Contains mental health issues and reference to war and the gore it entails.
He remembered his first sight of her as she rose to her feet from the sea wearing nothing but water. How he'd jumped in naked and joined her, no inhibitions. How soon their laughter filled the cove as if they had been born for these first moments.
He knew instantly that he loved her and that she loved him too, her eyes shining with a warm, inviting radiance. Dancing in the moonlight on his porch that very same night, her hair silky soft against his skin, her perfume intoxicating in the sticky heat of the summer night.
He marvelled at how she seemed to fit so perfectly in his arms as if this was truly meant to be. Her luscious lips, so tender as they grazed his cheek, leaving him breathless under the sultry, shining stars and feeling her heart hammering against his bare chest, in harmony with his own.
He desired her so badly, it was like a scythe tearing through him, but she was seventeen to his twenty one so he resisted. He settled instead for her long fingers, nails deep red, stroking his arms, her lips teasing his lips until he could stand it no longer and kissed her back deeply, feeling as if he was falling, falling.
He hated her parent's deep disapproval of him, too lowly, too poor for their daughter. His home, left to him, a relic of days gone by. Trash, they called him, white trash, but she ignored them and loved him all the more. They were together for two divine years, sitting side by side each evening, at the water's edge till daybreak.
He awoke, or so it seemed, deep in the mire, 'midst the stinking slaughter at Omaha Beach. Whilst his comrades fell shot everywhere around him he dodged bullet after bullet. Running, sand moving bloodstained underfoot, till he felt his legs would give out.
He kept her perfumed letters written in beautiful cursive script, savouring them, her soul on every page. Her voice rang clear in his mind, drowning out the hated machine gun fire, the tanks. His best friend shot dead beside him, this damn war keeping him away from her.
He loved that she waited, when so many war weary men lost their pre-war sweethearts to others and so many war weary women, who also waited, lost their men to the killer Huns. He kept her picture close to his heart, hoping every day that he would live to see her face again.
He revelled in the news that at last the war was over and he would finally be with his sweetheart. He was first off the boat, scanned the crowd until he saw her, held onto her so tightly she couldn't breathe. Soon happy tears, smiles and kisses on their wedding day, so eagerly awaited, falling even more deeply in love.
He wanted to explore their feelings further, to drown in her, to have years alone, so much to experience, so much missed in the two years they had been apart. He wanted to feel their love for each other deepening with the passing of every glorious day, but he couldn't ignore her wish for children. He resented the love she lavished on them, for though he loved them, he loved her so much more
He wished that as the twins grew and finally moved away, the love between them could now last forever, like the relentless rolling of the waves on the tide. But five years of joy and laughter, alone at last, weren't anywhere near enough when he thought they'd have an eternity. The change was swift and too soon in coming but there was nothing he could do to stop it. He could lose her in what felt like the brutal blink of an eye.
He'd noticed her illness long before she did, his darling slipping away in those last fifteen years, the flashes of remembrance so bittersweet, lasting weeks, then days, then hours. Their children's hearts broke, while she, unaware, didn't see the constant cracking, like ice in the sun.
The dripping, the ebbing away of her life like sand in an hourglass, never knowing if it could turn, start over.
He cried the day he realised she was teetering on a knife edge and the good days were getting less and less. Days when she didn't know her name or his but didn't want to be apart from him either. Those days when he couldn't reach her were the hardest of all but she loved the photo albums. Their wedding, their newborns, their glorious house no longer a relic, but she was still drifting away from him, like an untethered boat out into open water.
He understood that it was her need, her right to choose her own ending and so on one of her most lucid days she did exactly that. The decision made there was no reason to delay, and her life would end exactly as they had begun. But he couldn't allow her to take that massive step into the unknown alone, neither did he want to be left behind.
He'd loved that final day when she'd been almost her old self for hours but it couldn't last, the clock was ticking. So that very evening they recreated their first meeting nearly fifty years ago. He watched as she rose from the sea wearing nothing but water, still beautiful to him.
He jumped in naked just like the first time, no inhibitions. The water was numbing. New Year's Eve. A good place to draw a line, she said.
So they snuggled together in blankets on the cold, sandy beach, while they both took handful after handful of pills washed down by copious amounts of whiskey, to warm the body and to dull the senses. They danced, bodies close, until they could dance no more. He'd held her up as they staggered, the pills, the booze, her perfume as intoxicating as ever.
Fireworks were going off, beautiful colours and patterns against the backdrop of a velvety black sky, blurry now, as everything was blurry. The old village church bells rang out loudly, signalling the arrival of midnight. Then one last longing, lingering kiss before holding hands and floating out onto the calm sea on their backs, staring up, the firework display the last thing they saw before their eyes closed. They were found at first light washed up on the shore, still holding hands, her nails deep red.
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I like the imagery you created. This line is emblematic- 'Their children's hearts broke, while she, unaware, didn't see the constant cracking, like ice in the sun.'
Thank you Marty
The love you write about is eternal. I liked the way you described the wife’s illness which both her her husband and children were constantly aware of, in spite of good days. They lived with it for a long time “while she didn’t see the constant cracking, like ice in the sun.” A poignant piece of writing.
Thanks Helen. I'm glad you liked it.
I love how you've brought out the strength of feeling between your characters, and that ending is really powerful!
Thank you Daniel. Much appreciated.
As soon as I read your biography I knew I had to read your story: poetry is one of my favourite genres and Plath, is such an incredible writer ( her The Bell Jar is ome of my favourite books). I've just listened to Jeanette Winterson talk about poetry in an audio essay ( 12 Bytes; it's more about tech but she touches on poetry) and she writes how it's like a message in a bottle: urgent, but also like a spirit that is more than the sum of its words. There's a poetical sense to this piece: a spirit of deep love and loss that is hard to pin dow...
Thank you for your comments Rebecca. I do usually use dialogue but chose not to for this story. Romance is not my usual genre so I used an omniscient narrator instead. I can definitely see where you're coming from though. Oh, and Sylvia Plath. Fantastic and such a sad ending to a life with so much more to give to the world of writing.