The boat skimmed lightly over the water. The steady rhythm of the oars in the water lulled me to sleep. I had not slept in so long… if my jump into the ocean wasn’t, indeed, a dream, then it likely was a hallucination brought on from not sleeping enough since I lost my father.
I woke to the scraping sound of wood on wood and the jingle of dog tags as Kip leapt from the boat onto a dock. I rubbed my eyes, feeling like I was stepping into a fairy tale. The docks lead up to a lovely blue and grey cottage surrounded by red and white flowers and the dripping beauty of a large willow tree. Window boxes were overflowing with an abundance of green. I wondered what magazine I had stepped into.
“This is your home?” I heard myself asking, as Devon reached out a hand to pull me up onto the dock.
Devon looked up at the cottage, as if seeing it for the first time. “It’s home,” he affirmed.
I swallowed a lump in my throat that I hadn’t even realized had been there. I tucked a non-existent strand of hair behind my ear, hoping that there was no tell-tale brightness in my eyes. I had a horrible suspicion that my nose had just turned scarlet, as it always did when I was about to cry.
The back door of the cottage opened towards us and a woman with dark hair, streaked with white, came out to meet us, Kip running around her legs and wagging his tail happily. She shaded her eyes against the glare of the light on the water and her face grew puzzled, though she smiled and started forward again.
“Did you find a selkie-maid in the surf and steal her from the sea, then?” She called, laughter filling her beautiful dark blue eyes.
Devon wrinkled his snub-nose at her. “Ma, this is Meg Tanner. She’ll be staying here… helping you out, if you don’t mind.”
“You don’t have to take me,” I said, feeling suddenly very shy.
“Nonsense,” She said, briskly, “I’d love to have you. I don’t get many woman visitors and it will be a nice change from my churlish son here.”
I was surprised to see Devon’s face flush to match his bright hair.
“Meg’s father recently died,” Devon said, abruptly. “I found Meg near the old cottage.”
His mother stepped back a pace and seemed to study me with a closer look. She let out a bark of laughter. “Perhaps I wasn’t far off the mark, then?”
Devon shook his head, a tight, little movement, clearly trying to keep her from continuing on.
“Oh, where are my manners?” She exclaimed, tossing back her salt and pepper hair like a young girl. “I’m Maureen… please call my Maura. Everyone does, even my son. It’s close enough to ‘Mama’ as never mind, and I do prefer it.”
“Ok… Maura,” I said, shyly. “Thank you… I don’t know where I would go if your son hadn’t said I could stay here. I suppose… I left my car somewhere…”
“Devon will help you get settled,” Maura said, brightly. “Just be back for dinner. I’m making crab that came home on the boat this very evening.”
Devon gestured for me to follow, the sunlight touching on the freckles that crowded across his nose. “My Da’s dead, too,” he said, abruptly. “He died when I was ten—it was a shock—changed my world. I’m sorry for your loss… it’s very hard… You… don’t have a mother, do you?”
I shook my head, unable to speak around the stone in my throat. I rubbed at it, trying to ease the ache. It hurt so much, I had to stop and bend over, trying to breathe. When I could, I raised myself up again, pretending that nothing had happened. I could see the worry on Devon’s face, but that just made me feel like crying even more. “No… I don’t have a mother. She drowned when I was a baby. I don’t remember her. It was just me and Dad and now…” I couldn’t finish the sentence. Now I was completely alone. We had been so happy together, just the two of us. Losing Dad had been like losing half of myself—my father, my best friend, my whole world—just stripped from me as bark from a young birch-tree. My heart was exposed and I was afraid that, at the slightest thing, it would break completely.
“I’m sorry,” Devon said, his voice soft. He paused, then continued. “I don’t know what I would do without my mother.”
“Can we talk about something else?” My voice sounded ridiculously high to myself. “Anything else? I don’t think I can… do this right now.”
Devon nodded briskly. “Um… so, what do you like to do?”
I actually laughed, it was such a basic question to ask after the deep emotion of the previous questions. “Oh… I ride… used to ride… a lot. I had my own pony for ten years. We used to go everywhere together. I never really got along with the kids at school, so it was pretty much me and him all the time. His name was Coal.” I closed my eyes, smiling as the memories brought back the rough feel of his shaggy mane under my fingers and the sweet scent of pony.
