'The Old Man of the Sea' by Maia Cornish

     I watch as he pulls his woollen hat over thin grey curls, and zips his jacket to his chin. He takes the dog lead from its hook by the door.
     “Come on Gyp,” he calls, but the dog is already waiting.  
     He waves as he passes the kitchen window. “Won’t be long,” he mouths. 
     I draw the curtains, and pace the floor.. I won’t rest until he is safely home again. That summer’s night, long ago, still haunts me: his silhouette against the moon as he watched Maiden’s Rock, waiting for her. And the dejected slump of his shoulders, his eyes cold and dark, as he turned back to me. She hadn’t come for him.  

     He never knew I had been there before him, whilst he kissed his children goodbye. The rising moon skimmed the waves and glinted across her hair as I pleaded with her; I needed him, his children needed him. I bargained for him. The necklace had been his courtship gift to me; rough wooden beads carved from driftwood and strung onto a piece of thin leather cut from the belt he wore. Eventually she accepted my trade and slid from the rock to snatch it from the waves. I watched her as she swam away without him. 
     Those beads had bought me time. Time to raise a family and grow old together, time to soften the sadness in his eyes and the stone in his heart. Surely she wouldn’t come for him now? Could she still want him, as much as I did?  

     I part the curtains as the moon dips slowly beneath the ocean’s curve. Gyp sits there alone, patiently watching the path to the harbour wall. I open the door and step out into the night.. Her collar and lead have gone. Only a silver thread, as fine as mermaid’s hair, hangs around her neck. And woven into it are thirty pieces of sea glass, one for every year she gave me. 

Comments

  1. A modern fairy tale. A bargain must always be kept. Love the understanding between the mermaid and the wife.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Denise. Love to hear that the reader also understands that the bargain has to be kept too.

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  2. This is an achingly beautiful and haunting story.

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