TW: mentions of death, death scene
The waves gently crashed over the jagged rocks, making that crushing, crashing sound I could no longer hear. I was a bit like a wave, I thought, slowly rising to my full height before crashing painfully on the shore. “You and me, wave,” I thought, “we’re not so different. We both give our all, only to end up destroyed. We’re both lonely. We’re both killers.”
“My little philosopher,” she teased, running her slim finger down the length of my cheekbone, her dark eyes sparkling in the night. It was cold, the stars twinkling and dancing on the quiet, empty ocean, a private performance just for our precious eyes. “You always do tend to overthink things.”
“Well excuse me for trying to find the deeper meaning in life.” I smiled, taking her fingers off my face and entwining them with mine. “I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you aren’t always thinking there’s something more.”
She squeezed my hand gently, once, twice, three times. “Maybe it’s because I already have everything I need right here.”
I couldn’t be watched by the waves anymore, couldn’t face their judging eyes. I slowly turned to go back inside, my bare feet wincing in pain as they touched upon the wood that lined the floor of the seaside house I owned. They echoed softly in the halls, both too loud in the absolute silence that had settled upon the dusty, dimly lit walls, and too quiet, not enough to fill the dark expanse that this house truly was.
“Oh, it is quite lovely.” Her face burst into a bright, beaming grin as soon as we pulled up, grabbing my hand and practically dragging me out of the car. “God, if I had known about this place earlier I never would have made us wait to get married.”
“Good to know you’re only with me for my money.” I slipped my hand around her waist.
“But of course, darling,” she gently teased, giving a fake bow. “I fully intend to kill you and get all of your massive fortune.”
“I think you’ll be sorely disappointed,” I said. “This is all that is left of my family fortune. This old, forgotten mansion, all alone on the cliffside. No one has ever not been lonely in this house.”
She smiled again, used to my somewhat depressing monologues. “Well, I know that we're going to change that.”
She had been wrong. Maybe the house was cursed. Maybe it was always supposed to be full of failure, of lonely, forgotten people, who no one cared about enough to say goodbye to.
I had lived here, when I was younger, and everyone in my family was lonely. The house was big enough that it swallowed us all; we never spoke, barely even saw each other except for meal times. There were no fights, not even slight squabbles, for what would we fight over? Each person had their own version of everything, and no one wanted for anything, except for each other. Everyone just disappeared, more like neighbours than family, and I spent my whole childhood believing that each person was just that, one person, separate, apart from anybody else. Like this silent, forgotten house on the edge of a cliffside. Lonely.
I thought she had taught me differently. I had wanted to believe I was wrong.
But here I was, alone again, my gentle breathing the only sound in this godforsaken expanse of darkness.
The hallways stretched on forever, a never ending tunnel of the night. I walked to the kitchen, wanting to make myself a cup of tea. I didn’t want to drink it, not really, but I needed something to do with my hands, my empty, shaking hands, the hands that I had killed her with. The sound of the kettle was piercing in the quiet. I sat down with the tea, its warmth surely burning my fingers, but I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t really feel anything.
There were flowers in the middle of the large wooden table, a petal slowly beginning to fall from the single white rose that stood dropping in the too big vase. I reached out and caught it just as it was about to hit the table.
“Your friends hate me!” I groaned, stretching myself out across her lap.
“They just don’t see what I see in you, probably because they don’t see you like I do!” She frowned, wrinkling her nose. “Okay, that was a lot of see’s. But I’m glad they don’t! If they saw you like I did, they’d steal you from under my nose!”
“I highly doubt that,” I said. “Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people tend not to like me. Which-” I put up a hand to stop her from talking. ‘-which I am fine with.”
“Aren’t you lonely?” she asked.
“I have you,” I said.
“And you always will.”
She told a lot of lies.
