Title: As Waves Crash White
Prompt: A Clear Blue Sky (Nothing But Bright Blue)
Word Count: 1,784
Author's Note: Inspiration? The Spill Canvas? You're a genius. :)
Author's Note 2: I'll never make June 8. But I honestly don't think anyone else checks this regularly, so maybe I can slide under the radar and no one will be disappointed.
Willard took a step back.
He exhaled, and the once perfect balance of cool ocean air he’d held in his lungs was disassembled into hot stale breath. He imagined the particles he’d let go of being shunned by the free-flying, sea scent-laden particles around them, and he wished that, for their sake, he had never breathed them in. He hated that he’d perverted their pureness, the very essence of their existence which made them pleasing.
As he walked along the edge of the cliff, hands in his pockets, Willard hazarded a glance at the sea below him. The waves rolled toward the shore in close succession, gliding over the rocks that protruded from the ocean floor and turning white at the tips as they crashed on the stony beach with unflinching passion. Willard was always disappointed that they immediately dissipated into nothingness. Calm water they became, which sloshed itself back into the unmeasured society of tiny little droplets. Nothing as strong as those great ocean waves can last forever.
Nothing lasts forever.
When Willard looked back up, he noticed a splash of color ahead of him, a bright pink mass that stood alone amidst the brown and grey rocks. It was a girl, he saw, a few yards ahead, whose rose-colored dress was waving with wild spirit coaxed by the wind’s solemn voice. He moved nearer and took her in: she had wavy brown hair which was loosely tied back with a yellow ribbon; her complexion was pale, and freckles dotted her arms and face; her features were well-defined, but not harsh; she wore a look of sad determination. Willard gathered that she was roughly ten years younger than he was, nineteen or a young twenty. He wondered at her facial expression.
The girl started when she noticed Willard, but she regained her composure quickly and refocused her sight on the charming blue sky above the water. It was completely cloudless, a rare occurrence for land so near the mountains. Without turning to Willard, the girl said in a strong voice, “I ask that you leave me, sir. I cannot continue with someone so near, so you are simply prolonging my inevitable fate.”
“And what fate is that?”
“I’m going to toss myself from this cliff into the unceasing waters below, sir.”
Willard was taken back by her candid response. He stepped forward so that he was standing next to her.
“Well, that is quite a fate, indeed,” Willard said. “Do you have any idea what will come of that?”
“I’ll be dashed to bits by the rocks, I suppose,” the girl said. “My blood will paint the water a crimson color for a short time, and then disperse itself into the ocean’s blue depths until it is unnoticeable. My body will float, not for long, I presume, until it sinks to the bottom of the sea where some sort of carnivorous sea being will devour it promptly.”
“Oh, I see,” Willard said, removing his hat. “So you have given it some thought then.” The girl looked at him and nodded. He continued. “But why do you choose such a fate for yourself?”
“There are some things, sir, that ruin the very spirit of life,” the girl said. “There are some things that make life unlivable.” The wind breathed harder, and the girl shuddered involuntarily. She crossed her arms to shield herself from the cold air.
“Look at world around you, child,” Willard said. “Look at the cloudless sky, the eternal sea. There is some beauty here that makes life worth living.”
“A life cannot be based on the beauty of the sea.”
“A sailor may disagree,” Willard quipped.
“Perhaps, sir, you’ve never tried to nurse wrenched heartstrings and found yourself incapable,” the girl said, her face set with grim desolation. “Once love is gone, life is meaningless.”
Willard took off his hat and tousled his dark hair. “Ah, but love, you see, exists beyond that between two people. If you find yourself unable to love another now, hurt and bruised inside, you may devote yourself to the splendor that abounds in our world. Allow God’s hand in nature to nurse your heartstrings and you will find yourself in a more pleasant state of mind, I imagine,” Willard said. “Things are never quite as bad as they seem.”
The girl sighed the sigh of youth, that sigh which combines exasperation with doggedness, and said, “Sir, I ask again that you will leave me. I will jump, and you cannot stop me. You know nothing of how I feel, and I fear that you know not of what you speak.” Willard let out a short chuckle. The girl turned to him, her brow furrowed with silent indignation.
“Calm your features, child,” Willard said. “You say I know not how you feel, nor of what I speak?”
“You speak of an idealistic notion, or perhaps an idea you borrowed from an outdated poem. But you do not know this feeling that plagues me, that beckons me to the sea.”
