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The International Writers Magazine
: A Tale of Tortured Lovers

EBB AWAY
Lauren Almey

She’s not coming.
Bailey, get up, she isn’t coming.
Bailey’s muscles defied him, choosing instead to obey the pleading of his heart. Wait for her.

He had never felt so weary. The sea air seemed bitter and clammy to him, it clutched at the lining of his throat and made him cough. Sweat oozed from his crying pores. On this, Bailey’s shore, the sea was acid, the sand between his fingers was a hot irritant, the sky so blank it made his memory banks jealous. He racked them, searching for a painless, happy recollection, but overturned none. His head felt overcrowded just the same.
If only she were here, I would know freedom again.
He rolled his eyes left, then right, the retinas, irises, pupils all begging to behold the cause of this torment, the keeper of his soul, the destroyer of all he had cherished.
There! She’s walking right towards you, there!!

Bailey’s heart wrenched forward, attacking his ribs as she got closer. Her bare feet sank beneath the golden grains with each step, her calves revealed by rolled up jeans, slender, sunburnt. The sight of her thighs, her pink stomach, her pert chest, her smooth shoulders, her awkwardly long and imperfect, perfect neck, sent ripples of familiar delight through every part of Bailey’s body; each nerve ending zinged into life, sparking like electricity cables.

She was almost close enough to touch and hold forever. The face which had both haunted and comforted him for so long was unchanged and, to Bailey, as beautiful as ever. That nut-brown hair, wild from the climate and sea-spray. Her jaw still strong, her lips still with that unforced pout, her complexion reddened by the sun but still flawless, her cheekbones like mountains.
And her eyes. Oh, Bailey, her eyes. They were the thrones upon which the rest of her beauty sat. Shimmering, sparkling out at him across the sand, shaming the nearby waters with their colour and depth, framed by ebony eyelashes that curled like tiny petals on budding flowers.
Bailey’s insides groaned, his exterior seeming, as always, unworthy of what was before it. His old desire slapped him across the face, kicked him in the groin, pricked at him like the stem of a rose. There was a time and there were feelings that were long lost, and could not be recaptured.
Jenn. Jenn.

She spoke first, the sound of her voice washing over him and lathering his blood.
"Hi, Bailey. You look ill."
He forced a smile. "Can’t handle this heat like I used to. Guess I’ve been back in the city too long."
He kept his eyes on the horizon, afraid that seeing her smile back at him, even slightly, would make him scream, laugh, come, die, all at the same time. Bailey’s insides raged, refuelled, restarted the battle she was to blame for. His agony was her fault. His thorny heaven.
Jenn remained motionless, stoic, watching Bailey as he shifted from foot to foot. She didn’t blink. He couldn’t meet her gaze.
"How is it, being a city-boy again?"
"Same as it was before I guess. Just me and Dad. In the flat. It’s not that far from where we used to live, you know before…"
"Yeah, Mum said."
"So…what about you? Still pretty nice down here."
"I’d say it’s lost a lot of its appeal."

Bailey waited, exhaled a short breath, and tore his eyes from the monotony of the sand to take in the inimitability of Jenn’s face. When he spoke, his voice was barely more than a whisper.
"My dad…really misses your mum."
"Bailey…I called you because…I wish I had called you before…"
"No, I don’t. It’s better that we kept apart completely, like they wanted. I’m glad you didn’t call me before."
He struggled to show her a faint smile, which made her frown as if he’d raised his hand to her. She took a step closer, and Bailey visibly shrank. She made no further movements.
"I called now because Mum asked me to. She wanted us to meet up again and…for me to talk to you about something that…we have to talk about."
"They’re getting back together. Renewing the wedding vows in autumn, they want us to wear the same outfits as last time, suit, the blue dress for you, with those long earrings and your hair tied at your neck, just the same. As if the time in between never happened."

Bailey regurgitated his father’s words with the smile on his lips having slipped, so that now his dark face bore an awful blend of hysteria, irony, anger and disbelief. Tears of helplessness formed in Jenn’s eyes.
"How can they want that when I exist in the time in between?" He asked her in an accusatory hiss, "Dad sat me down last night, before you rang me out the blue and got me back down to this fucking place. I just listened to him without saying a thing and then went into the kitchen and made a sandwich. I made a fucking sandwich! Because that’s how I have to be, normal, normal remember, your mum’s favourite word, we have to be a normal family Jennifer, remember that!"
"Do you think I’m not angry?" She asked him in a strong, proud voice as she steeled her eyes against his useless rage. He laughed and turned away, back to kicking up dust-clouds from the floor. Jenn took two large strides forward clumsily and yanked Bailey round to face her.
"You hate how you reacted to the news? Well so do I, I wish I could have felt nothing and just nodded and made myself a snack but I didn’t, I had to sit there and lie to my own mother because she asked me, she asked me for the first time since you and your dad moved out how I felt about you, about me and you Bailey!"
His soul ripped as he reminded her, "There is no me and you, Jenn."

They remained silent for the time it took for a ship to enter their line of vision on the horizon and then make its slow exit. As the boat faded into the distance, Jenn spoke again.
"My mum talked for ages, she asked me lots of questions…She said it was our fault that her and your dad separated, but she wished they’d handled it better after they found out because we were just children after all...She said she couldn’t be happy, she’d tried but she couldn’t be without your dad. And…she didn’t see why she had to sacrifice anything."
"We never asked her to."
"Then she asked me if I still had inappropriate feelings towards you."
Bailey wasn’t religious, but he prayed then to whatever was responsible for his creation as he asked her, "And what did you say?"
"Like I said, I lied to her."
"You lied?"
"Yes. I said I didn’t mind at all if she went back to the man she loved, of course I didn’t, and that my feelings were nothing compared to...Well. I suppose my feelings can’t matter anymore anyway. I suppose they never should have. I’m in love with you Bailey, just like before, only it’ll be worse this time because now I have to pretend that I’m not, and if I couldn’t do it before how the hell am I going to now?"

Bailey wondered if anyone could say something that would both crush and rebuild him simultaneously like that ever again. His vision blurred and he realised she had sat next to him. Every sound she made was magnified because of his adoration of all she did.
He said quietly, "My dad told me that he understood that it seemed like we were in love, but we are both too young to know what love really is. Because they have the right, the authority to do that, don’t they, to limit feelings to what they can get their heads around! But I know what I feel, and I can’t help it Jenn."
The wrath in Bailey’s voice died. He forced himself to look at her again, and even managed to cup her cheek with his hand. He lost himself in the absurd blue of her eyes. Jenn remained stony-faced, but Bailey could feel her trembling with the effort of keeping herself together. He would know that tremble until the day he died.
"How dare they tell me I don’t love you. How dare they not let me." She whispered to him.
Kiss her. Just kiss her, before she is your sister again, on paper if not by blood, and in both your parents’ eyes.
But he didn’t. She touched his hand and gently leaned her forehead against his, cradling them together, impenetrable. The feel of his flesh against hers was unrivalled.
"What do we do now?" She asked.
He let out a heavy, frustrated, futile sigh. "Let’s just stay here until one of them comes looking. Let them find us like this. Prove that we’ve had to say goodbye all over again."
Seagulls flocked noisily overhead, harsh, obtrusive, inconsiderate. The pulsing sunrays were scalding and smug, and a trespassing little girl with obligatory bucket and spade was going over the lines Bailey had marked by foot in the bumps of the beach.
But Bailey didn’t notice any of these things as he sat with his locked arms around Jenn, the girl who was too close to him to touch and hold forever.
© Lauren Almey - September 2005
Lauren is a final year English/Media student at the University of Portsmouth

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