By Bonnie L. Phillips
Serena stood at the outer fringes of the party, avoided eye contact with everyone, and leaned over the wooden rail of the pier.
She stared into the darkness below, her body drawn by the endless ocean she had only seen pictures of while growing up in the mid-west. Reflections of the full moon undulated with the waves. Serena clutched her bottle of water.
The party was loud. Dancers gyrated to music and flashing lights. Colors reflected off a free-standing metal sculpt that mimicked a fun-house mirror. Serena’s hair, face and black-framed glasses were distorted by the piece of art.
The day she’d bought her new glasses was the same day she decided to sell everything she owned, move from Oklahoma to California, and begin her search.
Serena found the invitation to the party stuffed inside her mailbox. She disliked crowds, but felt compelled to attend. She leaned against the weathered railing, her back to the party, and played with the ends of her long hair, one finger entwined around several strands, a childhood habit.
She walked to the end of the dock, inhaled salt-laden air, and looked out over the expanse of blackness and white-capped water. Breezes caressed her face and added more tangles to her hair. Where she came from couldn’t have been more different.
Serena grew up on a farm. After the crops were harvested the land went dry and dusty. Every day, when she’d completed her chores, she read books about ocean voyages and learned about the creatures that lived in deep water. Her adoptive parents bought her an aquarium with colorful fish and swaying plants. She would put her face up to the glass and pretend she was scuba diving, swimming with fish and looking for treasure on sunken ships. Water sounds lulled her to sleep.
When twenty- eight year old Serena rented her beach bungalow she’d fulfilled her lifelong dream of living near the ocean. Rhythmic waves reduced the stress she felt after unsuccessfully spending hours researching public records for information about her birth parents. Her adoptive parents knew only that her mother was from this area.
Serena thought she heard someone trying to speak above the heavy bass of the music. She turned toward the voice.
“My name is Eddy—with a “y”—. Am I interrupting you?”
“No, not really. I’m Serena.” she said. Eddy had a sensual mouth, wind tousled hair, and wide deep-set eyes. Serena was at a loss for words.
“Can I get you a drink?” he asked.
“No, thanks, I’ve got water.”
“That’s what I’m having,” He uncapped his bottle and took a long swig. “I haven’t seen you around here, before. Why is that?”
“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you.”
Eddy yelled above the music. “How about we go down to the beach so we can talk?”
“Okay,” she said. ‘What the hell am I doing?’ she thought, as she made her way down the heavy wooden steps to the beach. ‘I‘ve never gone off alone with someone I’ve just met. He’s seems nice, but he could be a serial killer for all I know.’
“It was a bit too loud for me,” Eddy said.
“For me too.”
He stood on the sand, reached up, took Serena’s hand and helped her down the last step that was hidden within the shadows of the pier.
Once they made their way onto the beach and walked past groups of people sitting around bonfires, Eddy said, “This is better.”
Serena inhaled deeply and stepped out of her shoes. She noticed Eddy was bare-footed, as well. “Yes, much better. Now I can hear the waves.”
“The ocean calls to me too, that’s why I live close by. And I’ve met just about everyone around here at one time or another. But I haven’t seen you before.”
“I’m new to California—I moved here from the mid-west. Besides, I don’t usually go to parties.” Serena was more candid with Eddy than she had ever been with anyone else. Her habit of being cautious around men seemed to have disappeared as quickly as cotton candy when it touches the tongue.
“I’m glad you made the exception tonight,” Eddy said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have found you. I mean…met you.”
They walked along the beach until they could no longer hear the music. Serena felt warm breezes on her skin, tasted salt on her lips. The moon highlighted the sand with soft light and created unusual shadows; shadows that played tricks on Serena’s eyes. She saw their elongated silhouettes and individual legs, and then the shadows changed to sensual, indistinct dark shapes.
Eddy walked toward the white foamy surf. He bent over a shallow tide pool and picked up a thrashing dark-colored fish. Its mouth opened and closed like a bellows fanning a hot fire. He held it close to his face and made soft, almost musical, sounds. The fish calmed and Eddy released it into the outgoing tide.
Serena thought, ‘That is the most natural and gentle thing I have ever seen a man do.’
The sound of waves, one after another, lapped at the beach. Serena strolled over to and sat upon a piece of driftwood. She stared at the moving reflections of the moon upon the water and was silent.
Eddy sat next to her. He wrapped his hand around hers. “What are you thinking about?”
Serena struggled with whether or not to answer his question. She’d never told anyone about trying to find her biological parents.
“My birth mother and father abandoned me after I was born. She told the doctor that she lived near this beach and that one day I would have to return, if I wanted to learn more about them. She gave her name as Susan Waterston on my birth certificate, but I’ve found no record of her. I know nothing about my father. It’s like they disappeared off the face of the Earth.”
Eddy reached up and stroked her face. “It must be painful not knowing who your parents are.”
“It is. I know it sounds weird, but since I’ve moved here I feel like I’m somehow closer to them.”
“Do you know anything else about your birth mother?”
“Yes. I met an older surfer who heard I was asking about Susan Waterston. He said she was a well-known surfer and could make the board do things others couldn’t. He didn’t remember her dating anyone. Said she was a loner and loved the ocean so much she often slept on the beach. Maybe that’s where my love of the ocean comes from.” Tears slid down Serena’s face.
Eddy leaned over and kissed her tears once, twice, and again. He wrapped her in his arms and kissed her.
Serena thought, ‘I feel so alive—like I finally met someone who understands me.’ She opened her eyes, after Eddy kissed her, and looked into his.
She thought it was a trick of the moonlight when his eyes seemed to change; they looked round, large and black. She imagined she was falling into them and floating. Then his eyes shifted back to the way they were when they had first met.
Eddy and Serena lost track of time. All was silent up and down the beach except for their low voices. The stars in the night sky began to dim and disappear as subtle colors announced the beginning of a new day. One bright star shone above the horizon. Eddy held Serena’s hand and asked, “If you had one wish, what would it be?”
“That’s easy,” she said. “I’d wish I could always be near the sea, like my mother.” She looked out at the ocean, turned to Eddy, and said, “Tonight has been wonderful. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I feel like I’ve known you all my life, like we were meant to meet. And I’ve never before felt more aware of and more comfortable with who I am than I have in the time I’ve spent with you.”
“I’ve waited a long time for you,” Eddy said. He leaned over and kissed Serena. At that moment, the morning star pulsated and the sky turned a deep violet. Birds in mid-flight were silhouetted, motionless, against the sky. The wind stopped. Palm trees froze with their fronds stretched landward.
Sparks of golden light surrounded them as they stood. Eddy wrapped his arms around Serena. She embraced him; they kissed again. Tiny lights grew larger and swirled around them as they walked toward the waves. They waded into the cold ocean, holding hands. Clothing slid from their bodies.
Serena’s black-rimmed glasses fell beneath the water. Thin membranes of skin filled the spaces between her fingers. Serena looked down and saw her sensuous rounded breasts, dark nipples, and flat stomach. Shiny violet-green scales began at her waist and went all the way down to her tail-fin that rose out of the surf.
She ran her hands over her new body, as golden light illuminated the water around them. Serena sidled up to Eddy whose dark scales went from his waist to his semi-transparent tail. She looked at her body, felt her scales and knew her journey home was just beginning.
When Eddy stroked Serena’s body she shivered and felt desires she’d never felt before.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
She smiled and entwined her tail-fin around Eddy’s. The strange light began to fade as daylight threatened; the sky changed from purple to pink. Birds flew overhead and rolling swells lapped up against Serena’s body.
Together they dove beneath the ocean waves.