Up and down, up and down, we bob like a float wandering lost among the waves, sailing further and further away from its wailing owner. Well, actually we were on a float, the ferry taking us from one adventure to another.
“You know, there have been so many adventures, I’m afraid I may have missed some vital details,” I say.
They stare at me from beneath their hoodie. ” Can’t be that important if you omit it.”
I shake my head. ” The brain absorbs so much its impossible to keep everything stored. Although I think certain memories can be unlocked at certain moments, given the right ingredients.”
“So what are you thinking about right now?”
“I am thinking about several things. Sitting here on the water makes me happy, and happiness makes me think of the summer where I was out on the water, surfing and riding all sorts of waves beneath the moon and setting sun. It also makes me think of the first time in a long time I brought friends home, and sat with them in the sand without worrying they would leave me, flickering out of existence in one quick poof , the flame smothered and the smoke dissipated into the air. But mostly I am thinking of an adventure, not one I had but one that came to me in a dream. Are you ready to hear it?”
“Why not?” they mutter. “What else is there to do while we wait?”
“That’s the spirit! Waiting is a good time to share and exchange and form those memories that will unlock on the most unhappiest of days. Waiting is a good time to get to know someone and perhaps find an unexpected bond.”
The Shell Pendant
Lightning flashed through the open window, the angry rain whipping and lashing across the wooden floor. Sara woke, startled, but not from the storm brewing outside. Slowly, the dream still imbedded in her thoughts, she made her way to the window, slamming it shut as she grasped desperately at the face she had not seen in a long time.
So smooth, his lips soft. The light above them flickered, and the glass cracked, but it hardly mattered. So smooth, his lips soft. He tasted like the sea, the salt lingering after they pulled apart.
Sara reached her hand to her neck, her fingers searching for the shell, but it was not there. It had been placed in a drawer, stored away with the memories of a child on the verge of becoming an adult.
One day, he had appeared out of the blue, a kid in grey cargo shorts and a yellow shirt smiling shyly. She had not noticed him until their eyes met and drew together, like magnets. Crispin. Such an odd name.
Lighting flashed again, illuminating the flooding street. A man in a tawdry suit exited the brothel, the door freeing itself from its hinges as he slammed it behind him. He took no more than half a dozen steps before he slipped, headfirst, onto the pavement. He stood, trying to flatten the creases in a suit not meant to last, then looked over his shoulder, ashamed to be caught in such a poor district. Quickly, he ran, nearly slipping again, and headed towards the docks where the boats clanged against the side, threatening to break from its moorings and crash into whatever it could find.
Such an odd boy. Yet layered with an intricate cloak made from fine fibers of intrigue and curiosity. He loved to swim. Each time she passed by the pool, he was there, his arms gliding like fins. But when it rained, he hid in whatever he could find: the bleachers, the trash can, a discarded sweatshirt. Or he would run, dodging the droplets as if they were bombs, and disappear back inside the giant brick oven they called a school.
The man froze at the docks. There was something on the boat ramp.
She swore she saw his skin turn blue and green. It shimmered; silver light reflected off the scales that covered his forearm. She told Theresa and she laughed. “You and your imagination. Careful now, or people will think you’ve gone mad.”
The lightning flashed. She swore she saw his skin, blue and green with a red stain dripping down a tail that flapped wildly. The man took off the same time she did; he disappears into the night as she rounds the corner, pausing at the top of the stairs as she realization pokes her in the face. The shell pendant.
He gave it to her on a grey day; the clouds were dark and swelling with the water it desperately wanted to release. Grabbing his hand, she pulled her inside a rickety shack hobbling on weak knees. The clouds had burst, the grassy fields quenching their thirst. “Why don’t you like the rain, yet love to swim?”
“Why do you smile, yet cry at the same time?”
“Because I can’t believe I’ve found you.” The great love that swam in her dreams while awake there was nothing but vicious screams and coldness.
He laughed, although it was strained. “You weren’t supposed to find me. And I was not supposed to find you. I don’t think you’ll feel the same once I show you.”
“Show me what?”
He took her hand and pulled her out into the rain. Once the droplets touched his skin, it changed: blue and green roughed up his arms, his legs pressed together as shimmering scales encased his lower half, and a thin translucent web sprouted from between his toes.
“Do you believe in the impossible?”
