* Prelude *
Floating in the early morning mist, the Gina Marie moves like a snake, silently through the stillness headed towards open waters. The old man, solid as the timbers that crafted this vessel, wipes tears form his face as he bellows out his call, listening for an echoo from the shore.
"Bee-yoor!" - he calls, listening with all of his senses to assure himself that he sails within the narrow channel that will release his ship to the oceans.
"Bee-yoor" - he calls again, listening for the echoes and shifts the wheel to port -
"How will I ever learn to live without her?" he pleads with no one there, "The air does not even feel welcome within my lungs and I am so lost without her."
"Bee-yoor!" and sails into the milky soup of fog and mist, leaving not only this port, but headed deep to sea to end this life he once treasured so richly.
Reaching into his breast coat pocket Airis pulls the letter from his pocket and fingers it within his hand - he has memorized her words of "goodbye" and he weeps again as he recalls them.
"Atrus - But that I could have found even a single part of me that was worthy of your love..." He could not go on with the rest, dropping to his knees he pleads with whatever god there may be and he weeps, uncontrollably at this loss - and the ship lifts her sails as the first wisps of morning wind are gathered within her bosom, taking Airis to his destiny.
Sunshine filtered thru the half open hatch, streaming into Atrus' eyes awakening him to his need to urinate fiercely and he pulls himself from the hold of the ship to stand at the rail and relieve himself. Low, stark-pink clouds hang below the rising sun warning the sailor of a pending storm later in the day,
"Pink skies in the morning, sailer take warning."
After checking his bearing and setting the jib sail to assist the mains, Atrus dropped down to the galley to make that first cup of coffee he loved so much.
"How is it that the first cup tastes diferrent from the rest of the pot?" he wondered as the ritual continued and he cleans as the brew lifts it's fresh, clean aroma into the air.
With his coffee in hand Aris swings up onto the main deck and plops down in the well-worn captains' chair with a huff and a grunt - spilling his coffee down the front of the clean shirt he had just changed in to.
"Damn, I didnt even get to button it up... well, it does match the previous spill/stain." and grinning at his own clumsiness he gulps the last of the warm brew then turns his attention to the gathering clouds looming before him.
"Perfect - it will takes weeks if not months for anyone to reach any conclusions regarding my disappearance in this monstrous gale approaching." he spoke aloud as though his empty boat would respond.
"This will be just perfect... Much like the night I found her on the beach... She would have died that night..." the broken threads trailing off - each one leading down roads he had traveled over and over until there was only the emptiness found at the ends of each one.
Standing at the helm, guiding her into the heart of the of the quickly approaching mass of black energy, Atrus allowed himself to reach back in time - to her - to a cold, wet evening off the coast of Cape Cod - to the lone figure battling the wind as she walked down that empty beach.
Katherine could not feel the tears that flowed from her, she could not feel her own feet as she stumbled forward into the near darkness. All she could feel was the aching within her heart and the need to not feel the pain any more. She fell and tried vainly to rise, only to fall once again - and she allowed her weight to fall onto the ground as the cold waves burnt her face and she surrendered herself to her fate. The light in her eyes faded and she thought it was strange that she would dream of bearded men and rowboats?
Atrus had been sailing that evening northward in hopes of beating this storm to port but had failed - without instruments he had no choice but to follow the shoreline and had watched with curiosity as a woman had run down to the shore in little more than a sundress. He had known this was not going to work well, the temperatures were dangerously cold and when she had moved far beyond safe distance from any shelter, he had set his mind in motion, taking off from his ship in a small skiff to assist her. As he approached still unseen by her, she fell and tried for a while to regain herself, but surrendered, allowing the waves to rush headlong into her still body.
Atrus moved quickly, gathering her onto himself and strained with all of his might to maneuver this small skiff against the raging winds and waves to reach his vessel.
"You hang on there missy - there's a warm cabin up ahead and some dry clothes..." he wasnt really trying to talk to her, only give her a clue that she was not alone - and to calm his own nerves at a time where he needed it most. The skiff was tossed and spun, nearly tipping them out at times, but the sailor would shove down hard on both oars and lift them to the top of the next wave until finally the Gina Marie made herself seen.
Katherine awoke to the bellowing of Aris' favorite sailor's song two days later - with absolutely no recall - of anything that had happened - or where she was - or who was that trying to sing?
Atrus could hear this fragile creature stirring about below,
"I hear mice down in my ship... It's not gonna fit, but there's a flannel shirt you are welcome to put on."
Katherine slipped from the warm bunk into the flannel shirt and hopped back up on the covers - she searched her memory for what seemed like hours with no success - she faintly knew her own name, but there was nothing else coming throu that was of any use to her.
"Where am I?" spoken softly aloud -
A warm voice, gentle as a mother's whisper carried down from the helm,
"She's the Gina Marie - a 40' twin sail with Jib. Built her when I was a young man, seems so long ago now." No pressure in the voice and the tone was almost feminine.
"Who are you sir? And... and well, where am I?" she spoke as a timid child as she poked her head up throu the hatch from the hold. And before he could begin to answer the sea and cold air rushed at her driving her back inside.
Artus tied the wheel, dropped the jib sail leaving the main square on the the breeze and eased down to the hold, making sure to bring his coffee mug with him.
"It's still a nasty day out and tomorrow will be the same, but we should find warmer waters the day following."
She moved away from him across the bunk, not recognizing anything about him - yet there was something so comfortable about him that she couldnt help but feel drawn.
"Please tell me who I am - and where I am. I feel so scared and I dont know how I got here and ..." she began to cry as the whole truth of her words sank in, confirming her fears.
"There will be time for answers, I promise you this - but you need to eat and I could use a bite myself." Artus did not want her to return to her attempted suicide until she had regained her strength a little - something very, very bad would have had to happen for someone to throw themselves to the sea the way she had - and it could wait for better days to be talked about.
"SO, how do you like your eggs? Plenty of bread for toast, there's the butter..." Moving deliberately and talking to himself, Aris left himself open to questions, speaking in his low tone setting about making breakfast.
"Do I know you and have just forgotten? she asked innocently