Memories of the in-between (no editing)

(Something I wrote a long time ago and only recently found,  I will be tweaking it soon but wanted to share it with you, let me know what you think)

Aaron Sonnenberg

Photography by Aaron Sonnenberg

The beach was washed in mist as the sea climbed the shore. The seafoam clung to the sand like a woman’s arms to her lover, in the early hours of the sun’s reign. The birds were waking to greet the day, their chirps and song filling the air. The sand looked grey in the bland and dim pre-light, but slowly colour washed the world again as the sun climbed higher on the far horizon. The mist melted away dissolving on the rocks and pebbles, revealing the cliffs in the distance.

A young man sauntered along the beach, a forlorn gait to his stride. His pale features reflected this sadness as he picked up a pebble, and after inspecting it threw it into the retreating surf. His long hair hung limply as it fell past his jaw, shadowing his movements, swaying too and froe. He looked out to sea to watch a boat sailing smoothly by, covering his eyes with his hand in the brighter sunshine. A glint of hope and excitement flared within him at the sighting. The waves cause the sun as they peaked and troughed like lovers beneath the sheets. The man watched with a diminishing hope as the ship sailed out of sight, not to dock today.

He sat on a boulder embedded in the shore, a reminder that the cliffs used to sit closer to the shoreline many years before, time and tide wearing away at the stone. He watched the birds feeding on the receding, water-logged sand, picking and digging to catch the critters the sea had left behind in the last wave. He sat watching and waiting, wondering.

In the last lingering mist, a figure walked, unseen at first, towards him. As the figure neared the man noticed and stood. The waiting hadn’t been in vain. The figure glided towards him as smoothly as the boat had across the horizon. There was something magical in the sway of her hips, something not entirely human. The figure neared showing glimpses of hip-long saffron hair. It danced like fire behind her as she neared in her translucent dress. Around her waist, she had a belt of pearls held together with fishing net twine and glass beads. As she neared, his mouth parted in awe of her beauty. She stopped before him and smiled warmly, just as he remembered. He stepped forward instinctively holding his hands out to her face as if she were a mirage. Her skin felt cool to his touch as she closed her eyes and rolled her cheek into his palm, reminding him of a cat. His other hand strayed to her fiery hair.  He held her as he brought his lips down to meet hers. They touched briefly, then again and again. Each touch, tender and soft. Their lips clung to one another for a few moments before finally breaking. She opened her eyes and looked up to him. She smiled but her brown eyes held tears.

“What is wrong? Are you well?” He asked quietly, she studied him, as a tear rolled down her pure white cheek.

“I have just missed you so much” She smiled. He echoed her and pulled her close, hugging her, breathing her in.

“I have missed you too, I was afraid you would never return to me, that I had been forgotten” She placed a finger to his lips and looked firmly into his pastel blue eyes.

“Never speak of it my love, never would I forget you, I would remember you when the last star shines in the sky” She hugged him again, her reply muffled by his chest. “My memory of you brought a warming to my heart when even time froze.” He stroked her hair fondly.

“Such words you say!” He smiled “Now, tell me, what have you seen, what have you done” She stepped back from him slowly, pulling from his arms. She looked at him with a hesitance he wasn’t expecting.

“I have a secret to tell, but I fear your reaction, I fear losing you to fear and hatred.” She looked wary as she studied him again.

“Whatever this secret is, it will never steal me away from you” He smiled reassuringly but she didn’t respond.

“We shall see” She began to walk away from him, back the way she had come.  She turned back and held her hand out to him. “Come, I have something to show you” He grasped her hand and followed walking back along the beach, a deep and contemplative silence between them. The sun was finally clear of the horizon and was quietly watching on as the birds soared through the sky. Eventually, they came to the edge of the shoreline where an infallible and constant mist cut off the land and sea. The mist still clung to the rocks here, like a moss; living, moving, growing. She turned to face him, her face once again looked nervous.

“William, I have wanted to show you this since the first moment we met. Hold my hand, there must be no secrets between us from this moment on” She led him through the mist and it parted around them like a curtain. William tried to see what he was walking into but the mist was cloying and thick, filling up the empty spaces between them quicker than they could make them. The only thing keeping him grounded was the touch of her hand.  The fog began to clear revealing a cliff before him, closer than it should have been. At his feet swirled a deep green bay surrounded by lush vegetation. Even the air seemed different, somehow richer. As they neared the swirling water he saw them.

Their bodies of cerulean blue heaved under the surface of the clear water. Their bodies were half human and half something else. One swam close to the edge giving William a full view of the creature.   Its bottom half was of a fish, scales made up of rich blues and silvers. The scales shimmered in the gaining light, glittering against the underside of the water’s surface. The top half of these creatures were human except for the arms.  The arms looked similar to dragon fly’s wings, vibrating and thrusting them through the water with ease.  William felt his knees tremble at the sight before him.

He turned to look at his lady but she had vanished. He looked around for her, panic filling his lungs. He found her sitting on the beach leading into the bay off to his left, The panic washed away as quickly as it came. He walked over to her slowly and sat down beside her. She looked down into the water, avoiding his eyes. He was careful not to touch her, unsure of how to react.

“You’re scared?” She asked, but it came as more of a statement.

“Not scared, curious” He replied as he peered into the water to spot another of the creatures. “Your remarkable beauty, your haunting voice, your wondrous eyes, this is why? You’re one of these creatures?” He asked quietly. She nodded. He sighed for a moment as he looked down at his hands. There were so many things rushing through his head.  He remembered back exactly a year ago.

