Alithyia Essetella

Havenside never leaves you.

There's something about it. The taste of cheap booze and the sound of loud conversation at The Hove, the smell of salt water on the air everywhere you go, the feeling of a blinding white heat that snakes its way into every corner and piece of shade. None of it ever leaves you. But there's some of it that I wish would.

Everywhere I go I see her. It's like the world is only visible through an Atlantis-tinted shade. At The Hove, I don't see pirates and coast guards clinking glasses and laughing and living life. I see Atlantis across the table from me, sleeves rolled down and her favorite drink in her hand, eyebrow dancing above her pale blue eyes as she challenges me to an arm-wrestling match. I'll dance and drink and swim naked at the beach, but the water will feel like ice on my skin without Atlantis there to hold me in her arms, exchanging whispers and gentler things while we dry off by the fire.

Even the places which are only my own, the places that have always been only my own are tainted. Sailing out at sea, just me and the boat and the ocean in each direction, it's always been that way. But the silence of the sea doesn't feel so peaceful anymore. It isn't calm. Every time I open my eyes, I keep expecting to see a body floating in the water, lifeless, still, lost. So hopelessly lost.

I invited Talquin with me this time. I can't imagine it's any better for him than it is for me. Not with what the sea means to him now. But he came anyway. Just to sit here with me on this tiny little boat and quietly watch the waves rock against us.

All that I want is to be me again. I want to see the world through those naive goggles that let me believe the world belonged to me. There wasn't a thing in the world that mattered to me but having fun, and that was something I was better at than anybody else. It was the Havenside Hooligans vs the world, and we always came out on top.

It was simple. It was beautiful. It was so, so easy. And I never stopped for a single moment long enough to appreciate it. Then one night it was all ripped away and suddenly the world wasn't the same anymore.

I'm still me. Alithyia Essetella. Loud, uncaring, fun, cheery Alithyia. I miss when I could say that was who I was without any doubt. I miss not understanding what it's like to fake a smile.

The worst part is that I finally understand. The abandonment, the struggle to pretend to be someone you aren't, the constant numbness that I feel so guilty about having because why do I deserve to feel all this pain, all this numb anomie? What right do I have to be the one so filled with all this faceless, directionless emotion that leaves me feeling too tired to feel anything at all?

If I could have just felt a fraction of this before, maybe I could have understood. And if I understood then I could have helped her. Instead of just thinking I could fix her, that I could just make her smile so much that it would eventually get permanently sketched onto her lips. And if I helped her, she would still be here. We could still be swimming together, instead of us both drowning.

But at least I don't have to drown alone.

A big wave rocks our boat, and I bump into Talquin. He gives me a wordless smile, and I want to return it but the muscles refuse to listen when I tell them to tug the corners of my lips. And for once, the silence of the ocean doesn't feel so calming. It doesn't feel like peace. It's haunted, filled with ghosts that whisper as quietly as the wind.

"Hey Quinny," I say. The pained expression he gives when I use his nickname is enough for the startings of a smile. "Do you remember when we first met? That first day on the coast guard, when they paired us up together?"

"It was only three years ago," he says, his voice crossing somewhere along the path of wistful and blithe.

"Do you remember what that first thing you said to me was?"

Talquin grins, and adopts a dramatic voice of grandeur. "So, ready for our onslaught against the seas?"

That manages to break an actual smile out of me. But it's gone as soon as it appears, those words reverberating off the water with new meaning. Our onslaught against the sea. Sink or swim.

"Do you still want to go through with it?" I ask suddenly.

"Yes," he says automatically, too fast to leave any doubt. "For Atlantis."

"For Atlantis," I say, clinking an imaginary glass with Tal. For myself, I leave unsaid. For the numbness, for the pain, for the way my world has flipped upside down and left me unsure which way is which anymore.

To get away from it all, out of this too-calm sea that I'm trapped in the middle of. To escape. To be rescued. To drown. To swim. To follow Atlantis to the bottom of the sea or to reach the surface and gasp for air.

Let the oceans take me away, and make the currents decide where to bring me.

Hello again, lovelies! I know that it's been a while, and I'd like to apologize for going radio silent for a few months. I want to give this story another shot though, because there are so many incredible characters that I want to bring to life, and so many incredible people in this community who have shown me such kindness and support. Thank you to all of you for your patience and support, I hope that I can do this story and your characters the justice they deserve '3

All the Love,