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Slowly lowering myself down on the sandy beach, I gaze at the endless sea before me. Some would call it beautiful. They would marvel at the ocean’s bipolar personality, amazed that one minute it can be enthralling and spectacular to behold and the next minute a powerful, yet turbulent, captor from which to flee. But, my relationship with the sea is different; this body of water before me holds nothing but pain and heartache. In one night, it was able to shatter everything that I held dear, and then, as if to mock me, it spared my life. As a gust of wind passes, the salt it carries teasing and exciting my senses, I realize that all I have left to hold on to are the memories of that summer…that summer when it all fell apart. It is with every fiber of my being that I now grasp on to the remnants of a life that no longer seems to be mine.
Part One— Peaceful Solace
I was jostled awake as our family van pulled to a stop in the parking lot of the beach, our beach…my beach. Sunlight poured into my eyes as I roused from my light slumber and with a yawn I sat up. Without asking, I knew we had arrived at the beach because the wind, fragranced with sea salt, wafted by my nostrils and enticed my entire being. Although we normally stayed at the beach for the few short months of the summer, I thought of the ocean as my home; its watery depths were my solace. At once, I was awake, and I jumped out of the car leaving my family behind. “Cecily Scarlett Hanbury, don’t you DARE leave the luggage for us to carry!” my mother reproached me with a lurid cry. It would be foolish to ever pretend that I failed to hear any censure from my mother, so begrudgingly I sped back to the car; the faster I unpacked, the sooner I’d be able to feel the sea’s cool waves envelope me. Within minutes I was in a bikini top and shorts, running along the shore as fast I could, as if the ocean would fade away if I didn’t reach it quickly enough. My lungs felt as though they would explode but the desire to be swallowed by the water surpassed my need to rest. At last I could feel water surging at my feet and I dived into the deep with alacrity. Like a snake shedding into new skin, being beneath the waves made me feel free from anything that constrained me…anything that hindered my happiness…anything that caused stress…anything that was a burden. I could lose myself in the sea, which, often times, was what I attempted to do. Swimming as deep down as I could manage before the under-sea pressure would become unbearable; venturing as far from the coast as I could before my arms would ache and my feet would long for land beneath them… I would do anything to depart from my world of monotony. The sea was my refuge, for it enabled me to be carefree.
It felt like I had been swimming for a few minutes but in time I realized I was staring up at the setting sun. Before swimming to shore, I floated on my back watching the sun descend ever so slowly until it finally kissed the horizon and disappeared, permitting the moon to shed its incandescent glow upon the earth. The color of the ocean deepened just as the sky did, with the sun’s departure. Diving below once more I swam back in the direction of our humble beach condo until I could feel sand beneath me. For a few minutes I let myself lay on the earth, allowing the lukewarm sand to comfort me as I prepared to re-enter the life to which I dreaded to return. There was no turmoil in my life to cause such reluctance in me, but at times I felt so restricted by my surroundings that my only option was to abandon them.
Quietly, I entered the condo preparing to sprint to my room; I did not want my mother to see me coming in so late. I thought, Only a few more steps… I just need to make it to the top of the steps without mom hearing—“Cecily?!” I heard my mother screech from the bottom of the steps. “Cecily! Are you just coming inside from swimming?” she questioned. “Yes…” I muttered under my breath. She sighed disappointedly and then said, “I don’t know what to do with you sometimes.” I don’t know what to do with you… Those eight words circulated in my mind, making me sick. I hated hearing that from my mother; it was like being told that you are hopeless. My father and I got along quite peaceably but it was my mother who made me yearn for long summer days when I could swim. She was just one of the things in my life that made me turn to something tangible, like the sea, for succor. My mother and I stared at each other for a little while; her disapproving stare matched by my blank gaze, until she finally turned and walked away. I stood planted at the top of the stairway for a little while longer until at last, I left, wishing that I were heading back to the beach instead of my lonely room. Once in my room, I could hear my younger brother, Devon, playing with his video games in the adjacent room and I sneered with contempt. He’s wasting his life away, I thought to myself. I buried myself underneath the sheets of my bed looking out of the window at the full moon. It was then that I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. With a second glimpse I realized it was another family arriving at a nearby condo. There were other families at the beach but none arriving this late in the evening and the people I now saw were unfamiliar. My head began spinning with questions and I found myself eventually giving way to exhaustion. I succumbed to the coolness of my covers though wishing it was the coolness of the sea, welcoming sleep so that I could wake up and swim once more.
