Published by Michelle Dry
Copyright Michelle Dry 2017
This book shall not be lent, resold or hired out by way of trade or otherwise without the author’s consent. All rights remain with the author: Michelle Dry
An open heart truly feels life.
‘They’re us and we’re them. There will never be a time when the two tribes will not be drawn to one another – that is our curse, our burden and our secret.’
A bizarre humming filled the air and swirled about the remote Scottish village of Gardenstown – she was searching. The villagers purposely avoided discussion, glanced at each other knowingly and scurried to the safety of their grey, stone cottages. Trouble was brewing, she would have her wrath and the culprit would die – it was inevitable.
The fluid motion
June last year
The waves that crisp morning peeled elegantly towards the shore. Rainbows danced amongst the salty spray. The undulating motion of the scarlet-tinged ocean drowned out her subtle call. Her love was unaware he had chosen her and that she had accepted.
Marty, wearing dark jeans and a green hoody, stood at the edge of the cliff top, gazing down at the sea with his arms folded. The smell of damp grass and seaweed wafted on the same breeze ruffling his dark, wavy hair. With a quick flick, he swept a few wispy strands behind his ear and continued to dither. Should he go in? The thought of climbing into a damp wetsuit at that time of the morning was enough to turn anyone off! Rubbing his tired eyes, he was consumed in his usual shall I or shan’t I routine. After picking fluff off the arm of his hoody, he shuffled towards Bertha, his camper van, turned back and paused. Was that a woman swimming?
Out to sea an enormous set of waves rose on the horizon. The unsuspecting swimmer maintained her rhythmic crawl. Surely she would notice. The rolling waves gathered momentum as they pursued her and prepared their weighty descent.
“Bollocks!” he muttered under his breath. With a jolt, he tore down the rickety staircase, navigated the slippery cockle-crunching shoreline and broke into a sprint on the compacted sand.
The first wave towered above the girl.
“You need to come in,” shouted Marty, waving frantically from the beach.
With the repetitive crawling rhythm, the swimmer did not break her routine. Instead, she continued oblivious to the rising ocean walls. With a sense of helplessness, Marty watched the wave peak, tumble and crash down. She was gone.
He waited for some indication of her location. Nothing. With a glare at the water, he gritted his teeth. Why did it always happen to him? In aggravation, he kicked off his flip-flops and waded into the shallows. The froth of the first wave roared towards him. He dived and surfaced. Sucking in a lung-full of air, he submerged intending to swim beyond the break. As he swam, he urgently searched for even a hint of her presence. There was nothing. Surfacing for another breath, a huge wave rose above him. Marty gazed up at the glistening, fluid wall and ducked back to the churn beneath. Could he see hair or seaweed? The circling ocean motion spun his athletic physique into an area of calm where a peaceful figure was suspended. With a mass of golden hair drifting in all directions and mischievous glint in her eye, she smiled. It was her!
His heart pounded as the air slowly evacuated his lungs. As he sunk, he gazed at the beautiful creature knowing he had to surface. With a strong kick, his survival instincts overrode his desire to stay. Full of curiosity, she followed him, circled and silently peered into his soul. She emitted a gentle hum that tingled through his veins. He had to surface! With an amused expression she radiated the feeling of love.
With the expression of confusion, he touched his heart.
She smiled and radiated again.
Butterflies tingled in his gut.
He was mesmerised. He desired to stay.
The ache of desperation shot through him. The instinctual throb of survival drove him as he clutched at the water and frantically struggled to the surface. With a massive gasp, he filled his lungs and Crash! The tumbling wall of water cast him into an uncontrollable spin. After a number of rotations, the bubbling froth spewed him into the breaking zone. Taking in as much air has he could, he urgently dived. Aiming at the shore, he cleared the underwater stir and arrived at calm water. Where was she? Was she even alive? What had just happened?
With the awareness of yet another set forming, he scanned the break for signs of her. What should he do? His mind constructed the limited information whilst his body bawled the need for warmth. Patches of dark red sun reflected on the green water like poppies on grass. Should he go ashore? If he went to find help, she could drown. If he didn’t, she could also drown.
After four strokes to shore, he paused. Why was there no one to tell him what to do? He was only nineteen, why did things like that keep happening to him? ‘It’ had happened to his father only six months previously. ‘It’ could happen to anyone. Had ‘it’ just happened to her?
Marty wiped his nose, his gut ‘said’ find help – he had to learn to follow his gut and stop thinking all the time. “Think about not thinking?” he had asked the councillor.
