Little Johnny, Miriam’s youngest, saw it first. “Mama, look!” he said to her, pulling on her skirt.
“What is it, Johnny?” she asked a little sharply; there was work to be done after all.
“A boat!” he exclaimed.
“So?” she thought. They lived in a fishing village. What was so exciting about a boat? But she looked to humor her youngest, left behind by his bigger brothers who were helping their father. When she looked, she gasped and opened her eyes wide. “Oh, my,” she whispered. “Come, Johnny.” She dropped her broom, grabbed his hand and ran to the water’s edge.
It had been 20 years since she had last seen the boat. The ship. And him. Everyone had told her it was a dream; an overactive imagination. She must have fallen and hit her head while climbing the rocks where her mother often found her daydreaming. They’d spent days searching for her on the rocks and in the sea. Then there she was, running to the village as if nothing were amiss, telling tales of a big boat, a handsome captain and other nonsense no one believed.
Her mother tucked her into bed where she was made to stay while they checked her head for bumps and her body for bruises. There were none. They shrugged their shoulders and went back to work, grumbling about that daft Miriam frightening her parents and wasting everyone’s time story-telling. Meanwhile, her mother fed her watery soup and listened as she rambled on about the handsome young captain who let her wear beautiful clothes and feast on food the likes of which they’d never seen before.
Once they let her up, she went to the water’s edge every day for weeks, searching the horizon. He’d said he would return, she told them. They told her she was a fool. There was no boat. No captain. Lost in a sea of despair, she finally stopped waiting; hoping. Her parents married her off to the cobbler’s son. She started living as she was meant to do. As they all did.
But the ship had returned; he had returned. She felt his presence though she could distinguish no one in the distance. She smiled a youthful smile; then remembered she’d left youth behind a long time ago. And dreams. A weight settled somewhere in the vicinity of her heart. She lifted her hand to wave.
“Come, Johnny,” she said, turning from the water. “Let’s go home. We have to make breakfast for papa and your brothers.”
“Wait till I tell them about the boat, mama. They’ve never seen such a boat, right mama? It was sooo big…I can’t wait to show it to them. I saw it first, right mama?”
“Yes, darling.” She glanced over her shoulder. The horizon beckoned; clear as far as the eye could see.
“Come, mama; let’s run!”
“Yes, let’s,” she said breaking into a run, away from what might have been or never was; Johnny, towards what could be.