Message in a Bottle by Marcia Sherman
There is no such thing as free, and there is always a payment of some sort...
It was advertised as free, but there is no such thing as free. There is always a payment of some sort. The price was not told until after she had arrived and been settled in. That gave her pause. She kept thinking of why she wanted to put herself through this - to better herself, to become what she wished for. To become what he needed.
Her family had tried to talk her out of it. Every argument ended with one truth: they would all be better off because all her sorrow, and the sadness they felt for her, would stop. Even if her family did not support her, the look in his eyes when she told him of this possibility was all the encouragement she needed.
The first night she lay under the window, and she looked at the stars. Waves lapped the shore outside while she contemplated her options. Even as she decided there was a tap at the door and they entered. Two of them – check here, check there, mark this. Here are your copies, witnessed and notarized. A few explanations of the rules and they left her alone again, with one big surprise. She was to be paid, and handsomely so. She thought her reward was the treatment. But no, they actually paid for leaving behind old ways. That took a little of the sting out of it.
It was not painful; well, not too painful. Dizziness, bone tired, thirst – water never tasted so good. By the end of the tenth day she was able to walk steadily to the toilet. A few days later she could make it to the kitchen without hugging the walls like a barnacle. Clothing was provided, clean and soft. Cotton lined shoes, as light as sea foam. Nice of them to realize her skin would be sensitive. Daily exercise was required in the contract. She walked barefoot up and down the beach in front of the weathered little house. She rested on the porch and watched the storms over the ocean– they looked different somehow. Three weeks in her appetite returned. The food in the larder was fresh and plentiful. She grew especially fond of salad greens and fruit. The fish she discovered to be too oily.
To pass the time she read the books left for her. One morning she discovered a journal and pens. At first she found it almost as hard to write as it had been to get out of bed. Soon, however, she began to record her day’s events. Every day, almost every waking moment, she thought of him. Every night in her dreams they talked and kissed and touched. She wrote to him, letters full of promises and longing; and counted down the days until they would be together. Finally, after many, many weeks that day came.
In preparation for leaving, she cleaned and put the house to rights. A satchel appeared and she packed clothing and shoes, journal and letters, a few books, her shell collection. Before he was scheduled to arrive she sat in her favorite spot on the porch, and composed a letter to her family. They needed to know the treatment was successful, she was healthy and whole. When he appeared on the rise behind the house, how her heart sang. He ran down the dune, laughing, and engulfed her in his arms. Her kiss told him all he needed to know.
“Speechless with happiness, my pearl?”
She pressed the contract into his hands, when he finished reading he looked in her eyes with concern and compassion.
“So, this was the payment. I can walk with you now. I can admire your strong lovely body. But never again can I hear you say my name or whisper your love. Oh sweet, little fish – I will just have to do the talking for both of us. What’s this bottle? Ah, I see…” and he threw it far into the ocean “…only way to get a message to your family now. Time and tide should act as any land bound mail service, for sure.”
Ariel watched the bobbing glass submerge and a tail fin flick above the surface. A single tear fell, salty as the ocean. Then she and Eric turned and walked up the dune to their happily ever after.
Marcia A. Sherman is Mama to one perfect Rose.She writes for Llewellyn Publishing under the name of Emyme, has self-published the children's book The Splendid, Blended Family, and is writing the Great American Wiccan Novel.
Story ART by: Amanda Bergloff