The rose was from one of her many friends, one of the nicer ones, who’s name I couldn’t remember. There were so many flowers at the funeral, everyone clutching a bouquet as if hiding behind the bright petals could shield them from the dark truth. Not this friend, though. Not her. This friend had brought a single white rose, my wife’s favourite flower, and hadn’t placed them on the coffin like everyone else. She’d walked straight past, and had pushed the white rose into my quivering hands, one of the thorns scratching my finger.
“When you spread her ashes, can you please spread these with them?”
The ashes weren’t in an urn, or box. They were just in a bag. A clear bag. I don’t know if that made it easier or harder.
I had nodded. When she asked, I nodded. I wasn’t friendly, but I wasn’t an asshole either.
But I hadn’t done what she’d asked. I hadn’t spread the ashes. I hadn’t even touched them. I couldn’t.
Not after what I’d done.
I woke up, expecting the silence that had always accompanied the dark hallways of this house. Instead, bright, poppy music filtered through, a song I unfortunately recognised from hearing her play it far too many times.
I walked out into the kitchen to see her, covered head to toe in flour, singing loudly and badly to music blasting from her little speaker, the poor thing shaking with the pure, unfiltered noise raging full blast from its pathetic little system. Mess was everywhere in the kitchen, eggs and flour on the walls and… was that syrup? On the ceiling?
“Trying to make pancakes?” I asked, breaking her out of her little karaoke session. “You know you can’t cook.”
“Dance with me!” She yelled, grabbing my hand and dragging me into some weird, boppy, partner dance style thing. She laughed in delight as I gave in and gave her a twirl. She was an awful dancer, but that gorgeous smile on her face made up for her complete lack of coordination. I was so in love with this woman.
The song ended almost before I wanted it to, and she grinned up at me, wild and raw. “Pancakes?” she asked.
I gently removed the egg covered spatula from her hand. “How about I make them?”
She dragged me down into a kiss, sparkling and bright, pure sunshine. “ I love you.”
“Someone’s in a good mood this morning,” I said, raising an eyebrow as she took a seat on a stool and I began to make pancakes out of the tsunami she’d left in the kitchen. I didn’t say it back, but it couldn’t be more true. She was my person, in every sense of the word. I would have gone to the bottom of the ocean to make her happy.
“How could I not be?” she asked. “The beach is lovely, the weather is warm, the sun is shining and I am here, on my honeymoon, with the love of my life. It’s the house. It’s making me feel so… alive!”
“It’s not the house,” I said, stirring gently. “It’s you. It’s us. We’re alive. And I couldn’t be happier.”
Those days weren’t even long ago, yet I felt like a different person now. Neither of us were alive anymore. I had killed her, and now I was a ghost haunting this cursed house, doomed to walk its silent hallways forever. Or perhaps I had killed myself, and she was the ghost, haunting my every waking moment with her shaking laughter that could never fully fill the darkness.
I sipped the tea. It was warm, and sweet, better than I deserved, so I gently poured it down the sink. Water droplets pricked the back of my dry hands, a cold contrast to the warm liquid slipping down the sink, and I slowly touched my own cheek as I realised I was crying. Salt fell on my lip, painful and raw, like the crushing waves of the ocean outside.
“I love the ocean!” she yelled, running in with her long hair streaming behind her, plunging into the dark depths of the waves. “Come in with me!”
I chuckled, more to myself than her, then slowly swam after her. I was the better swimmer, but she loved it more, practically revelling in the gentle waves. She laughed, loud and pure, echoing over the ocean.
“Race you to the rocks!” she cheered, and then took off without a moment's notice, her long legs disappearing into the murky depths. I raced after her, catching up to her quickly, and giving her a push. She smirked at me from under the water, pushing me back and racing off again.
Neither of us noticed the darkening skies, or the way the waves were getting higher and higher.
I didn’t even realise I was back out on the balcony until I heard the waves again, painfully loud in their quietness, and I didn’t even realise I was holding the rose and the ashes until I dropped them.
She pulled herself up onto the rocks, standing on their jagged edges like she was the queen of the world. It had started to storm, the water murky, rain pouring from the sky. “I won!” she cheered, doing a little victory dance to make me laugh. “Come on up here!”
