Of Sea and Sky: Part 8

            “You’re silent as stars,” Caspian said, coming up the cliff behind Lani on one evening when fall was very near. The sun clung to the sky, casting its desperate fingers over the water, over Lani, over Caspian.
            “I found it,” she answered, corralling her hair over one shoulder so that it would not whip him in the face when he came near. From within the fold of her voluminous robes, she withdrew a coarsely wrapped object.
            “You found what?”
            “The wish.”
            Caspian took it with fumbling hands, wondering why the feeling behind his sternum felt more like desperation than joy. He had to see it. And then he did. It was a piece of glass.
            “Something of sea and sky,” he murmured, smoothing fingers over it.
            “Made by lightning, smoothed by the ocean.”
            “How is it a wish?” He handed the shining glass back to her.
            “I’ll show you.” Her voice was very sad.
            Lani held up the mirror toward the waning sun, which glinted off the ocean-polished surface to catch the eye of the last of the summer trade boats. There was a series of flashes in return.
            “If I flash back, they’ll come for us.”
            Though she made a move to do just that, Caspian’s hands were in the way.
            “Don’t.” His heart was tapping enthusiastically against his chest, and when he looked at the boat, all he felt was sickly sweet dread.
            “You said we’d wish for the same thing, in the end. All I want is to stay here. With you.”
            Though the muscles of her face wanted to stretch with contentment, Lani held them in check.
            “I’d go with you, if you went,” she clarified. Caspian shook his head, terrified now. Without thinking, desperate, Caspian’s hand darted out to take the glass and throw it into the sea. It gleamed like a falling star as it went.

The End

Of Sea and Sky: Part 7

            Lani waited for the boat to sail away before she went home. It had touched the island’s shore, the flames had gone out, but she had not seen who was on it or what they did. She glanced at the memories on the sand dune, the cliff. Reflections of shadow through glass.
            She stood in her doorway, feeling like one made of sticks—stiff and fragile and very hateful toward fire. Lani paced the shack four times, noting idly that she needed new flowers. Without further thought, she slipped into the sweet evening air. It was getting so cool, so quickly now.
            It was night before she made it to the center of the island where the jasmine bloomed. She’d never brought Caspian there and it was free from shadows. Her practiced hands plucked the flowers, but her old, mad peace was gone. The island queen was unsettled.
            “So this is why you always smell of jasmine,” a deep voice spoke from behind her, back the way she’s come. Lani whirled, spraying jasmine petals in a wide circle.
            “But you left!”
            Caspian sighed, “I tried to.” He stalked toward her, long strides that no longer stumbled in the fine sand. “But then I realized, you’re my lighthouse, Lani. I wouldn’t make it without you.”
            “What makes you think that?’ Lani asked, but she was teasing. Her eyes sparkled and flirted now that she allowed them to. Caspian scooped her close, looking down on her with a smirk.
            “Because it’s impossible.”
            “Oh,” Lani nodded in understanding, but Caspian was very talkative and could not contain himself.
            “I’ve never seen anything so clearly as when I’m with you, even the shadowy things.”
            “I don’t think I’m meant to guide anyone, though. Lighthouses do that.”
            “No,” Caspian shook his head. “They sit on the rocks and don’t let anyone near.”
            “I suppose I’ve done enough of that.”
            “I suppose you have.” He kissed her.


Of Sea and Sky: Part 6

            “There’s a boat, Lani.”
            She sat in the shallowest water, picking the petals off a flower, the last of the really warm summer days glowing on her skin. One by one, white petals rained into the tide and were dragged away by the hungry sea.
            “There’s a boat.”
            Lani plucked the last petal, held it between two fingers close to her face, studied it. Then she stood, let it drop. A shorter version of her silk-patterned garb clung to her wet thighs.
            “You’re going.”
            “You’re going with me.” There was something so desperate in his tone that Lani closed her eyes toward the sea. She reached out a blind hand and found his poorly shaven face deftly.
            “I’m not. It’s a nice fire, but it isn’t a wish.”
            Caspian’s mouth opened and closed helplessly. He wrung the hem of his white shirt in agitation. Opening her eyes, Lani turned. Keeping her hand on his face and adding another, she stood on her tiptoes. Then she kissed him. She kissed him goodbye.
            “Lani, I can’t just leave you.” Hanging his head as one under enormous weight, he expelled a heavy breath. His fists clenched impotently in her hair.
            She was sad, smiled, made no response. His fists unclenched. His footsteps turned away toward the smoke rising toward the bright blue sky.

