My sister killed herself the week I turned eight. Three days before my birthday. We didn't celebrate. That afternoon, I walked along the beach in my bare feet and filled my pockets with shells. I found some seahorses, but threw them away because they stank. I found a sand dollar. They were rare. My sister always found them but I never had. She'd told me once that if you crumbled them the right way, they would divide into pieces that looked like doves.

I crushed the sand dollar. The day was cold so I kept my hands inside my pockets, and just felt the broken pieces. I thought about the scar on my index finger, where she'd smashed a cracked shot glass over my knuckle. I pulled out the finger and kissed the white lines across my knuckles. She had a temper.

Her room was painted aqua blue. Not the color of our ocean, the color of post card oceans we had never seen. Our ocean was gray, and on cold days, almost as black as oil. Only five days before my birthday, she'd walked along the water with me and told me that once, she'd seen a mermaid behind some driftwood, through the corner of her eyes. She had only caught a glimmer, and had been afraid to look again. She knew the mermaid would either be beautiful or terrible to look upon. She liked telling me stories, she liked pretending Santa was real and she wanted me to stay a little kid. I told her I believed her. Then she asked me if I ever wondered what it felt like, to live someplace where there was no light, at the bottom of the sea.

About the author:

Claudia Smith's stories have recently appeared in Fiction Warehouse, Night Train, Juked, and Ghoti/Fish. More of her work may be found at