Alone on the beach, walking, walking on the edge of land and sea, a dead jellyfish, a gull and its flap and its cry, and gray water swirling into gray sky and breathing the salty damp and his hair stiff with it, and his face painted with it, and his white clothes pressing against his flesh, the wet holding them to him like transparent skin.
And he saw the speck of another's approach. He hated the intrusion into all the gray, the flannel of his existence. a speck, a she no less, with hair blowing and Picasso lines and sand daring to verify, she was real.
Slow rise and her head turned to the ocean, then looking down, then looking up. Was she The Dreamer come to life? For him she was. And so….
She glided, and a skirt blowing and a sash, blue, directing the water's crash and rush…and when she got near, so near he saw the flair of her nostrils and the tremor in the tight bow of her upper lip…and he knew she was going to smile, just smile, a flash, a click, for all time… hello…good-bye.
And he stopped and said, "I'm…Edward Cullen."
And he was. He'd forgotten, but that didn't take it away…the truth.
"I'm…I live up there," and he thumbed toward the three storied Victorian his grandfather Douglas built. And he, Edward, had been sent here by his concerned aunt who knew he needed a place to shed his snakeskin, to come up pink and ready to try again.
"I was…it's so gray," she said, her voice soothing against the careless waves, their heavy sloshing power, but her voice floating.
"You're sad," he whispered.
She smiled and started to continue her walk and he turned and followed the direction she went, toward his house, his home.
Side by side now, and he watched their feet, all bare, and hers, and his, and she looked back, over her shoulder and he saw it too, the ocean's lick working to erase, to erase them.
"I'm Bella," she said, drawing him back.
And he had nothing to give that could come close, she already had his name.
"Are you here for the winter?" he asked because he could be proper if it came to it.
"I'm here for three weeks," she said. "I…will resent you…so you know…now that we've spoken."
He didn't comment right off…too many things.
"You resented me first, though," she said.
"I…I'm just walking," he said, but he thought, my god.
"You're private. I'm intruding. Now you're…escorting me?"
"It's on my way," he defended.
And so they neared his house…his life.
She finally spoke, "What if we go through the whole process…and the last night we dare to get honest and real and discover we really like each other and we wasted all this time?"
She stopped walking…she waited for him to respond. He hadn't left the confines of quiet. Until he'd met her on his path.
"But you can't just leap to the end of the story like that," she said, as if to retract.
"You can…leap to the end," he said, thinking of the piles of books in his room, opened like tents, a tent-city spread across his floor, words and stories living in them…him reading the last page only, one night stands….
She led now, away from the water…following his tracks, the new ones, and the old ones, from too many walks like this and him returning without a catch…she put her little feet in his big footed impressions, and she muddled the course of his life….
She took in a breath before taking on the stairs leading to his house. It was imposing, he knew, in competition with the sea and with nothing around it, for it was a sizeable piece of land that came along with, and those who would seize it for development didn't have enough, couldn't find enough.
So he followed her there, and he saw this house completely differently now.
"I wondered about this place," she said, leading him onto the huge wrap-around porch.
She went in first, and he followed her long skirt, as it sailed his moors, his threshold. He was her guest. This house was splendid…and neglected. Not from dirt…it was cleaned three times a week…Mrs. Cope. But from life. It had no life.
He hadn't noticed before, just that it was large, that it cried out to accommodate so much more, so many more. Would it draw her where he couldn't?
Her hair was long, down her back, a mermaid's hair. What if she was? A mermaid?
She turned to him, and the color in her face, the light, the awakening of this place…"I don't see you yet…your room. I need to see your room."
He shook his head. He had no idea…he didn't allow Mrs. Cope in there.
"Up…." he whispered, and the grand sweeping staircase rolled down into the center of this great room like the house had a tongue, she was already running there, skirt pulled tight in the back over a shapely round rump as she'd raised and gathered the light fabric and her legs flashed cream and the bottoms of her feet were a dark pink and he sprang to life and followed.
