Melisandre rolled up the driveway, and parked her clunky old Mercedes under the shade of a tall eucalypt. Stepping out of the car she gratefully breathed in the wonderful ocean air, delighted to finally be home at last. It was all so perfect, the sun was shining but not too fiercely, the air was alive with the sound of the crashing waves. And a cool, gentle breeze bathed her in the glorious fresh seaside air. At last she had made it, this was home now.
Mel reflected that she had worked so hard for this, had endured so much turmoil and pain to get here. But this was her time now, her chance to start again. To leave the pain of the past behind and begin again with a blank canvas. To build a new life in whatever form she cared to invent.
Melisandre’s inheritance of the cottage had taken her entirely by surprise, Mel barely knew her uncle Alexandru. Indeed she hadn’t seen the dear old merchant mariner, since she was a child. She remembered the man to be a jovial enough fellow, but also rather melancholic and oddly secretive. But also wonderfully mysterious, and to her childhood imagination almost magical.
She remembered there being a certain depth to Alexandru, as though he was keeping the most beguiling secrets. But a kind of distance and awkwardness also, as if he had never quite found a way to fit into the world. Her most vivid and enduring memory of Uncle Alexandru, was when he would speak animatedly of his travels to distant and exotic lands.
He had spent practically his entire life as a merchant mariner, and loved to talk about the innumerable countries he had visited on his adventures. Sometimes he would talk longingly of the ocean, as though his brief sojourns on dry land were an intolerable separation from his one true love.
There was a gentle kindness to Alexandru, but even as a child Melisandre always sensed a profound sadness as well. Mel always wondered if the poor old soul had seen more of the world and its ways, than was good for him. For there are horrors in the world as well as wonders and delights, Mel understood that now.
Alexandru’s funeral had been a rather melancholy affair, there was no family other than her to wish him well on his final voyage. And the only other attendees were acquaintances rather than friends. Perhaps in the end, his only real friend was the ocean. His one and only true love. The thought was rather sad but also wonderfully romantic.
‘Just like you Uncle Alex.’
Mel held her hat down to prevent it flapping away in the breeze, and took in her surroundings. Alexandru’s little old bluestone cottage sat at the top of Wake’s Peak, a high promontory overlooking the seaside city of Whalers rest.
On the city side of the Hartford promontory were the gentle, harbored swimming beaches that attracted the annual tourism trade. But on this side was the open ocean, crashing relentlessly at the ever eroding cliffs.
There were beaches here too, between the ancient, time worn and ocean battered cliffs. Generally proving too difficult to attain, and too far removed from the amenities for casual visitors. The ocean beaches were usually only frequented by locals, seeking respite from the perennial crowds of tourists.
Melisandre had saved enough to quit her job at the publishers, and strike out on her own as an independent editor. Work as a freelance editor was coming in steadily, a fraction too steadily in fact, and she was confident that she could live comfortably the way things were. Most of the work she was getting was academic, and she had built up enough of a network of contacts in academia to feel secure about her future.
There would be a steady stream of work from the universities and professional journals to keep her working indefinitely. Her real concern was that the workload would become too much, and that she’d have to reach out for help. But, too much work coming in was something of a quality problem.
Mel felt safe. She felt strong and finally in control of her own destiny, no longer at the mercy of misfortune. And this place, moving here to Wake’s Peak cottage. That helped her sense of freedom immensely, this was her opportunity to begin again.
Mel’s final breakup with her partner Lee, almost a year to the day since the miscarriage had been unspeakably painful. Losing the baby had been the final death knell for their already turbulent relationship. The excruciating loss had torn them apart as individuals, but neither of them could see at the time that it was tearing them apart as a couple as well. Not until it was too late.
The IVF process had been long and difficult, there were a multitude of failed attempts before Lee had finally fallen pregnant successfully. Miscarriage early on was hard enough, but getting so close to full term….
It had been such a joyous and hopeful time for them, the world seemed full of opportunity and promise. Such wonderful plans they had for their little family. Mel remembered the terrible day like it was yesterday. Lee had called her at work in tears, inconsolable with anguish.
Mel recalled rushing to the ultrasound clinic to find out what was wrong. There was no heartbeat, that’s what was wrong.
She was a girl, their little girl.
And her precious heart had simply stopped.
The news had drained the life from her in an instant. She had taken Lee straight to their doctor from the ultrasound clinic to find out what do next. Both of them so filled to the brim with agony, that their entire reality became an ocean of suffering and grief.
