“Look what I have found.” He extended his hand. A small, golden stone lay on it, polished by the sea and with a dark shadow inside.
Melissa leaned over the table and looked at the stone. “What is it?”
“Don’t pretend this is Herbert’s first amber”, Freya said. “He finds at least one of them every morning since we arrived.”
Melissa shook her head and her short, red curls bobbed up and down. “I’m talking about the animal caught inside.”
“It’s a tiny spider. Look.” Herbert pulled a magnifying glass from his shirt and held it over the stone.
Outraged, Freya raised her eyebrows. “Herbert! That is disgusting. A spider at the breakfast table! Even when it’s dead it’s highly unsuitable. I want it gone when I am back with my breakfast.” She got up and walked with light quick steps to the buffet.
Melissa watched her. “In that dress, she looks like a flamingo.”
“Don’t be unfair. It isn’t easy for her to cope with a six ten-year-old overnight.”
Melissa pressed her lips together and said nothing. Did her uncle think it easier for her to get used to another family? She bit her lower lip not to cry. At least, nothing reminded her of her mother and brother on this holiday. “She doesn’t even make an effort to understand me.”
Herbert put his hand on Melissa’s and looked into her eyes. “Have you ever tried to understand her?” He stroked Melissa’s hand once and handed her the magnifying glass.
Relieved, Melissa shoved conversation and thoughts aside and concentrated on the stone. Fascinated, she looked at the spider in the amber. Magnified like this, she could make out seven of the eight legs. “Poor animal. It must be hard to suffocate in a drop of resin.”
Herbert nodded. “True but what a blessing for us, isn’t it? Everything has two sides when you look at it close enough.”
“Sure. Just like the proverbial sausage. By the way, I’ll get myself something to eat.” Melissa got up to avoid Freya who just returned with a loaded tray. She looked forward to the day on the beach. Her aunt would be busy sunbathing in attractive poses and would leave Melissa to herself. She would be able to read and dream undisturbed.
Metal screeched. No air. The voice of her mother. A baby wailing. The door! First asphalt, then grass at hands and knees. Flee. The squeaking of rubber on asphalt. Melissa screamed.
Her cry was suffocated by sand. Coughing and spitting, she sat up and looked around. It took her some time to understand that she had fallen asleep. She wiped the sand from her mouth. I don’t want to dream of the accident. She tried not to remember the nightmare and rubbed more suntan cream on her body. The gigantic parasol her uncle had bought as a special offer provided cooling shade, and the sea licked peacefully at the beach.
Herbert walked along the beach searching for amber, and Freya was nowhere to be seen. Melissa watched the people on the narrow strip of sand between the steep coastal bluff and the Baltic Sea. Children ran around laughing or romped through the warm water. Two girls built a sand castle, and a boy covered his sleeping father with sand. They were at the far side of the bay. Melissa could just make out the houses of the town in the distance. Her thoughts returned to her dream. She wondered is she should go swimming for a while to distract. It’s no use. Dreams are hard to get rid of. Her look fell on the book in her bag. Reading might help. She opened the right page and lost herself in the story. She didn’t feel the sun burn her nose and shoulders despite the shade and the suntan lotion. Without noticing, she wiped the sand from the pages that the wind drove along the beach. All she saw were pictures of a strange world that her fantasy painted into her heart.
A hard hand grabbed her shoulder. Confused, Melissa looked up from her book. Her gaze wandered from the hand over the pink beach dress to the face of a gaunt woman. Ony then, did she return to reality and recognized her aunt Freya.
“How often must I call you? Get dressed. We have to return to the hotel for supper.”