“Your endless thinking is what gives you the headaches. You need to find a way to be in the moment. You can’t spend twenty hours a day staring at a computer screen to avoid feeling. You need to spend time in reality,” she had said.
The memory fractured as the new set of waves travelled elegantly towards him. “Bloody reality!” he muttered. He reached into a lesser wave and body surfed towards the shore. He needed to find help.
Behind the wall of water, Marty caught a glimpse of a shadow travelling at the same rate as the wave. Rotating onto his back, he attempted to gain a better look. It was gone. As he drew close to the shore, the underwater girl bothered him. Why wasn’t she frightened? How could she hold her breath for so long?
Consumed in analysis, Marty waded through the shallows. At first he didn’t notice the subtle resonation, but the sound intensified and begged attention. He came to a halt and stood scanning the area. Something was calling but there was nothing there. Was it the beginnings of another headache? The sound penetrated his mind and pulsated in his heart. The more he searched, the more the sound circled and spiralled. Splash! In the distance, a shape broke the surface and disappeared. He stood squinting at the shifting shapes of the waves and swayed with dizziness.
The water became motionless but the resonation remained. To Marty’s left, the girl rose from the ocean but only revealed her shoulders. She ventured tentatively closer, smiled in amusement but studied him seductively.
Marty was transfixed. Her rusty, wet hair contrasted with her pale, clear skin. The glowing green eyes were stunning! She looked like a pre-Raphaelite painting – like Ophelia. The bare skin and the curve of her neck hinted at nakedness. Yet her hair conveniently covered anything obvious. Still he couldn’t help but gawk.
The girl gazed at him in a sensual manner with her chin down and a certain glint in her eye.
The resonation pulsated like a heartbeat.
The radiating love warmed him. He stepped forwards.
She jerked away.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said softly.
She remained silent but blinked; her eyelids moved sideways.
Marty fought a frown but was inquisitive.
She ventured closer and gazed into his eyes. The way she looked softened him. With the pounding hum of a heartbeat, she reached out and touched his hand. A spark of blue light travelled across the surface of his skin. A tingle of warmth travelled through his whole body and burst into his heart. With a gasp, he threw his head back and dropped to his knees in the shallows. He was helpless as the moment expanded. For the first time in a long time he could ‘truly feel!’
The resonation increased, the radiation tingled and the rhythm of the ocean overwhelmed him. She had penetrated the depths of his soul. They were connected.
“Marty what on earth are yer doing?” called a strong Scottish accent.
Marty glanced over his shoulder, which broke the spell.
Danny, Marty’s seventeen-year-old housemate, waved.
Urgently Marty turned back but the girl was gone. A ripple remained on the surface with a circle of fading blue light. Shit!
With a flurry of sun-streaked, strawberry-blonde hair and a smattering of freckles underlining his pale, grey eyes, Danny strapped his surfboard leash to his leg. He glanced at Marty and frowned. “What yer doing swimming in yer clothes?”
Danny, at the grand height of five foot six, was smaller than your average seventeen-year-old but made up for it in character. He was born and bred in Banff; he was shy until you knew him well but then he was the cheekiest blighter around. His random thoughts were famed, “If yer did ney chew spaghetti then how would it come out the other end?” Was one unfortunate comment that would haunt him from the age of thirteen.
“So why yer wearing yer clothes in the ocean then?” Danny asked again.
“I thought someone was drowning,” Marty replied, scanning the ocean.
“I bet it was a seal,” said Danny. “It’s always a seal.”
Marty frowned, “No it wasn’t a seal.”
“So what was it then?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Marty said with a shrug.
“Go get yer wetsuit on and we can go for a surf. That’s unless yer want to surf in yer clothes.” Danny’s particularly cheeky grin always meant trouble. Wind-up time had most definitely arrived.
“I reckon a wetsuit would be better.” Marty wringed his sodden clothes, “I’ll be back in a sec,” he said, turning towards the harbour wall.
Danny watched his friend faffing about, “What’s bothering yer Marty?”
“Is it yer dad again? Or the over-thinking thing?”
Marty shook his head.
“Have the nightmares calmed?”
Marty waded up the beach. “I’ll be back in a bit…”
“You know one day you will feel better…” Danny launched onto his board. “I’ll see yer out there… We can continue to avoid grown-up conversation all yer like!”
Once Marty was in his wetsuit, he launched himself onto his board and paddled out back. Once beyond the waves he sat silently watching the set for a while but ‘felt’ strange.
“Danny… This place… it’s got a lot of legends hasn’t it?”
“Anything about people and the sea?” he asked.
