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By the tall stack of wood, I sit down near the pink haired girl, who is wearing a thin jacket on top of her blue swimsuit, as she throws a pebble toward the ocean.
“When is your flight tomorrow?” I ask.
“Hmm... I don’t know, sometime early in the morning?” After throwing three more, she yawns and leans back onto the silver sand. Facing upwards, she unravels her ponytail and smiles as her eyes meet mine, “But at least I can spend the last of my time here with you. After all, tomorrow is your birthday.”
In that brief moment, I capture something familiar and nostalgic in the rounds of her brown eyes: she is holding something back, like a little girl hiding a music box behind her. Such tenderness reminds me of Aki.
“I have probably never told you this, but I used to know a girl who wanted to go to Europe too. I have not seen her for a long while though.”
She flips her body over and holds her face with both hands. “Tell me, I want to hear it.”
As I slowly twist the valve of memory and let the words fall out, my mind has already drifted to the day when I last saw Aki, which I restrain in revisiting but fail so miserably.
Though laughing with Aki, I shut my eyes tightly as the Ferris wheel started to roll, fearing the distance between me and the ground. However, soon enough, as curiosity took over, I peeked through the slits of my eyelids. It was the sea we saw below, a body of wavering water, and at the far end of the horizon was the dropping sun, half devoured by the thick and darkening clouds. Not much time was left before the arrival of night. As if she was reminded of something, Aki blushed as she gazed at the far center of the sea, wrapping herself in a shell that separated her from the rest of the world.
Her short black hair danced faintly in the wind. The Ferris wheel continued spinning. A drop of her tear slid down her cheek.
“I have to leave now.”
Silence filled in the space between us, but soon crumbled into pieces and faded away.
“But you don’t have to… do you?” As she looked away, I asked.
The golden color in her eyes darkened. I looked deep into them but spotted nothing else other than that same dusk behind me. I took her hand as she had done mine. The former strength in her palm seemed to melt away, however, and what was left was such a touch of eloquent tenderness that I feared to let go.
As she gazed at my blushed cheek, Aki bent her body forward until I could feel her light breath touching my lips like an autumn breeze. Her eyes glowed slightly into an orange halo in contrast to the shadow surrounding us.
“It will taste like seawater,” Aki squeezed my hand a little with pain, “my tears.”
Covering my eyes with her other hand, she dropped her lips on mine, enclosing the last rays of broken sunlight.
When I opened my eyes again, the Ferris wheel had already stopped at ground level. The door of our cabin was wide open and facing the sea. There, the last of the sunlight was blended into the waves. But Aki was nowhere to be found, as if the little mermaid who dissolved into foam. I shouted her name, but only heard the feeble echo of my own cry.
“Aki was quite a good swimmer too. I remember her saving my butt so many times.” I laugh a little without noticing it, “What else do you want to know?”
“So... how many years has it been since she left you?” Now sitting next to me, the pink haired girl asks as we both stare at the bonfire. Her voice is too calm, almost emotionless, compared to her usual tone.
“Five years, I suppose.” I snap a branch and throw half of it into the flame, “I will be twenty tomorrow, how old Aki was when she left. But still I don’t understand why she left.”
“Twenty,” she repeats, “you wish she’d come back to you.”
“I wish, but I can’t make her.” I exhale and watch the roaring fire seizing my breathe, burning it down to ash.
“It’s time to go. You will need to wake up early.” I try to tap her shoulder. Yet, before I could reach her, she moves away a bit and stands up, walking fast past me towards the cabin where we are staying.
Without waking the pink haired girl up, I leave the cabin and walk by the shore. As it gets colder, I stop by where the bonfire used to be--now all that is left is a big pile of charcoal. On the other side, lukewarm moonlight shatters and floats on the surface of the sea.
I still could not figure out what seemed to offend the pink hair girl. Was she jealous of my feeling of Aki? I don’t know. I have always regarded her as a close friend... when did I first meet her? About three months after Aki left?
There must be a hole where Aki is in my mind, for I have not been able to fill the vacancy. I haven’t stopped thinking about her, her last kiss. The soft touch on my lips has never eroded under the rain wash of time. It has become a part of me like a deeply carved crevice on a gray marble. Such physical remembrance of Aki often pops up like mushrooms after the rain and ruins me. Before I can think of her, the desire to embrace her tightly and touch her body bursts out from my veins and groan in silence…
Someone calls my name. I spin around but find no one coming from the cabin. Instead, something seems to pop up from the water but disappears in a split second. Maybe it’s Aki and she is coming back for me. Maybe she is a mermaid! My desire for her explodes. I cannot hold it in any more.
I start running toward the heart of the wave and yelling her name. The further I am away from the shore, the stronger the water grabs and pulls me in. Soon, I have no strength left to swim as the water reaches my throat. Before I can shout once more, a monstrous wave slams and thrusts me into the cold and lightless world underneath the ocean. I stretch my feet but can reach nothing. Densely salted fluid rushes into my wide-open mouth.
Bubble ascend from my nostrils as I am now fully devoured by the sea. My reminiscences are pulled further and further away. The image of Aki sitting alone on the Ferris wheel and facing the sea returns to me; how helpless and lonely she must have been, for I never understood what she hid but tried to tell me. I try to reach towards that image and hold it in my arms, but it moves and slips away like a slippery fish.
I continue to sink until someone takes me by my hand and pulls me out.
In complete darkness, I wake up on the bed inside the cabin. Inside the air is filled with salt. There is someone else here, for I can hear water dripping and changing speeds. But I cannot sense where exactly the person is, for the sounds seem to come from different directions.
Footstep sounds get closer and louder until it pauses right next to me. After a moment, my bed shakes as that person climbs on it. Clouds move away a little and reveal a small corner of the moon; a ray of silver light shines in and lays on us.
Before I can make a sound, Aki covers my mouth and put her index finger before her lips, begging me to be silent. She is on top of me; we are both naked and wet.
Though it has been five years, Aki is still the same Aki I remember, radiating the same warmth that my skin greedily embraces. Except her body has grown: her hair is now longer, and her firm breasts have thickened and softened, tightly pressing against my chest.
The words that I have kept for her now condense into tears and thirst. I take Aki into my arms and kiss her. My hands move across her body, trying to spot and remember every change that has taken place on her. I know she can only stay for a little longer. I know she will soon be gone.
The more she buries me inside her, the further I can feel her pain. She has always been here with me; she is supposed to be the same Aki no matter how much she has changed... the more I hope time is stopped in this sealed place, the faster I can see it fading away from Aki’s darkening pupils. The black in her hair wanes as the moon peaks further out from behind the clouds through the window glass.
Water drips from Aki’s blue swimsuit hanging aside. The clock silently strikes twelve. The full moon is out. I release my last yearning inside her. I am twenty now, not longer possessing the imagination I had when I was fifteen.
The black hair and golden eyed Aki is now gone, taking with her everything she once planted inside me. Nothing is left except the pink haired Aki and the twenty-year-old me. What should I say to her? I don’t know. All I could do is to take her firmly into my arms and pray that the arrival of daylight never comes.