Two If By Sea
By Simply Shelby
He sees her almost every day.
She stands on the beach, her bare feet halfway buried in the shifting sand and her head tilted curiously to the side. Two barrettes keep her raven hair away from her face and the lavender printed dress she wears flutters above her knees. She smiles as she recognizes the boat and shouts toward the small cottage that serves as the lighthouse keeper's home. Not waiting for her mother to appear at the door, she hikes up her paisley dress and scrambles down the cliff like a seasoned mountain goat.
At the dock, she gives his father a cheery, "Hullo!" as he tosses her the rope and she ties the boat to the dock. He stares unabashedly and unblinkingly at the girl, unaware of anything but her whimsical presence, until his father shoves his shoulder and grunts, "Quit skylarking and get to work."
He picks up one of the wooden supply crates that will sustain the girl and her family for the week. His eyes widen as the girl holds out her arms to help him carry the crate, but he turns suddenly and almost topples off the edge of the boat. Steady hands help him regain his balance and he nods thankfully to the woman he recognizes as the girl's mother as she takes the crate out of his hands and sets it safely on the dock. The girl puts out her hands again, insistently, and he hesitates to let her carry what is heavy for him.
"Joseph!" his father's gruff voice chastises in a way that makes his face flush, "Let the girl help."
She smiles encouragingly, so he has no choice but to hand her a crate, which, surprisingly, she handles well enough. He returns her smile with a shy one of his own when she turns around to receive another crate. The four of them finish unloading quickly and his father reaches to untie the rope.
"Would you like to stay for tea?" the girl's mother asks. He gazes at her now. Her dark hair is swept up in a fashion much like his own mother's used to be and flour is brushed across her face and sprinkled on her apron along with other stains.
He starts to nod in response, but the weight of his father's strong hands settles on his shoulders and his father declines politely. "I'm sorry, but we have other work to attend to before sunset."
She nods understandingly, "Of course. Fair winds and following seas."
They are almost to the harbor and the boy's thoughts are still uncollected. His father glances over from the wheel at the boy and correctly assesses what the faraway look in his stormy grey-blue eyes means. The boy's sea-chapped lips are pursed, his tow-head resting on his palm. Hearing his father chuckling softly, the boy surfaces from his thoughts and scowls at the man.
"If your mother were 'ere," the man declared with amusement, "she'd say you're as daft as I was."
Joseph shakes his head and, not bothering to roll his eyes, turns his gaze back toward the lighthouse island and sighs. Perhaps he will see the girl tomorrow.
He does not see the girl the next day. Nor the day after. He does not see the girl again for almost a week.
The schoolhouse teacher keeps him busy with schoolwork while his father keeps him busy with other work. They take two full days to deliver supplies up the coast and another day and an half taking shelter from a storm in a little-known cave. They return to the village in time for the week-end and Joseph finds time to organise a slap-dash neighborhood football tourney.
Jogging home from a win, ball weaving in and out of his feet over the cobblestone, he catches sight of the girl hurrying down the road. She is with her mother, her curiously dark hair tucked under a non-descript scarf and her face his turned downward.
Smiling widely, he waves his hand and goes to call her name, only to remember he doesn't know it. He asks his father, later at supper, if he knew the girl's name. "Kiera," he says, and the dark name lilts lightly, "The lass's name be Kiera."
That night, resting on his bed with his eyes fixed on the stars outside, he tastes the word Kiera on his tongue. It brings spices of intrigue and interests, seasoned with a hint of uncertainty.
The next day, as he and his father are loading the boat, he feels people's stares burn the back of his neck. He wishes he could refuse to flush at the attention, but he has always kept to himself for the most part and has never been too outgoing. Wondering what he could have done to warrant this much notice, he turns questioning eyes to his father.
When he answers, his father's voice is soft and cautious. "They'll 've known we'd delivered supplies to the island. And they'll 've seen you wave t'er yesterday," he explained, "You'll 've noticed 'er hair; the colour I mean?"
It wasn't quite a question, but Joseph answered anyways. "Yes, Dat."
"People are always wary of what's different from them." Were his father's soft words. "And they don't take too kindly to those that do."
The words were warning, Joseph decided, not forbidding and even a bit encouraging. As stubborn as his father was, his morals and decisions were unmoving--even in light of the village's disapproval. Joseph resolved to take a page from his father's book and hold to his decision.
He would see the girl again.
AN: This is the beginning of a short story I've had in mind for awhile. Most of the lighthouse and its geography are based upon Battery Point Lighthouse. For more information, see my profile.