Emily traced patterns in the sand with her toes. "Grandpa?" she asked.
"Yes, Sweets?" Gary answered, looking up from the bag he was rummaging through in search of her sand toys.
"Who is she?"
"Who?" He returned to his searching.
"The lady with the yellow hair." Emily said, still drawing with her toes.
"Anna? Oh, she's a friend." He hoped she would accept his answer and drop it.
"Why was she so sad?"
"Don't worry Sweetie, she's fine."
Emily turned and looked at him. She knew she was different. The other kids understood things she didn't. She couldn't read, and walking wasn't always easy, but she always counted on her grandpa to treat her like everyone else. She didn't like that he was lying. "No, Grandpa, she was sad. She was crying. Why?"
He pulled out the bucket and shovel and joined her in the sand. "Honey," he said sympathetically.
"Grandpa." She looked at him seriously. "Please tell me."
"She was sad because I said we couldn't be friends anymore."
"Why? Don't you like her?"
His blue eyes misted but he smiled anyway. "Yes, I like her."
"Then why don't you want to be friends?"
"It's complicated, Emily."
"Please tell me, Grandpa. I can understand."
"It's something I don't even understand," he replied.
She lit up. "Maybe I can help you Grandpa!" Before he could object, she added, "I never got to help anyone."
Emily was born prematurely and had a myriad of mental and physical handicaps, but her heart was whole and perfect. He saw that in her even when others didn't. He couldn't disappoint her now; he loved her too much.
"Okay, Emily. Maybe you can help me." He smiled warmly. "What do you think I should do?"
"Why did you tell her you don't want to be friends?"
"Well, Anna was a special kind of friend." He looked at Emily to see if she understood and then continued. "But she and I want different things in life."
"Oh. What do you want?" she asked while filling her bucket.
"I'm not sure." He admitted.
"Then how do you know it's not what she wants?" she asked. "I don't understand."
He laughed a little. "I don't understand either."
She cocked her head at him quizzically. "What does she want?"
"Well, I don't know."
"Grandpa! That's silly." Her crooked smile warmed his heart.
"It's just not that simple, Honey. There's more."
"What?" she inquired as she dumped the sand from the pail.
"Well, I'm much older than her. She is very young and beautiful. I don't think she'd be happy with me for very long."
"She looked sad to leave." Emily commented hopefully, refilling her bucket. Then she paused to look at him. Reaching up she touched his cheek with her sandy hand. "I think you are bootiful and I am happy with you."
"Thank you, Emily." He smiled.
"What else, Grandpa?"
"What do you mean, Honey?"
"Why don't you want to be friends? Is she mean?" She dumped the bucket out again on top of the pile.
"No, she is very sweet."
"Is she different, like me?" She continued her questioning while refilling her bucket. "Is that why you don't want to be friends?"
"No, Emily. You are very special and we will always be friends. I love you."
She turned to face him. "Do you love her, Grandpa?" The question, asked so simply and directly, forced him to admit the truth.
"Then, Grandpa, you should be friends," she concluded.
"Maybe we should." He pondered watching her dump her sand again. "What are you making Emily?"
"Two things?" he questioned.
"A pile and a hole."
"That's wonderful! Emily!" He beamed.
"Yes, Grandpa. And you know what else?"
"When the water comes up here, they will both be gone."
"What do you mean Emily?"
She studied him seriously. "I can make two special things but when the water comes up they will both be gone. It will be like it was before, like I was never here." She blinked as if she was waiting to see whether he understood. "You should be friends."
He kissed Emily on her head as she began filling the bucket again. Grabbing his cell phone he called Anna.
"Hello?" she answered.
"I was wrong. Please come back. I love you." He waited for a response but the line went dead. Emily smiled at him, dumped her bucket on the pile, and began filling it again. She hummed softly while she worked. He sat watching the water move closer to them with each gentle wave. Such wisdom could only come from someone so simple. "We'll have to go soon, Emily."
"So this is Emily?" They both turned and looked. Anna was standing behind him, smiling. "I'm so very glad to meet you," she said, offering Emily her hand. "Your grandpa talks about you all the time."
Emily shook her hand awkwardly and grinned. Then she returned her attention to her bucket. Gary stood and swept Anna into his arms kissing her softly. "Marry me, before everything is washed away. Let's build something that lasts."
"What about the things you said before?" Anna asked.
"I was wrong. Fortunately, I have a very wise friend who gave me exceptional counsel today." He winked at Emily who was happily refilling her bucket.
"Emily," Anna said. "I hear you are very wise in matters of love. What do you think I should do?"
"Say yes." Emily stated matter-of-factly while dumping out the bucket.
"Yes." Anna agreed, accepting Gary's proposal and kiss.
"Thank you, Emily." Gary said helping her to her feet as the water moved in closer. "You have been a wonderful help to me today."
Emily smiled and walked between them back to the car, holding both their hands. She looked up at Anna. "Now you will be my grandma!"
Gary laughed at Anna's expression as they all walked back to the car together.