She went down the left side of the landing, looking room to room, and he panted from his run on the stairs, and she found his room at the end and she called out and he went in after and she was in the middle of the room, spinning round, looking at the books, their spines, their flapped covers. "There's so many," she cried. "Oh," and she went to them, one and the other, but she did not try to save them or pick them from the floor or close them, she wanted their names, and she let them be, gulls with wings spread, dying on the beach, his floor, each cawing, a story, a story, a story.
She faced him. "You're…," she said softly, her hands gathered under her chin.
He didn't know what he was…but her….
"I'll come tonight. We'll meet on the beach."
He shook his head no. He didn't know. "Yes," he whispered.
She walked quickly to him, and his heart…he felt it move, and he smelled her skin, the salt on it. "I…I don't know if we'll leap…to the end."
He didn't know either…or anything.
"Well…good-bye," and she smiled, and he let her go for three seconds and he followed and she was already half-way to the stairs.
He called out, "Wait."
She turned to him, such beauty.
"Dark," she said. Then light as a wisp, her skirt vibrating around her legs, she descended, the tongue, and went out.
He wouldn't go. She was obviously mental and he didn't want this. It was his refuge and she'd come inside…he couldn't have this.
But he met her hours later. He was first. He told himself it's what he did, walking there. It's what he did and he wouldn't stop for her. So he met her in almost the same place and like before she approached, only this time she hurried to him. "Hello," and she took his hand and he turned and she pulled him toward his house.
All the while he was quiet. She was beautiful. He'd not been remiss in what he knew when he'd first seen her. She was lovely.
She hurried up the stairs to his porch and he followed, like a boy, an eager boy. She hurried to his room, and he followed. "What are you doing?" he said, but even he heard the lack of conviction.
She turned to him, letting the cloth bag she carried drop to the floor. "We're to the end…the end," she said, in the center of his room, and the books he'd stacked against the wall, and she untied the knot at her side and her dress opened and she let it fall from her shoulders, and slide down her arms and her bare skin and feminine form, her beauty, and, "My god," he said again.
She was crazy. Crazy and astounding. "Why are you doing this?" he asked, almost pleading with her.
"It's the end. We'll work our way backwards. We'll start here, and we'll move to the point we were at this morning…when we met…and smiled…and you said your name…and then beyond to where we don't know one another at all. By then I'll be gone. Three weeks."
"I'm here," she whispered, stepping to him, her hands lifting to rest on his chest, her face, breath soft. "Leap," she said. "Leap with me. You like endings. Like your books."
But…he didn't know her. So how could he leap….
"Pretend," she whispered.
And she looked at his lips as she raised on her toes and her lips, slowly against his own, kiss, and the whispered word, "Leap," and he closed his eyes, not that he wanted to, but it was right enough and real enough, and she was flesh and soft and round and willing…and warm…and kind.
He had never…leapt…in flesh. And his hands on her pulling her in…and another kiss, and he fell into it now, leaned into her, then she pulled back and led him to his bed.
He stood and she undressed him and he looked at her, all of her…leaping. He took off his pants and she removed his underwear, and then she took his hand and laid down on his bed, and just that…he lay beside, and they looked a one another for a long time, and he touched her then, and moved his hand all over her skin.
The next kiss went deep and he was gone, flying and floating and burning up. He brought her up, to sit atop him, and he pulled her forward and moved her back, she moved then, yes he wanted her on him…it…on him, streaking him, painting him with her sweet scent, her wet response, her seeping need…leaping.
When it was time…he took her, he laid her beneath him, he filled her, he reached frenzy with her that culminated in breath, in clawing gasp, in release, oh my god.
Then tender fulfillment, and he dropped beside her and pulled her to him. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Thank you," she laughed, tamed and still and supple flesh, and the shadows on the ceiling and the dark gray beyond and they stilled and they were as the ocean lifted them, lifted the house, and they floated…they swayed….
And the next thing he knew he was awakening and the gulls and sunlight, and the heavy roll of the sea, and his mind and memory sparked and the bed empty and just a note and one word, hyphenated, good-bye.
And so it was the end. And the beginning of the almost end. Day two.