Part Two- The Encounter
Freedom. My lungs ached as I inhaled salty air, and my feet burned from the hot sand, but I could not stop running for fear that this was all a dream. My heart raced with anticipation as I saw the waves tickling the glittering sand. The sun shone with pride and the breeze was warm and sportive, so I sincerely believed that the sea was welcoming me home. It seemed as though my legs couldn’t carry me to the water fast enough. I needed to feel the waves—the ocean’s cool caress— wash over me. I yearned to bathe in the sea and cleanse my soul, especially after last night. Desire. I was only a foot away from the sea before an unhallowed thought violated my peace of mind: What if this was all a dream? What if I leapt into the sea, only to plummet back onto my bed? Doubt. “Please don’t fade away,” I entreated the sea, “Please!” I bounded into the watery depths, my body piercing the water like an arrow, and I felt the ocean’s alluring touch. The water was my lover, and it was all I needed to sustain me—or so I thought.
I used to believe that I could lay in the ocean forever. My worries would depart as the waves crashed over me. I needed the sea to protect me from myself, or rather from the reality that I didn’t want to face. In the ocean I wasn’t socially awkward. In the ocean I did not have to please anyone else. In the ocean, I could be me. What I saw in the ocean was more than a solace or an escape; I saw a place where I belonged.
That morning, my morning of freedom, I also saw something else in the sea. Accustomed to the sting of salt water in my eyes, I swam wide-eyed, euphorically searching the deep, re-acquainting myself as if much had changed in my leave of absence. My lungs began to ache in protest to the lack of air exchange, but I pushed myself to keep swimming. My mother used to say that if it were possible, I would will myself to grow gills so I could swim forever. Reluctantly, I launched my body towards the surface, but I sensed a slight disturbance in the water. My body tensed in response to the foreign presence I identified. I wheeled around to see a pair of bright green eyes staring back at me, and gasped in surprise. Unfortunately for me, I was underwater, so that gasp resulted in a painful intake of seawater. From the first moment I ever swam in the sea, I was a “pro.” I never experienced fear of the water or even a sensation of drowning until that very moment. Panic ripped its way through me as I clawed at the water’s surface that I so disdainfully regarded before. I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! My vision got dark as my chest violently heaved and I heard an unpleasant gurgling sound. Despite the fear that I was experiencing, I searched for those eyes. Who… I couldn’t think straight. But there they were. Staring right back at me, except now filled with worry, were those bright green eyes—those beautiful bright green eyes.
When I woke up, my throat burned as if someone had scoured it with sandpaper. My tongue felt heavy and my eyes were tired, even though, from what I could tell, I had been unconscious for quite a while. When I had first sprinted toward the beach, the sun was high in the sky; As my eyes appraised my surroundings, I noticed that the sky was a distinct shade of peach and purple, the notorious blush of the horizon at sunset, and the cool evening breeze lingered longer than the warm oceanic breeze of afternoon. “Do you make a habit of drowning, or was today a special occasion?” a low, velvety voice questioned me. I jumped in surprise and saw a boy with green eyes sitting a few feet away from me. His eyes also searched the horizon, not in an effort to re-acquaint himself with his surroundings, but almost as if he was looking for something. Again I realized that I was almost gawking at this boy with the brilliant eyes and looked away, embarrassed. I could think clearly now that I free from the hypnotic power of his eyes… I was swimming… and then… I saw him! Yes, I saw this boy… I glanced at him from the corner of my eye, thank God for peripheral vision. His hair was a dark brown, almost black because it was still damp from when he was swimming earlier. His brow was furrowed in concentration as he gazed at the horizon, almost as if he were commanding the waves to reveal all of the world’s secrets to him. With a strong, defined jaw-line and ivory skin, he could be deemed beautiful, but once I got over his appearance I became insulted. He’s making a joke out of my… my… my near-death experience! I could’ve drowned and died today and he thinks that it’s funny! I grinded my teeth and glared at the horizon as I pondered over the obnoxiousness of this boy who probably saved my life. “You swim