Two Ships

both distant and eternal;

It was all theirs, then. The whole house. The entire, enormous, drafty, 19th century beach house that would some day crumble into the ocean.

Now, it all belonged to her -- and Connor.

Not that she wasn’t grateful – because, of course she was. It wasn’t everyday that a great-aunt took pity on her nearly orphaned niece and nephew and left them an entire house in her will. It wasn’t everyday that people got a chance to start over in a brand new place, and definitely not everyday that her brother would get to finish high school in one of the best school systems in the state.

Those were the words she’d been repeating to herself all week as she’d packed up all of their stuff in the cramped two-bedroom apartment they shared in Cambridge. Maybe it had been too cluttered with both their crap, but it was the first place they’d had on their own since Mom had died: the one safe place in this scary world that she was trying to raise a fifteen year old shithead in.

She was 76.4 miles away from that place now. She knew it was 76.4 miles, since she had driven it four times in the past four days. At least that was over with.

She couldn’t sleep, of course. 5am and she was still wide-awake.

The four-poster bed frame was gilded in aging bronze and she was studying the patterns of the oxidizations in the spiral post next to her face. The little red alarm clock that she always kept, for good measure, on the faded and scuffed bedside table blinked a smug 5:07AM.

Compulsively, she got out of bed, left the sparsely furnished bedroom and went down to the end of the hall to check on Connor. They’d spent a few days here moving in, but this was their first night.

The patch between the bottom of his door and the floor was dark, but she knocked a couple times just to be sure. When she didn’t get an answer, she opened the door a crack. Connor was quiet with sleep; his lips puckering for a soft, even breath.

When she could at least feel a bit better about him, she padded back down the hall and pulled the cord for the attic staircase, catching the heavy wooden steps with the palms of her hands and easing them down, careful not to wake Connor.

There was clutter up here that she knew she’d eventually have to start going through and start accounting for – she was the executor of her great aunt’s estate after all. But this morning, at least, she could keep it all covered up with the dusty white sheets that had kept everything in this room exactly as it had been for the past twenty-five years.

So instead of perusing her aunt’s artifacts, she went straight to the worn, wooden ladder in the middle of the room. She climbed two steps before pushing the door to the roof open.

As she peaked her head out of the door, the wind instantly took hold of her hair. Smiling in the warm, salty breeze, she pushed herself onto the roof and closed the door beneath her feet.

There’s no better view on the Cape, the realtor who had dropped off the extra set of house keys had said earlier that day. The woman was right. She had to admit it.

From the widow’s walk, she could see the gentle curve of the dune down to the beach. She loved the fine, grey-brown sand of the beach and the ice-cold water of the Atlantic that rushed in to meet it. If the empty house beneath her feet felt like the strangest place she’d ever been, at least being here felt familiar.

She crossed her arms over the high railing around the widow’s walk. After resting her chin on her arms, she peered down to the beach grass below, wondering how many people had ever fallen, or jumped, from this roof. Feeling guilty for thinking this, she flicked her eyes to the horizon. The sky was pale where it met the edge of the sea. She lifted her head but kept her weight resting on her elbows.

Stars still shone in the onyx-periwinkle sky directly above her, weaving in and out of focus. Brighter when she looked away…yet distant when she tried to make them out.

With heavy, sleep-sore eyes, she watched as the sun began to rise in the distance. It was a slow, glistening crescent against the tides, a golden titan rising from the surf. She understood why people once worshipped the sun. If there was any magic left on the Earth, it was in the sun, in the moon and in the water.

Movement on the beach caught her gaze: a small, dark figure moving at a steady pace down the shoreline.

His form became clearer as he approached the beach, only a hundred yards away. She could see he was young even if she couldn’t make out his face. Young, yet with a hunched body. His strides were confident, however: strong and even. His hair was dark and windswept, his clothes plain but well-fitted. He probably lived in one of the enormous seaside “retreats” which dotted the landscape.

She felt like he could tell she was watching him, and she felt guilty. An intruder. Whoever he was, this figure getting distant in the rising light, he belonged here more than she ever could.

Suddenly, tracing patterns in oxidized bronze seemed safer. And there was so much stuff to unpack…

For now, she would have to pretend that the soft, musty summer linens in the master bedroom were comforting… and she would pretend that she didn’t feel shadows in the walls of the house.

She took one last look to the sky and to the sunrise and saw a chariot, drawn by a hundred white-winged horses, as it carried the sun on its great journey across the heavens.

Then, with a quiet laugh to herself, June Parker opened the door to the attic and disappeared into its quiet, dark depths.
♠ ♠ ♠
...and now their story begins.