It was like breathing. The black oar struck the water with her inhale and drove back as she exhaled, drowning the ache in her chest. The sunset made fire in the splash off each paddle, red orange drops swelled with light and extinguished. Everything returns to the sea. Out past the dock, she kept going, gliding faster, digging deeper, pushing angrily away from her home and her husband and this life she never wanted. This place with the ocean she needed and this lifestyle she hated. She never wanted this. He wanted this.
I want to give you everything.
I don’t need everything. I just need you.
He had wept when she said that, alone in their first apartment together. So many years ago, now. He had cried and slipped the ring on her finger, and stared into her face like a miracle. Like he was waiting for her to tell him she was joking, or that she changed her mind, or to slap his face for his audacity. Like he was expecting her to laugh at him, then order him to pack his shit and go.
Ahead was the breakwater, ten metres off the yellow kayak’s bow. She dug deep on the right to turn herself parallel to the open ocean, watching the waves crash against century old concrete. Washing machine rapids foamed red in the fading light. She dug deep again, looking left to the piers, and that’s when she saw him. His black head was straining above the water.
She tightened the small craft’s leash around her ankle and dove in after him. Frantic, she surfaced, searched, then dove again. She tasted salt in her mouth and felt the bile rise. She watched her hands reaching for the black shape in the black water. I can’t-. Like breathing, like paddling, like fluid in water, she felt her body calm and extended under the waves. Eyes closed against the blackness, she could feel his turbulence. She could feel him fading. The leash bit her ankle. Salt burned her nose. She caught his leg. She caught his leg! Then wrapped her arms around his body and pulled.
On her back, she dragged them both to the nearest pier, choking when the waves washed his hair over her face. He was so heavy. Her feet found the iron ladder, slick with seaweed, and she braced herself against it. I can’t-. He was so heavy. She lay on the water with him. Her kayak bobbed at the end of its tether, bright in the last flash of sun.
“Oh my god! It’s David’s wife!”
And then hands were pulling them out of the water. The leash cut burned through her foot to her knee. She heard the knife and then the splash and knew it was gone. She felt smooth wooden boards under her back. Fairy lights danced in the breeze. She pressed her face into him. And cried.
“You’re safe, Mrs. Christopher. You can let go.”
She shook her head firmly, and bit her lip. Light wool sweaters and manicured toes, crystal champagne flutes and tennis skirts, sculpted noses and augmented breasts fluttered around her like birds, tinkling Cartier jewelry. Someone brought a blanket and covered them. Someone else was speaking softly into a cell phone.
In her arms, the black lab tipped his head up and kissed her chin.
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012