This story is by Sue Pugh-Rankin and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The pain in his chest was intense as he stood on the pier, looking out to sea. He could still smell her delicate perfume on his fingers as he clutched the heart-shaped locket in his calloused hand. Nikolai remembered the glow of the morning that he had given her that locket so long ago. It still held tiny photos of happier times, when he and Fabiana were inseparable.
He remembered the first time he saw her on a cold and windy morning so long ago. She was standing on the pier, gazing out at the raucous waves. His ship had recently docked after many months at sea and she had instantly captured his heart as he watched her raven hair being swept across her face. The capricious wind was teasing her, making her laugh. That was what had caught his attention. Nikolai had sidled up next to her, blocking the whimsical wind, pretending to be mesmerised by the turbulent sea. He reached out to feel the silken black strands of her hair. Their eyes met on that blustery day, and the connection was instantaneous. Their mutual love of the sea had brought them together. The playful voice of the wind had united them.
Whenever he was away at sea, Nikolai listened to the wind whispering her name as he lay alone in his bunk, yearning for her as he rocked with the waves. The attraction between the lovers was restored as soon as his ship docked again. The wind spoke to them both. Sometimes it whispered softly…other times it roared incessantly. It didn’t matter. They both felt the magic of the wind and the sea when they were together. Even after many years, the salty wind always made Fabiana laugh. Her eyes would squeeze shut as the misty sea blew her greying hair in her face. How many times had they shared that salty taste in the passion of their love?
Then one gloomy day, the enchantment disappeared. He would never forget it. The wind and the sea didn’t work their magic. After months of separation, Fabiana refused to be with him. She ignored him when he approached her. He sensed that something had changed while he was away. She made excuses to avoid him completely. Only the wind and the sea heard his cries of frustration.
Nikolai recalled standing alone on the pier that day, feeling only emptiness instead of exhilaration. He stared out at the waves, searching for answers. It was only a matter of time until he realised the truth. She had betrayed him with another man while he was away.
Nikolai watched the waves beckon to him as he realised what had to be done. He must bring her back to the sea. It demanded it. The sea had always been his master. It ruled his entire life. He listened to the haunting wails of the sea birds, and knew what must be done.
One last time, Nikolai tried to reunite with Fabiana. In spite of his sea legs being wobbly with age, he made his way to her weathered cottage. He knew she would be there. He hoped she would be alone. As he knocked on the decaying oak door, it creaked open slightly. He barged his way in, trying to embrace her as she recoiled from him. Forcing her against the wall, he tied her hands behind her back. She would accompany him to the sea one more time.
As they had done so many times in the past, they climbed the well-worn steps leading onto the deck as it swayed in the wind. Nikolai smelled the salty air as it whipped through Fabiana’s hair. It brought back so many memories. He searched her face for one last glimmer of the love they had known. Instead he saw only fear. He gripped her tighter as she began to panic. The sounds of the waves crashing against the bow were deafening as the tears fell from her eyes.
And then it was over. The ocean appeared calm. The moonlight shimmered on the tiny ripples of the water as the boat gently rocked, almost as if it were making love. Nikolai fondled her as she lay limp in his arms. Her wrists were raw from the rope he had used to bind her. He didn’t want to let her go. But he knew what must be done. The sacrifice had to be made. The sea demanded it. He unclasped the locket that he had given her before he slid her struggling body into the sea. If she no longer belonged to him, then she would belong to no one but the sea.
When he finally returned to the pier, the night became silent and still. The pain in his chest would never go away…she had broken his heart. He clenched the locket tighter as the tide began to turn. His dreams would be haunted by her image forever. Fabiana and the sea were together, but Nikolai was now all alone. He would never sail again.