A/N: This isn't beta'd. So...yeah. And there's a gif that helped me write. I'll include the link on my profile. Trust me – you'll want to see it. Also, don't look for any kind of mind blowing literary happenings, folks. I'm not as deep as you might think. Heh.
"I don't know why you don't make more of an effort with your hair. It could be so beautiful if you just did something with it. Maybe a nice bob or an updo, Isabella."
I swat her hands away from my hair as calmly as I can, only barely containing the urge to swat her.
"There's nothing wrong with my hair, Mom."
My voice is low and petulant and I know I'm wasting my breath. She's too busy smiling vapidly at the people around us to hear anything I'm saying to her. To hear me at all. As always though, that small voice in the back of my mind entertains her. I reach up and smooth the back of my hair.
What if she's right? I love my hair, but maybe it couldn't hurt to try something new...
She's been nagging at me on and off for the last hour, only breaking to schmooze with Mr. This or Mrs. That. My clothes, my posture, my nails, my hair. I'm let off the hook when she strikes up a conversation with a group of forty something women. Fidgeting with the skirt of my dress and shifting uncomfortably in my heels, I watch my mother. One hand flattened to her own chest and the other on the forearm of the woman who is showering her with compliments on her work, her face is the perfected epitome of meek. What's meant to convey modesty and embarrassment really means 'never stop'.
Her posture alone sets her apart from those around her. Renee Swan is never anything less than impeccably dressed. She's a powerhouse in stilettos, never a hair out of place. And she stands even taller in the face of adoration. I wonder what it must be like to take nothing but your image into consideration. Not for the first time, I remind myself that feigning the same concern about my own image just to placate her is no better. Even still, indulging rather than resisting her is a lesson I've learned well.
Renee laughs obnoxiously and I blink, back in the moment and beyond over it. One more glance assures me that she's thoroughly absorbed in the spotlight and oblivious to me.
I slink away and slip outside through a set of open french doors that lead out to the veranda. Making my way around scattered groups of minglers and between cocktail tables draped in white, I resist the urge to close my eyes. The music from the band filters through the doors, but even over the brassy notes of classical jazz and murmur of conversation, I can hear it.
The rush of water on sand. The shore.
I quickly find the arched doorway off to the side of the veranda. It leads me down a set of stairs and to the ground floor. A few members of the wait staff whisk past me and up the stairs toward the party. I duck out of their way and across the darkened outdoor dining area.
The relief is instant as I reach down and remove my shoes before crossing the bridge that arches over the top of the massive pool. Chlorine taints the smell of the ocean and my feet slap lightly as I pick up my pace. The warm, polished patio is hard and unyielding and feels all wrong beneath my feet.
I stop and stare up at the only thing standing in my way. A tall black wrought iron gate affixed with a small electronic keypad. I give the handle a try but, just as I thought, it's locked. The stone wall on either side of the gate door seems to stretch down the entire length of the club's property and walking back through the party is out of the question. I'd never get past Renee. I'm really only left with one option.
Looking around to make sure I don't have an audience, I toss my heels over the gate. It takes several tries, but I finally find a secure spot in the stone with my foot and hoist myself up. After I've climbed to the top, I spin in place and throw my legs over the other side. When I look down, panic sets in and I contemplate going back. No one knows I'm out here and I'm not the most athletic girl in the world. As if on cue, a burst of obnoxious laughter sounds from the party behind me at the same time that a particularly loud wave roars onto the shore. And just like that, my mind is made up. With a small smile on my lips, I close my eyes... and jump.
It isn't graceful. At all. I land on all fours, ass in the air and face in the sand, but unharmed. I accept it as a victory and stand, righting my knee length black cocktail dress and brushing the sand from my cheek. I look up and see what looks to be a walkway leading to the beach. I give one more glance over my shoulder at the massive stone wall behind me and, even though it's not real, even if it's just for the moment...I bid goodbye to the world on the other side of it.
Anticipation bubbles in my veins as I make my way down the wooden path and I'm running by the time I get to the set of stairs at the end. The sand is warm on the surface, but cooler when my toes sink deeper into it. It's wonderful.
I walk several feet but stop before I reach the water. I close my eyes and just...breathe. A steady wind blows in from the ocean, whipping my hair around my face and neck. The strands slide cold across my skin, tiny slips of relief from the humidity in the air. I relish in the briny smell of salt water and the sound of rolling waves. I tilt my head back and open my eyes. If it weren't for the bright white of the full moon, it'd be impossible to make out where the water stops and the sky begins. It's black on black, with only a thick strip of moonlight running down the surface of the water.
I've always loved the ocean, but rarely get the chance to see it. Going to college full time and living several hours away from the nearest beach puts a damper on my indulgence. When Renee asked if I wanted to join her for the unveiling of her latest project, I couldn't resist. Being in her company for the entire summer was the only catch, but standing where I am now, it's hard to be sorry I came.
We've been at The Dunes Ocean Club in Evers Beach, South Carolina for two days already and this is the first chance I've had to slip away on my own. It's the club's grand opening week so I've been up to my eyeballs in introductions and forced schmoozing since we arrived. I glance down the beach in both directions. Not a soul in sight. I smile to myself and smooth my skirt over the back of my thighs before settling down in the sand. With my knees bent in front of me, I wiggle my feet down into the sand until they're both buried up to the ankle like I used to when I was a kid. Leaning back on my arms, I'm determined to enjoy every second I have before Renee discovers I'm gone. I stare out over the dark water and watch as ripples and waves stripe white across the surface of it. It's my very favorite place to be and my eyes close with the peace I feel here.
Just as I'm beginning to doze off, the sloshing of water startles me and my eyes fly open. The sound disturbs the steady ebb and flow of the surf. I'm not sure at first, but I squint my eyes and sure enough...there's a figure in the water. I can barely make it out, but there's definitely something...coming out of the ocean?
I panic and jump to my feet, ducking behind a thick patch of dune grass a few feet away. My chest tightens at how foolish I was to come here alone at this time of night. Curiosity gets the best of me though, and I peek around the side of the grass. The figure is closer now, the water only up to mid-thigh as he approaches the shore. He. He's shirtless wearing what looks to be dark colored swim trunks. His head is down so I can't see his face. But he's like nothing I've ever seen before. Tall and solid and glorious against the black of the sea. My eyes drop to the waistband of his shorts, which are soaked and hang heavy on his form. Salt water traces every line of his torso and arms, falling from his fingertips and back down into the ocean. It drips from his nose and lips and he raises a hand to wipe it away.
Unhurried, he wades toward the shore, never once looking up from his feet. His arms hang at his sides and just before the surface of water is out of his reach, the fingertips of his left hand skim the top of it. It's a reverent gesture and without thought, I mimic the movement with my own hand over the warm sand beside me. I watch as he reaches around the back of his neck and pulls something shiny from behind him. He's even closer now and I can make out a thin chain around his neck. Moonlight glints off of the small pendant resting over his chest just before he turns and heads away from me down the beach.
Maybe it was insane and dangerous and stupid. And I know it could have easily turned out much different than it did. But even later, after everything that happens, I never do come to regret following that beautiful stranger toward something unknown.
Again, the gif is on my profile.
Thank you to Tkegl for introducing me to that FAP worthy image and stickybuns for listening to me whine about wanting to write it.
Also, before you flame me, Fold Your Wings is still alive and kicking. This won't change that. Yes, I know that I take forever to update. I love you for your patience and support :)