very… beautifully…” the boy said, breaking my train of vexed thought, “if that word can be used to describe the way a person swims…” I put my anger aside to hear him out… he spoke in a very peculiar way. He continued, “It’s almost as if you’re part of the ocean. When you first swam by, I almost thought you were a dolphin… you were too graceful to be a shark,” he laughed inwardly to himself. Who is the guy? “I guess that’s why it took me by surprise when you started doing the ‘dead man’s float’.” More laughter. My eyes narrowed again as my face became a shade of crimson. “I’m glad my potential death is so amusing to you!” I spit out, upset that this stranger that I’d never seen before valued my life so little. He was still chuckling to himself as I attempted to regain composure. His smile was so winsome and his laughter so pleasant that I couldn’t help but laugh along with him. Our laughter resounded off of the sand dunes, his low chuckle harmonizing with my light peal. “I haven’t laughed like that in a long time… especially at myself,” I stated once I could speak calmly. “You should try it more often… you can be quite amusing,” he replied playfully. I looked in his eyes again… they were more alluring when his gaze softened. Who is this boy?
Part Three—A New Horizon
The next morning, I leapt out of bed as soon as the sun’s deliciously warm rays shone through the windowpanes and bathed me in light. I raced to the window to admire the commanding view of the seaside, but this particular morning was different from the preceding mornings. Anticipation bubbled somewhere deep within me, rising farther and farther up until at last it pulled the corners of my mouth upward in a smile. I did not long solely for the waves this morning. I longed for him as well.
Zipping through the house, grabbing a bagel on my wait out, I headed for my “home”—the beach. My eyes scanned my surroundings and at last, I stopped running when I reached the spot where we had sat last night. There was no one here, but the sea and I. All that had sustained my anticipation was dissipated and with a dissatisfied groan I slumped to the ground. Of course he isn’t here… why would he be here… Last night was simply a chance encounter. Why am I getting hung up over him anyway? I don’t even know his name! I don’t need him. All that I need is the sea. I reasoned through my disappointment until I could push the boy with the beautiful eyes out of my mind. Excitement renewed, I leapt to my feet, throwing off my t-shirt, and dove into Mother Earth’s watery tresses.
The sun was lower in the sky when I begrudgingly trudged back to the shore. I sat on the beach with a wet thud, petulant because I had to head back to the house. “Gah,” I let out an unearthly groan to express my discontent, and sprawled on the sand. The sand clung to remnants of the sun’s warmth and like a sea turtle, I lazily lay on the beach, allowing nature to heat my body. His low chuckle floated on the summer breeze. My eyes snapped open as I saw him looming over me, his smile almost as beautiful as his eyes. “Look what washed up on shore,” he teased, laughing a little more loudly. I nearly jumped out of my skin in sheer embarrassment, unable to look him in the eye. “I… didn’t know… that you were there…” I managed to stammer. He sat down next to me, still chuckling and said, “I was thinking how lucky I was to be able to see a sea nymph this summer. Then I saw you in your sand cocoon… Priceless.” My face was beet red as I nervously fidgeted. Once my heart stopped racing, I managed to counter with, “So you’re my lifeguard… and my stalker?” He looked away as the color rose to his cheeks. “There’s nothing wrong with admiring,” he teased. His smile seemed to light up his entire face and even the whole beach, enough to replace the setting sun. His gaze wandered to the sea. Again he searched the waves, brows furrowing, jaw tensed, looking for only God knows what. I could not take my eyes off of him; I traced the contours of his face with my eyes. There was so much focus and concentration in his expression. I longed to know what he was thinking—to know the inner workings of his mind. Who was this boy? The sun kissed the horizon, and the spectacle of colors illuminated the rolling waves with purple, pink, yellow, and orange. I reluctantly turned my head away from his silhouette and gazed at the serene and humble beauty of the sea. “It’s beautiful,” I whispered, afraid that if I spoke too loudly, I would disrupt the magic of the moment. He looked at me briefly out of the corner of his eyes. “Yeah, everyone loves the romanticism of the sunset,” he replied, almost dismissing my observation. I gazed wistfully at the sea before I spoke again. “Not the sunset, silly. The