by Shira Lipkin
It was Jonathan’s turn to watch them when Annabel turned up missing. Looked away for half a minute, no more than that – looked out over the tumble of grey salt-rimed boulders on the bleak little beach, watched the gentle waves kiss the shore, and when he looked back, there was one wife less than there should have been.
He knew right away, of course. She hadn’t simply run off up the beach. The truth was in the gently curved smiles of the wives that remained. Yes, she’s gone. What are you going to do about it? One of them picked up Annabel’s daughter, and another held her son’s hand. En masse, the wives headed up the beach, back towards the village. Mission accomplished, and playgroup over.
Jonathan followed, heart pounding, not knowing what to say to Annabel’s husband.
They had no children. Secretly, Jonathan hoped they never would; he hoped he’d never have to console a baby whose mother had returned to the sea.
He thought of the other families in the village – houses filled with suspicious men watching their stolen wives extra sharp tonight, looking for signs.
Sara looked up at him and smiled, that same little curve of the lips the wives had all given this afternoon – pleased, but not gloating. A smile that said “one day, it will be me.”
“What are we thinking, tearing magic from the sea to darn our socks?
He kissed the top of her head. She had not bathed since the afternoon visit to the ocean, and she still smelled and tasted of salt.
He remembered their first time, the salt of her skin in his mouth, and he drew her to her feet; his eyes asked the question, and her kiss answered it.
It was like being in the ocean, every time. The ocean in the form of a woman, the salt and the waves, and Sara sang.
“I love you,” he said quietly. Not all of the husbands loved their wives. But he loved Sara.
Made it easier, and made it harder.
She grabbed the skin and ran, hair streaming behind her almost like she was in the ocean already. No kiss, and no goodbye, and he knew that, her being made of wild magic and all – but damn if it didn’t hurt anyway.
Time to move inland, he thought. Past time.
Shira Lipkin has managed to convince Electric Velocipede, Chizine, Interfictions 2, Mythic Delirium, and other otherwise-sensible magazines and anthologies to publish her work. She credits luck, glitter eyeliner, and tenacity. You can follow her at http://shiralipkin.com. She likes the company.
Story © 2010 Shira Lipkin. All other content copyright © 2010 Abyss & Apex Publishing.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish