Woman by the Boat-3
Photo credit: frparm on Google Earth:
“The Woman by the Boat”
–Third of three parts–
Early the next morning the sound of chopping penetrated the fog. Occasionally the slow rhythmic hacking was punctuated by the ding of steel against a rock. The sound would cease for a moment. Then resume.
Jane stepped out her door and paused at the sound. Then she ran, stumbling and flailing her arms to keep her balance.
She reached the boat, went straight to Charles, and seized the long axe handle. He let go without a fight and stepped back in an exhausted droop.
She clutched the axe and trembled. Scattered all around the boat were wood chips, cut and spewed by the heavy blade of the axe. The boat ribs were chopped down to the rocks. Only the prow and one half-chopped rib remained.
“How could you?”
“You need me to do it.”
She stared with narrowed eyes and jutted jaw.
“I explained yesterday. And I’ll do whatever it takes to pull you out of this tomb of yours and drag you back into life.”
She threw the axe onto the rocks and stepped in front of him. “Leave me alone!”
“I can’t, Jane. You need someone to care.” He reached both hands toward her shoulders.
“I don’t want . . . I . . .” And she curled down to a crouch. She cried with an eerie moan that rose and fell in pitch, like a haunted wind groaning through empty cracks and crevices.
“Ach! Jane, come back to us.”
Charles opened his mouth several times with nothing to come out of it. He raised his hands with a look of despair then hesitantly reached toward her, reconsidered, and withdrew.
“You can’t take him from me!”
“He’s long gone, my dear.”
“No!” She shifted back and forth, her head shaking as if she’d gone mad. Her cries subsided into moans.
Charles stood still and quiet.
Her moans shifted to seething as she randomly clutched rocks.
He tilted his head back, eyes closed, as if summoning some inner strength or seeking a power greater than his own.
She breathed heavily. “Then I’ll go to him.” Letting go of the rocks, quieting her moans, she gradually stilled. Then stared at the sea.
She slowly rose, eyes fixed on the water. With faltering steps she marched forward.
“Jane?” He hesitantly followed her.
The rocks slid and clattered under her feet, and his behind her.
She neared the water’s edge and did not stop. Her feet now in the frigid water, a wave splashed against her legs. She faltered, held her arms out to balance, and kept walking.
“Jane, what are you doing?” Charles entered the water behind her.
Up to her knees, she continued into the indifferent sea. Another wave splashed against her waist.
Flailing his arms to keep balanced, Charles closed in on her.
Deeper she stepped, never pausing, never looking back. Up to her waist, and a wave soaked her entire body. She hesitated, regained her balance, and stepped forward.
Charles leaped at her. He threw his arms around her and pulled back. She moaned and pulled forward. He twisted behind her and pulled again. She slipped and fell back, on top of him. The two submerged in the icy surf.
She curled tightly from the cold, but she lay passively with no effort to rise above the surface. Still under her, Charles flailed his arms and kicked, bubbles spurting from his mouth. He squirmed out from under her and pushed himself up on his knees. Another wave hit him and pushed him a hand’s breadth toward shore. He breathed heavily several times then seized her shoulders and pulled her up, head above the water, and shielded her from the waves. He hugged her tightly then crawled out of the water. She lay passively in his clutch, and both of them shivered ever more intensely, he with his jaw firmly set, she with whitened face, half conscious.
At the water’s edge, he rolled her over and slapped her back. She coughed, and a trickle of water dribbled out. He rolled her face up, pinched her nose, pressed his mouth over hers and breathed hard. Again, again, again. She coughed, and more water sputtered out.
They stared at each other, his body jerking from the cold, hers limp and shivering.
“I will not let you die. A father does not let his child die. Neither her soul nor her body.”
She wheezed and began to cry.
He brushed her hair away from her face and caressed her cheek.
Somewhere in her cries she found a weak smile. “Hold me like you did when I was little.”
He pulled her onto his lap and into a tight embrace. Then he gently rocked her.
Together they gazed at the unceasing waves.
“Can I really start over, Dad?”
“Yes, my darling. You can.”
“What about the scars?”
“They remind you to be strong.”
She gripped his embracing arm and squeezed.
I invite your feedback.