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~  2 Eye of the Beholder  ~   3 Possession  ~   4 Red Wool   ~  5 Adalia  ~  6 The Couch  ~  7 Rocks and Foundations

~ 8 Mistletoe ~ 9 TipToe ~ 10 Columbus (age 9 )  ~  11 Tara (Unfinished) 


The Eye of the Beholder
by Marsha Steed and Drew Monroe  ---<--[@ ChantaclairRose '99

She sat on the thick rough boulder and looked out over the raging waters.   So filled with strength and majesty they were.   She wondered if she could ever again feel that way, strong, sure, confidant.   Her eyes were misted from her thoughts, gentle tears contrasted with the angry  drops of pelting rain.   Her hair whipped around her as she shivered in the storm, though she didn't move away from the stone.   It was here that she had last seen him, his eyes were still emblazoned in her thoughts, those eyes that would make her heart pound and her palms sweat.   She didn't even know the name of the color of them.   They were an uncommon blue, much like the sea that she sat mesmerized by at this moment.

The waves scoured the shining sands of the beach, each lap of its acquiescing tongue pulling the silver strands toward the depths of the ocean past the deepest of dunes on the shore.   A row of wind lashed trees leaned toward the waters, the air pulling at them with a soft tug, leaves trailing in their wake.   Gulls darted from water to beach and back again their cries raising into the skies as they rose and fell upon the wind's currents.   The sounds had always captivated her.   Perhaps that is why she was out here at this time of night.  The smell of salt and sand seemed to cleanse her from other thoughts and concerns.  She closed her eyes to let  the natural soothing songs caress and balm her as the storm slowed to a quiet rain.
The shimmering silver of the moon rose and painted the waters and the shoreline with its mystical sheen.   The dark-haired man rested against the curved trunk of a tree as the sand settled between his toes.   The wind was grasping his hair and pulling at it seeking  to claim it as it's own.  The salty smell of the waters clung to the fabric of his shirt and  the surroundings as the sand clung to his skin.

The light of the moon flooded over her as a cloud was blown off of its face.   Her hair shimmered in the light and seemed to be alive with the light spray from the crashing  waves.   She wore only the soft white sheer dress that suited her sun bronzed skin so well.   Her shoes had been cast off about ten feet in the distance. 
He wondered at the beauty of the shore and the soothing sound of the waves.  lancing about him to see the few others who dared the night, his gaze falling upon the  shimmer of white against the dark azure of the waters.

Venturing further, her feet sunk into the white sands.   Her legs were whipped by the light material as the wind cavorted between her calves and around her hair like a  maypole dance.   His face curved into a half smile as he watched as she moved.  The  winds rose to wind about her in a carefree lovers caress and a smile parted his lips at  the thought.

She seemed almost unconsciously moving forward, as if the gulls called her to a place she could travel to without the impediments of her body.  She extended her arms out to the sides drinking in the wind and the sounds.   Rising from his seat against the tree and moving along the shore with an easy gait, the  soft pull of the sands seeking to impeeded his movements, yet finding little success.   Turning fully around, she saw finally the dark figure a few yards away.  Startled, she dropped her arms and wrapped them about herself.  She had done it again, the world had become some place she only stored away in a dream, and her dream had become her reality.  She looked down at her self, suddenly self-conscious and more than a bit nervous at the plethora of scenario’s that could be unfolding before her.   Pausing as she wrapped her arms about herself. . .  the self-conscious gesture  whispering to him. 

"Forgive me for startling you.   You looked as if you could fly into the night.   A bright kite soaring toward the moon "  he spoke and she smiled softly at the words.   Her heart was already pounding within her breast.   The water was doing little to keep  her modest as it clung to the lightweight white gauze with abandon.   She hadn't been here in five years. . .  to the day.   Lifting her face to the voice, the words, she knew her  hands were already shaking. . . 
"Are you OK?"   The moon illuminated them with a crystal clarity, the shadows fleeing from the silvery sheen as his voice cut once more into her thoughts.
Surely he could see her now.   Her eyes the same color as the sky, her lips the ripeness of boysenberry wine.   His name stuck in her throat as she finally lifted her face to his completely.  A particularly respectable wave was on its way towards them.  The white green crest was only a few yards beyond as the depth of the tide lengthened with every licking of the sands

He noted the soft tremors of her hands, unsure but ever gracious.   He reached down and stripped off the shirt he was wearing.   It had certainly seen better days, the collar and cuffs worn and threadbare but dry.   His steps took him quickly to her side and pulling her, they moved gently towards the shore 
"C'mon. . .  this is not a good spot for swimming at night. . .   People have drowned  here. . .  y'know. . .  "  The last words were spoken quietly, with a hint that this was a man with experience in that area.   She nodded, broken from her reverie.  How sure of things he sounded, always in  control, always the one who knew what to do. 

