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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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