Sara stopped. She had to tread carefully, or else she would waken the others. Slowly, she tiptoed back towards her room. Halfway there she froze. A big, burly man was leaning back in a chair, his eyes closed. Lightning flashed. The silver glittered above his thick chest. He was wearing it! The shell pendant!
“I believe in anything. Anything that will take me away from this awful place. Will you take me away?”
She dragged him back inside, wiping his body dry with an old rag her mother used for everything-from cleaning the table to wiping up the vomit her drunk and volatile husband produced each morning. When every last drop was gone, the blue and green faded, the tail disappeared. Like her father, nothing had ever happened.
“ I can’t take you away, but I will always stay with you,” Crispin took off the necklace that hung around his neck, day and night, wet or dry, and placed it in her hand, his fingers intertwining with hers. It was sleek and silver, with small ridges running vertically. It was a shell pendant.
Sara crouched over the man. Soft snores disturbed the thick hair carpeting his chin and neck. Carefully, she reached up and around, her hands finding the leather cord despite the dark shroud hovering in the hall. She pulled it over his neck, the movement as delicate and precise as a surgeon’s, and onto her own. As she jumped away, her shoe slammed into the desk. His eyes popped wide open.
So smooth, his lips soft. His hand still on hers, he leaned forward, parting his lips. She glided towards him, the magnet too strong to resist even if she had wanted to.
“Happy birthday,” he whispered.
The light above them flickered, the glass cracked, and somewhere she could hear Theresa’s shrill screams. It hardly mattered. So smooth, his lips soft.
“Hey!” the man screamed behind her. Sara did not linger; she ran straight down the hall, gripping the shell pendant tightly. Another door opened, and there was the scuffling of shoes.
“A patient escaped.”
“How bad is she? Should I tase her? I know I’m not supposed to kill but…”
“No. Just follow me. We must catch her and bring her back.”
“Who is she?”
“Sara Fleming. Admitted five years ago after a terrible accident. An electrical fire set the house ablaze, killing the mother, father, and the sister, Theresa. She escaped unscathed. The poor thing was ruthlessly interrogated, but she would only say one word: Crispin. Whether or not she caused the fire was undetermined; her mind was frayed beyond recognition, so she was sent to us, and I have been tasked with her care ever since.”
“And has she revealed anything to you?”
“Only that she believes in mermans, creatures from the sea that come and take forlorn little girls away.”
“What do you believe?”
“I believe she wanted to be loved. I believe she wanted the attention that came from being loved. She was not getting it from her father nor her mother nor apparently her sister. It was an accident, a terrible accident, but one of her own making. Things can happen, my dear Mr. Lipsky, that can cause a person to break.”
Sara broke through the door, her long, golden hair trailing through the angry wind and lashing rain. She sputtered, spitting the water out as she ran towards the wharf where he waited in agony, his tail bleeding.
“I’m here! I’m here!” she cried as she skidded onto her knees. She held his head in her lap, caressing his soaked brown hair. “You came back! Never leave me again!”
The light above them flickered. The glass cracked as the wall exploded. Theresa screamed as the fire clawed its way through the crumbling shack. “What have you done!”
“I only left you,” Crispin gasped, the air filling his lungs in interspersed bursts. “Because I couldn’t let me see me. The rain was still coming down, and by the time I got you out I could not go back. I am sorry, please forgive me!”
He howled into the darkness, the storm catching his voice and adding it to their own. From the doorway, Mr. Lipsky and the doctor watch with indecision and fascination, each mingling and dancing like two star-crossed lovers.
“What can I do? Please, oh god, please. Don’t leave me, don’t leave me!” Sara sobbed into his face, feeling the warmth drain from lips she knew to be so smooth, so soft, so full of sweetness. Finally, she pulled the shell pendant off her neck and laid it across his chest.
“Take me with you,” she whispered.
Lightning flashed. The water rose, flooding the streets and pouring over the sitting boats whose hulls slammed against the dock over and over, taking a hard but not irreparable beating. Mr. Lipsky, his mind spurred into a decision, darted towards the wharf, his arms bracing for impact against a thin but furious body. When he approached the boat ramp, however, there was nothing. Sara Fleming was gone.
His own key, once stolen by those chaotic fingers, floated listlessly in the water, and as it sank he swore he saw it flicker, taking the shape of a shell pendant.
“What do you believe, Mr. Lipsky? What do you believe?”