She moved quickly, giving him a look at that last comment.   How could he. . .  mention that? Surely he knew?   He offered the shirt to her as they stood in the shallows the waves lapping at their ankles as he watched her, wondering what her thoughts were "The waters are pretty, aren't they?"   he said as he glanced toward the waves in the distance, then back to the woman before him.

"Pretty."  her voice was frail, thin and hollow, almost an echo of something else, but not quite "Very pretty."  Looking around like a lost puppy, she struggled to regain her bearings.   A particularly nasty piece of driftwood had found its way just under the surface of the sand, and she hit her toe against it.   Letting out a short cry, as she moved to take the shirt from him.

"Ouch that sounds like it hurt. . .  "  The yelp captured his attentions again. . .  the sound of her voiced replies something entirely different 
"Hurt?"  She looked at him curiously, almost like she had no knowledge of what he was talking about.   Her eyes were wide and seemed to consume him with their intensity.   Tiny shells rolled along the white sands along with other offerings from the sea's breast.  The ankles of the pair were used as markers for the continual caressing of the water against the endless shore.

His gaze drifted over her face.   The intensity of her eyes  threatened to consume him before he pulled his own gaze away from moving along the  soft curves of her body, the soaked gauze concealing little of her attributes from his  appraisal the waters swirling about their ankles ending the view.  He brought his glance  back upward.

She watched him look over her, yet there was none of the self-consciousness till he returned to her face.   It seemed that there was something about her face that she was not sure of, something that she was testing him with.
"There is a little patio just up the incline. . .  "  Pointing a hand in the direction from which he had come  "Would you  join me for a drink?"   She tried her voice again, this time it co-operated a little more, but in so doing, it took on a familiar tone that resonated deep in the core of anyone who had heard it  before.   It was one of those voices that once you hear. . .  you do not forget.   Her consents were distinct and she had a peculiar habit of holding on to the vowels so that  the listener was held just slightly off balance.

"Yes, thank you, I would very much enjoy that."  Pausing to look again upon the woman. . .  a curious mix of indecision and uncertainty painting his features  "You seem so familiar to me. . .  "
His admission hit her squarely, she wasn't ready for this.   She wasn't certain she would ever be ready.   Five years was a long time.   So much had happened since the accident.   What he saw before him now, was the work of several talented doctors and years of therapy.   She wasn't even sure he knew she had survived. . .    A soft shake of his dark head as he gently settled his hand against her elbow.

"Come. . .  "  He guided her from the oceanic caress and along the sand their steps finally leading them to the crest of the dune.   She looked back at him, she knew that she should say something, anything, but she found nothing came.   Only her eyes sank into his, her body hung with the dampness, her hands trembling. 
" I've a small spot here. . .  nothing fancy. . .  but comfortable. . .   he smiled openly.   A soft breath of relief escaped as she followed his lead.   His hand was on her elbow  and she felt she could feel every cell that came in contact with her own  "It looks  wonderful."  spoken softly
Looking back a moment, she paused to glance at the thundering swells.  The night  birds screamed their farewells as she relinquished herself back to his lead, leaving  behind the tempting dark waters.  A small deck jutted out from the house, the planks worn smooth by the wind-whipped sands. A pair of rattan chairs stood grouped around a worn table and potted plants in various stages of growth rested along the edges of the deck.  A pair of French doors adorned one edge, a single door opened to the house beyond.

"It's still wonderful."  Stepping onto the porch, she deftly missed a place in the step that had been broken for years and years.  She seemed to relax some, the place swooping her up in a veritable embrace.  The house itself followed the curve of the shore. . .  the deck opening onto the second  floor and the first trailing the slope of the land. 

Her word, 'still' created an unidentifiable question within his thoughts  "It is quiet and. . .  " Searching for the right word  ". . . thought-provoking. . . if you will. . . " 
"Yes, like the Old Man and the Sea."  she added with a quick smile and quoted, "Wan and waif,  sand and sea. . .  dwelt in solitude in the center of the land . . ."  The smile was for the first time, it was tentative, but it was a real smile.  She looked quickly away then, as if somehow she were two people, one warring with the other for control of the voice.  He couldn't help but smile again as he pulled one of the chairs out for her. 
"A well  placed comparison.  I've a bottle of red just inside the doorway. . . if you will permit me?"   . . . He offered her an  exaggerated bow and awaited her response.  "Call it inspiration."  She motioned to a well worn copy of the quoted material atop the table, the pages rustling now and then with the still insistent breeze. 

