by Jeremy Warach
Note: I published this briefly a few weeks ago, but I quickly unpublished it, since I was not happy with how it came out. I have reworked it and am republishing it now. I have not deleted the comments from my original publication, so if anyone reads those comments and finds any of them confusing, well, that may give you some insight as to the prior version of the story.
She strolled slowly along the beach. The water approached and lapped at her feet before retreating, erasing her footprints. Her sandals dangled loosely from her left hand. The cool evening breeze blew through her loose, sleeveless dress, raising goosebumps on her arms. She pulled out her headband and shook her head, letting her long, dark curls fly around her face.
She looked out over the ocean and smiled, seeing the moon's reflection in the water. The moon was full and lit the night. She could see for miles out over the water. It was vast and empty and desolate, like a desert. She tried to imagine being surrounded by that vastness, on a raft perhaps, with nothing but an infinity of water on all sides.
The image was overpowering, but it was not enough to erase her memory of the heated conversation earlier that evening. She could still feel the victory she had achieved, but now that feeling was slowly becoming tinged with regret. Mentally replaying her own words, she wondered if she had gone beyond the necessity of the moment in choosing her arguments. She had hurt him, she knew, but he had hurt her first, and hurt her deeply.
She closed her eyes and hugged her arms around herself. Breathing in deeply, she could smell and taste the salt air. It helped to clear her head and strengthen her resolve.
A shift in the wind brought the sound of the party to her. She thought she had walked far enough away from it to prevent it from intruding upon her thoughts, but apparently it was not so. She turned to look behind her, up behind the dunes, and in the distance she could see the twinkling lights of the tiki torches at the beach house.
He was there, she knew. What was he thinking and doing? Was he hiding in a corner, sulking or crying? Was he drinking himself into oblivion? Or had he brushed off the whole argument and found someone new to dance with and possibly more? She turned back to face the water and blinked away the tears she felt coming.
The water was beautiful and all-encompassing. In the beginning, it was the origin of all life, and for some, it was where life ended.
She let the sandals fall out of her left hand and walked slowly into the water. The sandals rested on the sand. A gentle wave washed over them and then retreated, leaving the sandals in a small depression filled with water, reflecting the moonlight.
# # #
The man stumbled over the dunes toward the water's edge. The moon was slowly rising, the horizon brightening as dawn approached. His head turned left and right as he looked up and down the beach, unable to decide which way to go. He saw something lying in the sand, apparently abandoned by the retreating tide, and he walked quickly towards it. He squatted down and lifted up a pair of sandals. Recognizing the distinctive beadwork, he knew they were hers.
He could not see her anywhere. He remembered what she had said to him at the party, but he hadn't believed her and had simply dismissed her threats. He knew now how serious she was. He collapsed to his knees and felt a wail building deep inside him.
He stared unblinking into the distance, the sky beginning to glow red. There was a disturbance on the surface of the water, and a silhouette rose slowly, framed by the fiery dawn. As the figure approached, he saw that it was her. Her hair was slicked back; her thin dress clung to her body. She stepped out of the water and stood over him, dripping.
His mouth gaped. Seconds passed silently as they stared at one another before he sputtered, "Thank goodness… you didn't… I thought you…" He trailed off, not willing to say what he had suspected.
Knowing what he was thinking, she said, "Don't be an idiot. I went for a long swim." She bent over to pick up her sandals, then walked around him and up the beach toward the dunes. He turned and followed her with his eyes.
She stopped and looked back at him. "Are you coming?" she said. Turning away from him, she strolled leisurely toward the beach house.