The Crashing Waves Of The Salty Seas
“I’m so glad you’re back!” Maya screamed as she ran across the terminal to me. My face warmed as I noticed almost everyone turned to look at us. I ignored them and smiled nonetheless as my best friend rammed into me with a bear hug.
“I would never miss your wedding!”
She was the only reason I forced myself to come back home. I wasn’t sure if I was ready. I told myself I would never be, and I had accepted it.
But I reveled in her hug, and it made me question how I could ever leave her or my family. She smelled like sea salt and vanilla, as she had since we were little. That’s what happened when you loved vanilla-scented shampoo and body scrub but spent your entire day in the ocean as a surf instructor. Of course, she hadn’t always been one. It had always been her dream since the two of us were always playing in the ocean outside my house.
I cringed at the thought of the ocean and forced the images away.
“I’ve missed you,” I told her as I pushed her away so we could walk to get my bags.
“You’re the one who left me for the last year.” She elbowed me playfully. She knew why I left, and I knew she wasn’t mad, but I knew it still hurt her that I left at all.
“Did you meet any hot guys on the plane?” I rolled my eyes, and her smile grew bigger.
“If I didn’t meet any hot guys in my year in France, what makes you think I would run into a hot guy on a random plane?”
Now she rolled her eyes. “Living in a rural farm community with your aunt for a year is not ideal for guy gazing. I would have died!”
I cringed. Died.
His casket being lowered into the ground flashed before my eyes. I saw his family and friends walk by to give their final farewells. I had watched the pile of white roses on his coffin grow. I stayed until the end. Stayed until they finished packing the dirt and cleared out chairs and tent. Stayed until the rain started to pour, and Maya slipped her arm around mine and walked me home.
I sucked in a deep breath as the buzzer for the luggage cart sounded, and it began to rotate.
“Oh god, Sarah,” Maya said. Her eyes were wide and watery. “I didn’t mean it like that!”
“I know,” I said, leaning my head on her shoulder. It was our way of showing our assurance to each other.
“Let’s just get home,” She muttered as she pulled my luggage off the cart. “Only one?”
I nodded, and we walked out of the airport.
Maya caught me up on all that had happened in our hometown since the last time we had video chatted almost a week ago. Mrs. Mallory chased some boys off her property with a bat after they dared each other to see if they could find the ghost on her property. The Alistairs’ were expecting their first child and were due in five months. And the local diner was shut down for a few weeks because the cook got drunk on the job and left the stove on after closing. The entire kitchen burnt down. It was pure luck that the neighbors who called the fire department used their hoses to keep it from spreading into the dining area.
As we got closer to my house, familiar sightings came into view. There was the path that led to the teenage hangout spot. Maya and I and our friends would drink at night around a bonfire there. The Millers farm where a bunch of us used to sit on the fence. We would watch one friend train for their next horse competitions. So many places that held memories. Memories of Maya and me. And of Chris.
“We’re here!” Maya said before the memories of him could overwhelm me. “Everyone’s so excited!”
She got out of the car, and I opened my door slowly as I took in everything that had been familiar to me since my childhood.
The scent hit me first. The smell of the salty ocean in the air was ingrained in everyday life. The sound of the waves crashing hit me next. It was dull compared to how loud they could be when you were surrounded by them. The sound didn’t help the memories threatening to explode.
I looked over to see them crashing against the rocks behind my house. The sight was overwhelming.
Chris’ face flashed as I closed my eyes. His chestnut brown hair, pale green eyes, and sun-kissed tawny skin. I saw us running on the beach together. Him throwing me over his shoulder and running to drop me in the water. The two of us sailing together in his family’s boat on that last day together.
Chris’s hands roamed over my body, tickling me as I shrieked like a hyena. His grin grew wider as he heard me. I would never understand how he found my ugly sounding shrieks attractive.
“Okay! Okay! Stop! You win! I surrender!” I gasped out as he tickled me mercilessly.
He was quick to stop at the sound of my surrender. He leaned over, so he was looking down at me. “Yeah?”
“Yes, yes, just stop,” I breathed out and tried to catch my breath.
“Good. Now how about a nap before we have to get out of here?” he asked me.
“I’ll set an alarm. We have to get back before the storm rolls in.” Chris kissed me one last time before he let go. I could grab my phone to set an alarm.
“Hurry up and get back over here,” Chris mumbled.
“So greedy,” I joked and rolled over to cuddle into Chris’s chest. He wrapped his arms around me, and I let sleep take over. It seemed all too soon that the alarm was going off.
Chris groaned as I reached over for my phone. I turned the alarm off and glanced at the time. A gasp escaped me at the sight of the time. I was snapped wide awake as the panic set in.
Chris flinched, “What?”
“My alarm is late! We have to go!” I swiftly got out of bed and threw my jeans back on. I looked out of the boat window to see it was dark out and not because it was night. “Shit!” I looked back over to see Chris was putting his shoes on.
“Hurry up,” he told me. “Make sure the deck is clear.” A roll of thunder echoed through the boat. “It’s going to be rough out there.”
I slipped my shoes on and took the steps two at a time back up to the deck. I jumped into action and did as Chris demanded. I could hear the boat as Chris turned it on, and I felt the motion as he started propelling us as fast as he dared. As I began tightening all the ropes, the rain began to pour in a rough downpour. Lightning lit up the sky, and thunder shook hard enough for me to feel it rattle through my bones.
“Everything’s secure,” I screamed over the storm. I reached out to help him control the wheel. The boat was a bitch to keep steady.
“We’re almost home,” he shouted back, looking at the compass and beacon.
“I’m sorry! I should have kept a better eye on the time,” I told him as I hugged him from behind.
“It’s not your fault.” He looked at me. His eyes were soft and understanding. “I love you, Sarah.” Even with the sound of the raging storm around us, I could hear him clearly. As clearly as I could when we were back on the island earlier today and laying on the beach while he whispered in my ear.
“I love you too,” I said before a wave crashed into us. The boat tilted too far on its side. Chris and I lost our balance before we had a chance to control the wheel, and we flew overboard. The water enveloped me, and I lost sight of Chris as I struggled to get back to the surface for air.
Waves crashed into me and pushed me around. I tried to stay above the dark surface and keep the salty water from filling my mouth and lungs. I felt like a rag doll being shaken back and forth in a dog’s mouth as the waves beat against my body.
I broke through the water and gasped for air. “Chris!” I shouted. I looked for him through the dark sky and heavy rain. It might as well have been nightfall with how dark the clouds were. There was nothing in sight except the darkness below and above. “Chris!” I screamed and kicked my legs hard to keep above the water.
“Chr-” Another wave crashed into me. I was pushed headfirst into the side of the boat, and everything went black.
I flinched at the memory of the impact, and it broke me from my daze. I thought I had moved past the shock of the memories. That I had gotten over the overwhelming feeling of the lack of control in those final moments.
Warmth radiated from my shoulder. The heat felt good against the coldness that had overtaken my body. I looked over to see Maya standing next to me with her hand on my arm. There was nothing but compassion, love, and patients on her face.
“It’s okay,” she said quietly.
I nodded. “I know. I just miss him.”
“I know. We all do.”
I looked back at the ocean. The beautiful sight didn’t fool me anymore. I knew how dangerous the water could be. How unpredictable. How deadly.
“You’ll face the water again someday,” Maya told me. “For now, let’s start by facing everyone who’s here to see you!” And with that, she dragged me up my front porch to the waiting group of people who I had left behind a year ago.