All right, this is a little bit rough around the edges, but this is what I wrote last night after watching Third Star for the first time and so I'm going to let it be.
Tell me what you think?
The walk back was the longest in their lives.
They were both silent, even when they crowded together in the tent that night, more conscious of the space that was empty than of each other.
The trip went much faster in terms of time. But they weren't really there. They were on a beach, and James was telling them he wanted to die. They were on a beach, watching as he began to swim out. They were on a beach, taking off their shoes and plunging in, not to stop him but just to be there.
It was strange, almost, to be able to move quickly when they felt so much heavier.
The ferryman with his perennial eyeshadow, a lovely shade of pink today, made a fuss about the missing cart and the missing passengers. Neither of them had the heart to explain, explain how the sick one was dead and Miles had stayed with the body on the beach, work be damned.
Instead, they sat on the rough benches, keeping to themselves without saying a word. The grey sky began to let loose a miserable slow drizzle. They barely noticed the spray of the waves and the pattering of the rain.
It was one thing to know you were going to lose someone. It was one thing to take care of a sick friend, to make him laugh and cherish him while he's there. It was quite another to see him go, to really know he was never going to smile with them or tease them or play practical jokes on them again.
Davy slung an arm around Bill as they reached the shore and began to trudge the gravel path into town, the way they had traveled all too recently. They didn't really need words. The grey rain and the comfort of each other's presence was enough.
It was Davy who made the call, from an old, faintly rusted wall phone in the inn. Needless to say, it was brief.
The entire family arrived in the next couple of hours. The girls huddled near the fire, confused and a little bit scared. Their Mama was sitting with her mother as the pair held each other and wept. His father was putting on a brave face for his family and for the Detective Inspector he was talking to. But there was a deep, empty sadness in his eyes.
The boat arrived early the next morning, carrying a body in a black bag and Miles.
Miles trudged into the inn, looking absolutely exhausted, and she immediately caught him up in her arms. Her girls looked dubiously at the man their mama was hugging. They weren't quite sure what had happened, but their mama had told them that Uncle Jimmy was really sick, and now he had to go to Heaven now to be with the angels.
The funeral was quiet. Abbie and Bill stood by each other, him reluctantly hugging her small frame. Davy stood alone. Miles stood with his love and her children as the minister spouted spiritual affirmations neither he nor James had truly believed in. He was tempted to hit the man in the face with his bible. James would've approved, mischief and fighting at his funeral would have been a delightful thought. But he had a woman to hold as the coffin was slowly lowered into the ground.
They continued on with their lives. Davy found a new cause to need him and devoted himself to it completely. Bill was married, simply and privately in the courthouse. After the baby was born, he gradually did begin to make a fresh start, never forgetting James' words no matter how much the morphine was to blame for them. He found joy and relief from his wife in the baby, whom they called James Fillmore. Miles and his sister were married and happy, although he could never look at her without a tiniest glimmer of remembrance of the lie he had forced him to tell.
And the life that could have been slowly faded from their everyday goings and doings. But it was never forgotten. Every once in a while, each one of them would have a word, a joke, or a person on the street trigger a memory. And they would smile, after a long while, because it was better to remember him in love and life than in death.
And every year, regardless of their schedules or their lives, the three of then set out for the bay once more. On the anniversary of that day, that morning, they would launch off fireworks, drink beers (Guinness, of course) and simply enjoy the feel of the sand and the wind whipping through their hair. Sometimes they would tell stories. Other times no words were needed.
Once, they found a very weather beaten and cracked torso of a brown Darth Vader figurine half buried in the sand. They'd had a good laugh about that one.
And eventually, very many long years later, there was only one old man standing on that beach. He walked with a cane, his hair was thinning and white, and his once-handsome face was creased with the wrinkles of a long life.
His three published books were in his pocket. The first, James had gotten to read. The second, he didn't need to. The story was his. And the third, well, the third was the story of the man standing alone on the beach. His wife was gone, the girls and his own child Philip James were grown with children of their own on the way, and he was content.
Slowly, the old man moved forward into the chill water of the bay. A brisk wind stirred the waters of the bay under the grey sky, not raining quite yet.
He waded, and waded, until he was swimming, and then finally, when his arthritis filled joints could swim no more, he sank into the depths. It was painful, yes, drowning. But James had been right, all those years ago. When he had said goodbye, when he had nothing to live for but decay and pain, it was better to die when he was alive. When it was real. When it was brave.
The man felt the water fill his lungs, and felt a twinge of fear. What if there is nothing beyond? What if I won't be dancing along the stars with James? What if I was right, all those years ago?
But then his tired eyes shut one last time, and his swirling mind quieted for the last time.
They say the stars were very bright that night. The meteor shower was spectacular to behold, almost just like fireworks.
And the waves of the bay rushed on. The adventurous still found their way there. New people still frolicked in the waves. One even found an extremely battered Rolex.
But the memory of the sea is old, and the lives that could have been were not lost.
They were remembered as ghost stories in the local lore. They were remembered in the campers, and in the fireworks someone else decided to set off every once in a while since the blokes who used to do it disappeared.
And there was no tragedy in that.
Whew. Feels. Okay. Yeah. If I gave you any, I'm sorry. Review and I will try to comfort you as best I can.
If I didn't know names I just sort of fudged it. Writing this was very therapeutic, actually.