Awarded 1st prize in the Short Stories Unlimited spring-themed short story competition, 2022.
A copy of the anthology 'The Four Seasons Project' featuring a collection of 50 prize-winning short stories and poems may be purchased here.
Dry your tears, darling heart. The seasons are changing, but there is no need to weep. Spring will return again one day. Here is my cloak—imagine it enfolding you with the warmth of my embrace. I have stitched my heart inside its pocket for you. When springtime comes again one day, I shall return to you.
I have dreaded writing this chapter, my beloved. My heart aches already, from the inevitable winter I know we must soon endure. Would that we could have lived in the delightful spring forever. But alas, we cannot stop the winds of change and as we watch the last of the autumn leaves carpeting the ground in burnt amber hues, we brace ourselves for the bleak winter ahead.
We had known from the very beginning that our love had been a frivolous flight of fancy; creatures from two very different worlds.
Sailors would smash on
My jagged rock,
Lured by my siren's song;
It isn't the
Song of the siren
That tortures men
That's where your theory
Goes sadly wrong *
Sailor and siren: hopelessly attracted—tragically doomed. Even knowing this, we could not quell the desperation of our yearning – the intensity of our passion, the way our slippery bodies ached with desire for one another. And so, we met ~ day after day, night after night ~ snatching glorious moments of sun-drenched, moonlit kisses. Stolen moments suspended in bliss, bittersweet in their transience. Winter would soon arrive and with it, desolation. You would inevitably return to your life…to your wife…and I would return to my watery tomb, cold and empty.
I shall not digress into a diatribe on the immorality of my conduct with you, my darling, for it shames me so. Although yours was but a marriage of convenience, it was folly for me to have been so enamoured with one who was not mine to have. I never intended to become so entwined, so helplessly entangled in your fishing net (not entirely against my will, I might add). Sometimes I wonder whose song had lured whom in our bittersweet tale. Perhaps we were serenading each other in a tragic duet.
I need not be admonished for my sins. My self-flagellation has left raw wounds that sting with every lick of salt from the cruel, chastising sea. I fear my softness will be forever marred by the knotted scar tissue branding me ugly as my sin. And when you are gone, my darling, I will lovingly caress the textured branches of those knots, thinking of you—dreaming of you.
Compulsion has stained me
I'm nervously cradling our young love
Without known limits love
Like a butterfly cupped in my hands
I peek in to see beauty trapped
Confined it flutters **
I am undergoing a metamorphosis, my beloved. I know you would never have dreamed of asking me to leave behind the glimmering, emerald, live-giving enchantment of the sea. Please know that I do this with all my heart. I would sacrifice all for you, my love.
And so, I wait…and wait…and wait for your return. Many springs and summers pass. Like the last dying embers of a once-raging fire, my impatience and wistfulness eventually dwindle to despondency and finally, reluctant acceptance. You become an echo of my dreams and I slowly begin to live again, instead of chasing shadows of the past.
And yet—one day when the frost begins to thaw and I notice the first buds of springtime begin to bloom once more, my heart cannot help but flutter from its cocoon. My hopeful eyes scan the horizon for your return. I wonder whether you will recognise me. I am much changed.
Time has ravaged me: battle-weary from all I have endured in the cold winter of your absence. I imagine you will also return much changed. Will the two of us find solace in one another once more? I cannot be certain. Too much has passed. And yet…and yet…I do not lose hope, for we are drawn to each other like twin flames, encircling one another through life, death and beyond. Would you like to know a secret, my luminous one? We are immortal.
One day, as I am reading by my window, the sun flickers across the open page of my book as a shadow emerges from the doorway. It is you. You have returned. My heart catches in my throat as my pulse quickens in a giddy rush. I have dreamed of this moment for an eternity—yet now that you are finally here, I am lost for words.
I gaze up bashfully in wonder. How does one even attempt to begin a trillion-piece puzzle? There are so many gaps and scattered fragments from the myriad of joys and sorrows that have passed. A memory reel flashes through my mind, like a glitchy black and white cinema projection, images fluttering in hazy motion…fffrrrrrrrrr…fffrrrrrrrrr…
My reverie dissolves into the present as you hand me a sprig of pretty pink cherry blossoms that had been growing wild down by the lake. Sakura—like the ones you had courted me with in the spring of our youth. Your outstretched arm beckons me as you gently take my hand in yours. May I have this dance? Yes, my beloved, my heart whispers to yours. The seasons have come full circle. Now dance me to the end of love.
* Lyrics from “Mermaid Song” (“Aspects of Love”, Andrew Lloyd Webber);
** Lyrics from “Too Late” (No Doubt)
The closing line in this piece references the beautiful Leonard Cohen song of the same title