“A few… Actually, most of them are about sea witches or women who used to swim out to save pirates from shipwrecks. Actually… there are loads about pirates. Why?” Danny observed his friend’s peculiar expression. “What’s going on?”
“Just interested. We’ve only been here a few weeks and I don’t really know much about the place. Plus, legends are interesting,” he said trailing his hand through the water.
“Oh there’s plenty to learn, but I thought you were supposed to be emptying your brain – ney filling it,” said Danny.
“I was told not to sit in front of a computer working. I am sure I can hear a few legends. That’s hardly thinking is it?” he replied rubbing his chest.
“I thought yer were told to try and ‘do’ nothing Marty!”
“Have you tried doing nothing? Do you know how difficult it is?”
“Difficult for some an’ easy for others… Well if yer insist we can go and see me gran at some point and she will tell yer story after story,” said Danny. “Oh and she’ll feed yer home-made shortbread too. Mmmm.”
“Shortbread… Mmmm lush!” said Marty thoughtfully, as he traced his finger over the connection point.
Danny watched his friend, “You know, Marty – if I was yer doctor I would prescribe yer some fun. Yer need to live a little and have new experiences then yer would ney spend yer time thinking. Yer really can be quite grown up. What about just letting go?”
“Set coming,” said Marty, nodding towards the rising walls of water.
“Always a distraction, Marty… Now race yer,” said Danny paddling full speed.
Marty shook his head and followed – he was such a grub!
Marty quickly caught up and once the wave lifted, flicked himself to standing. The pair glided up and down the wall of water, absorbed in the cool liquidity of the transparent element.
“Look… Shana and Johnny are on their way out,” said Marty riding off the back of the wave.
“Marty!” Shana called eagerly, with her excitable Irish accent.
Shana was tomboyish, athletic and full of spirit. She wore her raven hair high and tied back. Her sharp, blue eyes showed a distinctly astute demeanour. Her eagle-like observation scrutinised people’s behaviour. She never missed a thing or commenting on it. Marty liked her brutal honesty. He always knew where he stood with her – even if it wasn’t favourable. He had never had that with any other girls, especially ones who were just eighteen.
“Marty, you were out early this morning,” she said, being drowned out by a wave.
“Just after some quiet time,” he replied.
“Well, now yer got the whole gang. It will hardly be quiet now will it Marty? Shame about that, eh?” she said, flicking some water in his direction.
Johnny Boy, at twenty-three, was the oldest of the group. A Celtic tattoo scribed over the right side of his face drew attention away from his freckles, or maybe even joined them. He was solid, brash and for his own entertainment wore red lifeguarding trunks with long socks. No one else ever got it but that was Johnny all over. He was his own person in his self-amused world.
“Shana get your arse on a wave!” he said. “That’s unless you’re going to flounder about like a wee girl.”
“Ach shut it Johnny! I AM a girl,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Come on Shana, you know it’s about physique. I’m a hunter and you’re a gatherer,” he said flexing his biceps.
Shana shook her head. “Ah? Gatherer eh? I t’ink youse should be careful what yer say, kilt boy!”
“Hardy, ha, haaa!” he laughed flatly.
With a glance at the horizon, Shana noted the next set was on its way. Johnny seized Shana’s board.
He held her there whilst grinning mischievously.
“Will you let me go? Next one’s mine. Ladies first and all that!” she said, prizing herself from Johnny’s grip. As she paddled, she glanced over her shoulder and gave Johnny a filthy look. Johnny trailed behind like a pet dog.
“He so fancies her,” said Marty, with a raised eyebrow.
Danny was quiet as he watched her catch the wave.
With a swift paddle Johnny Boy, who clearly would never grow up, bounced his overly bulky body onto his board and raced along the next wave pulling as many manoeuvres as he could.
With an elegant dive Shana finished her ride and was in the midst of paddling back when Johnny pulled a floater, landed it and ended his ride with a showy, backward splash.
“He’s such a tart!” said Danny shaking his head. “Shana can do so much better than him!”
The pair slowly rotated their boards; a fresh set of perfectly formed waves were approaching.
“Erm… Danny, I had bit of a strange thing happen this morning,” said Marty sucking his lip through his teeth.
“Look, I thought I saw a girl drown today. She was under for ages… Then after about ten minutes she just turned up… It was so weird. And you know what? I think she was naked… What do you think?”
“Naked? She must have been cold,” he said, glancing at the horizon with a twinkle in his eye.
“Danny, before the word naked there were a number of other sentences. Could you tell me what you reckon to those as well?”
“A naked women under the water for ten minutes? That’s ney possible – is it?” said Danny stroking his chin.
“That’s what I thought,” said Marty.
