Rising Like a Phoenix

Submitted into Contest #103 in response to: Write about a character looking for a sign.... view prompt

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Fiction Romance

In the late afternoon each day, Tessa walked the cliffs of Cornwall, looking out upon the vast ocean as she awaited the return of her beloved sea captain. The Trevose Head Lighthouse stood at the ready, able to provide guidance to any incoming ship out on the seas. It had been over a year since she’d seen The Sappho draw near, but she held steadfast to hope as she waited, walking amidst the flower encrusted cliffs high above the lapping ocean’s waves, ever ready to see the sign for which she waited daily to see: a blinking lantern from the ship that signaled her true love's long-awaited return.


Seton had been gone for so long, presumably sailing upon the endless seas, that sometimes Tessa wondered if she could still recall the features of the face that she so loved. She longed to wrap her hands around his broad shoulders and feel the rasp of whiskers against his handsome jaw as she kissed him with welcoming abandon. Would he ever return? Many in the nearby village secretly whispered that he and his ship had been lost at sea, perhaps devastated by a storm, but Tessa refused to relinquish hope. He would return to her, no matter how long it took, and of this she had no doubt.


This day, Tessa sat amidst the oxeye daisies and English stonecrops. sipping a flask of wine while nibbling on a heel of bread and a bit of cheese as she looked out on the far horizon. The cliffs were lovely during the summer months, and if Seton was ever to arrive, it would be now as the seas were like glass; calm and steady for any ship’s sailing. Tessa watched the billowy white clouds move across the bright blue skies and her heart was filled with a renewed hope as the seagulls mewed above, seeming to signal their agreement.


She and Seton had planned to marry after his latest trip to the Indies. He had assured her that he would hang up his sails and play the gentleman, remaining at home and concentrating on raising a family with her as soon as he returned from this final trip. After all, he owned the shipping company, and it would make sense for him to run things from the inland while allowing others to handle the sailing for the goods. Their whole future loomed unchartered before them.


In anticipation, Tessa had long finished her wedding dress. It was a lovely, simple, blue muslin gown with an intricate embroidery of spring flowers all about its length. It was beautiful, especially due to the care her loving hands had taken while making it. It created a stunning backdrop for her russet curls and blue eyes, and she couldn't wait to wear it with the love of her life standing beside her. As soon as Seton returned from the seas, they would be married.


Not spying a ship sailing upon the distant horizon today, Tessa sighed, packed up her things, and slowly headed home. It was growing more difficult each day to cling to the hope that Seton would return. She would do her best, however, to keep busy with daily activities and wear a brave face. And she would continue to come each day to the cliffs where hope would grow anew within her breast as she longingly glanced out upon the calming waters.


After picking a few of the daisies to place in the antique vase beside her bed, Tessa arrived home just prior to twilight, her hair windswept and a blush upon her creamy complexion. Her mother welcomed her with a kiss upon the cheek.


“Dearest, Tessa. No news today?” she asked hesitantly, knowing full well that there had been no sight of Seton’s ship.


“No. No sight of The Sappho today, but mayhap tomorrow,” Tessa said hopefully.


“Dearest, have you not thought….” Her mother’s voice trailed off as if afraid of laying substance to a deeply hidden fear and having it manifest into a reality.


Tessa turned suddenly and eyed her mother, surprise taking root in her blue eyes despite her best intentions. “Seton will return for me. Maybe not today, but he will return. I know it within my heart,” Tessa stated emphatically, thereby silencing her mother from further comment.


The following weeks passed and quickly turned into a new year, and Tessa’s family became increasingly concerned for her well-being. Her only focus was the return of The Sappho with Seton at the helm, and nothing could dissuade her from anything to the contrary as she was convinced of Seton’s impending arrival. She began to hum and sing in a delusional world of her own making, disregarding much of reality or the heartfelt concern from those around her. Try as they might to steer her in another direction, her thoughts remained steadfast on Seton and his return from the Indies.


Months and months traipsed by and turned into long years, and Seton did not return, despite Tessa's insistence that he would. Her mind wrestled between truth and untruth. Her sister, Isabelle, continued to care for her due to the frail state of being that had become Tessa’s reality as both their parents and many other loved ones passed on. Still, Tessa waited nearly every day upon the hauntingly beautiful cliffs of Cornwall for Seton and a ship; not for just any ship, but for The Sappho upon the far horizon.


Loved ones and friends alike watched in silence as she donned her beautiful, blue wedding gown and walked the cliffs. In warmer weather, she would wander down to stroll by the lapping waves, the blue of her gown trailing in the water’s edge as she peered steadfastly out across the waters and into the sun’s fading glimmer. She seemed nearly ethereal as she did so, moving with the surge of the water and lingering just enough within it to give the appearance that she was gliding across its smoothness. All would whisper amongst themselves that it was such a pitiful thing that Tessa had lost her grasp on reality when Seton had not returned. There had been so much unfulfilled promise of youth and life, but alas, it had seemed to metaphorically drown just as poor Seton and his crew had done so long ago with The Sappho.