The doctor couldn’t provide any answers why, there were no answers why. Sometimes they simply don’t make it. There was nothing to be done, the dream was over. Neither of them had the strength left to go through the whole process again, and the journey so far had left them both broke.
The doctor had prescribed some drug or other to induce labor, but for whatever reason it didn’t work. Lee endured as best she could, but two days later she simply couldn’t take it anymore. Mel had driven them to the hospital at ten o’clock in the evening to see someone, about the moribund fetus that lingered stubbornly in Lee’s womb.
Mel could remember the doctor as clear as a bell. She had been wonderful, so kind and so gentle. Mel would never forget her compassion for as long as she lived.
The next day they were back at the hospital for the procedure. D and E. Dilation and evacuation. A horrible, brutal term. Anything would be better than those dreadful words.
The months that followed had been horrible, Lee was simply inconsolable with despair. She had fallen into a pit of depression and of anger and grief, and she was fast drowning in her fathomless sorrow. And there wasn’t a thing Mel could do to help her, she was just too far beyond her reach.
But the drinking, it was the drinking that had made it catastrophic. Lee was strong, she wasn’t at fault for seeking oblivion. She had fallen hard and she simply couldn’t get back up again. She couldn’t bear to be sober with her grief.
In the end it had destroyed them, loss and alcohol had destroyed them. Torn the hearts right out of them as individuals, and torn the heart out of their relationship too.
Mel had occasionally edited horror novels when she worked for the publishing house, she didn’t understand why people read them. Wasn’t life horrifying enough on its own?
But that was all in the past, Mel’s future lay ahead of her. She was young, strong and ready for the future. And it started here and now at Wake’s Peak cottage.
She brought in the boxes of necessities she had packed with her in car, and went to work setting up the kitchen. Coffee was the priority at the moment, and she soon had the kettle singing. And before long, she heard the beeping of the reversing removal truck, and the sound of truck tires crunching on the gravel of her driveway.
The movers worked quickly and efficiently, and with Mel directed the incoming furniture and boxes, everything was in its place and they were on their way in less than an hour. Mel had decided to keep most of the precious few items of furniture, which Alexandru had left behind him. A sturdy old kitchen table with six matching chairs, a beautiful old sideboard and a threadbare but gorgeous old arm, chair which she intended to have reupholstered.
Beyond these simple furnishings, he had left next to nothing behind him. His life must have been Spartan indeed. The clothes he stood up in, the chair in which he took his ease and the bed in which he slept represented the entirety of his worldly goods. That and Wake’s Peak cottage.
The only piece of furniture that Mel had discarded was Alexandru’s old bed. This she had replaced with the biggest and most luxurious bed she could justify spending money on. This, as far as Mel was concerned was the most important piece of furniture in the house, and the center of her life.
Mel had fallen into the practice of rising early and sitting up in bed for an hour or so before work, writing whatever came to her mind. She found the practice very meditative and grounding, and before long she found herself dwelling longer and longer at a stretch.
Eventually the practice had become her passion, to the point where she had produced a modest collection of novels and short stories. Mel fully intended to submit several for publication when they were complete, but that was still some time off yet.
For now Melisandre’s mind was occupied by the more immediate concerns of setting herself up in her new home.
The solicitor, Linda Patterson had been tremendously helpful in helping her settle Alexandru’s affairs. There were various legalities associated with the transfer of the property and the execution of his will, and Linda had been genuinely compassionate to the old fellow’s memory.
It hadn’t really struck Mel until after her last meeting with Linda, that the solicitor had been a little more curious than she would have expected. In fact Mel was fairly sure that Linda was interested in more than a professional relationship. Maybe she was just being friendly, but Mel got the distinct impression that there was more to it than that.
And there was a spark there for sure, an easy rapport and a distinct sense of familiarity. And Linda was cute, thirty something, smart and infectiously animated and cheerful. Her tanned face was bright and obviously much accustomed to laughter, and she was athletic in build, her broad shoulders suggesting a love of swimming.
And she was generously proportioned in a way that some might describe, as maybe a little overweight. But which suggested to Mel, that here was a woman who loved life and who wasn’t prepared to sacrifice enjoyment, in favor of a thin waist and flat belly. And that kind of attitude to life was just fine with Mel, and Linda’s voluptuous figure all the finer.