“They normally wear something,” said Danny, turning to paddle with a smirk.
Marty’s eyes narrowed; his friend continued to grin as he cut into the wave.
After Marty finished his next ride, he returned out back to find Danny facing the horizon.
“Joking aside Marty. Did yer really think she was drowning?”
“Yeh. She was under for ages. It doesn’t make sense and there was this weird… Sound,” he said quietly.
Danny shifted on his board and studied his friend thoughtfully.
“Did she fart?”
With a pause, Marty smirked back, “For God-sake Danny! This is serious!”
“Okay! Well then, she probably had a diving canister and that made the noise. Marty there is always an explanation. Don’t start getting involved in the legends… The legends around here will drive yer mad!” he said honestly.
“I really don’t know how to say this but she… Well she was different. It wasn’t right. Her eyelids did weird things too,” said Marty.
“Marty, mate, listen to yerself… Anyway, girl’s eyes always do weird things when they fancy you. They get all wiggly and twitchy! Now I think we need to catch something an’ get back to shore. We can talk then,” said Danny, glancing at his watch. He gestured at the next rising wave, paddled and rode it all the way in.
For a moment, Marty dithered but labelled it ‘contemplation.’ He glanced at the next set and paddled; a second later, it closed out on him. He ended the pummelling by pushing from the seabed and forcing himself to the surface. For a few seconds he grappled for air before the next wave landed on him. It was always a struggle! Amongst the underwater turmoil, a female hand reached out and guided him to the shallows. That same magnetic sensation pulsated through his arm and filled his heart. That sensation liberated him!
Once Danny reached shore, he waded up the beach to join Johnny Boy and Shana who waited impatiently. “Do yer think he’ll ever get any good?” asked Shana.
“He’s not bad for a newby,” replied Danny. “Aye, but he’s got to learn to stop analysing everything and just let it happen. He thinks about everything in too much detail.”
“We are talking about Marty who has been banned from anything mathematical or involving calculation for a year,” said Shana cringing as Marty received yet another pounding.
“That one was particularly bad,” said Danny with a pained squint.
“But not humiliating,” said Shana. “Remember when I was washed up on the beach in front of a group of old women sitting on a bench, wearing white hats, stuffing ice-creams into their wrinkled, old faces. Look, it’s a girl – I told you, Morag. They said in fits of laughter. That is humiliating!”
“We all have those moments,” said Danny glancing at Shana in a certain way.
In the shallows, silence and serenity expanded as Marty and the girl gazed into each other catching their breath.
“Iris,” she said pointing at herself.
“Marty,” he replied patting his chest.
She held his hand tightly and blinked. Her eyes made the same sideways motion, “Tomorrow. Here.”
A resonation filled the air.
Iris searched the horizon; but appeared guilty.
She blinked a couple of times. Her eyelids followed the same sideways motion.
“Go now,” she said reaching out to touch Marty’s hair.
A second later, she submerged.
On the beach, Johnny jiggled whilst drumming on his board. Shana shot him a narked glance. It made him smile and drum louder.
For a moment the water calmed and the group witnessed the woman submerge.
“Is Marty with a girl?” asked Shana curiously.
“Aye. The little bugger!” said Danny with a jolt.
“Come on yer rat, spill the beans,” demanded Johnny watching him for clues.
“Erm… I do ney know exactly. Just a girl!”
“What exactly do you mean by that then?” asked Shana curiously.
“Was she… naked?” asked Johnny brightly.
“Yep. Bare as baby’s backside. She could be even barer!” said Shana.
“How do you get barer than a backside?” wondered Danny.
No one answered.
“Let’s go and get changed. We’ll be late for work and I canny say it was a naked lady that made me late!” said Johnny, preparing to walk up the beach.
Marty emerged from the ocean, picked up his board and jogged up the beach.
“Marty, whose yer friend?” Johnny said glancing over his shoulder.
“Just a swimmer… Now let’s get changed,” he replied walking towards the rickety old staircase.
“Well she’s hot!” said Johnny giving a typical ‘boys only’ nod.
“What’s going on, Marty?” asked Shana.
The quick shrug and averted eye glance was typical Marty!
“Let’s get dressed. Now I canny pee in this suit any more, I’m getting cold,” said Danny, stomping through some bladder wrack.
“Nice, very nice, glad to know that there Danny,” said Shana with a sigh.
“We all pee in wetsuits, Shana, even girls. They just have the added advantage of getting both sides at once. Nothing worse than having one leg warmer than the other – I say!”
“Ach, Danny!” said Shana shaking her head and following him to the stairs. Why were boys so crass?