Judith loved the beach: the sun, sound, and sand, not so much the water. She had issues with its size, strength and depth. Other than that, the beach was her place of solace. It wiped away the horrible jobs, the errant boyfriends and her poor life choices. She had made it a ritual. Going every day to the same beach, the same spot, for years. Occasionally, she’d wet her toes.
On this particular day, she noticed a man waving at her in the water, a distance from shore. She squinted. She hoped he didn’t need help because she was not the one. He waved again and smiled. Drowning men don’t generally smile. She waved, turned her back to him and laid down on her stomach.
The following day he appeared again, only a little closer to shore. He waved. Odd, she had never seen him before. Judith appreciated his look: honey brown, sun-kissed with golden dreads, and a swim suit slung so low that only the water was keeping his privates, private but it was definitely showing off his wash-board abs. She resisted the urge to wave back, but she could not divert her eyes. There was something basic, primal, and hedonistic about him. She felt a spike in her body temperature and it had nothing to do with the sun. When Judith finally waved back, he beckoned her to him. She shook her head no. Maybe it wasn’t that deep, maybe he was really tall, or maybe he was a serial killer who liked to drown his victims. Judith stood up, shouted no and gave a crossed slash of her arms (was that a nautical sign?). Ok, she also stood up just in case he was not a serial killer. Maybe her assets would bring him to shore.
The next day he was nowhere to be found. Serial killer, most definitely, a serial killer, but Judith could not keep her eyes off the horizon. She skipped the beach the following day. It was against protocol and sacrilegious. What if he never showed up again?
Returning to her spot the day after, Judith kept her back to the waves. The sun was what she really needed. She heard a splash, but didn’t turn. Multiple sounds: voices, sea gulls, and waves, lulled her into a deep sleep. She was awakened by a trough of wet trash thrown onto her backside. Judith jumped up. The dread man glistened in the water, close to shore. She ran forward.
“Did you do that?” she shouted.
He merely shrugged, smiled and beckoned to her again.
“I told you, I’m not coming out there.”
He shrugged again and pushed up on his arms, exposing his chest.
Judith eyed him. He smiled. She was at water’s edge and could see his eyes. What color was that? Green? Hazel? Blue? She edged closer to the water. He kept smiling, holding out both hands and coaxing her to him.
She tried again, “I’m afraid of deep water.”
He put his hand over his heart and then extended it to her. Judith went out to him.
Just as she reached him she notice something odd. The bottom half of him was not visible in the waterline. That was impossible. She was only waist deep. She hesitated. He smiled. Then she saw a huge fish tail smack the water just behind him. She turned screaming but he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her under.
Judith lost count of how many times he surfaced. She’d scream and he’d dive. Eventually, she stopped screaming, but by that time they were miles out to sea. In an act of pure defiance, she batted his hands away. She could tread water, kind of. He respected her wishes, let go and sunk to eye level. She suspected he was studying her, laughing at her. Judith treaded, struggled and then sank. When he eventually retrieved her, she had only one question, “Why?”
He pulled her to him and kissed her gently on every surface above water. Judith had long since lost any hint of a swim suit. She felt all his textures, muscles and heat against her bare skin. He didn’t feel scaly, as much as, leathery. She wasn’t sure what to do with her hands. She looked directly in his eyes. Mistake. They were beautiful, kind, loving and gentle. He smiled again, pushed her hair back and then gently held it kissing her chest. Judith had a sudden thought, drowning might not be such a bad way to go.
That night, Judith attempted conversation multiple times. Her man-fish only shrugged and smile. He swam her out to places she would never have ventured, but eventually brought her clinging body back to shore. Standing in the waves, she pointed to herself and said, “Judith.”
He took her hand and fingered spelled letters into the palm of her hand, “O M A E L.”
Judith looked up into his eyes, “Your name is Omael?
He nodded, smiled and kissed her. That was a good name, but with a kiss like that it hardly mattered.
Just before releasing her, Omael gave Judith another signal. A hand to the sky, with a falling angle. “Tomorrow night?” Judith guessed. He nodded. She nodded, then he was gone.
Judith waited on the beach the following day, from twilight into darkness. She studied the constellations until the full moon brightened the sky. No Omael. She sighed. What could she have done with a man-fish, anyway? She settled back and absorbed the silence.
Packing up, Judith thought she heard a splash. She stopped and turned. There was Omael, walking slowly towards her wearing a very scant cover of seaweed, water dripping from his dreads. She was so stunned she could neither move nor make a sound. A man-fish was one thing, a real man on land was another.
As Omael reached her, he gently took her into his arms and kissed her softly. “Judith,” he whispered in a low husky voice. Judith felt her knees go weak. He pressed her to him. “It’s ok,” he reassured her, “I am allowed to become human if I desire on the first night of the full moon. I desired it. Now make me yours.”
Judith was having a hard time gathering her wits. Omael’s hands were caressing every inch of her body and his lips were claiming every section of her neck and shoulder line. Why resist? She wrapped her arms around him. Suddenly, he broke free. “Let’s go,” he sighed. He took her hand and she led him to her place. Omael pushed all the curtains and shades aside, flooding her apartment in moonlight, and there in all its beauty and brightness he took her.
The following morning, Omael was gone. There was a fine grit of sand and the scent of salt on her sheets. She exhaled loudly and plodded to the bathroom. There in the tub was a pile of seaweed with a large fractal seashell on top. She ran her hand slowly over the seaweed, held the shell to her ear and smiled.
© 2017 Helen Joyce Stein
In my mind, I’m an artist and a writer.
In my reality I’m a registered nurse, avid gardener, grandmother, wife and mother.
The lines get blurred sometimes, but that’s part of the fun.
I completed my first novel this summer and am currently pitching it to agents.
My technology skills are poor, but I’m happy to say that I’ve almost given up paper and pencils and am trying to write directly on my computer.
I love the creative process, whether sorting through fabrics, paint and trim, building and re-arranging garden beds or researching and collecting words, names and ideas.
I’m a persistent dreamer, so I’m still working on making all my dreams come true.