This story is by Kody Wescott and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A cold wind blew off the ocean, heralding the end of Summer. Tom sat alone on the beach listening to the crashing of the waves and watching the moon slowly rise out of the dark depths of the sea. If the weather wasn’t a big enough sign of the coming of Fall, the empty boardwalk behind him was a dead giveaway. A few weeks ago the boards would have been teeming with families on vacation and students enjoying their Summer break. Now, most of the shops were closed, and the few remaining people were making their way home.
Normally, Tom relished this time of year. The tourists leave, returning the town to the locals who would enjoy their first moments of peace in months. But this year, Fall brought more than a quiet town and cold weather. Where Summer had swept in and delivered him a few of the best months of his life, Fall would rip the best part of those months away from him.
Tom heard her laugh at the first party of the Summer. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. Her hair was the color of the morning sun, and fell in waves that would make the ocean jealous. Before he knew what was happening, he was crossing the room. She turned towards him as he approached. Their eyes met, and he sank into them like a stone in a lake. Her lips parted into a smile. “I’m Shaylie,” she said, and his world would never be the same.
She told him early on that she was only in town for the summer, so they’d made the most of it. For almost three months, they were inseparable. Tom had lived in this town his whole life, and like most people who grew up there, thought it was the most boring place on earth. But with Shaylie, it was like a whole new world. She saw things differently, wanted to experience anything and everything. He found himself going places he’d never thought to go, and trying things he’d never thought to try. It was like he’d spent his whole life locked in a room and she’d finally given him the key. The time passed all too quickly. Tonight was her last night in town. She’d asked him to meet her here on the beach just before midnight.
The moon had risen above the waves by the time she arrived. It was nearly full, bathing the shore in white light bright enough to see by. She seemed haggard; there were dark bags under her eyes like she hadn’t slept in days, and her tan skin was ghostly pale.
“Shaylie, are you okay?” Tom asked, cupping her face in his hand.
“I’m fine,” she said, but she leaned into his touch all the same. “I’ve just been away too long.”
“What do you mean?” She didn’t answer, just placed her hand on his.
“It’s time for me to go home, Tom,” she said. The world seemed to stop as she spoke. The waves hung suspended, moments away from crashing to the sand. He’d known this was coming, but the knowledge did little to dull the blow. He squeezed his eyes closed, and took a deep breath, failing to retain his composure. Shaylie squeezed his hand. The waves crashed against the beach and the world came rushing back. His eyes brimmed with tears as he saw hers running freely down her face. He wiped one away with his thumb and stepped in close, resting his forehead on hers.
“I don’t want this to end.” He said, managing to keep his voice steady. “These last few months have been the best months of my life.”
“Mine, too,” Shaylie replied. “I’ll always cherish them, but they were all I had to give.”
“But why does that mean we can’t see each other again? We could visit on weekends. I can take some vacation time in the winter and come see you. You’ve never even told me where you have to go back to.”
“You wouldn’t have believed me if I had.” They stood there, arms around each other, for what felt like an eternity. Too soon, she pulled away, but he kept her hands clutched in his.
“Please don’t go,” he said. Her eyes seemed to pierce right through him. She held his gaze as the minutes stretched on.
“You could come with me,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper. It was a crazy suggestion, but his heart couldn’t let go of a chance to be with her.
“Do you mean that?” he asked. She nodded. “I don’t even know where you live.”
“That’s why I asked you here tonight,” she said with a smile. “To show you where I come from.” Tom’s confusion must have shown on his face because she laughed. The sound was just as beautiful as the first day he’d heard it. She stepped closer and hugged him. “Whatever you decide, just know that I’ll always remember our time together.” She rose up on her toes and kissed him. It took his breath away, filled with more emotion than she could ever hope to convey in words. Suddenly her lips were gone and she embraced him one last time. “I love you, Tom,” she whispered in his ear. Then she stepped back and gave him one last smile before turning towards the sea.
“Shaylie?” She didn’t respond, but began to undress as she strode towards the water. “What are you doing?” Tom called as her dress slid to the sand at her feet. He started forward, his confusion mixed with worry as she stood, naked, in front of the ocean. “Shaylie!” Tom yelled as she stepped into the water. He rushed to her.
Shaylie was in to her waist before Tom made it to the shoreline. She turned back, extending her hand out to him. Tom ran into the water. His arm was out, reaching towards her. Their hands were inches apart when she spun and dove into the ocean. Tom was too stunned to move. The ocean seemed to calm as she vanished, bobbing slowly around him as he stared into the water.
“Shaylie?” He tried in vain to see into the black depths. Time stretched on, and his panic began to build. He took a few lumbering steps deeper into the water, arms flailing beneath the waves. The water was up to his chest, but there was still no sign of her.
Then the water began to glow. It was faint at first, but quickly intensified into a brilliant green. Suddenly a form burst from the water. Droplets flew into the air, sparkling like emeralds in the strange light. Tom stumbled backward in shock.
Shaylie floated before him, the light radiated from her. Where her legs should have been, Tom saw beautiful green scales. They rose up towards her body until they slowly faded to smooth skin. His eyes snapped to hers. They’d always been captivating, but the eyes that stared at him now were impossible to describe. They shown with their own inner light that danced like the light off a pool. They were so different, yet familiar; comforting.
She seemed to glide through the water towards him, more graceful than anything he’d ever seen. Her lips were so close he could feel her breath on his face as they stared into each other’s eyes. She caressed his face before resting her hands on his chest.
“Will you come with me?” she asked.
“How?” he asked, eyes still staring in disbelief at the glowing scales of her tail.
“It doesn’t matter,” she whispered, her captivating voice drawing him in. “We can be together.” But Tom’s life was here. He turned to the pier where he’d spent most of his childhood. The rides were still, and the lights began to wink out as they closed up for the night. His gaze swept across the boardwalk to all the shops whose owners he’d known his whole life. But he’d come to hate the monotony of this town. It was Shaylie that opened his eyes to it’s potential. She who’d shown him a new perspective on life.
He turned back to look into those gorgeous green eyes. It’s like he could see into the depths of her soul. He saw the hurt his indecision caused, but it was barely a drop in the well of pain she carried with her; a loneliness so complete he couldn’t begin to fathom it. All he wanted in the world was to make that pain go away. So he nodded.
Shaylie’s face lit up, and Tom knew he’d made the right decision. He wanted to see that face for the rest of his life. Her hands grasped tightly to his shirt as she pulled him close and pressed her lips against his. She leaned back and he was falling. Into the kiss, into his love, into the sea.