“You are going to have to row harder if you mean for us to get there before sundown.” Torin grunted as he leaned backward. The oars slapped the water one final time before coming to a disoriented stop in Zia’s aching hands. Pushing the hair from her face and eyes, she turned back and gave him a haunting stare, one that Torin somehow managed to miss. That, or he seemed not to care. She took that moment to massage her barking arm muscles and the callouses she had earned with her solo efforts. She hoped they would get there before sundown. They would if she didn’t tire out.
“We would get there much faster if you would help, you know.” She gazed ahead of her, guarding her tone. She didn’t want to upset him. He did terrible things when he was upset. He behaved like an angry cat. He had not harmed her in any physical way, but he was the reason she had to flee to Auboline in the first place.
“I couldn’t possibly be of any help to you, not really.” His eyes, matching the color of the sea, narrowed to block out the sun. “It would not be to our advantage if I were to get wet. You know this, dear Zia.”
“It is a risk I am willing to take, however since the city moves further away with each hour. We are at least three miles away and I certainly don’t want–”
“You know my father loved the sea,” Torin cut her off, a nostalgic and yet jovial ring in his voice.
Zia bit down on her tongue. She had heard this story so many times over the last two weeks that she could recite it herself. Yet she managed to stay silent. She was too close to Auboline to jeopardize everything. She took the oars in hand, took in a breath and conceded to the telling of the story, mouthing out each far fetched word.
“My father said the sea was his mistress, that something about her called him to her. He had taken a wife, one of the land but the sea had taken him. And then one day between the rising of the sun and the setting of the moon I was born. The moon, does set, doesn’t it?”
Zia rolled her eyes. Torin continued. “I was born between sand and sea between night and day. My existence of in between keeps me from ever being settled. That is why I must go to Auboline. It is an unsettled city.” His voice became a sing-songy sigh as he leaned deeper in his reclining. “Its anchor free existence gives way for me to have an anchor,” He touched Zia’s back and the feel of his fingertips against her achy, sun-licked skin had a surprising effect. His touch was somehow soothing. “I will be able to live between land and sea upon Auboline. The salt water will not have an effect on me. Not anymore.”
Zia kept rowing, and even allowed herself to dive into conversation with Torin, anything to get the shiver his touch had sent through her off her mind. “And what will happen if the salt water touches you before you set foot on Auboline?”
There was a pause, a dead silence that made her turn towards him. Torin met her gaze, his was somehow grave. She had never seen this in him. She had only known him two weeks.
“I will become the sea.”
Zia stared at him before taking him for pulling her leg and splashed salt water at him. Torin leaped away from it as if it were acid. The boat rocked threateningly and the clouds above suddenly turned dark gray. Zia did her best to settle the boat. She had seen Torin throw a fit but never had darkness turned the sky before because of it. Her heart lodged in her throat. What had she gotten herself into?
Torin tore off a length of fabric from his coat. With careful hands he soaked up the tiny sprays of liquid and toasted the fabric and finally the entire coat, into the sea. Zia protested. “Hey that was a costly garment! I could have gotten much for it! If you didn’t care for it you could have given it to me.” She meant that. Leaving home without a single copper but the ones this costly man lent her was ugly business.
“If you cared anything for price you would not play such costly games, Zia.”
Zia went quiet again. She was suddenly beginning to believe his silly story about his father and the sea, so much so that she would not test him or its truth again, not so close to Auboline.
Torin reached forward again and let his palm spread across her back. Zia flinched. “You do know, however that if I were to become the sea I could always do like my mother and call a bride to me. She would be beholden to me for the rest of her days. Like my mother, I can choose whomever I please and then I would be free again to live as a man. My mother she lived as a woman of the earth for quite sometime.”
Zia turned to him once more unable to keep herself from it. In her periphery the sea was stirring, the color of it intensifying. Torin’s eyes did the same, stirring and deepening in color. Zia felt her grip slipping from the oars and her body being drown towards his lips. She could not look away nor stop herself until Torin blinked his eyes and the drawing ceased upon her.
A shuddered breath left her lungs. She righted herself in her seat, turned from her passenger and began to row harder, suddenly fearful of the man she had once thought ridiculous. She would be in Auboline in less than an hour if her arms didn’t give out on her. She prayed they would not. She had no intention of being any man’s bride, least of all the sea’s. In Auboline she would not have the worry.
The quiet again, rolled over the boat and the ocean and the sky above peaked through the clouds in tranquil blue. Torin shifted his weight and once again began to lounge in his place, his breathing easy as the summer breeze. He said, “My father loved the sea.”
I have to admit that with this story I took an extra 15 min to complete it. 30 minutes and this is what I came up with. Honestly I am kind of curious to know more about Zia and Torin. I might just take their little tale further in the future.