Many long years passed in the small fishing community of Cornwall where Tessa lived, and grey had begun to streak the russet curls that fell in loose disarray about her shoulders as she continued to walk the cliffs in search of Seton and The Sappho. She remained with her sister, although life as she knew it was unlike the bustling every day existence known to others her age. She helped to cook, clean, and care for the grandbabies, but the focus of her heart, mind, and intent was to wait upon the cliffs for her true love’s return.


It was a cold night in early April, and the snow and ice had only just begun to thaw throughout the area. The fire roared in the stone fireplace of the cottage while Tessa sat next to her sister, patiently sewing. Isabelle eventually yawned, rubbed her tired eyes, and sat her embroidery down upon the chair beside her.


“Tessa, love, it’s late, and I must be to bed. Tomorrow comes far too soon,” she said, laying a reassuring and loving hand upon her sister’s forearm. “Will you not go to bed?”


“Nay, Isabelle, I must finish this piece before I do. I promise I won’t be far behind,” Tessa smiled as she shook her head, indicating she was not yet ready to relinquish her embroidery and head to bed.


“Yes, dearest, but promise that you won’t tarry too long.” Isabelle stooped to lovingly kiss her sister’s head and then headed up the narrow staircase to her bed and waiting husband.


Tessa continued the sewing for a little longer, her brows scrunched in concentration until she was sure she had made each flower as beautiful as she desired. Pushing at stray curls falling about her oval face, she rose with the intention of taking the candle and heading to bed. However, as she passed the window, she paused to look out upon the darkness. A dim green light flickered in the far distance, and Tessa’s heart skipped a beat as she realized that it glimmered from the distant waters. It could mean only one thing: Seton had returned! Quickly, without pausing long enough to don her shawl or coat, she flew out of the cottage and toward the coastline, her grey and russet curls swirling all about her face and shoulders as the strong winds swept through them.


As she moved toward the shore, one purpose in mind, Tessa did not feel the cold that enveloped her fragile body though it easily penetrated the thinness of her gown. Delicate slippers adorned her feet that did not successfully combat the wetness or the cold that drenched them with each step she took. The only thought that permeated her being was to move toward the shore and green light. Reaching the shore, she saw a ship on the far horizon, the moon glinting off its sails. With fascination, she watched as the light drew nearer though still very distant. Her heart quickened with anticipation, and she could not quell the excitement and joy that reverberated within her breast.


For nearly an hour, Tessa stood thus upon the shore, the waves hungrily lapping at her feet, threatening to consume her as she waited steadfastly while the faint green light grew ever stronger and nearer. At long last, she could see a small boat with a single passenger approaching. Seton! Joy infused her being with each movement of the oar, flicker of the green light, and incoming wave.


Before the small boat reached land, its passenger jumped from it and ran through the shallow waters, at long last reaching Tessa. With open arms and heart, Tessa fell into Seton’s embrace, and the two kissed in joyful greeting, the ocean’s waves lapping around their ankles.


Tessa lovingly looked up into Seton’s green eyes and touched his rugged face. “My love,” she whispered with tears in her eyes. “You have come home.”


“Aye, I’ve come home, my sweet, and I’ve come to take you with me. We shall be together always, never to part again. I promised that I would return for you, dearest Tessa, and thus, I have kept that promise.” Seton’s hands caressed her face tenderly as he spoke. “You are my only love.”


Tessa’s blue eyes filled with tears, her relief and joy encompassing her frail body. She had waited so long for this moment and now Seton was here, and he would never leave her again. Joy and love were hers and would remain so forevermore. With arms closely about each other, the two lovers walked toward the lighthouse, knowing nothing but each other's embrace.


It was early when they found her the next morning, her cold body strewn across the rugged rocks by the lighthouse. There was an eerie peace that filled her countenance though she lay lifeless, and even more strangely, there was the glimmer of a smile curved upon her lips in the pose of death. Many would tell tales for long years about sweet, poor Tessa who waited so patiently and so steadfastly for her only love, Seton, to return. And many would whisper that they had seen the two lovers, arms about each other as they strolled along the water’s edge in the early morning light of dawn. It seemed that love had smiled at long last upon them. Tessa had defied death to find peace, joy, and her only love. Indeed, eternal love had prevailed, allowing the lovers to be together once again and for an eternity.


Death knows no obstacle, no boundary, as love rises from the ashes like a phoenix soaring into the distant horizon.


July 19, 2021 17:07

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2 comments

Anamika Aditi
22:01 Jul 28, 2021

Very nice. Her patience level was more than anything. Her determination for waiting for seton, the belief on his promise,, beautifully expressed. It was really rising like Phoenix.

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Cindy Calder
00:16 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

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