horizon. It’s beautiful. It goes on and on forever… if I could, I would travel forever just following the horizon, quietly lasting forever in my own part of the world, just the way the horizon does.” He looked at me, blinking twice. His somber, green eyes searched mine; he stared at me the same way that he stared at the sunset. Blushing slightly he turned away and stood up. “It is beautiful,” he answered back at last, with a tentative but warm smile. He held out his hand to help me to my feet. “It’s getting late,” he stated, to justify his departure but he hadn’t let go of my hand just yet. “Wait!” I blurted out. He hadn’t even started to move yet, but I didn’t want him to leave before asking this one question. “My name is Cecily. What’s your name?” I questioned, feeling a little silly. My glance fell to the floor in my embarrassment and his eyes followed the direction mine had pursued. Looking at our hands still linked, he blushed a little. He gently released my hand, but he didn’t release me from his spell. I watched him take a few steps in the opposite direct. Over his shoulder, he replied with a smile that I could still see despite the dusk, “My name is Aiden.” He left, looking back once before he disappeared into the evening. Aiden…
Two things now called me to the beach: the sea and Aiden. On many occasions, he would join me beneath the waves. Though we may have seemed to be simply two teenagers frolicking in the ocean to any onlooker, our twirling and racing through the water was almost a dance. Our movements seemed to mimic the throbbing of my heart. At times we’d race through the currents, winding, twisting, and lurching just the way that my heart often reeled inside my chest. Other times we would merely float, and let the sea carry us. And in the same matter in which we drifted carelessly like flotsam above the frothy and warm waves, my heart drifted in the seas of love that gently bubbled within me at Aiden’s mercy.
Much to my displeasure, Aiden did not swim with me everyday. But, somehow he always managed to find me as the sun was setting. Every evening was spent studying the horizon, and I too found myself spellbound by the iridescent hues congregating where the heavens and the earth joined in an everlasting kiss. The rosy colors that appeared at sunset must be nature’s blush, the sky and the earth caught in that moment of intimacy.
Gazing at the horizon had become a tradition over the course of a few weeks. One particular evening, I broke our reverent silence. “Do you always watch the sunset alone?” He turned to me, his green eyes bright with amusement.
“Excuse me?” he replied, a taunting smile at his lips.
“You know… when you’re not here. Do you always watch the sunset alone?”
He paused in thought, not quite sure what I was suggesting with my question. At last he satisfied my curiosity. “Yes I do.”
He watched me as I digested this new detail about him.
“But being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he added, perhaps misjudging my silence for disapproval.
“Oh I know,” I responded, gazing back at the horizon. “I used to spend my days alone on the beach before I met you. It was nice.”
“Well then let me not disturb your peace of mind!” he exclaimed jumping to his feet.
I laughed and grabbed his hand. “No, you know that I wasn’t shooing you away.”
He chuckled his hearty, merry laugh at my distress. Without releasing my hand he sat back down.
“Then why do you want me around if it was so nice before,” he teased with an impish glint in his eye.
My gaze returned to the distance, and Aiden must have thought that I would not answer his almost rhetorical question.
“You calm me.”
A silence followed.
Without looking at him I continued, “Before only the sea could have that effect on me. But you…” my eyes flitted to him, “you bring peace.”
I felt his eyes on me, poring over my face. With a laugh to ease the tension I cried, “Why do you look at me like that?”
He chuckled and looked away. “Like what?”
“The same way the you look at the horizon.”
Our eyes met and my head felt light as if I had just swam too far down into the ocean.
“In a way you are like the horizon.”
Aiden had a way of speaking slowly, almost like he wanted you to hang on his every word, and I did. My eyes would trace the shape of his mouth as he released each word to the wind. The music of his voice would dance in my ears and I would long to know what word would follow the preceding in his blithe wisdom. I listened, enthralled by his explanation.
“Like the horizon,” he paused, looked at the setting sun, and gently laced his fingers through mine (although I had momentarily forgotten that we were still holding hands), “You’re mysterious. And yet… magical. I can’t quite figure you out.”
