He didn’t dance like a guillemot with wings outstretched and head up in the air the way the others did. He didn’t strut and caw. Instead, this man, the one she could see down there on the beach that evening, moved along the lapping shore with the effortless grace of a whale. He slid across the sand as though the waves had come up from the ocean to make him.
She stood on her own piece of rock in the rising indigo darkness and prodded at barnacles to feel their muscles tense. Her own muscles racked with desire. She needed to feel his sea breath at her neck.
All around, the wind cried its lies and the waves sucked and pulled.
“Come in,” the sea whispered. “I’ll take you.”
There was no moon that night. The dark that blurred the horizon would soon be complete.
She tried calling out. “Can you see me? Please. I need you.”
But the whale man carried on dancing, lifting his arms, breaching and moving, and she knew that the waves had shifted her words into air.
This was hell. The blackness of the swirling sea between her and the sands. The drawing in of inevitable night. The fear that glued her to her rock. This fear of drowning, of heaving in water to her lungs and landing on the shore too late the next morning, all blue and bloated and dead.
The man would stop dancing soon. He would move into the dunes and be gone and maybe no one else, not even the seabirds, would come for years and she would once again know her existence only by the swelling of the tide.
There was a risk of drowning.
There was a risk of life.
She pressed the knuckled shells along the rock once more, felt them tense and grip, and then she reached down for the hem of her long, white sea-foam dress and pulled it up over her head.
“Take it,” she said to the wind.
“Take me,” she said to the waves.
On the beach, the man raised his arms, and, as he leapt into the air, she plunged herself into the water.