Come to the Rocks
Christin Haws © 2018
All Rights Reserved
The rocks were cold and wet from the sea spray, slippery and dangerous to trek across, decidedly lethal to stand on at the water’s edge if the ocean was in a bad mood, which it often was.
Linnea did it anyway.
It was her place, the one place she could go where no one else dared. Often, her car was the only one parked on the sandy shoulder between the road and the rocks. Rarely did anyone drive by. Even on the nicest days, when the sun was bright and the water was happy, Linnea was often alone out on the rocks. There were much nicer stretches of shoreline, much safer spots that most people preferred to visit. To Linnea, the scramble across the rocks wasn’t treacherous; it was a brief adventure. Sitting on the edge with her feet dangling just inches above the constantly churning water, the mist of it coating her jean-clad legs until she could barely feel them from the cold, wasn’t reckless; it was a necessary meditation. In the most dangerous area of the cove, Linnea felt safe.
She would sit there most afternoons if she could as the sun sank toward the ocean, but always left before it touched the water. Most days, the overcast sky darkened and changed color with the impending sunset. The ocean was always gray, though, various shades of it that reflected the water’s mood. Lighter, almost silvery, when the water was happy and calm, which was almost never. Darker and angry, when the water was feeling vicious and would slap the rocks as hard as it could, hard enough to knock a grown man standing several feet from the edge right off his feet and into the sea where he’d be battered against the rocks by its rage. Most of the time, the water was a medium shade, an irritated, mood-swinging gray, and the waves would more lap than slap at the rocks, but on occasion, the water would lash out.
Linnea was never afraid of this.
Oh, she was never stupid enough to sit on the rocks when the ocean was angry, although she would either sit or stand at the edge of them and watch the water from a distance. It wasn’t very fulfilling for her to come to the rocks on those days. It was as though the water’s anger denied her peace and she’d spend her time there apologizing to the ocean and attempting to soothe the beast so she could move closer to it.
On an unremarkable Wednesday, Linnea sat cross-legged on the rocks, the darker-than-medium-gray water a little angrier than irritated, smacking the rocks soundly and frequently, but not too aggressively. Yet. The chilly spray settled over Linnea in a fine mist that froze her exposed skin and dampened the jeans and the flannel overcoat she wore in such a way that she didn’t really notice that her clothes were damp until she touched them. The gray sky met the gray water at the horizon in something of a hue change more than a definite line, and Linnea gazed across the water, thinking of nothing in particular.
And then something caught her eye.
A decidedly not-gray sheen appeared on the surface of the water for only a second or two, disappearing before Linnea could truly focus on it. Linnea stared at the spot, waiting to see if it would reappear.
It did, but not in the same spot.
The little glimmer of green and purple and teal lingered long enough for Linnea to know she was actually seeing something, that it wasn’t just a trick of the overcast light on the gray water, and only then did she realize that this little shimmer was closer to her than before.
Curious, Linnea dared to get up on her hands and knees so she could better see over the edge of the rocks at the water, squinting as the icy sea spray misted her face. Leaning as far over the edge, as close to the water as she dared, Linnea searched for the little glimmer again.
The gray water hid its depths and everything contained in it unless it was close to the surface. Linnea didn’t even know how deep the water was there. The face materialized in the water like an evening star gradually coming into its own brightness as the sky darkened into night.
Linnea found herself transfixed by the face as it hovered just under the surface, the waves rolling into the rocks sometimes obscuring it, but never really distorting it as it floated, perfectly still and undisturbed by the movement.
The face was beautiful in its otherness. Linnea had never seen one like it on land, that was for sure. Eyes, as silver-gray as the water when it was happy, stared back at her, blinking leisurely. Hair the same color fanned out and floated around the beautiful face, as though it radiated from it. The skin was pale and pristine, broken only by the slightly pink lips.
Linnea stared, and the eyes stared back.
In an instant, the water turned angry. Waves slammed into the rocks, obscuring the vision, driving Linnea backward to avoid a face full of water. She fell on her butt and rolled, painfully bouncing her elbows and spine and the back of her head on the unforgiving, wet rocks. Water rushed along the uneven, polished surface, seeping into her jeans and between her flannel overcoat and her shirt.
The shock of the sudden turn of the sea, the stinging cold of it, the pain from the fall only froze Linnea for a second. She scrambled back to her hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the rocks, daring the water to slap at her again as she searched for the beautiful image she had seen.
It was gone.
The face haunted Linnea’s dreams.
In the clouds of sleep, it appeared again and again, incongruent from anything else that might be going on in the context of her mind’s bizarre subconscious story. It would materialize as it had in the water, coming into sharper focus from beyond some kind of gray darkness and Linnea would try to focus on it, to reach out in some way to capture it, memorize it, only to be wrenched awake.