I swam closer.
And that’s when the wave came crashing down.
One minute she was there, the next she was gone.
Panic surged in my chest as high as the waves around me, and I pulled myself up onto the rocks, screaming her name in terror. I looked down in horror to see her floating dizzily in the dark, thrashing water, blood gushing from a gash in her head, just out of my arms reach.
“Swim to me! Please! Swim to me!” I screamed, holding out my hand as far as I could. “Don’t close your eyes! Swim to me!”
Relief flooded my body as she began to slowly swim over to my hand, my slippering fingers tightening around her arm as soon as she was close enough. I tried to pull her up, but she was so slippery, and the water kept pulling her away from me, trying to drag her down to its forbidden depths.
“Please! “ I screamed. I didn’t know if the water on my face was the ocean, the rain, or my desperate tears. My throat was raw, ragged, and my fingers felt weak and loose, my grip constantly slipping. “Hold on for me, please! I’ll lift you up in three
I gently picked up the rose and the small container of ashes. How funny, that someone so big could become something so small. This was all I had left of my greatest love, and my greatest mistake. Everything that had ever mattered to me was in this small plastic bag, little more than sand.
I slowly and quietly walked down to the beachfront, the edges of the waves lapping gently at my bare feet. I did everything slowly and quietly these days. She was the one who was loud, and fast, always full of energy. Without her, surviving was hard enough. I couldn't even consider trying to live.
We had met when we were both in university, albeit on very different paths. She was studying to be a preschool teacher, and I was doing a literature degree. Everyone was her friend, no one was mine. She rushed into everything, full steam ahead, and I was always holding back, never wanting to take up too much space.
I fell in love with her as soon as I spoke to her. She had always had that effect on people. The truly amazing thing was that she fell in love with me right back.
As my mouth uttered the word one, a massive wave crashed over our bodies, dragging us down into darkness. I gripped onto the rock in a panic, but as the water kept rushing, my arms were too weak to hold myself and to hold her. I tensed every muscle in my body, the thick water swallowing my screams, and I desperately tried to hold on with every fibre of my being.
But I couldn’t do it.
I let go.
I dropped to my knees on the wet sand and screamed.
It was this weird, foreign sound. Ripped raw from my throat, as wet as the ocean in front of me, tearing the lining of my mouth so cruelly I almost tasted blood. Too loud, in the absolute silence that had settled over the lonely house and the even lonelier waves. If this is what love was, to have to endure this terrible pain, I never wanted to love again. I was not only mourning her, I was mourning myself. I had begun to love who I was with her, the only version of myself I could ever imagine loving, and now that person had been brutally ripped away from me by the waves.
Ripped away. What a lie.
I let go.
I let go of her arm, and pulled myself onto the rock. She sank beneath the depths, her blood staining the sea as she sank deeper and deeper. I wiped the salt out of my eyes, screaming her name, diving back under as the wave passed to see if I could find her, but the water was too deep and too dark.
But even as my eyes and lungs burned, I would not let her go again.
Finally I saw her float back up the surface, and almost as if by magic, the waves lulled. I dived into the stinging water and pulled her onto the rock, my hands desperately searching for a pulse.
I couldn’t find one.
Desperately screaming, I started CPR, blowing my breaths into her lungs and forcing her heart to beat with my hands as if that could make up for what I had done.
She didn’t stir.
“Please,” I begged. “Please. You can’t leave me. I love you. I swear, I love you.
I love you.”
But it wasn’t enough.
I wasn't enough.
I had killed her.
I had killed her to save myself, and yet there was not a day where I hadn’t wished that I had died in that storm instead of her. Cruel irony, I supposed, that I had let her go to live, but she was the only thing in my life worth living for.
I waded into the ocean, the salty water sticking to my clothes, until I was about waist deep. I squeezed the rose once, her ashes twice, and as I gently placed my hands into the water, I did the one thing I thought I would never do.
I let her go.
I let her go.