Damp sand from a misty sea foam squishes between my toes. I roll my fingers through the gaps in my toes and grip onto the soles of my feet. The warm crackle of the fire roasts my face and any exposed skin I have. Behind the wall of warmth, the glow of the flames it is black and cold. A frost bitten wind nips at my back and the waves in front crash closer. The tide is coming in and with it the covering of rocks in the shallows. The white spire of a lighthouse lingers above me, calling me back to work. Back home. Everything is black, but for our little world of dancing lights. I rest my head on my knees and look across the flying ashes toward an effigy of man.
His name stolen from the pages of a book, my driftwood Carson leans back against the short wall of sandy grass. The lines of his face carved deep, but smoothed by years at sea.
“What shall we do now, darling?” I ponder the question out loud.
“Rest here, for me. For you, another quiet night up there.” I see his head nod upward toward my glass prison where a bright bulb casts light across the lonely ocean.
“So you won’t join me then?”
“You know I must remain. It is the bargain we agreed to some nights ago. This was never meant to last, my love.”
“Maybe I’ve changed my mind. Maybe I don’t want you to go…”
“It is not a choice for either of us to make. The decision was made by the moon.” His honesty is cold, stony.
The sea was his greatest love affair; ours was but an intermission between curtains. I knew this. He had called to me for rest and I to him for salvation. Alone on an island warning those who dared come too close to my beaches, it was a lonely life. And when he came I was inspired. I cursed the moon and her twinkling neighbors. The sun, her cousin, would bring mourning at dawn. My eyes clasp shut against the passing of time.
“If you must go, then I will leave you now. Better on my terms than hers.” A glance upward to a blank sky, muddied with black clouds.
“As you please. I will be here waiting if you change your mind.”
I scoff and snuff out the fire. Tiny droplets of rain spatter against his unloving face. He’ll wait in the cold, the dark, the endless night until he can be with his lover once more. Her icy fingers will lap at the wood of his feet. It will shock him at first, but as she rises higher she will rock him gently until he finally commits to her embrace wholly. One final glance over my shoulder seals my fortitude. He didn’t even watch me leave, his eyes remained forward searching the sea.
“I hope you drown.” It was only a whisper, but my heart spoke truth.
Each step up the narrow metal spiral brought me closer to light and an ocean’s churning tumult. Out there they were breathing. Alive and scared. The pulsing orb will illuminate their way and show their fruitless struggles. Fight all they wish against the thrashing of waves, the bolts of a summer storm. But soon, they too, will join his lover rolling along at the bottom of dark waters.
And alone I will watch, fulfilling my duty as the keeper of light.