Linnea tossed and turned, sleeping and waking, with that beautiful face in her mind.
She never once questioned the realness of it. Linnea knew she’d seen a face in the water, that it was no dream or delusion or mirage. It was real. She just wasn’t sure yet what it was.
The next afternoon, Linnea returned to the rocks, hoping for a replay of the day before, wishing to see that face again, praying that when she did (and she was sure that it would be when and not if) she could overcome that feeling of mute fascination to speak to it, to call it to her and ask it every question that burned through her mind and wrecked her dreams.
The water, though, was raging, inexplicably angry about something, and as such, Linnea couldn’t step one foot on the rocks. She stood mournfully at the sandy shoulder, next to her car, as the water not simply splashed, but exploded along the rocks, raining down icy water over the stones and creating raging rapids in the cracks. Even there, leaning against her car with her arms crossed, a very fine mist of salty spray caressed her face.
Linnea didn’t hear Mikey’s truck, that big white beast, because if she had, she wouldn’t have still been standing there when he pulled in next to her and parked. The sound of the violent waves didn’t obscure it; the riptide in her head did.
“Hey, Lin,” Mikey said as he approached her, and Linnea jumped, immediately on the defense.
Mikey was smiling at her in that goofy way of his that belied his true nature. Linnea uncrossed her arms, forming fists that disappeared into the sleeves of her flannel overcoat, and stood up straight, planting her feet.
“Hey, Mikey,” she said, neutral.
“I thought I might find you here,” he said, leaning on her car.
“I wanted to talk to you.”
Linnea didn’t answer him. She just stared at his face, the little flicker of meanness that lit up his brown eyes like distant lightning, and his shoulders as they tensed just a little even while the rest of him appeared to relax.
“Are you busy this weekend?” Mikey asked when Linnea didn’t speak.
“No,” she said.
“Good. Then why don’t we get together? We can talk about things.” Mikey grinned as he reached for her arms since her hands were lost in the swallow of the sleeves of her coat.
Linnea stepped back, bumping into the side mirror.
“No, thanks,” she said, her voice steady and neutral.
Mikey dropped his arms to his sides, his smile fading a bit before turning hard.
“Why not? You just said you weren’t busy.” He sounded playful, teasing.
“Because I don’t want to get together with you.” She kept the same tone, not showing how disquieted she was to have Mikey show up in her safe place.
“I just want us to be friends, Lin.” Mikey made it sound like it was a reasonable demand and she was being incredibly irrational not to meet it.
“Maybe we can be,” Linnea said, knowing full well that they couldn’t be. Ever. “One day. But not right now.”
Mikey exhaled hard through his nose, making Linnea think of a bull about ready to charge. She shifted and the side mirror of her car dug into her back through her overcoat.
Mikey put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “I don’t get you, Lin, I just don’t.” Any pretense of humor and good feelings was gone. “I’m trying to be nice here. I’m trying to make things right. I still think it’s a mistake that you broke up with me, but I’m trying to be the bigger person here. Why are you ridiculous about all of this?”
“I’m not,” Linnea said. “I’ve made a reasonable request and you haven’t honored it. I asked for space after we broke up. That’s all.”
“You broke up with me,” Mikey said. “This isn’t a we thing, Lin. The breakup was your choice.”
“Yes, I know.”
Linnea waited for Mikey to say something, but he only stared at her, his face hard, eyes angry.
“I’m leaving now,” Linnea said after a minute. “Please move.”
Mikey grinned at her and folded his arms. He leaned on her car. “And what if I don’t?” The playfulness in his voice was edged with a threat.
Linnea looked up at him, clinching her hands tightly in the sleeves of her coat, digging her nails into her palms. The pain kept her calm. “Yes, Mikey, what if you don’t?”
Mikey stared at her for several ticking seconds, and Linnea worked to keep her expression totally blank, passive, non-threatening, non-challenging. Finally, Mikey, smirk still in place, straightened up. He backed away from her, down the length of her car.
“Fine. Just fine, Lin. Have it your way.”
Linnea waited until he was behind her car, moving toward his truck, before she opened the driver’s side door and got in. It took every bit of restraint she had not to throw herself in, slam and lock the doors, crank the engine, and peel away. Mikey would enjoy that too much. Instead, she locked the doors as though she’d just finished an uneventful trip to the market, calmly started her car, and pulled out onto the road.
Mikey followed her across town, shadowing only feet behind her the entire drive. Linnea continued to check on him in the rearview mirror, but kept her route home simple and her speed around the limit. Linnea pulled into the driveway of her house, and Mikey paused for a second at the end of it before honking and then driving on by.
Linnea pulled into the garage and waited until the door was down before getting out of the car. In the house, Linnea made sure all of the doors and windows were locked, and then went upstairs to change.
She was cold and she couldn’t get warm.