Challenge #27 - No Need to Say Goodbye

Inspired by the song "The Call" by Regina Spektor.

Description: Goodbyes are the hardest. Unfortunately for our protagonists, they will have to bid each other adieu and it is unlikely that they will ever see each other again.

Requirements:
1) An actual parting between the protagonists -- whether they come back together or not is up to you. (Read the second stipulation under "Optional".)
2) A creative way of saying goodbye without actually saying it (read the second stipulation under "No" for details)
3) The reason for the parting has to be WILLING -- this means that nothing is forcing one to leave the other. It must be out of the character's own volition.
4) Cell phones must make several appearances.
5) Setting must begin in the Fall/Autumn season

Optional:
- Both are leaving for different things, instead of one leaving the other behind.
- They are reunited. If you choose to do this, however, they must be separated for at least a year. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder, anyone?)
- Cell phones are a key part of the story.

No:
- Airport/bus terminal goodbye scenes
- actual usage of the word "goodbye" or any of its variations in any languages (this includes "see you later", "'bye", "farewell", "arrivederci", "adios", "hasta la vista", "adieu", "aloha", "au revoir", "auf wiedersehen", "adeus", "paalam".. whatever else you think of) by either protagonist in dialogue
- text messaging or chatting online. As much as I love to do both, I hate seeing it in fiction.

A/N: I decided to ignore the cellphone criteria, as I ended up writing this in an era where cellphones, (or "mobiles" as I am more used to calling them,) didn't exist. Hwy this happened I am not entirely sure, but hey, the result covers the rest of the challenge.

...

She should have known better.

That was the thought that echoed through her head as she stood upon the hilltop, the dry-gold grass whispering against her calves as she looked out to the bay.

In a few minutes, the sun would begin to set behind her, and she would be able to see the orange-gold and pinks reflected in the clouds and in the deep waters of the eastern beach. She knew for a fact that it would be beautiful- she had been coming to this spot to watch the sunset since she was a child, and it never ceased to amaze her just how spectacular it was every time. It never failed her.

Unlike some people.

It was then that she heard him behind her, clumsy feet shuffling through the grass as he tripped over a hidden rock or three, swearing under his breath as he stubbed his toe.

Typical city-born seaman. She had yet to meet one who could travel gracefully outside of their normal environs, and this man was bad enough on a street, let alone up here where the only track was one she had worn herself.

The wind picked up a little, and she wrapped her arms around herself, shivering slightly in the sudden cold.

A heavy overcoat suddenly dropped about her shoulders, though its owner then stepped back a little way, instead of folding her into his arms like he would have a bare three days ago, when she found out that he was going to leave her to go on a voyage to exotic climes that might take more than a year- his captain might have mentioned Cape Town and Bombay and Madagascar, but all she had overheard as she poured his beer was "away, far, far away".

The overcoat warmed her considerably, otherwise she might have considered dropping it on the ground just to spite him. Instead she stared out at the horizon, lips compressed as she did her best to ignore the man standing a step behind her to her left.

Part of her was appalled at her behaviour, but that was the part that had told her she was foolish to get involved with him in the first place. "Him" being Alastor McKinsley, known to his crewmates as Singin' McKinsley, for his knowledge of the old tunes and his tendency to display such knowledge for the entertainment of himself and others whilst he worked was legendary aboard his ship the Desdemona.

It was well-known fact that given a choice between the cold sea and a warm woman, the sea won out every time for those that chose to make their lives aboard ship, but still, she had hoped that this time, commonsense would lose to romance, and she would have Alastor McKinsley to herself forever.

But it was not to be. Tomorrow he would set sail, and she would not see him again for a long time, if at all- whilst she knew he, unlike many of his crewmates could swim, this skill would do him little good if he were washed overboard in a typhoon, or if he caught some tropical disease from drinking bad water.

"Will y'ever forgive me Kathleen?" he asked suddenly, the light baritone of his voice uncharacteristically nervous.

Kathleen closed her eyes for a moment, forcing herself to hold back the tears that she could feel building. She refused to speak, knowing her voice would come out in a despicable quaver, and she hated to let him see her moments of weakness.

Oblivious of her inner turmoil, he assumed she was giving him the silent treatment and sighed.

"I said it before, and I say it again, m'sorry I have t'go. If I 'ad a choice in the matter I'd stay 'ere or take y'with me, but fact is, my berth on the Desdemona is about as good as I'd ever find. Captain Ryan is a good man, and he's no great risk taker with his crew's life, not like some of the crazed devils that think they can outsail hurricanes and suchlike. And the truth is..." he swallowed. "The truth is..." he trailed off, and muttered something that sounded like a curse.

I'll forgive you Alastor. Truly. It's just that my heart's a little sore at you for not telling me, though my head understands why you have to go, Kathleen thought without taking her eyes from the horizon. The colours were just beginning to shift, and she could tell that this one was going to be a particularly gorgeous one.

If she were a superstitious type, she might think it was the spirits' way of trying to make it up to her, trying to give her a glimmer of happiness that might make its way to the shadows where her soul was currently hiding.

Why was it that she could not tell him that? She felt as though she had suddenly turned to stone, her granite tongue too heavy to lift to say her farewell to the man who had been her lover for a good four months, whilst the winter seas had been too rough for any but the more insane pirates and merchant vessels that thought profit was more important than certainty.

With a seemingly herculean effort, she dragged her eyes from the clouds on the horizon to look deeply into the clouds in his eyes, those storm-grey eyes that had entranced her from the first moment of her acquaintance with him. Those storm-grey eyes that had promised her fun, mischief and good times for all.

His eyes had never promised to stay. She should have known better than to hope that he might.

It was as she recognised this that the tears finally broke through her defenses, and with a gasping sob she threw herself into his arms, hating herself for her weakness, but loving the warmth and security that he offered as he held her gently, rubbing soothing circles into her back as he buried his nose in her curly hair, not speaking, but still conveying that it was alright, he didn't think less of her for dampening his shirt, and that she would be able to get through this.

"D-don't you forget me Alastor McKinsley," she said finally, when the tears had slowed to a mere trickle. "Don't forget me when you're off in distant places with the pretty island women where the sun shines all the time and the fruit grows on every tree. Don't you dare forget me, after..."

He placed his finger over her lips to quiet her, and cupped her chin to make her look into his eyes.

"I won't ferget y'Katie. T'be honest I'm more worried about y'fergettin' me. I've seen the way the local lads look at ye, an' it ain't encouragin' as to my chances of seein' you again as a free woman. But I want to see ye happy, an' I wouldn't begrudge y'a bit for movin' on once I'm over the horizon. That said..." he hesitated, and Kathleen saw him look past her, out towards the ocean.

Look at me, not your mistress! She almost wanted to shout, but she knew how ludicrous such an exclamation would sound, and so held her tongue as he licked his lips, as though preparing himself to say something to her.

What on earth could he want to say to her that he couldn't have said to her earlier?

"Would you ever wish to... marry me when I come back?"

Kathleen froze for a moment, and then began to laugh hysterically.

"Kathleen?" Alastor sounded worried, as her laughter sounded broken, a gallows laugh that ended finally with coughs and hiccoughs, whilst her eyes shone far too brightly.

"I won't promise to wait for you Alastor McKinsley," she said suddenly, in a much firmer voice than before. "I won't promise because I don't know what's around the corner. Lord knows your bairn might be in need of shelter when it's born, and if that's the case, then I cannot make any promises.

I will do my best though," Kathleen smiled wryly at Alastor's flabberghasted features. "I was going to tell you a little later, when I was far enough along that a miscarriage is unlikely, but I don't want you coming back to me assuming that some other man has managed to get into my skirts so soon after you."

He spluttered a little, and she smiled at him before turning to catch the sunset in its full glory. She had been right. This one was magnificent, as though liquid gold had been splashed across the sky and sea, on top of scarlet silk with a border of black to signify the impending darkness.

She sighed a little, and Alastor held her closer, his hands still shaking a little at her revelation.

"I will be alright Alastor. I'm a grown woman and I can look after myself. When the baby comes, I will stay at my sister's- she already promised to take me in, when I told her what had come to pass."

She turned and smiled at him, then kissed him on the cheek.

"It will take some effort, but whether you come back for me or no, I will survive, and with enough time I will move on..." she paused for a moment, and then looked him dead in the eyes.

"I'll give you a year, Alastor. Your bairn will be born by then, and your ship should have at least turned her nose for home. If I receive no word after a year and a day, then I will consider you dead to me, whether you've drowned or left me for some island doxie, I will not care for the difference, I shall consider you dead to me in either case."

Was that surprise on his face, that she was laying down the rules so vehemently?

She supposed she could forgive him that, for she had bowed often enough to his whims in the past...

But on this matter, she would stand firm.

He seemed to sense this, for he merely nodded, and half-smiled. "I'll come back for ye. Kathleen, I promise."

"Don't make me a promise that God might not keep for you. If you drown in some storm your promise will be worth nothing to me."

He laughed humourlessly. "I just had to get meself tangled with a cynical hellion, didn't I? Fine then. I promise to do my best to return to ye."

She smiled at him, relieved he understood, or at least was trying to understand.

"Well in that case, yes. I will marry you if you return, because every man who does his best deserves just reward."

He laughed again, but this time it was more genuine, and she could feel an answering smile growing on her face as he leant down to kiss her, holding her so tightly that for a moment she had to lean back a little so that her ribs were not entirely constricted.

After a long moment he released her, and drew a silver ring from his pocket which he slid onto her finger.

They both stared at the ring for a long moment, the silver glinting even in the failing light, as she twined her fingers about his.

She kissed him for one last time, then jerked her head towards the track she had worn. "You'd best be going- you have an early start," she whispered, eyes lowered.

"So long as y'give me one last smile t'remember ye by."

Despite herself she laughed a little at that, and smiled at him, her eyes almost glowing as though they had stolen the last rays of the sunset.

With a final grasping of her hands, Alastor kissed her, and then left, stumbling down the track in the almost-darkness, spoiling his exit as he slipped over and landed on his side.

He leapt to his feet with a cry of "I'm alright, never ye worry Katie! This year'll seem long without ye, but just y'wait, I'll be back in no time at all!"

"Be off with you then! Before I change my mind!" she yelled back, laughing as he waved cheerily at her and then disappeared down the track.

Kathleen smiled to herself snuggling down into the large overcoat he had-

Drat that man! She would have to chase him down or he'd have no coat to protect him from the freezing seabreezes.

She picked up her skirts and smiled at the stars that were beginning to come out. If she hurried, she could catch him at the bottom, as she knew the way far better than he, even in darkness.

And to think she had been worried he would leave without a word.

She should have known better.

A/N: This is almost definitely the sappiest thing I've ever written. And people seem to like it. I'm more surprised than I possibly should be.