Still more to go...

Of Sea and Sky: Part 5

            They didn’t talk about it, pretended it hadn’t happened. But after that day, Caspian began building a signal fire. It was done in secret, furtive movements, in fake bathroom trips and extra supply collecting. In between, Lani was more and more herself, a self that Caspian had never thought to reach. He felt like a sea rat. But Lani might never have found out. Except she did.
            Her face blanched like cinder bone when she saw the pyre. She’d worn the dress, he thought, the first thing he noticed, a short sun-dress thing that bared her long legs. She’d caught her hair up too, using an assortment of island things to hold it--shells and starfish and flowers--and revealing a slim neck. Caspian felt his insides being dragged out to sea. He was a rat, a plague carrying boat rat. Breath coming long and slow like the tide, Lani watched him. The island queen’s face read disdain.
            “You lied.”
            “Lani, I didn’t—“
            Slowly with great dignity, then fast and stumbling like an idiot, shipwrecked boy, she made her escape. Caspian practically leaped over the pile, racing for her. He caught her on the high sand dune where they had first met.
            “Wait!” His eyes were wild, hair crazy. She was poised and sad. The island queen and her savage.
            “You don’t believe me. You think I’m crazy.”
            “No, I don’t. I don’t think—“
            But now Lani’s chest was heaving with the sobs she hadn’t spilled for her lost family or traumatic past. Crumbling, knees in the sand, she stared out at the water and grieved.
            “Lani…” Caspian spread his hands helplessly, looking down at her.
            “Light your fire, Caspian. Go! The sea is salted with bones, and I hope yours join them.” But her voice broke enough to tell him she lied. Caspian’s extended hand on her shoulder was shrugged off. Back at the shack, a flowing robe covered the dress and tea was made for one. Caspian went down to the beach and lit his fire.

Of Sea and Sky: Part 4

            After that the nights began to grow longer. Summer was a dead man walking along the shore.
            “We have to find it by autumn,” Lani repeated until it was a mantra in the shipwrecked boy’s head.
            “We will,” Caspian assured her, taking her hand to drag her down to the beach.
            But one day it rained. The sky split itself wide and bled down upon the little island, drawing colorful blooms from the bland shore. Lani was among them. She raced from the shack into the storm, her colorful outfit darkened by the water. It clung to her body like a punch to the gut. At first, Caspian stood near her, in the slight shelter of the shack’s roof. At first, he thought this was another of her quirks, standing still, head upturned toward the rain.
            But then he saw her shaking. She turned, stared him in the eyes. And he saw madness. He hadn’t really believed it until then. That she was mad.
            Caspian got wet then, stalking toward her, grasping one slim wrist, dragging her toward their favorite spot on the cliff.
            “Not here, Caspian. You’ll ruin it!” her voice held an edge of hysteria though she did not sob or cry. Caspian was stuck on the way she’d said his name, like it was her own. He was stuck on her acknowledgement that their place was special. Never had he seen her so emotional.
            “We’ve been on this island together for weeks and you haven’t told me. Tell me. How did you get here?”
            She didn’t answer, simply stared out at the sea, haunted.
            “How, Lani?” Shaking her shoulders, he forced her to meet his gaze. Her eyes were so pale that he could see the reflection of his own dark irises more clearly than her blue.
            “A shipwreck,” her voice was shaking. “A shipwreck!” she screamed. “In a storm, this storm.”
            “Not this storm, Lani. A long time ago.” Caspian drew her against his chest, wrapped her in his arms.
            “I have to wish myself free.”
            “I know.”
            “You believe me?” Lani pulled back, all trace of madness replaced by skepticism.
            “I do,” Caspian lied. She settled her head against his chest again, and when she stared at the sea, there were no ghosts in the waves.