We live by the sea. It is just beyond us, really – a few kilometers away, over hill and heath – but it’s always there. Always breathing, always glaring or shimmering, depending on its mood.
That’s what she would say. That it had moods.
You can just see it from the kitchen window. It is a small thing, that window: square, flanked by bleached muslin and crowded with delicacies she would unearth from the water. Yet, often I would find her, standing there, elbow-deep in suds, just staring out at the sea.
And then one day, she wasn’t.
Madeline was like no other woman I had ever known. Eyes the color of sea glass and rich dark hair down to her waist, she was not so much exotic as simply the essence of everything beautiful in my heart. We courted and married in a scandalously short amount of time, but it didn’t matter. We were alone in the world, and had only ourselves to make happy. Yet, even then, I wondered.
In the darkest part of the night, I would feel her moving silently against her pillow, twisting the sheets. Tiny breaths would betray the angst that chased her through the night. Dreams haunted her, she said. Snatches of the day, of the life she’d led before followed her in sleep – sweet or painful, they were ghosts.
Now, I think I’m the ghost. I came home after a long two days in the city to find our little cottage empty. I called to her. Nothing. Something did not feel right – nothing was askew, and yet I knew: she’d gone.
I wandered down to the sea. I had help. Along the path she always took were trinkets I’d given her – nothing priceless, just things she kept stashed amid the beautiful flotsam she picked up along the beach. There was the string of beads made of driftwood from some distant shore. I found the silk scarf I gave her for Valentine’s next. Dyed in muted hues of blue, green and grey, she wept when she saw it – and never wore it. It reminded her too much of home, she said. It was draped over a bit of bramble marking the turn to the dunes.
I would dream of this. Of her gone. That she’d found it. Those were the dreams that haunted my sleep, that made me wake up in a sweat. That she found her skin and returned home.
And she had.
My Selkie. My sweet Madeline. Gone. Back to the sea, back to the life she had once traded for me. The sun dipped below the dunes and the sky was streaked in red when I saw it – saw her: a sleek head bobbing in the water. She stayed there, just out of reach, until the last of the light died. And as she dipped beneath the waves, I heard her voice, echoing within my heart, telling me one last time, goodbye.
For Papi Z’s Lucky 13 Prompt: “I found the silk scarf I gave her for Valentine’s next” 500 word flash fiction.
D: Well, aren’t you cheerful.
A: What? I thought you would appreciate a bit of the old tales.
D: Oh, I do – it’s just not something I would expect from you, that’s all.
A: Not everything is Mel Brooks send-ups or snark, D.
D: . . . It isn’t?
A: (Eye roll) In other Valentine’s News . . .
D: Oh, wait! I got this! Marie and John have put together a Top-Ten List for what not to do on Valentine’s Day.
A: You sound really excited about that, D.
D: Well, Mairead and I didn’t have to maneuver around this type of thing when we were courting. We were, you know, pagan. Saints of any name didn’t have much sway with us, unless they were gods before the church made them saints (Bridget, here’s lookin’ at you, kid).
A: Nice, D. And now?
D: Well, it’s a whole new world, and from what I understand from reading ahead in the story you’ve crafted about my future – totally from whole cloth too, might I add – Mairead is nearly ready to forgive me. I need all the help I can get.
A: Indeed, you do – if I recall correctly, Mairead was rather adept with a knife . . . and knows her way around a variety of herbal remedies.
D: Don’t be giving her ideas, woman!
A: Oh, no, of course not. For the non-Valentine’s among you, this post, 5 Horrible Valentine’s Day Cards, at The Queen Creative is perfect!
D: You loved those, didn’t you?
A: I did. I really really did. I actually want to send a few of those.
D: I fear for you.
A: Gee, thanks D. And that, my friends, is it. Have a great evening and thank you so much for reading!