But even if she was interested, Melisandre wasn’t ready to go there quite yet. She needed a little time to find her bearings and get settled in. And she wanted to take the time to get to know the people of Whaler’s Rest, before getting involved with anyone.
And she definitely needed to build some trust, before revealing that she was intersex to anyone. But Mel put these thoughts from her mind, resolving not to dwell upon such matters until she felt comfortable enough.
Linda had gone over the will with her pretty thoroughly, and Mel ultimately found herself the recipient of a surprisingly large sum of money. In addition to the cottage, and also a rather cryptic letter form Alexandru.
The content was rambling and oddly mysterious, old Alexandru wrote rather vividly of the fathomless mysteries of the sea. Speaking obliquely of the secret hazards of the ocean, suggesting rather vaguely that there were influences beyond the ebb and flow of the tides.
The old mariners mind was apparently haunted by kraken and mermaids, and all manner of preternatural creatures and entities. And haunted also by mysterious and unspeakably ancient submerged cities, which existed hidden from the view of mortal eyes.
Mel couldn’t decide whether it was the onset of dementia, or simply the romantic meanderings of a lonely, landlocked old mariner. Ultimately she chose to believe that it was sentimentality rather than intellectual decay, inclined as she was to think fondly of her Uncle.
Putting such speculation aside, Melisandre spent the rest of the day unpacking her belongings and getting accustomed to the old cottage. She had hired local cleaners and a handyman to give the place a thorough going over, and they appeared to have done a fantastic job. Everything was in good order and spotlessly clean, the lights were on and she had hot running water.
Mel unpacked all of her clothing first, and set up her kitchen before establishing her work space. There was a spare room with plenty of light and a wonderful view of the ocean, which would serve admirably as her office. She had arranged for the telecommunications company to come out and bring the place into the modern age. And everything seemed to be in perfect order, she was connected to the world.
Mel moved a few items of furniture from one place to another, sometimes moving them back again. But was ultimately satisfied that everything was in its place.
There were of course a number of boxes containing the sundries and miscellanea of life, and far too many books. But she had directed those to the garage, which aside from a useful selection of tools, was solely occupied by Alexandru’s bicycle. Apparently his sole method of transport. There they could stay until she could deal with them at her leisure. There were far too many memories contained in those boxes to deal with yet.
The afternoon was drawing on but evening was still some time away, the bulk of the work was done and everything had gone wonderfully smoothly. Mel felt at a bit of a loose end, she had expected problems but there simply hadn’t been any. Everything was perfect.
Eventually Melisandre decided to visit one of the secluded little beaches, at the bottom of the cliffs. So changing into her bathing suit and grabbing a towel, Mel set off on the short trek to the ocean.
Before long she was walking a narrow path through the dense brush and tall grass through which the path was cut. Mel couldn’t imagine that the path was created by human foot traffic, it was too far removed from any roads or parking spots.
Mel speculated that it was created naturally by rain and erosion, and by the creatures which made their home amongst the undergrowth. It was a pleasant walk to the beach, although she did find herself scrambling to maintain her balance once or twice when the descent became steep.
After maybe ten minutes of walking, Mel emerged onto a gorgeous little secluded beach. This Isolated little stretch of coastline was created by a natural shelf, bordered on each side by insurmountable cliffs. Soft warm sand stretched from the cliffs and disappeared into the ocean, blanketing most of the area save for rocks that had broken free of the cliffs.
There were several natural sandy rock pools here and there, all were remarkably clear and free of seaweed and kelp. The inviting little tidal pools appeared to be home only to little silver fish, which darted about in small schools. Temporarily imprisoned by the receding ocean.
Mel checked her watch and realized that she would have only an hour or two, before the tiny creatures were released once again by the rising tide. She was not aware of the presence of the girl for some time, not until she spoke.
Mel started in fright and searched about in confusion until she located the source of the voice. She held her hand to her racing heart and laughingly replied.
“Oh my god….”
“….you startled me.”
The girl emerged from her resting place and swum towards Mel with remarkable agility and grace. Her extraordinarily long raven hair streaming along behind her, and fanning out like sea grass as she came to a stop, and treaded water at the edge of the pool.
“Would you like to join me Melisandre…?”
“How do you know my name…?”
“Alexandru.” The girl replied simply.
The reply put Mel a little more at her ease. She had not expected to find anyone else on the hidden beach, let alone someone who knew her name. It was more than a little unsettling at first but she soon regained her balance.