"If that muse should strike again, I would die a happy man."  He gave a soft laugh.
"By all means."  He didn't recognize me.  She breathed easier and began to settle into the current banter with more comfort of anonymity 
"You've read my book?"  he motioned to the copy on the table as well, a nod offered to her as he turned and moved to the doorway.  The thought nagging him the logic of his own mind prevailed and threatened to lock that piece away from memory forever if not allowed victory in this instance.  Such things were impossible he had dreamt of this for an unseemly time only to finally find reality again.  The cool of the hallway brought him back to the moment.  His fingers curled about the neck of the bottle.  Whoever this woman was, she intrigued him like no one had in years.  His steps lead him back to the porch.  Pausing to retrieve a pair of goblets from the rack just in the doorway, he moved back to the table and took the seat beside her.  His fingers worked free the seal and cork with a practiced ease.  The deep ruby of the liquor flowed into the glasses.

As his hand reached out, she noticed he still wore the ring.  Somehow that pleased her.  Why, she wasn't sure exactly.  Perhaps he just hadn't thought to remove it.  Perhaps it was just so  unthought about, he didn't even consider its existence for a moment.
The ring caught the moonlight, and she knew she was staring.  She couldn't help it.  The vision came back so immediate and so shockingly clear, that she was hard  pressed to breathe let alone look away.  Blissfully, his actions pulled his hand back away from her as she took the glass.  She forced her eyes back upwards and thanked him.

"Are you warm enough?"   The question was asked as he  placed the bottle atop the table, one glass extended to her.  She wasn't warm.  The wind was playing havoc with her damp dress, but what was she to say? 'Oh, I'll just go upstairs and change into something. . .  of course I know the way. . .  '  of course she couldn't say that.

"It looks fabulous.  The legs are perfectly formed."  She turned the glass from side to side to enjoy the richness.   "It is a bit chilly.  Perhaps the wine will warm."  She  tried a smile then, and found it even easier to produce this time than the last. 

"Hmm. . .  "  The sound escaping as he stood again and moved to the doorway "I've got  the thing for that. . . "  He disappeared into the dark of the house moving to the walk-in  closet of the master bedroom.  A woman's robe of deep terry pile hung upon the  peg behind the door, his hand closed over it and pulled it to his face for a brief  moment before turning and moving back to the porch.  He paused to offer the floor-length robe to her as he reappeared   "Perhaps this will take some of the chill off.  If you would like. . .  there is a changing room just within the  doorway.  You may use it, if you wish. . .  "

She brushed her fingers over the pages of the book as she waited.  How many hours  had she watched him at his typewriter? How many pages had she proofed.  She  couldn't count them.  Time was a strange thing.  He returned and she looked up.  Trying  to be so cool, she faltered.  The robe was being extended to her.  She wasn't sure if she was glad he had kept it, or angry he was offering it to a stranger. . .  her!  "Won't its owner mind?"  She managed to choke out as she closed her fingers over  the old favorite.  It was even more like coming home.  How could she do this?  She had  not counted on him being here.  She had just come to see. . .  to remember.  This was too much, too quickly.

He mused to himself about the action. . . chiding himself for it.  He recognized that he was offering a private memory to a stranger, something he had not even acknowledged to his friends during the past years.  His friends were secure in their  sureness that he had survived his grief. . . that only memories remained of the past and  her words drug him back to the moment  "She would have offered it herself had she been here. . .  "   The reply was spoken with a quiet certainty.
She bit her lip. . .  hard.  There it was.  He didn't know.  All these years of agony,  wondering if he knew, and just didn't care.  All the pain and struggle to survive, and he hadn't had a clue that she had survived. . . well. . . after a fashion.  Certainly she looked different.  Still, he had kept the robe, and the ring.  Her throat was dry but she couldn't let it go, not yet.

He settled into the chair again.  The moon's light draped itself over him as he curled his fingers about the stem of the goblet, raising it into the night with the words  "To those that are taken before their time, may they live on in the hearts and memories of those who love them.” He drank deeply of the offering.  The movements of the woman brought a new rise of whispers to his inner thoughts.
"I'll change. . .  "  She whispered as she moved past him directly to the changing room  without further instruction.  She had to be away from him for a moment. . .  she had to  think.

