The Sun stirred me from my slumber. At first I was in a haze, unaware of what was going on. The warmth crept over me, bringing life back to my still body. My cheek twitched, but for the moment, I stayed still. Something was just right; I did not want to let it slip away.

I laid there as the sounds of waves crashing against the shore washed over me. It was a steady rhythm of thunder, loud but soothing. I was on the beach; that was clear. The memories of the previous night seemed distant at the moment. For now, the serene peacefulness of everything had enveloped me. It might have been seconds that I laid there. It could have been hours. I did not mind, I was at ease.

After drifting into a state of calm, I opened my eyes for the first time that morning. At first the world was a blur of whites and blues, gold and green. Then things came into focus and I saw the crisp colors of the ocean, stretching vast into the horizon. Besides the crashing of the waves and the caws of the seagulls, there was a quiet in my surroundings. I could sense the isolation of the world around me.

But I was not alone. She was lying next to me, curled at my side. Her loose clothes blanketed her in bright blue and rose, a colorful angel on the white sand. Her red hair framed a sharp, beautiful face. She was still asleep, and I dared not wake her. She whimpered quietly in her sleep. I wondered what she was dreaming of. I only hoped that she was okay, and happy. The world owed her that much for what she had done for it. For me.

The memory of the past night came back to me when I saw her face. It had been a time to celebrate, not for any occasion, but simply out of a love of life. The day had been brilliant, spent with friends. It had passed without hurry or anxiety, simply stretching into the evening. The bottles of wine had emptied, the fruit eaten up. The bright sunshine of the day and the laughter had faded, replaced in the evening by the lush reds of the crackling fire. Friends made their exit, until only she and I were left, smiling through the night as we made the beach our home for the night.

The memories brought a small smile to my face. Not wanting to disturb her, I carefully slid away from her warm body, pushing myself off the ground and onto my feet. I was fully awake and aware of my surroundings. A light breeze rustled my shirt and blew my hair, bringing a cool relief to the warm sunshine. Taking one more look at her, I started to walk to the beach.

The sand fell off my bare feet with each step. I reveled in the feel. The world felt so alive around me, it was as if I had just discovered the wonders of the beach. I marveled at such things now. I used to find everything so fake. The world had been a phony varnish, masking the cruelty and deceitfulness of people. My old thoughts haunted me. They were alien, and yet so familiar. But as I reached the wet edge of the sand, moist from the tide, I knew I would not return to my past state of mind.

The water was cool to the touch, but it was invigorating. I walked into the waves, letting the water lap against my ankles. The breeze picked up, sending the tails of my loose shirt flapping in the wind. I let my arms hang at my side, closed my eyes and sighed. The sigh seemed to take away any edge or worry I had. I stopped walking and just took the moment in.

Things had been so different a year ago. My life had been a mess, and I was even worse. I had been a wreck, barely able to keep myself going from day to day. The crowded city, with its narrow alleys and cobblestone streets had trapped me, unable to find a moment of isolation. I was always surrounded by people, and they were determined to make my life a miserable existence.

The abuse had been endless. Since my childhood I had been the one others preyed on. I was the target of the taunts, the insults, and violence. I don’t remember doing anything to provoke it. I had only wanted to make friends and enjoy life. But for some reason, I was the pariah. Everything I did to try to help myself only ended in failure and a more miserable life.

They said that it was the insulters who were damaged. They said that they were the ones who were hurting, and that I was fine. How wrong they were.

They didn’t know what I was going through. They didn’t find themselves on the edge of the building, looking down at the crowded streets, ready to leap. The memories of my old self scared me. I had been wrapped up in so much conflict. I was in agony, unable to escape my situation. I wanted to end it all, but I was afraid of what it would do to my family. I wanted to end my suffering; I didn’t want to hurt anybody. I was trapped in my own depression.

And then she came into my life. I was standing on the bridge, vacantly staring at the murky waters below. I was lost and aimless, as stagnant at the river below me. Then I looked up and I saw her coming across the bridge. She was a gem of color in the gray city. Her scarlet hair and emerald green eyes seemed full of life, and they entranced me. She smiled at me as she passed and I did not know what to do. Her presence, her raw lust for life, invigorated me. I ran after her, stumbling over myself to say hello. She laughed, but it wasn’t scornful. She listened to me and gave me the time of day. And that was how my life began to change.

At first we talked. A simple conversation covered hours of a day, stretching well into the night. She was happy and empathetic. I found myself in love with her. Then she did what no one else had done. She pulled me out of my depression and out of the city. She severed my mind from the past and taught me to live in the present.

My former self hurt me. I don’t try to distance myself. I don’t want to forget what I once was. Without my trials I would not be able to enjoy life as I now do. But I do not want to go back to how things once were. I’ve laid my past to rest, and I have moved on. I have her, and no matter what else comes my way, she is all that I need.

I have her, and no matter what else comes my way, she is all that I need.

I opened my eyes. The sea seemed crisper than ever, a field of blue glistening with the golden light of the Sun. The waves flowed over my feet, moving back and forth with a simple rhythm. I was in awe of the beauty around me. It was so alive and vibrant, as if it could not hold back the life it held. And I was alive in it. I was truly alive.

I began to laugh. It wasn’t from humor or anything funny. I laughed because I was happy. For the first time in my life, I was happy. All that I had been through, all the suffering I had faced, it was worth it just for this.

I looked back at the beach. She was awake, sitting up now. She wrapped herself in her loose shirt, smiling from the breeze. Her hair was a fire on the white sand. I could almost make out the shine of those green eyes. She saw me standing at the shore and waved. She called out to me with affection. I wouldn’t die for that voice, I would live for it. Her voice filled me with such joy. I loved her.

I waved back, smiling. Stepping out of the water, I started back toward our camp. I walked back to her.