"Mommy, look! I'm sparkly!" Alicia held out her arms and watched the sun dance off her skin. She'd spent the last half hour digging a hole to China, but abandoned that project when she noticed the sand.
"Mm-hmm," her mother murmured. She did the obligatory head bob, tilting her chin up from her book long enough to satisfy the child, but her eyes never left the page.
"Mommy," she whined.
A deep scratchy voice interrupted her. "Whatcha got there?"
She turned towards her grandfather and thrust out her arms, fingers splayed. "It's fairy sprinkles!" She twirled in the hot sand, waving her arms in the air.
Her grandfather leaned towards her. "That's not fairy dust, Alicia. That's gold." His voice dropped on the last word.
She stopped spinning. "Gold? But it's so tiny." She peered closer.
"Would you stop encouraging her?" Alicia's mother set her book on the table and scowled at her father.
He winked at Alicia and kept talking. "Years ago, long before any of this was here," he pointed at the restaurants along the shore, "ships used to come into this bay to take shelter from storms. Most of them were just shipping vessels carrying silk from the Far East, but every now and then one would pass through carrying something more valuable."
Alicia sank to her knees and rested her hands on the edge of his chair. "What did they carry?"
He looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was listening. "Gold." He drawled the single word, the sound reverberating in his chest. "Unfortunately for the people onboard, there were pirates in these waters and rumors of a ship carrying gold traveled faster than the ship itself. The pirates would wait around the bend until nightfall, then they'd attack." He paused as she nestled closer, eyes wide. "Most captains handed over their cargo without a fight. They were hired to pilot the ship and didn't want to risk their lives for someone else's property.
"But one captain..." he looked across the bay as if he could see the ship riding the waves. "He turned out to be more than just a captain. He was a prince and the gold bars hidden in the belly of his ship belonged to his family. The pirates threatened to cut his throat, but he refused to hand it over." He shook his head. "The battle was so bloody they say it turned the waters red. The pirates killed every man on board.
"Or so they thought. The man stationed outside the storeroom heard the fight and followed his master's instructions. Before the pirates could take a single bar, he ignited a crate of dynamite, sending the ship and everything on it to the bottom of the bay."
Alicia's jaw dropped.
"More pirates came when they heard of the explosion, but no one was able to find the gold. Years later, when the wood began to rot, someone found a trunk beneath the boat. The explosion had driven it into the ocean floor." He picked up a handful of sand and let it slide through his fingers. "There was a lot of excitement when they found that trunk, especially from the prince's family, but when they tried to bring it to the surface, the bars disintegrated. Fell apart right before their very eyes."
"All of it?" Alicia's eyes flicked to her arms.
Her grandfather brushed his fingers across her shoulder. "That's what they say."
She stood up and spun around, staring in disbelief at the sand all around them. "So this is...gold?"
He shrugged. "No one knows for certain." He pushed the sand with his toe. "But all that gold had to have gone somewhere."
She grabbed her bucket from beneath the table and ran to the water's edge.
"You realize this means we'll be bringing a suitcase full of sand home with us?" Alicia's mother sounded angry, but a smirk danced on the corner of her mouth.
He chuckled and leaned back in his chair, smiling as a sailboat rounded the bend, heading for the calm waters of the bay.
Melanie Avila is a former graphic designer turned writer living in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. A graduate from James Madison University, she worked in Chicago for ten years before relocating to Mexico with her husband. She now spends her time writing novels, short stories, and tales about her ex-pat life south of the border. You can learn more about Melanie at her blog melanieavila.blogspot.com.