“Oh, contraire! You are mistaken, dear girl. A mere ten minutes before you arrived, I teetered on the edge of this cliff; I was ready to jump, too.”
The girl glanced down at the water, doubtful, and then back at Willard, hopeful. “And then?” she asked.
“And then the tide grew stronger, and I was sprayed with drops of the sea,” Willard said, pausing to brush of a piece of dirt from his hat. “The water was terribly cold, and I realized there had to be a more pleasant way to end one’s existence, so I stepped back from the ledge.”
“You try to fool me! You have not reconsidered your fate, you have not found solace in the world around you. You are simply a coward who is too afraid to take control of your own life – or rather, your own death,” the girl said, stepping forward. Willard put a hand on her freckled arm and she turned to him again.
“No, when I came upon you, I had not yet reconsidered,” he said. “But as we conversed, I have invented a solution to your troubles, and to mine. Shall I share this with you?” The girl nodded. “Here it is: marry me today.”
The girl laughed and shook her head. “I am certain that you are crazy, sir, or have eaten food unsuited to your body. Why, you don’t even know my name!”
“It shan’t matter; if you marry me, you will be Mrs. O’Gall.”
“Huh! Well, Mr. O’Gall, I fail to see how an impetuous marriage is a solution to either of our troubles.”
“Simply,” Willard said. “Though you have not realized it, I noticed that since we began talking, you have moved back five paces from that ledge – six if you had not taken one step forward a moment ago when you so hastily insulted me,” he continued, pointing at the ground in front of them. The girl sized up the distance between her feet and the edge of the cliff and found that what he said was true. “I have talked you down from a ledge, for a moment; I wish to talk you back into a full life.”
“But still, you do not know me.”
“No, I do not know you,” he said, walking a few steps over to a group of flat rocks and sitting down on one. He motioned for her to follow, and she came and sat a few feet from him. “But I know that you say you have lost love, and I am familiar with that feeling. My own wife died, five years since, and I found myself in a pit of despair. Until today, I thought I would never love again.”
“Do you say you love me?” the girl asked.
“No,” Willard said. “No, but I do believe I could, with your eloquent tongue and passionate determination. Moreover, I believe you could love me, if not as a husband, then as a friend.”
“Perhaps you are right, but –”
“As I understand it, you have naught to lose. A moment ago you were prepared for death, and here I offer you a life with a companion to calm you. If you shall find that life with me to be so unbearable, I don’t suppose I’ll be able to stop you from returning to this point and making that dark fate yours a reality, as you would have done today.”
“You will not try to stop me if I find that one day I must jump?”
“Oh, I am sure that I would try, but I don’t suspect that I am destined to succeed twice.”
The girl considered Willard’s words carefully, her perplexing thoughts playing with her features, an uncertainty flickering in her blue eyes. After a few moments she shrugged, satisfied with his answer.
“I suppose I can marry you, Mr. O’Gall.”
“Good; nay, excellent,” Willard said, nodding. “We can proceed to the chapel down the hill momentarily. By the way – what is your name, pretty thing? The priest will have to know.”
“Lucie Eldridge, sir.”
Willard stood up and extended his hand to Lucie. She took it and he pulled her to her feet; her body pressed against his, her weighted rested on him, and when she looked into his large brown eyes, so full of worldliness and understanding, she blushed and straightened herself out.
“It is my pleasure to meet you, Lucie Eldridge-soon-to-be-O’Gall. Shall we advance?” Lucie nodded and Willard took her arm. He turned his head and examined her, the pale brunette his barely knew: his fiancée. He thought about his role in her life thus far, how he had steered her away from a gruesome death. He hoped that, with time, he could prove to be a guiding force in her life, and she could learn to love again.
The sun began to set as they walked down the path to the chapel, and Willard thought it a great tragedy that the bright blue sky, which had been the only witness to the day’s events, was dying. It was leaving, and though the clear blue could return another day, it would never be exactly the same. It was like his stale breath, like the harmless remnants of powerful waves. It couldn’t last forever.
Yet, Willard realized as they approached the small chapel that there was a reason the great white-crashing waves of the ocean settled down after they hit the shore; their goal was met. They’d reached their destination with breathtaking might and magnificence. He considered this and decided that nothing in the world needs to last forever, this marriage included.
Everything in life need only last long enough to matter.