The silver leaf on his bracelet complemented his dark green eyes. He stared past it at the horizon, bending and blending the sunset into the sea with his arms around his knees, his worn out fingers intertwined.
It had been a while and he let his thoughts lead him back to the time when his only love was that of the sea; the cluster of dark, jagged rocks that stood solemnly around him had seemed like pillars to his castle of solitude.
It was almost sundown when he reached the castle; the harvest was hard work this year and his bruised and bleeding fifteen year old hands could only help so much. Last year, they had lost his uncle, the only father he ever had and the best he could ever want. Now it was him and his aunt. He wished he was stronger, that he didn’t need sleep…
He bent over to catch his breath and placed his hand against the rough stone and murmured a vague apology for his delay.
“How did you…?”
He yelped and stepped back, almost tripping over his own feet.
“Whozair?!” he said wildly as he struggled to stay calm and readied himself to run, just in case.
She stepped out from behind one of the taller rocks, looking mildly amused. Her eyes were wide and twinkling; intimidating. Her once-white dress that was torn at her left shoulder and ripped off up to her knees looked far too expensive to be from anywhere on this side of the kingdom.
“You’re only a boy…”, she said in an unfamiliar dialect that made her voice ring in a way that reminded him of the warmth of the fireplace on a snowy Christmas night. She was about his age, he guessed.
“And you’re only a girl. Something tells me that I’d be mistaken to assume that you chose to enjoy the sunset hiding behind a rock in a wrecked dress.” he said rather amused, now that his fear had vaporized.
“Something tells me that you wouldn’t have one to spare although you’d make quite a lady with your delicate wrists and practically luminous green eyes. Were you ever turned into a cat?”
He pulled his hands out of the pockets of his worn out and faded denim pants and folded them across his chest as he leaned against one of the rocks, surprised, and more enchanted than offended.
“A black one, like my hair. Primary job was to rebel against the moon turning white after new moon.”
“You’re bleeding,” she offered, imitating his tone.
“Wha… oh.” No one ever bothered, let alone noticed his battered hands before. It was only normal where he lived. He wondered if he should feel uncomfortable or even offended as he felt warm familiarity begin to melt his hardened expression.
“Are you planning to stay here? It’s getting dark.” He decided not to ask her about why she was here or where she came from. She could take her time. It had probably not been a whimsical decision, he realized as he noticed the plain silver rings on her ears and the silver charm on her bracelet. Her hair fell untidily braided down her right shoulder chopped unevenly, possibly singed, halfway down to her shoulder. She had secrets and he wouldn’t pry.
She lowered her eyes and shrugged, pulling hopelessly at her tattered dress to shield her from the wind. He realized that she was extraordinarily beautiful. It wasn’t the kind of beauty that stood out but a mild glow that seemed to suggest a wildfire within.
“Here,” he said, shrugging his old jacket off. Something like amazement flashed in her eyes for only a second and she quietly murmured a hesitant ‘thank you’ as she tried it on. The words sounded tentative and foreign. Her smile was almost imperceptible.
She took his hand as he told her about the town, the weather and the lake reflecting the starlight. The evening steadily enveloped the sky as they walked home; he could spare some food and blankets. He couldn’t remember the last time he had talked so easily. She couldn’t remember the last time she smiled.
He opened his eyes to the sound of the waves. The sun hesitated above the horizon.
He took a deep breath. ‘Any minute now,’ he thought to himself as he let it out in a half sigh and his green eyes broke into a hopeful smile.
The sea mist ruffled his dark curls.
T. E. Pyrus
[P. S. To be continued. Hang in there, folks.]