Young Girl at the Beach

I trudged by their tent a few times every day at the campground on one of the most beautiful, secluded beaches in Hawaii. Of course I noticed them. I like to think I see everything with empathy and compassion. Sometimes I get the stories wrong and sometimes the reality of what I see is so intense I have to turn away.

She was beautiful. I saw her once out in front of their tent swirling her long black hair around and around in an arch while she twisted her young body in glee. He had brought sand castle forms and the two of them created a beautiful castle with a red flag on top.

“That is a great castle.” I said to them as they came back in from a snorkeling swim.

“How did you know we made it?” she asked suspiciously.

“I watched you.” I said innocently.

Was that the moment I knew something was odd about them? I began to pay closer attention to the couple. He was much older, white with a beard and attentive to her every need. How old was she? Hard to tell but maybe fifteen? younger? twelve? She seemed fierce to me. Determined to have a good time. Innocent and yet worldly. What brought them to the beach with their fancy tent and expensive sand castle toys? I saw them writing at the picnic table in the evening. Was she just his student?

They were packing up their tent the same morning we were and I watched as he took out a double wide inflatable mattress. That seemed to be the only sleeping set up they had. Was his influence on her evil? I concocted a story in my mind that she was being helped by him and would benefit from his money and attention. Perhaps in Thailand or wherever she had originated she had been poor. Perhaps she had been abused. Perhaps she was missing. She seemed happy.

The feeling that something wasn’t right stays with me weeks after the camping trip. I wonder what I could have done and as I drove away I realized I had no power at all over the situation and had to let it go. I thought later of telling the administrators of the park to watch out for that fellow. They were laid back Hawaiians…there was no cause for worry. Let it go. Let it go.

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