Ten Years Later

The narrow planks, slick with salt water and age, flex slightly under his weight. His sailor's boots make a rhythmic click-click as he walks down the gangway. His black hair, tied into a bandana, whips over his face and his open shirt flutters above the wide leather belt. William Turner, captain of the Flying Dutchman, searches the deserted dock. I, behind the trees, watch for a moment: catching every turn of his head, savoring the anticipation of the next twelve hours for just a moment.

Then I run to him.

I knock him into the sand, and it's everywhere, the sand and the sea and the salt and him, all rolled into one. We're in the surf, the waves crashing around us, when finally I find his face. He pulls me upright, and we're sitting together in the waves.

"Elizabeth." My name, a whisper on his lips.

"Will." His, jumping from me to him, and then his lips are on mine, the sea salt again, my hands on his chest, finding the scar that took him away from me. I can feel how he has become the sea, is part of it: his kiss is at once calm as the doldrums and wild as a maelstrom, his body beneath mine rocks like a ship on the high seas, and his touch reminds me of sea spray over the rail. Shh, shh, shh, the water says.

The sea takes him ten years at a time, but it will not take him from me today.

The sun is setting. He's getting ready to go back to the Dutchman. We find his boots, his bandana, his shirt, and prepare to let the sea be between us again. We look longingly up the beach, then simply at each other.

"Wait for me," he whispers.

I step forward. "Will— " My voice falters "—I always will."

He steps toward me, too. The sun, it's only halfway over the horizon. I step forward again, hands moving out, eyes closed. But he's not there.

I open my eyes and find him already walking toward the waves. I stop—should I let him go?—but the call is greater than I can contain.

"Will!" I break into a run down the beach, kicking up sand, tears on my face, until I crash into him and then I'm kissing him and he's holding me so tightly it gives the illusion that he'll never let go. Can I tell him how much I'll miss him in the next ten years?

She knows I have to go.

I know he has to leave.

I take her hands off of my face. The sun's at the horizon. We're out of time. She steps back, and I look at her face, capturing every detail. She's so beautiful, even more so than the sea. I remind myself she won't be this way forever. She'll age and die, but I won't.

Sadness draws over his face. He kisses my fingers one last time. I open my mouth to say something, anything, but he's already gone. Turning into the waves, melting into the water.

"Stay," I say.

Shh, shh, the waves reply.