If you had spent that particular spring morning sitting on the stone wall by the sea, then perhaps you would have seen her. No, you definitely would have.
She was too tall to miss, and too beautiful, with her soft, gentle eyes, and her long, smooth hair, so black that it hardly even reflected the morning sunlight.
You would have watched in a trance, as she made her way across the sand, her long, white dress, ruffling in the wind, her bright eyes darting around, as if searching for something.
For what? you would wonder, For what?
You wouldn't have noticed the little boys on the boardwalk, four in total, all looking as if they had somewhere important to be.
They all carried brown boxes, all but the smallest one, who simply tagged breathlessly along, struggling to match the pace of the others, each looking to be around 4 or 5 years older than him.
No, you wouldn't have noticed them at all. At least, not until the woman, the beautiful woman, with a glowing smile, and a delicate hand, motioned the smallest boy towards her.
He paused for a moment, his face confused, uncertain. The others moved forward without him.
"Come here, little boy!" she'd called out, her voice almost musical, "I have a job for you,"
The boy didn't move. He glanced nervously at the others, who were almost out of sight, vanishing one by one around the corner.
"Please?" she said, her lovely dark eyes desperate, pleading. "It won't take long. And I'll pay you."
She took two quarters from her dress pocket, and held them, gleaming, in the light. The boy hopped off the boardwalk, and began to shuffle forward through the sand. She smiled warmly.
"Yes, that's it, I won't bite,"
The boy glanced back at the others. They were nowhere to be seen, carried off into the city as if they had never existed at all.
"Come on, little boy. It won't take long. I promise it won't."
The wind blew through her hair as she spoke. It blew through the boy's hair as well. In fact, it blew through the hair of every head on the beach, but it was her hair you would have noticed.
It was her hair that twisted and danced in the wind, as if it's own creature - a beautiful, restless monster over which she had no control.
"You see," she said, placing in his tiny hands a small envelope, along with the two coins, "I want you to deliver a letter for me. A love letter."
The boy nodded, and the woman gave a small sad, almost musical laugh.
"I don't suppose you've ever been in love, have you?"
The boy shook his head, and the woman laughed again.
"You're lucky," she said, "You'll have no one to miss."
The boy didn't nod or shake his head. He only stood there, his face blank.
"My love shouldn't be hard to find," she said, as the boy stuffed the coins and envelope into his pocket, "He's always out there on the ocean. He was a sailor once, you know. A beautiful sailor.
For a second, her eyes flitted somewhere else, somewhere far from the beach, and the boy, and the empty blue sky as it bounced off the bottomless sea.
"Do you see that boat out there?"
The boy followed her gaze to a passing sailboat, nothing more than a distant shape, pure and white, stamped where the sky meets the ocean.
"That's where he is. All you have to do is swim to him. You can swim, can't you?"
The boy only stared, his eyes following the slow, smooth lines of the sailboat, as it scraped its way past the sky.
"You're big enough, aren't you? Or are you still a baby?"
The boy shook his head violently. The woman smiled a kind, appreciative smile.
"That's what I thought. You're a big, brave little boy."
The boy made his way to the water's edge.
The closer he got, the smaller and more pitiful he seemed, or at least would have seemed to you, as you sat on your stone wall, watching him slowly grow farther away.
Perhaps, to the man in the sailboat, he would have appeared to grow larger and braver. No, that couldn't be.
He would have been nothing more than a small, dark speck, dipping its feet in the ocean.
He waded farther in, the water reaching his waist. He shivered from the cold, and glanced back at the woman as she watched from the shore.
Or perhaps he glanced past her, at the boardwalk and the world he'd left behind. Either way, the woman smiled reassuringly, and motioned him forward.
He did not look back again. He only pressed forward, not starting to swim until the water reached his neck, his arms flapping, and his legs kicking wildly.
It would have seemed to you, safe atop your stone wall, like a choppy, frantic sort of dance, or a fish, slowly dying on the shore.
At that point, with his eyes squeezed shut and stinging with salt, the boy couldn't have seen the sailboat at all. That didn't stop him from propelling his tiny body forward, forward, forward.
He began to cough. He wasn't even close to the sailboat, but he was far, much too far, from the shore. A wave knocked him down, and he came up sputtering and sobbing.
The ocean grew suddenly violent, tossing him around like a leaf in a hurricane. He could not see the sailboat. He could not see the beach.
He could not see the boardwalk, or the city or the woman, with her gentle, encouraging smile. Another wave dragged him down. This time he did not resurface.
If you had seen it, you would have been the only one. The rest of the beach would have carried on laughing, and splashing, and drinking beer cans in the shade as if nothing had happened at all.
Only the woman would have mourned him, letting a single tear fall down her beautiful face, like the heroine of a black-and-white movie.
Your own face would not have been nearly so lovely, so tragic, so effortlessly dignified, as it twisted into an ugly look of horror.
She would have seen you, perhaps, and given you an angry look. A soft, gentle anger that suits her features well.
"Don't I have the right to send a love letter?" she'd say, "I'm in love, after all. I am more in love than you could ever know."
"A child is dead!" you'd spit back, not understanding, "A child is dead because of you!"
She'd sigh, and her sigh, would be tragically beautiful. The sigh of a princess, a goddess, a lover. The sigh of an actress.
"I'm sorry," she'd say, on the verge of more glistening tears. "I wish I could have sent my letter some other way. Any other way. If only..."
She'd sigh again, a sigh that would have melted your heart.
"If only my love had not become a sailor. If only he had never drowned at sea."