A Taste Like Salt

"Let there be such oneness between us, that when one cries, the other tastes salt." - unknown

Before she met him she didn't believe in anything science couldn't explain. Anything else was a myth, a legend fabricated by frightened and imaginative people in years past. There was no place for fairy tales in her life, no room for fantasies and speculation.

Before he took his first breath since she laid eyes on him - a gasping breath of water filling the parched membranes of his lungs and lifting his still chest - she didn't believe in the existence of sea creatures that looked human. He was still too weak to swim, too frail to do more than breathe and reach toward her with a trembling hand, the blue retreating from the fragile skin that knit each finger together. Even standing waist deep in the ocean, holding him, looking back into those strange, hauntingly green eyes she still couldn't think about the impossibility of this moment.

Before she saw him thrashing from side to side of his tank, swimming strokes like a tiger pacing in a zoo's cage she hadn't truly thought of him as human. She'd called him a man from the beginning, given him a name, an identity. But watching him fight against his prison she finally realized that he was human, more human than the men caging him. She thought there were tears in the back of her eyes when she spoke to him, and if he understood she knew he saw them too. She cried for him because he couldn't cry for himself.

Before he spoke she spoke for both of them, his words a silent echo of her's. Medically there had been few reasons for his silence after he'd been strong enough to start leaving the water for small periods of time but she'd all but given up hope of hearing his voice, long ceasing to wonder what he'd sound like, even if it was only sounds or a strange language of another culture. All those months silent, watching her, he had understood every word. It gave her an unsettled feeling at the same moment that her heart jumped. She had hoped, never knowing that he actually could understand, could learn, could speak. His hand on her shoulder was warm and gentle, like the trembling touch of her sleeve the first night in the water. No fear, only trust.

Before she gave him freedom, a chance to swim away without a towline, she hadn't known how selfishly she wanted him to stay. She could have put him back in the tank, kept him there for the world to study, to marvel over like a specimen in a museum. But she cared too much to do that to him.

Before he came back she hadn't known how she cared. She'd saved his life so she'd felt a protective instinct, a feminine need to shelter him from the world, to keep him safe. But even as she wrapped her arms around him, water dripping off him and soaking her clothes, she knew it was much more than that.

Before he reached out and tasted her tears on his finger she didn't know how a heart could break and expand all in the same moment, or how a man she didn't believe could exist just a few months before could suddenly become entwined with her world. Saltwater in her tears like the saltwater in his lungs. A small fragile taste of his world in her's, a bridge across the gap.

Before she met him she didn't believe in anything science couldn't explain. And now...Now she would believe in anything.