Fortunate Harbor - By Emilie Richards


She wondered how everything had come to this. This wrenching decision, this wild, forsaken place, this final moment.

But the question was silly. Dana Turner knew, deep inside, what had brought her here—and what had brought him.

Every decision they had ever made.

Truth was always that simple, and that complicated. Every decision in a life filled with decisions had brought them back to Florida, back to this very place, where they had once laughed and romped together. The good decisions. The bad ones. The ones that God must be mulling over even now. Because knowing what to do was never as easy as the self-righteous believed, and from time to time, even God must scratch His head and wonder.

She, of course, wondered unceasingly. These days she often traced the path of her life, the twists and turns, as if a map was spread out in front of her. At the beginning she had not been aware that each step she took closed off one route, even as it opened another. She had believed she was walking her path with courage and resolve, even the most difficult detours. Doubt had only come with age, when the simplest decisions had suddenly ceased to make sense. When right and wrong seemed precariously balanced, but the scales could not be tipped. When everything she had done, despite all her doubts, had led her here, to the edge of the water where now she stood.

“You never worried the way I did,” she said quietly. “Life wasn’t simple or complicated for you, was it? Life just was. You knew what you wanted, and you always went after it. You didn’t care who got in the way. You didn’t care who you hurt. I doubt you even gave that much thought.”

These were not the things one was supposed to say at the end of a life. She knew better. Now accusations were pointless. So were pleas. It was much too late for either. The road had ended, and there was no bridge in view here, only a wide stretch of bay glistening gold and orange in the rays of the sun setting somewhere behind her.

She watched in silence as the sky grew darker. Around her the night noises began. Alligators hid along this shore. She remembered that from other, better, days here. Poisonous snakes. Venomous insects. She was cautious, and right to be so, but she was more afraid of the memories, the good ones, and the grief that would follow if she allowed them to come.

“Things could have been so different.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Did you ever know that? Did you ever feel it?” She touched her chest with a clenched fist, and her voice faltered. “Is that why you wrote me that letter?”

There was no answer, nor had she expected one, of course. She was not a religious woman, but for a moment she imagined a reunion after death. Would he seek her out to remark on this evening and the things she had said? Would he ask for her forgiveness? Would he tell her that yes, he had loved her, despite all the things he had done and the pain he had caused?

Just feet from shore a long-necked bird sailed past, calling shrilly for a mate, or perhaps simply proving it was still alive after another day of evading predators and foraging for food. She felt a tug of connection.

At last Dana lifted the day pack off her shoulders. She unzipped the pouch and removed a plastic canister. Unscrewing the top, and without looking closely at the contents, she stepped forward and sprinkled the ashes it contained onto the narrow strip of wet sand leading to the bay. Not satisfied, she leaned forward and finished sprinkling those that remained directly in the water, where the others would follow later as the tide rose.

“Peace be with you…” She tried, but she couldn’t speak his name out loud. No one was listening, yet even now, she could not bring herself to admit the connection between herself and the man whose remains were gradually dissolving into Little Palmetto Bay.

A prayer was needed; she wanted to say one for her own sake, but none occurred to her. The man, who now was nothing more than a memory, deserved better than the gentle lapping of waves, the flapping of wings, the whine of mosquitoes.

She did her best. “May the joy we once felt in this place accompany you wherever you’ve gone.”

She straightened. It was as much of a prayer as