“Why do you need to figure me out?” I questioned casually, hoping that if I spoke in lighthearted tones, my heart wouldn’t feel so heavy in my chest.
“I don’t need to, but I want to. I long to,” his green eyes shone with energy I had never seen before. “I can’t really explain why, just like I can’t explain how I feel. Perhaps it’s one of life’s mysteries. If we knew the answer to everything, we wouldn’t dare ourselves to take chances.”
“When’s the last time you took a chance?” I pressed, not quite sure why I was asking. Our eyes locked and then our lips and I wish I could have thrown away the key. The warmth of his lips was more delicious than the warmth of the sand after a sunny day. A strong yet gentle hand caressed my cheek and when at last we parted the world seemed different to me—its blemishes seemed to vanish.
“Still want to spend your days alone?” he whispered. I could practically feel his smile as the sensation of his lips on mine lingered. I did not even bother to answer and our lips found each other again.
And so my beach became our beach.
Part Four—Stormy Seas
Love is truly a disease, a parasite even. It can consume you as quickly as a few days, or be a long, slow process that takes years to make its way through you. Virulent, love has no mercy; it attacks the young and the old, the weak and the strong. It is drug resistant, and once it begins to course through your veins you are forever transformed.
And yet, love is so beautiful. Starry-eyed, I watched our love blossom and bloom like a water lily. So fragile was what Aiden and I had, and yet the delicateness of our love caused it to be treasured all the more. I could not get Aiden off of my mind, nor did I wish to stop thinking about him. In fact, I longed to be with him in every way. When I was alone in my bed, I wished I were back on the beach with him. When I was with Aiden, I needed to be in his arms. When I was in his arms, I desired to feel the gentle touch of his lips on mine. And, each and every kiss of death would be treasured, prolonged, and once ended yearned for once more. All we had was the summer, and while I cherished the tranquility of each sunset, I knew that the setting sun signified one less day that I had with Aiden.
I could feel autumn in the air, rising on the sea breeze, and I was tormented. Soon, we both would be forced to leave the beach and head back to our mundane lives in the city but more specifically, our lives away from each other. We did not live close to each other, so there was no way to know how we would maintain our relationship. We avoided talking about the future, not because the topic was taboo or off-limits, but because our acknowledgment of the future, our recognition of that to which we would ultimately need to return would taint the precious moments that we still had together. We wanted to preserve the pure bliss of the summer.
It was harder to watch the sunset that evening for many reasons, the first one being the sky; grey clouds were teasing the horizon, blocking the setting sun from view and hoping to disturb the sun and the horizon’s long awaited reunion. And yet, I almost did not want to watch the sunset because as light faded from the sky, I felt that I was watching the summer and Aiden fade away as well. My family and I were leaving the summerhouse in three days—three days! It felt like the summer had just begun and now it was ending in three days. I could not bear to lose Aiden so soon.
