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The Girl and the Snail -- FWG Flash Fiction for 3/18/2023

This one's a bit of a departure for me. It could be a picture book. The prompt is:

The Girl and the Snail

Loneliness. All it felt was loneliness. Caught in a wave, separated from its fellow snails, washed onto this rocky beach, it sat alone, its blue shell the only color in an otherwise expanse of black pebbles.

“Look, Mom. A blue one!” The girl reached for the shell, but was stopped by her mother’s voice.

“Careful, Jenny. It might still be alive. Some sea snails are poisonous.”

Mom hurried toward her daughter, but Jenny just shrugged and picked up the only splash of color they had come across on their beachcombing.

“Ooo, it is alive.” She could feel it squirm deeper into its shell.

“Well, put it back where you found it.”

Jenny looked around, then shook her head. “But, Mom, it doesn’t belong here.” She had already learned the power of the pouty-face, so she put one on. “Can I keep it, Mom, please?”

The snail felt something it had never felt before. Some strange feeling that warmed it from the inside, just as the girl’s hands warmed it from the outside. The feeling disappeared, though, when the mom spoke.

“It’s just going to smell up the house. Especially after it—” Mom caught herself when she saw the tears welling in her daughter’s eyes. “Oh, alright.” She pointed to the empty plastic pail Jenny carried. “Scoop up some water for it.”

Jenny rushed to the water’s edge. She cleared away the pebbles and dug the pail into the sand underneath as the ripples reached her. With a flourish, she lifted her pail with a few inches of seawater on top of a bed of sand. Gently, she placed the snail into its new home.

“Welcome to the family,” Jenny whispered.

The cold water stole the warmth of Jenny’s hand, but the words she said warmed the snail even more.

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