January 31, 2018

The Pearl - Sabrina N. Balmick

In the briny twilight,
a storm gathers...
In the briny twilight, a storm gathers, its edges stained grey as pearl. Fishermen scurry to moor swaying boats as a distant horn bellows a warning. King Luke, standing on his balcony, sips salted wine and watches the sea, his mind straying to the sea queen as her storm roils beyond world's edge. This storm might rage two, perhaps three nights. Forever, for all he cares. Tonight marks fifty years since she'd taken her leave of the world.

Laughter rises from the courtyard. The old king peers over the balcony to catch his granddaughter waving, the girl's sea glass green eyes sparkling with mischief. Her grandmother's eyes. He tilts a smile and she shrieks happily. Fat raindrops pelt down. She scampers away with her cousins, trailing laughter like bright ribbon.

Alone again, the king stands in the cold rain. When he is half-soaked and stiff-jointed, he retreats to his chamber. Muttering, he swings his cloak upon a hook before the fire, changes into dry nightclothes, and beds down. Memories of sea glass green eyes flit across his mind until sleep claims him.

Sometime after midnight, the fire dies. There in the hushed dark, the king dreams. Rain trickles like tears through an open casement and trembles across the room, little more than mist. He does not feel the air's chill kiss, or hear thunder crack open the sky. On the far side of his dreaming, the sea queen's voice beckons. He startles awake, an answer upon his lips.

The king lurches out of bed and stumbles to the balcony, ignoring complaining knees and groaning back. Panting, he leans across the railing, both hands gripping stone. He draws an open-mouthed breath, and tastes thunder in the air. A flash teases his eye; it is only his ruby ring, capturing lightning and flinging it out to sea.

A thousand and one thoughts crowd his mind. Dead, she may be. Or alive. He cannot know. Has no way of knowing.

Thumb and forefinger worry at the ring, a tiny beacon in the gloom. Hardly enough to summon anything. He's tried nearly everything, searched each year, wandering up and down the shore like a madman after dreaming of her and only her. Another year has passed, and another passing yet.

His fingers stray inside his nightshirt to fetch out the pearl hanging from its gold chain, her last gift to him, worn close to his heart ever since. He closes his eyes and recalls her skin beneath his palm, her breath at his throat.

"I don’t belong here," she had whispered, before she slipped into the sea with his heart.

Unbidden, he yanks the chain free. It falls forgotten at his feet while the pearl lies within his palm, a nacreous eye. His fist closes around the pearl, draws back, and flings it far out to sea. He cannot search for someone who does not wish to be found. The king withdraws from foam-flecked waves, and returns to his chamber. Behind him, the sea howls.

By morning, to his surprise, the storm has passed. Sunlight pours through his window to paint everything gold. His valet has attended his chamber while he slept, stoking the fire, laying out the day's clothing. A pot of jasmine tea steeps at his bedside. As he reaches for the teapot, a grey-gold wink beckons his weary eyes.

"No." He snatches the offering, cradles it between his hands. His mouth has gone dry and his eyes are wet. The pearl stares back, its grey surface gleaming gold.

Shaking, the king walks gingerly to the balcony. Sea foam dances at the shoreline. The sea curls away from the beach toward golden horizon. Tide rises and falls, bringing boats and news into the kingdom. The sight should be familiar. Nothing, this morning, is familiar. His eyes search the shore until he sees only light.

His hand, fisted around the pearl, aches. Pressed into his palm, he knows, is the pearl's imprint.

She has always been here.

King Luke bows his head and smiles. His fingers uncurl and drop the pearl into a pocket. He settles into his chair to pour jasmine tea, and listens to the whispering tide.

Sabrina N. Balmick was brought up on a steady diet of fairy tales and folklore. When she isn’t dreaming up new fantasy worlds, she leads content strategy and marketing for a national recruitment firm. She lives in South Florida.

COVER Amanda Bergloff


AMOffenwanger said...

This has a beautiful lyricism to it. I love the imagery.

Guy S. Ricketts said...

So beautiful and bittersweet. A love in limbo. Aching from her absence, yet reminded he has not been forgotten. Wonderfully evocative writing, Sabrina.