Ayn’s feet sunk further below the freezing water by the weight placed on her heart. Thoughts emanated after every beat and stung her mind like harsh sand-filled winds upon bare skin. With each wave that rolled out, she sunk deeper. The water washed through her ankles as if Ayn had always been there, removed from the flow of time.
A thought was making its way through the maze in her mind. A maze of ever-changing pathways where whispers echo around every corner. As her feelings pushed this thought to the surface, it grabbed at other thoughts and feelings and memories on its way up. It dressed in doubt and denial and pain and fear until it eventually formed into a coherent sentence she could articulate, yet not truly believe.
“If I can survive, Jordan can too.”
She opened her eyes to the empty night that surrounded her, not recognizing where she was standing. The sunset beach she had stood in was now distorted in darkness. Ayn didn’t see the sunset or the moon rise. For her, it was as if she blinked and the light was no more.
A cargo ship slowly made its way over the horizon, approaching the halfway point between the two cliffs where the moon reflected off the waters.
Yet, Ayn was very far from the beach. She was in counseling sessions, she was in mother’s meetings, she was accounting for Edward’s business, she was anywhere but in the present moment. She sank deeper.
She was up all night worrying about the kids, her husband, and her marriage. Her marriage meant more to her than she allowed anyone to see, especially her husband. When eagerness is met with apathy, apathy wins. Growing up, Ayn would tell herself, “I’m in pain, but I’m eager.” Now, after fifteen years of marriage, her mantra doesn’t include the latter.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up,” Edward said with an expression of exaggerated seriousness. Ayn looked at him without any control over her unveiled smile.
They first noticed each other in the parking lot earlier that day. Edward’s Toyota Corolla ticked and cracked around him as it cooled down from the long drive. Edward loved that moment of silence before opening the door to the outside world when the sudden stop of the engine creates an artificial silence he couldn’t experience anywhere else in his life.
When Ayn first noticed Edward, he was sitting behind the wheel of his car with his eyes closed, as if meditating. As she walked past his little bomb of a car, she took a side glance at him. She glanced at him the moment he opened his eyes. She saw a depth in Edward’s blue eyes where joy and sorrow weren’t opposite ends of a spectrum, but melted into each other. As calm and nonchalant as she tried to make herself appear, Ayn tripped over herself and almost fell flat on the pavement.
This was the first time Edward met the gaze of mystery. Of course, he had talked to girls before, but as a wet eared seventeen-year-old, he had never noticed one so beautiful, especially one that looked at him as though he were more. In Edward’s heart, which now beat with what he could only describe as excitement, her tumble was the most attractive thing he had ever seen.
“How are you going to run fourteen kilometers if you can’t even walk fourteen meters, Ayn?” She thought, shaking her head in embarrassment. She walked a little faster, imagining a scenario in her head where he jumped out of the car and shouted out to her. Maybe she should have dropped something. It could have been a Cinderella story with a glass running shoe.
She heard the door to his Toyota creek open and his feet scuff the concrete. She imagined his eyes on her the whole time. Finally, she reached the car park stairwell where she maneuvered through the open door, determined not to touch anything. Her feet sped down the stairs as quickly as possible to leave the boy far behind her without him noticing that she was hurrying away
“I didn’t fall,” Ayn explained, “I just, tripped a little…”
“Well, like I said, I’ll pick you up.”
Ayn smiled at him not knowing what else to say, so she knelt down to re-tie her shoelace while praying to God that her face wasn’t red.
Back on the beach, Ayn pulled her feet out of the water and walked back onto dry sand. She was wrapped in a white bath towel that had a small tear down the side. The wind blew in from the ocean and gently stroked Ayn’s hair on it’s way past. She threw up her towel, like so many sheets before, and it caught the wind perfectly as she lay it down flat on the sand. She dropped her keys down on the towel and turned back towards the sea.
She got to her feet.
The beach was empty and though Ayn was only walking, she felt all the muscles in her face twitching. She could feel her cheeks pull and ache as they tried desperately to contain the pain beneath. She recalled how she felt finishing that first race and how Edward’s face wore the same expression as hers; the exhausted face that’s revealed only on runners who have passed their physical limit and can no longer hide why they are running.
Memories and feelings from that day entered her mind as a light mist inevitably leaving her drenched.
Her gait began to betray her now, partnering with the muscles in her face to destroy the composure that Ayn held so highly. Her steps became smaller as she hunched over her tightening abdomen. Yet further into the sea she went.
Ice cold waters shocked her body. She pushed forward, or rather, was drawn further into the water. She reached the point where she could hardly stand without her head submerging and her whole body lifted from the foundations of the earth. Strong currents pushed her body in all directions bar the one she desired to go.
It only took five seconds.
Five seconds for her to realize that the current was too strong. Worry grasped her body. Panic beat through her mind. As a child looks to her parents the moment before pain manifests in a helpless cry, Ayn thought “I need some help.”
The beach became hidden in the night as the moon pulled dark clouds over her eyes. Ayn desperately kicked and paddled against the current, but she had no idea which way to go. She kept straightening her body to see if she could touch the ground, but she had been pulled much further out than she thought.
After choking and coughing up the saltwater, Ayn calmed herself down. She stopped fighting the current and only used her arms to stay afloat as her eyes searched all around her for some way out.
But all was darkness.
She was inside the eye of her inner storm. The tornado of all her worries and fears. Inside this temporary calm was one desire; to wrap her broken soul around her family. To shield and protect them.
Hours later, As her body dipped beneath the waves, she didn’t feel cold.
She could feel the warmth of her first child, Jordan, taking his first shallow breaths upon her naked chest.
I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I miss you guys.
I’m trying to write longer content. The above was the first (discarded) chapter of a book I’m planning to write. The ideas and characters are much different now, so it’ll be interesting to look back on this post to see how it has evolved.
What do you think?
It’s full and rich and I look forward to more 🌷
Thanks Ellie, I’ll try write more haha
I loved the quiet power of the ending lines.
It’s a gripping narrative. You made me want to know what brought Ayn to this point. I have found that some characters take a while to evolve, staying slightly out of focus and out of reach until you get to know their secrets.
Thanks so much 🙂