“You knew my grandfather?”
“He was our friend….”
“….he’d come and talk to us sometimes.”
Eventually Mel realized that the girl was completely nude. Her lithe and powerful body was evidently much accustomed to swimming, as evidenced by her muscular thighs and broad powerful shoulders.
“Us…?” Mel asked searching the beach for others.
“My sisters Seraphina and Ariana and I….”
“….my names Chloe” the girl added.
The girl possessed an easy and captivating charm and allure, an inviting warmth that Mel found profoundly engaging. In particular there was a lyricism to her voice, a kind of musicality that Mel found wonderfully engaging and energizing. The feeling was quite overwhelming and Mel found herself entirely disarmed by the stranger’s charisma.
“Are your sisters here too…?”
“No, there both at home.”
She was impossibly gorgeous and Mel found herself obliged to prevent herself from staring, and to disguise the flush of fascination that came unbidden to her cheeks.
The girl chuckled at Mel’s obvious self consciousness.
“It’s just you and me and the little fish….”
“….why don’t you join me?” the girl continued as she swum about in the pool.
“The water’s glorious” she cooed “warmed by the sun all afternoon.”
Feeling a little awkward at the girl’s nudity, Mel averted her eyes under pretext of searching the area.
“….I’ll leave my things with yours, where are they?” Mel asked.
“Don’t have anything….” the girl chuckled again.
“….just me in my skin.”
Mel found Chloe’s joyous abandon remarkably infectious, and she soon found herself laughing and smiling in response to her obvious pleasure.
“What are you waiting for….? Come in and join me.”
Melisandre found her initial fright entirely banished by the sweet lyrical sound of Chloe’s voice. And her self consciousness likewise melted quite away. And divesting herself of sandals, sunglasses and hat, she lowered her body into the gorgeous water.
She sighed with bliss as her body grew accustomed to the initial chill of the trapped ocean water. Chloe laughed in her delightful way in response to Mel’s obvious pleasure.
The two swum around one another, Chloe occasionally playfully flicking water at Mel.
“I told you the water was divine, didn’t I?”
“Yes” Mel laughed.
“I saw you moving in today. Are you going to stay at Alexandru’s house now?”
“I can come and visit sometime if you want….”
“….would you like me to come and visit Melisandre?”
“Yes” Mel found herself laughing once again, this time at her apparent inability to communicate in anything other than monosyllables.
“You laugh a lot Melisandre, I like you.”
“Mel….just call me Mel….”
“…and it’s you Chloe, you make me feel like laughing….”
“….you’re so alive….so….”
The overly affectionate confession had escaped Mel’s lips before she could stop it. She sought to disguise the lapse in social propriety by adding
“….and the water’s glorious.”
“You’re funny.” Chloe regarded Mel as she played in the water, a bright smile adorning her lips, and dancing in the darkness of her eyes.
Mel was quite astonished at her reaction to the girl. She found herself feeling strangely weightless, with a sense of contentment and of freedom and hope. Moving to Wake’s Peak cottage and leaving the pain of the past behind her, had a lot to do with it. But there was something curious and bewitching about Chloe, meeting her seemed to just set her heart free. Unburdening her soul of grief and sorrow.
“I like it here….” Mel sighed.
There was a remarkably contagious freedom and abandon about the girl, a spirit of adventurous joy. And she was so heart achingly beautiful. The simple and natural beauty of her naked body, the long and lustrous black hair that trailed behind her as she moved through the water. She was captivating.
“I like it here too….with you.” Chloe replied softly with a hint of seduction in her tone.
And Mel discovered that arousal was rapidly rising in her heart, setting her pulse racing, and her body tingling with desire. She looked into the girls large dark eyes, occasionally flicking water back at her as both smiled and laughed happily.
It was Chloe’s lips, they were the hook that snagged Melisandre. So full and smiling with suggestion and, Mel found herself hoping invitation. How she ached to swim to the girl, to hold her gorgeous body close to her own. To gaze deeply into those wonderfully eerie dark eyes, and kiss those gorgeous smiling lips.
The sudden intensity of her attraction took Melisandre quite by surprise. She had to fight the insistent urge to immediately attempt to seduce this girl into her bed. To take her home and explore every mystery of her glorious body, to learn her secrets and uncover her deepest mysteries.
To reach out and take her, right here and now.
‘….this complete stranger who you met like five minutes ago’
Thank you for reading
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