“Wonderful!” said her mother, taking a picture.
The girl moved the starfish to cover her heart and offered an exaggerated smile, her face titled toward the Florida sun.
The camera clicked.
Another girl, a carbon copy of the first in miniature, ran towards her sister and snatched the starfish. Holding it high above her head, she stood on tippy toes and twirled, careful to stay just out of reach.
The mother offered the older girl a sheepish smile of apology. The girl scowled once at her sister and then shrugged, anger slipping away as she drew a figure eight in the sand with her toe. To shade her eyes she raised her hand in a lingering salute, turned toward the Gulf, demonstrating her deep apathy towards her sister’s shenanigans.
Potential spat diffused, the mother trained her camera on the younger girl.
We two sat in impossibly small beach chairs, covertly watching the family pose with the plastic starfish from behind dark sunglasses.
“Iowa,” I said.
“Indiana,” he answered.
“One of the “I’s,” I settled. The girls’ hair was the color of corn silk.
“They drove 2000 miles to take photos with a plastic starfish,” he said, turning up the volume on his iPod.
“On a beach choked with real shells,” I said, knowing he heard only New Order thumping in his ears.
I rolled my eyes for no one.
The younger girl threw the starfish into the air and performed an impromptu cartwheel at the water’s edge. Her mother burst into applause as the girl’s small hand prints disappeared beneath the next wave.
Tired of being stoic, the older girl turned and lunged for her sister.
I returned to my book, brushing sand from the pages and smiling as the young girl’s happy squeals echoed across the beach.
Somewhere to my right, an orange plastic starfish washed ashore.