Hello lovely reader! If you're new to the blog, welcome! I try to make all the stories here stand-alone-capable, BUT you would enjoy this one more if you read Today I am Atonement :)
Every story told her this would work. Nora Roberts, Dorthea Benton Frank, even Hemingway really, wrote gaudy chapters describing the answers lying in the space between the sand and the ocean.
Her feet were wet, yet she had no answers.
“You know better than most the truth about stories.”
“Shut up, Dan. I’m trying to listen to the waves talk, not you grumbling.”
Anise closed her eyes, allowing the salted breeze to push and pull on her loosened hair. It felt good to allow the curls escape their bun-shaped prison for a while.
She let her mind slip back over the pages she’d read. There were old tests of ancient language, modern newspapers, hieroglyphs, curses, blessings, but for some reason it was those $7.25 grocery store books that had given her a path to follow. They each featured a woman, lonely for one reason or another, finding her freedom either in a man or a career change, sometimes with a child- but always always by the sea. She’d wondered on occasion if the settings were chosen because of all the easy ocean metaphors. But since the metaphors in murder-mystery-rom-coms were so terrible, she figured there had to be another reason.
“Maybe authors just want an excuse to write at the beach.”
She opened her eyes to glare at the tall frame of Dan Elmer.
“I didn’t ask you to come with me.”
He nodded, “But a friend always needs a partner when they’re about to do something stupid.”
She didn’t know whether to object to the ‘friend’ part or the ‘stupid’ part, so she said nothing.
“He died, Ani. You’re allowed to be sad when someone you care about dies.”
Ani shook her head, scrunched her toes in and out until she made two pools in the sand, “We don’t have time for grief. We have work to do, lives to save.”
“You’re not the first person I’ve heard say that.”
“Nope, when I was hopping around getting some crime scene experience, I connected with a couple of cops. You and I, we’re used to a bad aftermath, but I wanted to learn how they dealt with it, when you’re not trained for decades, you know?”
“This broad dude, short but built like an ox, they all loved him. He was the one to bring in muffins from his wife, remember everyone’s birthday, tackle the bad guy- the usual white hat cowboy shit. But when we saw a gang hit, I was sure he’d crumble. Too soft. But he just looked up at me, ‘their work is done son, ours has just started. We gotta get out there and save the next one’.”
The pools at Ani’s feet weren’t filling as quickly anymore, the ebb had begun. She reached out for Dan’s hand and he squeezed hers.
“I made Clark a promise, before he died.”
Dan nodded, “That you did.”
“To protect his wife.”
“And we still have a lot of work to do. A Champion to find.”
She pulled her feet free of the sand, stared out to the ocean’s horizon. It was graying to match her eyes. It would be time to leave soon, to get back to work.
“How do you save someone when you can’t offer them any help?”
Dan snorted, “Is that a riddle or an actual question?”
She looked up at him. Instead of the ocean, it was clear he’d been watching her the whole time.
“How do you love someone you know will never love you back?”
“That one I know. You just take care of them. You do what you can, when you can. Love doesn’t expect things in return, Ani. Clark knew that, so do you.”
“And so do you.”
Dan finally looked away from her and to the waves, “So do I, yes.”
“I could teach her. Teach her to take care of herself. So no one can hurt her.”
“And I’ll be right there when you inevitably blow your cover.”
Ani watched a smirk form on Dan’s dark face, and she wiped the saltwater from her cheeks.
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Great.” Dan squeezed her hand once more, and then let go as they turned to walk back up the beach.
“After that though,” he offered, “can we go haunt all these authors you talked about? We could have talked about this anywhere.”
Ani laughed for the first time in several weeks, “Authors enjoy being haunted, Dan- it’s good story kindle. And besides,”
She theatrically turned to face the sea again, arms out stretched and voice loud and full of drama, “We are either a wave in the ocean, or the ocean itself!”
“…don’t quote Oprah at me.”
Absorbed (adjective): 1. (of energy or a liquid or other substance) taken in or soaked up. 2. Having one’s attention fully engaged; greatly interested.
SO we all know I work hard to make these stand-alone-capable, as mentioned above. This is the first one I feel like I have fully failed on with that, and yet I can’t make myself delete it. I may work on it, tighten a few screws here, rearrange there, but I like this. It’s a small moment in a story that changes a character. It’s that moment when your heart is pulsing through your fingers and you know everything is about to change- it’s the toes on the diving board, step down the aisle, breath before plunge kinda moment we have internally when the world gets rocked- and we finally find our footing.
Ani lost someone. With that I can connect. She had more to say, more she thought she could do, and I think we can ALL connect with that. With that chance gone and the next before her, it’s hard to know if movement is even possible. But as we see here, your feet start moving in the right direction before you’ve realized you’ve made your choice. Our hearts are stronger than our heads, and will sometimes just jump before we even know we’ve climbed the ladder.
“The cure for anything is salt water- sweat, tears, or the sea.” Isak Dinesen
Climb the ladder, dear reader. Stare out into the sea. There are answers inside you, and you just have to find the right place for you to hear them. Rest well, and goodnight.
Oh, and if these names/events seem familiar, refresh yourself with Today I am Fidelity!