Nothing Special About the Lighthouse
Irene crossed the street and followed the sidewalk to the beach entrance. She leaned on the stumpy seawall separating the beach from the sidewalk and took off her shoes. Summer was over, yet the weather remained warm. The salty breeze played with her hair, and the moonlight shone on the breaking waves. She crossed the sand and let the waves lick her warm feet. The icy water bit at her toes.
Irene stepped back, beyond the reach of the waves, and trudged on the sand towards the lighthouse. Its beacon rotated in the night air and lit up the rocks as it passed over them. Those jagged rocks had been the culprit of many a shipwreck, but no ship had entered the harbor since… Who knew?
The murmur of the lapping waves crowded her hearing and cleared her mind of the sad thoughts of the day. She recalled walking with Grandpa Nathan along the beach as a child. He would tell her folklore and fairytales as the waves caressed their feet, and their footsteps remained imprinted on the wet sand. She marveled at how quickly the water wiped them away, as if their existence were nothing but a flutter in time.
Grandpa would never take her on his night walks, because she should have been in bed. But Irene often crawled out of it and, from her window, watched his rickety silhouette make its way to the lighthouse.
“What’s at the lighthouse?” She asked once.
“Nothing,” Grandpa said with a stern eye, despite his grinning lips.
Irene shrugged and let the matter drop.
“Go to bed,” Grandpa ordered afterwards, as if he had only just realized the lateness of the hour.
Moonlight peeped in through the window and gleamed on the wedding picture of Grandpa and Stella—her real grandmother—on the mantlepiece.
Irene knew Erica, the woman who raised her after her parents died, was no blood relative of hers. She was Grandpa’s second wife; Stella died long before Irene was born. She loved Erica all the same.
The sand stuck between Irene’s toes as she walked to the lighthouse for the first time in many years. Glancing at the houses lining the beach, she imagined someone at their window wondering who the woman in the black skirt and blazer was, what she was doing there, and what was so special about the lighthouse at night.
“Nothing,” she would have said, but there was no one at Grandpa’s house.
He died long ago. And today, Irene had buried Erica. In all the years she had lived with them, Irene had never gone for a night walk. She left for college soon after Grandpa’s death and started her life in the city, though always in touch with Erica. Now Erica left too, and for the first time, Irene went for a night stroll on the beach.
The lighthouse rose before her. Lost in her reverie, Irene did not realize when she reached it. She put on her shoes and glanced towards the lighthouse-park entrance. The gate was closed. Irene sighed and looked up at the smooth building atop the rugged rocks. Grandpa was right, there was nothing special about the lighthouse at night.
As she turned to leave, the ocean breeze carried a happy giggle. Irene scanned the area for its source and decided it came from the park.
She remembered visiting the park with Erica on a hot day; the sun blinded her as she crossed the gate. There was nothing special about the lighthouse in the daytime, either.
Irene heard the giggle again. Should she investigate? She climbed up the dangerous rocks, cautious and teetering, but too curious to leave.
She reached the lighthouse, and in the moonlight, she discerned two silhouettes on a bench. A young man and a young woman sat talking and giggling, and from that distance, Irene noticed they were very much in love.
She pondered whether to call the police.
Then the young man spoke and Irene froze.
“Stella,” he said and Irene’s heart skipped a beat, “will you marry me?”
“Yes, Nathan,” Stella replied, her voice sparkling with joy.
Irene gazed at the couple; the moon shone on their faces. Tears sprung from her eyes when she recognized the lovers whose wedding picture had sat on the mantlepiece all her childhood.