One thousand words, she said smiling, and one thousand ways of showing my love for you. He crouched down on the rock in the balmy evening, the salt wind sticky on his skin, scanning the horizon, looking along the beach, staring out to sea. Looking, searching, straining for anything, anything at all, any tiny sign that she was still there.
This was what he did now, and had done every evening for the last five years. He didn’t know what else to do. In some way he knew it was hopeless and he had to let go but he couldn’t. Conversations, looks, notes, time spent together. Everything was examined and relived, checked and double checked in his memory for any sign, however small, that she’d had some kind of plan, that she’d known what she was doing, what was going to happen. But nothing. After five years he’d come up with absolutely nothing.
This had been their dream. A move to another country, living by the sea in a little cottage, renovating it, planting a garden, living off the land, working less at their full-time jobs, switching to online projects so they could have a better life together, building something real so that when they had children they would be able to offer them a good start in life.
He stared out to sea muttering the same four words he muttered every evening. “Come back to me. Come back to me. Come back to me.” He lived in hope, but his hope was dwindling with each passing day. At first there had been no more renovation on the cottage, no more work on the garden. But then he thought what if she came back. What if she’d just needed a break. It wouldn’t do if she came back and everything had gone to pot. So he continued on with things. Working every morning on his laptop and every afternoon on the house and garden. But every evening he spent on the rock, looking out to sea, waiting for her to come home to him.
The house and garden were looking good now. The little cottage had been whitewashed and the climbing rose he’d planted by the front door had grown and was in full bloom. Deepest pink, her favourite colour. Hours had been spent sanding, oiling and waxing the wooden floors, doors and windows of the cottage and he’d laid decking at the back and hung the hammock. The one she’d brought back from her travels. He’d built a floor to ceiling bookcase in her workroom, just like she’d always wanted. Her books were unpacked and had been lovingly arranged on the shelves.
Staring out into the salty evening mist, tears blurring his vision, he thought again about that day all those years ago. “I’m just going for a quick walk along the beach to clear my head,” she kissed him on the forehead and was gone. She’d been working really hard and had just that morning finished an important project. It was Friday and they had a beautiful weekend to look forward to. Lazy walks on the beach, picnics on clifftops, the weekend market to buy their groceries. He closed his eyes and held on to the thought of that last kiss, his heart breaking all over again.
Where was she? What had happened to her? Was she really gone? She had just vanished without trace. Of course he’d informed the authorities, had told her family and contacted her friends in case anyone had heard from her. He’d searched the online news and the local press, travelling the coast and stopping in every village with a picture of her. Had anyone seen her? Did anyone remember anything? Nothing. After a while the case was closed. Missing presumed dead.
Her family had flown out. They were in pieces. There’d been a service on the beach, but he could tell by the way that they were also looking out to sea and scanning the coastline, that they didn’t believe she was gone either. They would also live in hope until they knew something for certain. He felt responsible somehow, like it was his fault. If only he’d gone with her, looked after her better, been a better man.
It just didn’t make sense. She was a strong swimmer. Had been a county champion in her youth. Could surf and kayak. She loved the sea and had never feared it. But if no accident then it was even harder to contemplate. Could she really have taken her own life. But why? What was wrong? She had seemed so happy and her normal self. It was unfathomable,
He never got anywhere with either of these scenarios. Each was as unbelievable as the other. So after mulling them over and picking them apart for the thousandth time he went back to the one theory he could handle. She’d just needed a break. Any day now and she would be back. Walk back through the door and back into his life and everything could carry on as normal. Their life together in the little cottage by the sea. He could start breathing again, living, laughing, loving again.
He stood up from his crouched position on the rock, straightened himself and wiped away his stray tears. He took a deep breath and with one last look out to sea, he turned to go home. This was always the best part of his day as it was when the glimmer of hope was strongest. He always left the outside lamp on when he went out. He wanted the cottage to look warm and welcoming so that if she came back while he was out she would feel happy to be home.
He walked quickly along the path to the cottage, the excitement rising in his stomach, allowing himself to think of the possibility that she might be there. He got to the door and pushed it gently open, holding his breath. He peered around the door into the hallway. All was quiet. All was still. Nothing. Nothing.
This post was written in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/inspiration-images-1000-words/