In my rumination, I almost forgot that I was still with him. Despite being at the beach, the air was getting chillier and he had taken me into his arms. My thoughts were making me increasingly sad and I bit my lower lip hard to prevent myself from crying. I felt Aiden’s arms tighten around me and I looked up to see his green eyes upon me, his face softened. He relinquished one of his arms from around me to trace my face, his tender eyes following where his hand caressed my skin. Abruptly, I turned my head away. “Stop! It’s like… it’s like you’re saying goodbye.” My voice cracked and I turned my head away in shame as I felt hot tears brimming at my eyes. Don’t be weak, I thought. His hand gently turned my face back to him, and I closed my eyes, willing the tears to go away. He kissed each eye and when a tear escaped he let me turn back around. I leaned back against him and his arms found their way around me once again. “If I could have one wish, I’d wish that I could hold the sun in my hands right where it is. See where it’s sitting, right about the horizon?” I felt him nodding. “I’d hold it right there. We both know what’s going to happen next. It’ll touch the skyline, all the colors in the world will flee to that very spot, and when its satisfied with the spectacle, it’ll release the colors back to where they belong and finally disappear. But I don’t really need the colors or the magic of the sun disappearing. I like that moment of expectation, that moment of reliance. And in that moment, I’d be here in your arms with the sun in my hands, and it could stay this way. Why can’t things just stay this way?” The emotion bubbled in my voice and my lip began to quiver. I heard Aiden’s quiet chuckle and thought he was laughing at my sadness. But, before I could erupt in annoyance and petulance, I felt his arms tighten around me and he rested his chin on the top of my head. “Silly, don’t you realize that this is our moment of reliance?” I turned and looked at him, surprised, yet grateful for his assurance. He adjusted as well and we were now face to face. He gently cupped my face between his hands and spoke in his slow, deliberate way. “I want you to know that even when we’re not really together and you’re not physically in my arms, you’re right where you should be in my heart,” he pointed to his chest. “What’s changing? Our locations? The distance between us? All trivial things! This,” he paused again, glancing at the sea, “This isn’t ending, it’s just beginning,” he concluded, lowering his voice and turning his head to look at the sea. “Looks like you’re letting go of the sun,” he said with another chuckle, as the sun fell to the earth. He glanced down at me, and seeing me still looking at him, he kissed the top of my head. “Keep your eyes on the horizon, or you’ll miss it,” he whispered quickly. The sun triumphed over the grey clouds and some colors managed to greet it. As the colors fled the scene, our lips met. I felt his lips turn upward into a smile, and when we parted, he whispered, “I love you. I love you here. I love you over there. I love you when you’re gone. I’ll love you tomorrow, I’ll love you the next day, I’ll love you next summer, do you get it now?” he asked as we both laughed. I kissed him again. “Will you love me even if you can’t catch me?” I asked. He frowned in confusion. “Wha—”
I took off running down the beach and I could hear him chasing me. Hearts racing, blood pumping, quickened breathing; we gamboled on the beach for the last time. I felt his arms at my waist and we fell to the ground laughing. Our lips found each other and we rolled around, turning into a sandy mess, but all the while laughing at our zaniness. “Guess we’ll never have to find out,” Aiden said between laughs and kisses. “I’ll always catch you,” he added with a sportive glint in his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, lucky shot,” I managed to reply breathlessly. His lips moved from my mouth to my chin and then to my neck. Moving hands became more urgent, as we held each other close as if we knew we would lose each other soon.
In the distance the grey clouds became black and angry. The waves crept closer. Aiden looked up at the sky—oh, that he hadn’t! If only we had lain there and let the waves sweep us out to sea. But alas, his green eyes grew somber and he searched the sky. “A storm…” he stated and looked at me with concern. “You shouldn’t have looked away!” I cried, rolling from under him, toward the sea. I got up and started running again in the direction of most of the other summer homes. Aiden and I had wandered farther away from the houses than we usually did and I would come to regret that decision. He chased me as rain started to fall, the precipitation taking the form of hard and spiteful droplets.
Aiden grabbed my hand. “We won’t make it back—,” the wind swallowed his words and they were replaced by a shouting match between the thunder and the waves. He pointed away from the houses to a cove a ways off, but closer to us than the houses were. He wanted us to reach a sheltered place to wait out the storm; we should have kept running toward our houses.