The sun had been shining like it did every spring. He had awoken like any other day with the knowledge that nothing new was going to happen in his quiet little fishing village. He had washed and dressed and headed to the marketplace where the ships docked. The scene had been all a-bustle with people buying, selling, trading and bartering. The place was a hub of activity. There had been lots of ships newly docked, more so than usual, bringing their interesting and exotic wares to their tables. Their sales had billowed in the morning breeze and that had been the moment he had seen her.

Her red hair had been as wild as ever, like a fire that clung to her spine.  Her face had been awash with something close to awe as she took in each market stall with a child-like wonder. She had worn pale robes that hung loosely to her body without losing her feminine shape. She looked like some far away princess fresh from a palace somewhere with her newness. Her face was open and friendly, turning head after head of the affection-starved sailors trying to flog their haul. There had been something about her, something about her beauty which had been and still was, astounding.  She looked at the different robes on sale along with the fish and the baskets, her eyes wide with wonderment. He had stood there, dumbfounded, watching her.

He couldn’t remember taking a breath until she got so close she bumped into him.  Her eyes raised up in an apology but she stopped, a look of strange recognition flashed in her grey eyes. Eyes the colour of seafoam as it floated on the waves, of a storm far away, clinging to the turbulent ocean on the horizon. Eyes filled with aeons of knowledge but were seeing the world anew. He couldn’t stop staring at them.  They seemed as old as the clouds themselves but as new as the sun each and every morning. He opened his mouth to speak but no sound escaped. All that seemed to escape from his mouth was his breath and then finally a smile as if his lips had been held captive by his cheeks. He looked at her with something like understanding or recognition.  His heart knew her, knew she was different, knew she was amazing. He had broken the ice first as she looked away from him shyly with those pale storm cloud eyes. That broke the hold on his lips and he found his voice. He smiled again.
“Good morning,” He said steadily. He felt his pride swell, he had never been confident around women.  She didn’t answer straight away and he found his smile and pride faltering. With a building desperation to not let this opportunity slip the net, he found some courage hidden in some dark corner of his heart.

“What is your name?”

“Ariana,” She said quietly, her voice sounding like velvet, husky and soft.

“William” He replied smiled at her broadly.

That was their first meeting, they had spent all day together, enjoying each other’s company. Learning more about each other, the fondness between them growing. Slowly the night descended and looking back now, he can remember how agitated she had been.  Even after only knowing her for a matter of hours he instinctively knew her as if they had known each other their entire lives. She had cried a little and had spoken tearfully about her fast approaching voyage home. She had promised she would return, a year and a day later. They promised not to forget each other as they had embraced each other. Skin against skin, sharing love in only the way lovers can.

The year had been a long one, each day more difficult than the last, but every morning he awoke knowing he was one day closer to being with his love again. Some days it felt as though his heart was tearing in two but he knew the cure was closer every second.

His mind returned to the present and the creatures in the pool. He looked back to them and to the beautiful woman sat next to him. Her hair was still the liquid flame down her back and her eyes were still the same seafoam grey he had fallen in love with.  He didn’t feel like he had any choice in rejecting her, the thought seemed too repugnant. She looked at him, a wetness on her cheeks as if the rainclouds were pouring in her eyes. He smiled as he wiped away the tears and smiled, holding her face in his hands making her look him squarely in the face.

“You are so beautiful and wonderful. It wouldn’t have mattered to me had you been the great Kraken herself! You are still the Ariana I fell in love with” he said firmly.  The tears fell fast down her face as she stared into his eyes, looking from one eye to the other as if she were looking for a hint of a lie. After a moment her face softened as she realised there was nothing but love and acceptance to find. She placed her hands on his at her face and wept.  William pulled her to him gently and held her.

“When I first met you, I wanted to tell you everything but I couldn’t. I thought you would hate me”

 “Not possible, I could never hate you” She didn’t reply, she just smiled and tilted her head to kiss his palm. He leant forward to meet her lips. They both fell into the kiss, soft, feather-light touches drawing and stoking the fire between them.  The kiss became more like new lovers and their first kiss. She pulled away from the kiss and looked at him sheepishly.

“There is something else” He laughed at this but after noting the nervous look in her eye, he stopped.

“Is this where you tell me, you are actually the Kraken?” She laughed and shook her head.

“No, I’m not the Kraken”

“Tell me,” He asked leaning forward to kiss her again.

“You have a daughter” He froze, lips puckered ready for the kiss, His mind seemed to go into overtime.  A daughter?

“What?” He asked finally “A daughter?” She nodded.

“Where is she?” He asked taking a deep breath as the world swam before his eyes. She looked down and touched her seemingly flat stomach. As he studied her more closely, he realised that she did, in fact, have a rounded and swollen belly. He felt his jaw drop as he reached out to touch the skin after a few moments he felt movement and jumped. He looked at her and she looked at him.  He felt the tears well up in his eyes as he pulled her close again.

“When will she be here?” He asked tearfully.

“Soon now her time is almost up” His brow furrowed in confusion and he looked at her again.

“But, we haven’t seen each other in a year,” He asked nervously.

“We carry our young for longer” She smiled. He kissed her firmly on the mouth and she opened to him. It didn’t matter what happened but she always knew how to surprise him. He loved her and now he would have the loving family he had always wanted, just with a few differences.

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