I had hoped – selfishly I’ll admit – that after her death, he would be able to forget her. This, however, was not the case.
I sit beside him now, a stone’s throw away from Land’s End, on a makeshift wooden bench. Soft and brown, the bark having peeled off long ago; leaving behind a smooth surface. When the storm comes and the waves from the sea reach up this high, our resting place can be easily wiped dry, leaving a sheen of glittering sand, displaced and almost decorative.
She was like the sea: uncontrollable and unattainable. Just when you thought you’d grasped the very essence of her, she would trickle through your hands, laughing as she went, leaving you wanting more. I know all this because before she was his lover, she was my oldest friend.
She played like the sand between your toes, filling the voids, pushing you to search for more. If she were here, she’d be exploring the caves, calling out to you from within. Her voice would echo towards you as you stood at the edge, not daring enough to venture in, until her voice was too small and unintelligible that you’d fear she was lost forever. Just as you’d take a step forward into the unknown, fearing bats with sharp teeth and claws above and murky sea creatures below, she would appear.
She’d present you with a multi-coloured shell, pastel shades that could only have been made by a mermaid, she would have you believe. The most beautiful thing you’d ever seen apart, of course, from her. Her childlike excitement would wash away the fear that had grown inside you and replace it with the warmth of the sunshine that lit her golden face.
She’d take your hand and run with you but you could never quite keep up. If you stopped to catch your breath, once again she’d be gone and with it too the light in your life. You’d be left alone, the sand and stones hurting your feet and the glare of the sun overbearing, telling you it was time to give up the dream and go home.
Once, on one of these escapades I found her hat, straw with a royal blue ribbon finishing neatly in a bow at the back. It was lying beside a rock pool and I feared that something awful had taken her. I searched round the rocks, calling questions into the air. When I finally turned around, she was stood behind me, watching. And he beside her. She did not say anything, just smiled. He looked away, blushing, as if caught in some shameful act, lingering for a moment before he went on his way. She let me keep the hat.
He talks of her now. Our stories too familiar to feel personal anymore. As if she’d dreamt up these perfect moments, sprinkling them with magic and testing them on everyone she could until she found the perfect accomplice. The clouds cover us, as if even the sun is in mourning, the air clammy cold; the wind picks up around us, stifling our memories.
I catch shards and splinters of his words that shatter around us. He says they had longed to run away together, that no one knew her like he did. But that’s not true. I knew her, in all her splendour. I knew her enchanting nature; her hair which reached out to you as she ran; her fingernails concealing all manner of dirt as she searched for the answers to life amongst the mud and the leaves which would wither away in front of her.
I also saw her shadows. I saw her cry, only once, and her spirit faded away. She was normal for a moment, her eyes like gravel. She would tell you what you wanted to hear: she needed someone to take care of her. But that was a lie.
She played tricks on him too. She told him that she wanted a child, his child. She wanted to create beauty and life. The elements coming together. Her passion and fire along with the beautiful air she could turn into any song. Mixed with his grounding, his roots in the earth, and the constant promise of running water, of stability.
But she would destroy the desire herself. She would say that he’d cover her in bruises as black as the night sky, crushing any hope of a baby.
He spoke to me of these things. How, in the darkness, she would turn from angel to demon. She was troubled. Just as the tide comes in each evening to swallow up all below, so too would she encompass all around with her whirlwind ride. She could scream like a banshee, swear and drink like a smuggler. But when the calm of dawn came she would lie next to him, stroking him, caressing his invisible wounds away, the tide making its way back out to sea and taking with it her rage. She would sleep calmly then and he would watch her, waiting for her to wake, wondering what adventures lie ahead of them for the day. Her misgivings forgotten, her beauty once more back in place.
I could not forgive so easily. I was his respite when she had gone too far. When her grumbles and groans for life and adventure turned to fury at time’s slow beat. I kept him company in the early hours, and we would talk and laugh. She would never mention it. But she knew.
When he spoke to me about her his voice grew no bigger than a whisper, protecting himself, as if she could hear through the stone walls. But she wasn’t all we spoke about. I became the other woman. I dare say, I liked it. I would wait each night for the knock on the door announcing his arrival. His silhouette in the doorway would be illuminated by the outside light. It was even better when it was a dirty night, filled with rain. He’d take off his sodden clothes for me to dry beside the fire. Wrapped in my grey dressing gown, we’d sit listening to the rain dancing on the window panes.
I didn’t mean to, in fact I tried very hard not to, but I fell in love with him then, just as he had fallen in love with her. Without reason. I was carried away with the current, unable to swim back to safety. It rolled me around and sucked me under until all I could do was give in. I let it take me, the blue-green, and sweep me away, until when it was ready, it would wash me up ashore, wanting for more.
Now at dusk the gulls circle around us, searching for a place to perch, their calls echo on the blustering wind. As the cliff works its way down to the coast from where we sit. I can see the rock pool below. Its sharp edges still showing. The water shallow enough to walk through, deep enough to drown in.
His hand sits on the bench between us and I place mine on top, our shoulders touch. We could huddle for warmth but his thoughts are elsewhere, without me. We sit still as the first drops of rain begin. He sighs for her, all the life she still had to live. He moans as his heart aches. A rain drop falls on his cheek, or is it a tear. He is still so in love, with the wrong woman.
I could so easily take my hand from on top of his and place it on the small of his back, feeling the shivers run through my fingers, I would rub his muscles back to life. Quickly and with force I could take him off balance and push him over the edge, watching him fall, until the very end. I wonder what I’d see in his eyes. Whether he would cry out in surprise. Whether his voice would be drowned out by the birds and the wind.
She didn’t scream. She let the fall take her. It was as if she knew she had it coming all along.
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