wood was smooth and worn, but it made her feel so happy and free to swing above the waves on a warm summer day.
Only this time, as she settled into the weather-beaten swing, her pretty curls had gotten tangled in the chains. She tugged and she pulled, but she couldn’t free her poor hair.
The chains had snared it so badly.
She called out for help, but none of the dots wandering along the shore could hear her all the way out here. Hours passed by. She tore at the horrid curls that had her trapped in such a predicament. She shouted until her voice grew hoarse, and ripped at her hair until strands of strawberry blonde floated down around her.
As the sun began its descent from the sky, she gave up struggling against the chains.
Now she sits in her swing, her arms exhausted and her heart heavy, watching the water creep closer and closer as the tide comes in. The water is icy on her feet. It numbs her toes, and then her ankles, until finally it sits around her knees. She looks out sadly as the last ray of sunlight slips away into the night.
Her teeth start to chatter.
She knows her mummy will be looking for her now, but she didn’t tell anyone where she was going. This was her favourite place, and she wanted it to be a secret.
Her dress starts to float around her.
Each wave pulls the swing backwards and forwards.
Backwards and forwards.
She starts to kick as the waves rise. The sound of rushing water and rattling chains fills her ears. Every tug of the sea pulls at her hair painfully. She cries out. An unexpected wave crashes over her, filling her lungs with briny water.
Her small hands flail about helplessly.
Her heart races like a frightened rabbit’s.
And then, quite suddenly, the sea falls silent. Above her, suspended in mid-air, is a spray of water. Each droplet shimmers like starlight. She stares at it with wide blue eyes, utterly transfixed. Slowly, the glowing droplets come together and begin to spin. They spiral faster and faster until a miniature swirling galaxy has formed.
It rises a little and then drops behind her out of sight.
She can feel her hair being released from those horrible chains.
As she breaks free, a wave sweeps in, picks up her tiny helpless body, and carries her to shore upon its back. She lands upon the sand, filled with both terror and wonder. The water glistens for just a moment before receding back into the dark.