Some things were different.  Much was the same.  Her sculptures were still scattered about, even that awful one of the seagull in flight.  He had always loved it and she had thought it one of her worst pieces.  Tears stung her eyes as she buried her face in the thick terry.  It still smelled like she remembered.  She slipped out of the damp clothing, pausing to brush his shirt against her cheek.  Her stomach was churning. . .  his toast  still repeated themselves in her thoughts.
The moonlight reflected on the ruby in the ring.  He smiled as he remembered her  insistence that he should have it.  The gift box rested atop his manuscript when he had  declined to make the purchase that day.  The sparkle of the stone had matched the gleam in her eyes as he slid it into place.

She returned, wearing the robe.  She had always had a peculiar way of tying the belt to one side and looped on one end.  She liked the feeling that she could pull it once and be free of it if she wished.  He had always teased her about it.  She didn't even notice that she did it still.  Some things don't change. 
She moved out to meet him once more, the old familiarity was making her careless.  "It is a beautiful piece."  Murmured low, he could not see her just yet as she came up behind him.  Her voice sifted through the years like a warmed knife through butter.   He paused with glass in mid-air at her words.  His face turned to look upon her with a  tilt of his head.  The confusion was evident in his eyes as he took in the extraordinary woman,  the way the robe draped her as if it were made for her.  His eyes stopped at the loop of the belt, and  he could not keep his hand from dropping the glass.

"By all that is Holy. . .  "  She watched it fall as if in slow motion.  She hadn't known if she would tell him, if he had moved past the years. she had to know though.  She had loved him with all that  was in her.  She had come back from the edge of hell for this moment, and now. . .  now,  she did not know what to say. . .  or do. . . 
"Who are you?"  the question was almost whispered as he rose from the chair.  The wind  captured his blonde hair as he turned and the wine dripped slowly from the table to the deck.  Shattered glass littered the tabletop.  The other glass and bottle were resting casually beside the destruction, unknowingly. 
She lifted her hand then, she couldn't say anything.  The ring rested on her finger as she placed it atop his.   "It seemed that the wind knew their names.  Time was a funny thing, it took away, and  it gave back, . . .  "

The quote from his book drifted between them for a long moment.   She waited to see his reaction, how much he was capable of believing.
She had rehearsed a thousand scenarios.  She had had enough time for certain,  bound night and day to that bed, in the darkness of the bandages.  Nothing was  playing out like any scene she had been able to imagine.  He looked so pained, so vulnerable.  He wanted to believe, needed to believe.  The touch was enough to declare the truth of it and still his mind fought to gain control.  His eyes held her gaze for an eternity and as the winds entwined him in that undeniable scent of her he felt the battlements of control fall.  Tears blurred his vision as his hand curled to keep hers within it.  He did not understand yet, but he could not deny that which he knew to be true regardless of the logic. 

She felt the enclosing and the tears bled from her eyes.  She stepped closer, her breath shallow, and still no words would penetrate the thick emotion filled moment 
"Is there still room for a messy sculptress who can't cook in your life?"  The very  words she had asked him so long ago sprang to her rescue.  It was a night not unlike this. . .  when first they had made love. 

With a sweep of his arm he pulled her closer to himself  the crush immediate and  complete.  His was face streaked by the tears that had found their way down the curves of  his face  Either she was a demon, or his life had been returned inexplicably to him.  "I've missed you. . . "  The words barely escaped his constricted throat, her  question reassuring his brain that the woman was the same, regardless of the outer view.
She let go, finally.  Strength and resolve that she had clung to for the past years melted into his embrace.  She sobbed into his neck, to feel him against her again surpassed any dream, and all of the memories she had so clung to.  Kisses bathed his face, her fingers found his hair, and she laughed and cried and took a deep breath and began again.

His lips found hers, the softness of the kiss gave way to the passions residing beneath the façade.  His hands gently clasped her familiar form to his body.
She knew he would need answers, and they would come, but for now, it was too much just to be in his arms again, to feel his breath against her cheek and hear his  voice in her ear.  She had been through hell, and had been rewarded with . . . paradise.

"I love you. . .  "  she breathed into his mouth, a mantra that had sustained her and kept her alive.  The light of the moon glistened upon the waters in the distance, the silvery rays gleamed over the pair as they remained embraced on the deck overlooking the now still ocean.

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