It was foolish to come back. This hated place held too many memories, too many secrets. But they were memories and secrets she could no longer ignore. What had happened in the past, what had happened to her here, had haunted her and refused to let go.
So here she was.
She shut her eyes against the peaceful sounds. The ocean’s regular rhythm, the seagulls’ calls, the far-off cry of a child. She wanted no part of peace; just coming back had thrown her spirit into turmoil, a place where there was no peace.
Opening her eyes, she looked around. There it was, the beach house, its timbers broken and exposed. Over the intervening years the relentless tides had eaten away at its foundations. It now teetered on the edge of the dunes, on its knees in the sand, ready to surrender to the next king tide.
But today the ocean held no threat, its gentle waves were lapping the sand, leaving a trail of silvery froth and grit. She fell to her knees onto the wet, silky sand, her body hunched over. Memories of that night came rushing in like a tidal surge.
At times she had almost forgotten why she had been running away from her memories for so long. She had shared her dark secret with the world but had hidden it from herself most of the time. But the mind was tenacious, it held on to things, remembered things best forgotten. Here today, confronted with the physical triggers to traumatic events, her mind was searching its dark recesses, unearthing hidden secrets which had been buried. Through the years, in her silent moments, she had heard it speaking so softly, in the gentlest of whispers, as it tried to speak to her of its memories, its stored secrets. Then there were the other times where she felt her pain come rushing to the surface without warning, hurtling through her like a runaway train, threatening to derail her altogether.
She cried there, hunched in the wet sand, her solitary figure sobbing hot tears. She no longer wanted to carry that heavy hurt, she wanted the pain and sorrow to be but a distant memory.
She had to face the pain head on if she was ever going to find healing…
It was a night when the wind roared.
The Pacific waters rose and fell in a dance of wave and tide outside her window. When the winds calmed, the moon rose and sat outside her window.
She’d been dreaming of the sea again. It happened every night. This night, she opened her eyes and watched the moonlight creep across her bed like a soft lover’s caress. The sheets were tangled and fell over the bed like waves. She kicked off the covers and threw herself across the bed like a marionette without strings.
The moonlight dancing on her bare skin revealed her beauty. Its gentle light overlooked the angry welts criss-crossing her pale legs. She groaned in agony. The welts throbbed, but she had no ointments to ease the pain. But that was his intention. He wanted her to suffer.
She could hear his loud breathing coming from the next room. Loud snuffles and snorts as he slept the sleep of the damned. She heard him tossing and turning and prayed that he stayed asleep. For a long time.
‘Ahmed? An infidel?’ she’d yelled. ‘He is of the same religion as we are. You know this.’
A vicious fist across her mouth.
‘You will marry who I say. It was decided when you were born. Abdul will be your husband!’ he spat.
His eyes had turned red with rage and he’d reached for his belt. She couldn’t believe what had happened. Her father had always been remote, but to her he had been the gentlest of men.
‘Father!’ she’d screamed, ‘don’t do this!’
The hard leather bit into her soft skin. The pure force of his anger made the blows harder to bear. He had been taken over by a brute force, hate. Her heart broke afresh with every whop of the tough hide.
‘I will kill you!’ he’d screeched.
‘Mumma, help!’ she’d pleaded to the black-clad figure cringing in the dark corner. Her mother remained silent but her eyes communicated her pain as she flinched and whimpered with every blow.
Night after night. Day after day. The beatings continued. Only the moonlight and the night sounds were her friends. Her door was bolted against the outside world. The food was passed in, served without love, eaten without relish. No-one spoke to her. She had become a prisoner.
But she was not going to remain one.
He had forgotten the faulty lock on her window. She had remembered.
The crashing waves were coming closer and closer as high tide approached. Soon the water would be just below her window. She could hear its relentless pummelling. The sound and rhythm reminded her of her father’s blows which continued without mercy. He would not be denied his will. She would never marry Abdul. An impasse. She was her father’s daughter after all. She would die before giving in to such an archaic arrangement.
There was a big storm earlier in the night. It would cover her tracks nicely. She hadn’t been able to communicate with Ahmed but he knew what was happening. She’d heard his thumping on her father’s door. She’s heard his pleas, his angry yells as her father’s friends dragged him away.
She knew he was waiing for her beyond the dunes.
The sea called to her. The scraping window drew her into the bright night. A soft splash and she was swimming in the whirling tide. It first dragged her out to sea, then pushed her towards the shore. She swam for her life, her robe tangling around her feet like a shroud. But she was not going to drown. She tugged at the sopping material then swam harder, using all her strength to surf to the beach before the tide sucked her back again.
She was thrown head first in an untidy tangle onto the gritty sand. She scrambled to her feet, lifted her heavy robe above her knees and ran for the safety of the dunes.
Ahmed whispered my name.
He saw her as he stood on top of the dunes, next to the crumbling wreck that had been her home, then her prison. A few long stides and he was by her side. He gently lifted her and cradled her and rocked her and their baby as she cried in his arms.
His own eyes were full of tears and pain.
©Denise Covey, 2010