They had already been moving together for some time before she realized she wasn’t dreaming. She could taste the salt on his lips and feel the sweat on his back, the muscles in her legs working to match his rhythm while her feet moved up his thighs. She opened her eyes and saw the sleep in his, and then panic with awareness.
“It’s okay,” she whispered, her lips at his ear.
“Lena, this isn’t-”
“It’s okay,” she told him, over and over, the stubble on his jaw like sand on her cheek, her hands pressed into his hair. “We’re safe here.”
And David laughed because memories are closer in sleep and dreams do bleed out to reality. He laughed and kissed her forehead, her jaw, the tip of her nose. He held her face and kissed the sadness, there, her smile so broken and young.
“I love you,” she said, her fingertips cool on his lips. “Isn’t that how it works? If we love, then it’s okay, right?”
He was lost in the black of the lighthouse strobe. He counted heartbeats in the dark. Eleven before the light came back and showed her face to him again. Fifteen to watch the pulse in her temple, her dilated pupils, her hair on the hood of his coat. Twenty-one without sight to push the parka away, the robe and the filthy bedspread. Twenty-five for breath caught, observing hands on wet skin. Thirty-two….
She lay with her back against his chest, his bicep a pillow, watching the light find the sky. There was a subtle shift, barely perceptible, from black night to inky blue. The thin band of stars between horizon and cloud looked faded and distant. Like the planet was falling or rising away, its constellation stories abandoned. The lighthouse beam washed and retreated, diluted and grainy in the hour before sunrise, stark edges lost in the clouds.
He said, “What happens, now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want me to leave?”
Distant vessels crossed the harbour. Their lanterns looked like fairy lights or lightning bugs from shore, dancing with the ocean in the indigo dawn. David took a deep breath, preparing himself. Selena closed her eyes and sighed.
“David, do you feel that you were assaulted?”
“Do we need to do a debriefing? Should we call someone?”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
Brian Stanley’s fishing boat pulled up to their dock, a beat up, metal, flat-bottomed thing with a colourful thread of Christmas lights wrapped around the six-foot cast-iron plant hanger he’d bolted through its front bench. The portable Nautilus battery bungee-cabled nearby supplied power for that and his beer cooler. Britt Stanley, his missus, was sure that thing would electrocute him one day. Or maybe she was just hoping.
David smiled. “He’s brought your boat.”
The shadow play of Brian in his hip-waders and cowboy hat hoisting the slim yellow kayak up over his belly and onto the dock would have had Lena laughing from her feet and then rushing out to help him on any other day. The fishing skiff, already overbalanced by his practical embellishments, lurched and splashed, flirted with foundering, but Big B was nothing if not determined. Wide-legged, victorious, the world’s best neighbour dropped the kayak on the dock and flopped back onto the lawn chair he’d welded to the aft, then turned and pulled the motor.
“Thank you!” she yelled, naked in the window, out of bed before David could stop her.
Brian grinned and waved.
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012