A Year and a Day
by Sean R Robinson
Robert did not expect the sea-witch to live in a house, not one with a blue door and small hedges that lined the walkway.
He thought that the seagulls overhead probably worked for her, watched for her. He knocked on the door, though the arthritis made his hands hurt every day. Three knocks and the door opened.
"May I help you?" she asked. She was younger than he expected, and more beautiful. If he didn't know better--which he didn't--Robert would have thought her young enough to be his daughter--perhaps even his granddaughter.
"I have an appointment," he said. She wore a light cotton sweater over a pale blue dress. She nodded and turned back into the house.
The sea-witch's house was well kept. There was an old piano in the corner, pictures on the walls--seascapes. There was a kitchen on the other side of the small house, and a stair that lead to the second floor. She sat at the table, looking at him.
Robert did not know what to say.
The sea-witch let the silence grow between them until it was almost crushing.
"I need you to help me," Robert said at last. "I need you to help me get her back."
He noticed her eyes as he said it. He tried to look into them, but it was like looking into the abyss and knowing that the abyss looked back. There was no pity in her eyes and he was almost sorry for that lack. But, he realized, he had been pitied enough. Enough and enough and more than enough. A year and a day he had fed himself pity because his Mary had gone to the water and no remains had been found.
"She isn't there," she said. "They're never there, and will never be there, and nothing we say or do from this moment forward will change that."
"I need to find her."
"She is in your dreams. She is in your secret places. She is where promises go when they have been fulfilled. Until death do us part. That was your promise, it was fulfilled. Be happy that that is how you've lived and how you've loved."
"You can help me."
She went still. The house was quiet. Even the seagulls outside the window had gone silent.
"It will--"she began.
"I don't care about the cost," Robert said.
The sea-witch shook her head from side to side. "You should."