Hands with starfish

This short tale was originally published in our newsletter of 30 May 2013. The above picture was used as a prompt for the story.


Through the blur of my tears, I watched as Robin walked towards me, his feet scuffing the tide-washed sand. He’d been gone ages; I’d wondered if he’d come back. I’d said some pretty harsh words.

His palms were open; he’d probably been into town and bought me something.  That was Robin’s way: buy Jen a gift to make everything alright. But I held my heart rigidly closed. I couldn’t let him do this to us again.

His shadow fell over me; I kept my head turned away.

“Jen, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll get the money back. I promise.”

“You always promise, Rob. You never change.”

“This time’s different. I can’t lose you. I won’t. You mean too much to me.”

I’d heard it all before. Gamblers are addicted to risk, to possibility. To chance and opportunity. How could he ever change?

“Please, Jen. Look, I found this a few minutes ago. I think it’s a sign.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘signs’, Rob. You’re living in a fantasy world where the odds are always in your favour. Haven’t you learned by now that luck is just an illusion?” I bit my lip, forestalling another full-on rant.

He kneeled in front of me, forcing me to look into his face. His soft green eyes were earnest. My gaze dropped to his hands. “Rob! A starfish!” Against my will, a smile curved across my face.

He grinned. “I know. And didn’t we always say we’d wish upon a starfish? Back when we were happy? Before the occasional bet became a compulsion?”

“We did, Rob. And we said that if we ever found one, we’d know the day had come.”

“I remember,” he said. “So let’s do it.”

I rose, brushing the sand from my clothes, and we walked back to the car. Today we’d be signing up to volunteer in a third-world country. A place where values were different. A place where life was priceless.

Copyright Joanna Gawn 2013