It took them a solid twenty minutes to reach the peak, wending their way up snaking slopes and steps crudely hewn into the hillside. The grassy plateau atop the hill was oddly deserted; even the most intrepid tourists chased back down to the promenade by the merciless coastal breeze. From here, the sounds of the beach were distinctly muffled, the resort tucked away behind the craggy cliffs. There was an air of peaceful solitude, just the two of them alone, sharing the spot with only the relentlessly swirling winds and the large stone archway ahead, framing the boundless sea. It was the last-standing remnant of a fortress destroyed many centuries before, brazenly facing ghostly armadas in all its weather-beaten glory. They took a moment to drink in the view, and catch their ragged breath.
She slipped her hand from his, stepping forwards and taking some large gulps of the fresh, chilled air. He became suddenly aware of how clammy his hand had become, and wiped it surreptitiously on his jeans whilst watching her slight frame joyously embrace the seaside elements. After a while, she spun to face him with a heavy sigh.
“My hair is such a mess right now.”
He duly looked, watching the way her fragile brunette wisps twirled enticingly in the breeze, the way her tresses flowed like a rippling river, dancing with nature rather than fighting it. He couldn’t imagine her hair looking any more beautiful than it did right now.
“I think you look… pretty,” he mumbled clumsily, the wind tearing the words from his mouth almost as soon as they were uttered. But she heard; he saw the corner of her mouth flicker into a small smile. Then she was off, distracted as usual, leaping with gazelle-like grace towards the ruin, and he, admiring, followed.
She swung herself around the sturdy stone pillars and through the open arch in a deft figure-of-eight, before something caught her attention. She traced her fingers over some graffiti scratched into the stone surface, lingering on the rough shape of a heart.
“Can you imagine how many other people have stood right here? You know, in the past? Soldiers, kings, lovers…”
He adored this about her, the way her mind was bursting with stories and questions and dreams. Her periwinkle eyes sparkled far greater than the dull ocean behind her, lit by her rampaging imagination, he presumed. He often found himself feeling inadequate in her presence, with his average build, average hair, average brain, but equally, when he was with her he felt lifted, buoyed by her restless spirit, as though living vicariously through her. It was a strange paradox.
Before he could respond to her musings, she had already darted off towards the unfenced cliff edge, stopping abruptly and perching on her tip-toes, peering curiously towards the ocean below. His heart was suddenly in his mouth. Images of fang-like rocks and ravenous waves clamouring for victims at the foot of the cliff flashed through his head.
“What are you doing!?” he cried, bolting after her.
She didn’t reply, just smiled absently at the sound of his voice.
“Please come away from there,” he pleaded earnestly.
“Isn’t the sea fascinating?” she purred, “So open and yet… so full of secrets.”
He inched closer, reaching out his hand until his fingers interlocked with hers.
“It reminds me of you,” he said simply.
It was enough to coax her away from the perilous precipice. She allowed him to pull her back, close to him. His palms were still sweaty, but this time, he wouldn’t let her slip away. His heart started thumping a military tattoo in his chest. She gazed back at him doe-eyed, pausing to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. The light scent of her sweet, floral perfume wafted windswept into his subconscious. Nervously, he brought his quivering lips towards hers. They brushed so gingerly that it could scarcely be called a first kiss – as though her lips were made of rose-tinted crystal and he were afraid of shattering them. But on the second attempt, she pressed her mouth firmly against his, cementing the tender moment in their memories for an eternity. There they stood, like so many before them – momentarily frozen in time, framed by the portentous archway, witness once more to the birth of love.
Emma H, age 26, 12/04/2017
It is with some trepidation and excitement that I post a short story to my blog for the first time – also incidentally the first new short story I have written in likely over 10 years! Hopefully you’ll find the story enjoyable and I’ll be inspired to write more in the coming months. If anyone has any comments or advice it would be much appreciated. This particular tale was written in response to Sue Vincent’s Stones #writephoto prompt – another great imagination-stirring photograph from Sue!