Message in a Bottle by Jenna Weller

This story is one of the July Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.

The water kisses my bare feet as I step across the sand. Waves roll in, occasionally breaking against the sharp dark rocks ahead, while the tide on the empty bank skims close before retreating back into the ocean’s deep, swirling abyss.

I squint towards the overcast sky, finally letting the tears fall freely down my cheeks. They mix with the foamy waves at my toes.

The weight of his hand is still palpable in mine, and if I close my eyes, it’s almost as if he’s still here with me. The two of us, standing beneath the cliff, my head resting in the crook of his neck. Two sets of once-hopeful eyes staring toward the horizon, a smile creeping at the corners of my lips.

Yet the happiness is fleeting. Because it’s not his hand that’s molded perfectly in mine but his crumpled note instead, and the knowledge of its contents singes my skin.

I drop my backpack onto the wet sand and shakily zip it open. The glass bottle nestled inside is cool against my fingers as I carefully slide it out; it’s like a newborn baby being pulled into the world for the first time. I smooth out the worn paper against my jeans and roll it up, unscrew the top of the jar, then drop the parchment inside.

Next, before I lose my nerve, I slip the golden bracelet from my wrist. The tender skin there instantly feels bare and lonely without the familiar metal, which clinks like a light, mocking laugh against the inside of the bottle.

I’m watching from somewhere far away as this girl I no longer recognize winds her arm backward and thrusts the glass bottle in her shaking grip far into the ocean. It bobs along the surface of the waves, the note tucked snugly inside and the gold bracelet glinting with each rise above the water.

The girl’s back is towards me, but I notice the way her shoulders slump and then shudder with each silent cry, just as the clouds above release a weeping mourn of their own.

I think I’m supposed to feel something for this girl, but I don’t. I try to, desperately, but my eyes are made of glass and my skin of porcelain and my heart of impenetrable stone. All of my sensations are numb. My hand tries to reach out to her, lightly grazing her arm, but either she doesn’t feel it or has ceased to care. So I pull away and can only observe as each tether binding her together slowly unwinds and litters the deserted beach.

The rain is pouring down harder now, making the girl’s shivers turn into uncontrollable, racking sobs. I watch helplessly as she falls to her knees and the ocean’s cold waves lap at her legs, seemingly trying to envelop her in a hug.


Jenna Weller

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