Beach, watercolor by Judith Robinson

Saint Natalie of the Too Soon Departed

I am on the ocean. My boat creaks in its rocking, rocks and creaks, rocks and creaks, like a cradle. I lie alone on the weathered deck, lulled. Then suddenly she appears out of the sea spray, beautiful as ever.


Its you! I cry.


But youre dead!


Then why are you here?

To tell you.

Tell me what?

That you are wrong.

In the silence I gaze into her wide doe eyes, gentle as when she played Maria in the original West Side Story film. She smiles at me while pushing her dark hair away from her face.

You don’t care? I cried. You don’t care that Jill was your friend and now has taken your place?

Why, that is simply not possible.

She moves to the rail then, begins to stare out at the dark rolling waves. A moment passes before I hesitantly speak again.

Did you . . . did you take your own life?   

She turns and smiles before answering. Don’t we all?     

And then she slips soundlessly over the side and is gone.


I am screaming as I wake, shaking and sweating in this bed I haven’t left for seven weeks. It creaks beneath me as I struggle to rise. Sam rushes in with Alaina right behind him.  Alaina is almost always here now, my friend, my best friend. Alaina who has hair, Alaina who has time.  

I am coughing and cannot stop. Sam holds me up with one arm while reaching for the pan with his other. Alaina stands dangerously near. I see her carefully constructed look of concern and am wishing I had the strength to hack something all the way past Sam into Alaina’s eye.

Its okay, baby, he is murmuring . . . youre okay now . . .  Gently he eases me back down on the bed, pulls the cool sheet back up over me again. Tears have welled in his eyes, but he forces a weak smile before bending to kiss my forehead.  I want to tell him about Natalie ─ I want to tell him about my dream ─ but Alaina is there, Alaina is always there, and I don’t want to tell Alaina a goddamn thing anymore. Alaina knows too much already. I am staring over Sam’s shoulder into her tear-filled cool blue eyes when she speaks.

Can I get you anything, honey?  Is there anything I can do for you?

I choke back the words I want so desperately to say — Die for me, die with me, Alaina!

Just lay your healthy self down here beside me and die! —  but I just close my eyes and pretend I am ready to rest. A moment later I feel Sam letting me go, and I open my eyes just long enough to see her arm go consolingly around his shoulders as together they leave the room.

There is one thing you might do for me, dear Alaina, I think. Promise you won’t change the sheets right away ─ promise! ─ I want the smell of my sickness to linger awhile when you wind up here in my bed. It is the last thought I have before sinking back into sleep.

Once again I find myself on the boat, but there is no gentle rocking now. The wind howls as the craft pitches, waves crashing relentlessly against the bow.

Sam!  Sam!

I am screaming his name but he can’t hear me, he cannot hear me anymore. I struggle to hold onto the mast but know that I can’t hold onto it much longer, know that I will be washed overboard, know that I will be gone. 

Save me!  I cant hold on!

Then let go.

For suddenly she is there again, serenely standing on the rolling deck, so lovely, so unafraid.

Is it time? Is it time to let go?

You will know when it is time.

Is it now?

Do you think it is?  

Maybe . . . maybe it is . . . Im so tired . . . so very tired . . . I just dont know . . .

A moment passes before she speaks again.  

Are you afraid of where you will be?

No . . . no, not really . . . 

I speak softly now. I have decided to confess to the brave and beautiful Saint Natalie.

I am afraid . . . of where I will no longer be. 

The acceptance on her face encourages me to go on.

I am afraid of being replaced.

But I told you, that is simply not possible.

And this time I believe her, this time I understand. The wind has ceased, the moon now shines on the calmest of waters. She smiles radiantly at me before once again disappearing over the side, and the mast I still grasp suddenly feels familiar, as familiar as the slats on my own wooden bed. I feel the realness of both as they are leaving my hands and am forgiving both Jill and Alaina, as I silently slip from my vessels into the soundless sea.

by Julie Lemberger, edited by Elizabeth Zimmer

Women, the largest and yet most unrecognized population of the dance arts community, are spotlighted in renowned dance photographer Julie Lemberger’s Modern Women: 21st Century Dance, a coloring book, edited by Elizabeth Zimmer. Lemberger, who has been photographing dance for almost two decades, transformed her photographs into illustrations almost ready to color and then added psychedelic, floral and abstract backgrounds for the figures “to dance in.” The 92 page volume features today’s leading dance innovators and interpreters, and celebrates their diverse genres and perspectives. Modern Women: 21st Century Dance is a perfect gift for children-of-all-ages including grandparents and grandchildren, especially those who love women, dance and art. Two options available: Coloring book for $20 Shipping & handling is $5 each for U.S. addresses. Please contact for International shipping costs.


Terri Watrous Berry is a Michigan septuagenarian whose prose has received awards from venues as diverse as The Hemingway Days Festival and The Des Plaines/Park Ridge NOW Feminist Writers Competition. One of her short stories will appear this summer in an anthology regarding families being published by Wising Up Press. Another will be published soon in Call Me, Please Don’t, the spring issue of the journal produced by the University of Alabama’s Creative Writing Program.
Judith R. Robinson is an editor, teacher, fiction writer, poet, and visual artist. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, she is listed in the Directory of American Poets and Writers. She has published 100+ poems, five poetry collections, one fiction collection, and one novel, and edited or co-edited eleven poetry collections. She teaches at Osher at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Her newest poetry collection is Buy A Ticket (WordTech Editions); her most recent gallery exhibit was at Square Café in Pittsburgh in 2021.

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