We had to get in the water to reach the cove. Dark water swelled around my ankles daring me to trust the sea I had come to love. I looked back at Aiden and he nodded, trusting the promised security of the cove. The waves tried to pull me down, but I was a strong swimmer, a worthy adversary for the sea. The cove loomed in the distance but was surrounded by rocks that did not look so large from the safety of the beach. Aiden was right behind me and yelled, “I’ll give you a boost, looks like we’ll have to climb a bit.” I grabbed a rock and felt him push me up a bit. I scrambled to the top of the rock and saw the waves crashing down on Aiden. “Aiden, you have to hurry, grab my hands, the storm is getting worse,” the words poured out of my mouth in an uncontrolled way. The temperature had dropped and thus the sea became very cold; Aiden reached up for me with trembling hands. I grabbed his hands but the rock was slippery, and I did not have sure footing upon it. “Come on Aiden, grab my hands. Squeeze them! Aiden, don’t give up on me. I know you’re cold, just pull yourself up a little. I promise I’ve got you.” The waves were beating the air out of his lungs as he climbed the rock. He kept slipping, his body became bloody as he cut himself on the jagged edges of the rock. He was at the top and I tried to help him over. “You’re almost here Aiden, don’t give up. Don’t you dare give up—,” I reached too far. As I felt myself slipping off the rock, I realized that if I did not want to fall I’d have to let go of Aiden. He was balancing precariously on the rock and if I let go of him there was a chance that he could fall with me, but there was also a chance that he could hold himself up on the rock. There were too many chances though! How does one make a decision with so much hanging in the balance? With the release of one hand, I could lose my life. With the release of the other hand, I could lose my love, my future, my everything. Aiden was breathing hard, exhausted, but he looked up and our eyes met. Realization seeped into his sorrowful eyes, like the rain bloating our skin. And then as I gazed back at Aiden, I saw a decision rising from the depths of those green pools. I wanted to react faster than he did but he had already made up his mind. He must’ve have known which hand I was willing to release, and could not bear to have me risk that much. With tears in his eyes and sad smile, he whispered, “Goodbye.” Then he let go.
“AIDEN,” I screamed so loudly I thought my lungs would burst. I dove off of the rock after my reactive scream, hitting the water just after he did. He was sinking fast, robbed of the energy he would have needed to kick back to the surface. I tore through the water, stretching as far as I could, hoping to grab him. His beautiful eyes rolled around in his head as if he was searching for something. I couldn’t reach him. My lungs were burning and he was slipping away too fast. Air rushed fast from his body as his brain commanded him to breathe, and I saw him struggling. Oh God, just let me reach him. His eyes grew dull and seemed to fall on me, just before they closed. He slipped from my grasp, falling away from me forever.
I coughed up a lot of water. My lungs were still burning and the rain was still pouring down on me; it was almost as if no time had passed. I jumped up hoping that Aiden had pulled me out of the water just like he did the day we met. I expected to see him sitting next to me, chuckling that quiet, low laugh, looking out at the sea. He would then turn around to look at me with a smile and his eyes would have that impish glint. He would say, “Wow Ce, that sure was a close one, eh? You’d think you’d learn how to float by now,” and everything would be okay.
I was surrounded by everyone except Aiden. Paramedics rushed around me and my parents threw a blanket on me. They hugged me and between scolding each other for carelessness and other faults, they would frantically ask me if I was okay. “Where is Aiden?” I kept asking but the voice did not seem to be my own. No one would answer me. At last, after a doleful glance at my mother, my father spoke up. “They’re still searching,” he said quietly. I don’t remember much after he said those three words. I’ve been told that I refused to leave the beach, that I cried and screamed, and that eventually I passed out from the emotional strain.
The day before we left, they found his body. I cried as I saw them drag it out of the water with a net, like he was no more than just a body. But wasn’t that what he was now? The life had fled him. All the love that I had could not bring him back.
My family and I left quietly. I wish that I had paid a visit to his parents; maybe we could have grieved together. My hasty departure from the beach, from the summer, from my memories of Aiden, is one of my greatest regrets.
It has taken me years to come back to this beach. Although I’ve been away from the sea for so long, the memories are always with me. Some things are harder to remember as the days, the weeks, the months, and the years pass. I cannot remember all of the jokes or the sweet things we said to each other. I can’t remember the way he walked or the way he laughed or even what his smile looked like. And yet, there are some things I can never forget like his beautiful green eyes, or the way that he’d whisper “I love you,” or the way that he said goodbye that last day that we were together.
My eyes hurt and my lungs are burning. I’ve been sitting here for hours bawling and screaming at the sea for the way it betrayed me. Everything I had I gave to the sea—my love, my energy, my life— and the one thing I would have withheld from the ocean, the one person who meant more to me than anything, the sea decided to take as well. I lie on my side and watch the sun set. “I’ve never missed it Aiden,” I whisper to the air. “I’ve kept my eyes on the horizon, just like you said I should.”
The tide is coming in. I can feel the waves wrapping around my body as I lie there. I should move, but I don’t. Fresh tears roll down my cheeks. Yes waves, you can have me too. I surrender.