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The sun descended through the cerulean sky. It sent out streamers of red and orange to touch the ocean.
The silver sand of the beach seemed to extend as far as the eye could see along the shore in both directions. A woman who resembled an overaged, overweight superheroine lay on a lounger in a Stars and Stripes bikini. Her breasts fell part of the way out of it, tumbling like rocks down a hillside.
Carrying a surf board despite the fact that no wave worth surfing had graced this beach in years, a young adonis with washboard abs walked along the edge of the water. Female heads (and at least one male) turned to watch him.
The overweight woman sat up, as if a radar had told her a hot guy was nearby. Reverse gaydar? Her blue eyes followed him as the sun dipped further, beginning to drown itself in the darkening sea.
She was unworthy of him. He did not acknowledge her, instead paying his attention to a girl of no more than eighteen in a paisley print her mother must have picked out for her.
Their eyes touched, and she rose to join him, her muscular legs carrying her easily across the sand. They were both perfect, lovely, matching each other in height and pace.
Wistfully, the older one watched, remembering when she had been the flower the men wanted to pluck. Jealous, but acknowledging the cycle as the girl fell in next to him. Their paired footsteps became a trail that led along the sand, their bodies drifting closer and closer together.
She knew where they would go, to the little cove barely half an hour's walk down the beach, where the sun would set on two becoming one. She remembered where she had gone, so many years ago.
She had been part of the dance once, now she watched it. Wistful, knowing that age would keep her from it, the time that could, in truth, never come again.
Then a balding man, his belly sagging over his swimsuit's tight belt, walked up the beach with a little girl attached to each side.
She forgot her jealousy and stood, running to the cries of "Mommy". This was her part of the dance, now, and the sun descended as familiar hands touched, and she swept her youngest daughter into her arms, easily and lightly.
Night was coming, and she set the girl down, leading her back to their hotel. No, some measures of the dance were gone, but this one was also to be appreciated in full measure.
They had had so many sunsets, and would have so many more before they reached their own. Her hand sought his, a smile was exchanged.
She glanced at her daughters, who did not yet know the steps. One day they would be the woman on the beach, and then the mother in their turn.
Night fell, and the family departed.
The beach remained, its part only the stage on which the cycle was set. The youngest girl, though, looked back, the light catching her face.
Her mother hurried her away, for it was, of course, not yet her time.
Jennifer R. Povey is in her early forties, and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband. She writes a variety of speculative and other fiction, whilst following current affairs and occasionally indulging in horse riding and role playing games. She has sold fiction to a number of markets including Analog, and written RPG supplements for several companies. She is currently working on an urban fantasy series, Lost Guardians.