“I had a pony too,” Devon said, surprisingly. “My Da wanted to make sure I could ride. We still have him in the back pasture, though he mostly just bosses the horses around these days.”
“You have horses?” I felt a leap of hope in my chest. Perhaps I really was supposed to be around here.
Devon grinned at my enthusiasm and I felt a blush creep up across my face. “Yes, we have three of them, other than my old pony, Dragon. Once you get settled I’ll take you out with me. They could use the exercise. Maura doesn’t ride much these days… my Da died on horseback.” He said it with a matter of fact tone. I wondered if I would ever be able to say it so casually.
Our walking had brought us closer to town and I actually was beginning to recognize the sights—the harbor where the ferry had come in was right in front of me. I quickly found my old car, and was surprised by how good it felt to find it—some piece of something I knew, there in front of me—part of the old life that seemed so very far away from here.
My car’s condition caused me to blush again. The floor was littered with wrappers from all the fish sandwiches I had consumed on my drive. My few possessions—clothes, a few books and photographs, were flung helter-skelter across the back seat. I had left the dog unlocked and the keys in the ignition, but no one had disturbed the vehicle at all. I was surprised and grateful for that small favor of grace.
Devon surveyed my mess with a grin and cleared himself a seat, leaning back, perfectly at ease. “I like it,” he said.
“You’ve got to be joking!” I blurted. I had been teased at school for my rusty old heap of junk.
“I like old things,” Devon said, seriously. “This car has character! It has personality.”
“It doesn’t have shocks,” I warned. “So, be forewarned.” I shifted into gear and eased onto the road.
Dinner was delicious. Dad had always talked about how fresh seafood was the best way to eat it, but I had never even imagined the velvety-sweet flavor of the crab that Maura had prepared for dinner. It was a simple meal—crab, brown rice, and asparagus. Everything was flavored with the salty air of the ocean and I could hear the breath and sigh of the tide so nearby, it made me feel relaxed, whole, for the first time in so long.
I tried to drag myself to awareness as two strong arms lifted me up and carried me into the room that had be designated to me. I tried to protest, and to thank him, but Devon just said, “Shhh.”
I was too tired to protest. Before he even set me on my bed, I was asleep.
I dreamt I was swimming. I danced through the water, as if I had been born to be one with the element. My skin was smooth and dark, sleek in the water. I danced around, surrounded by silver moonlit bubbles. I laughed, surfacing, and turned my face to the sky.
The young girl from the cottage was sitting on the shore, smiling enigmatically as she spun her dark cords. I waved happily to her, begging her to join be, but she kept spinning, not even pausing in her work.
I turned back to the water. Gold and silver light flowed through the sea. I dove deeper, trying to see where the golden light came from. A hand caught onto mine, pulling me towards the surface again. Startled, I kicked up, taking a deep breath of the icy night air.
The most beautiful man I had ever seen in my whole life, smiled down on me. His hand was warm on my arm, his fingers as pale and perfect as moonlight. His hair was silvered in the darkness of the night and flowed back on an invisible breeze, framing the perfection of his high cheekbones, the sculpted, straight, nose-- his eyes the most intense shade of silver-blue I had ever seen. Chills races up and down my spine as his eyes turned to mine, my heart thrilled within me, my breath caught in my throat. He was exquisite, perfect, glorious as an angel, and he turned his hand in mine and twined his fingers through mine own imperfect, nail-chewed ones.
Suddenly I was no longer in the water, but we were standing there, side by side, under the trees, knee-deep in grass, the moonlight pouring down on us like a waterfall. The perfect being stared deeply at me, feasting his eyes on me as if he had never before seen anyone like me. I, myself, could not tear my gaze away. I had no desire to. I wanted to melt into those incredible eyes and swim in them. I felt my finger tips reach out to brush the too-perfect skin of his face.
I woke with a start and it was daylight.
I lay in my bed, my heart pounding, my hands shaking. I did not know where I was. I couldn’t breathe. I felt shaken and unnerved by the vividness of my dreams. I had seemed so real—I had felt the water as I swam, I had actually smelled the scent of wild roses rising off of the strange, beautiful, man’s body.