Salt tickled my nose from the ocean spray. Coarse sand rubbed against my palms as I leaned back. In the distance, Emelie smiled at me, her wet hair whipping in the wind. I raised my hand, flicking my fingers in a blasé gesture.
Emelie and I had met a couple months ago. She intrigued me. I had no answers to the questions she asked. My body pulled itself to her regardless of what my brain said. Her beauty sparkled like the sea. Also like it, she could unnerve you, make you feel things that you weren’t supposed to feel about something beautiful.
Water dripped off her long legs as she strode out of the water. Many men had bowed to those legs. I often wondered if I would become one of them.
“Come on, why won’t you join me?” she asked, wringing out her hair.
I shrugged. “Ocean’s not really my thing.” I shook off some sand in disgust.
She laughed and I paused to fully embrace it.
“Don’t be such a soursport, Percy.” She bumped her shoulder into mine.
My hand slipped in the sand, and I toppled into it. I grumbled under my breath and sat back up. She tugged on my arm and pulled me to my feet.
“Em, I don’t want to go in the water.”
Her feet splashed into the water. The water seeped into my shoes, soaking into my socks. I grimaced at the squelching feeling.
Emelie grabbed my face, squishing my cheeks together.
Her eyes shined and crinkled with her smile. She pressed against me.
“I know work has been really hard on you, Percy. Michael’s been giving you hit after hit —”
I started to pull away from her, but her arms tightened around me.
“I don’t want to talk about work. Or Michael.”
She forced my face toward her again.
“Talk to me,” she whispered. “I want to help.”
“You can’t help, Emelie. I’m stuck in this job for life.”
The sun cast an orange glow across the sea. Emelie draped her arms around my neck, resting her head in the crook of my shoulders.
“Let’s run away, then. We have the money between the two of us. You have the weapons to protect us. We could do it.”
I scoffed. “They’re the ones that taught me all of it. You think they wouldn’t be able to track me through all of that? Emelie, don’t be ridiculous. The only way I’m getting out is in a body bag.”
She stroked the hair on my nape, twirling her perfectly manicured fingers.
“Please, Percy. We can figure something else out. I don’t want this for you. For us.”
The water rose to my shins. I needed a shower after this.
“Michael gave me my next hit.”
Emelie froze. “He did? Is… is it someone we know?”
“…no. I don’t think so.”
We stood there until Emelie started to pull away.
“The tide is coming in. We should probably get out.”
I held her tighter. “Stay a little longer?”
She tensed before loosening once more. “Okay.”
The tide was at my knees now.
“Wait. Before you tell me anything. I have to tell you something.”
I released a breath. “Alright, go ahead.”
“I think… I think I love you.”
“Oh, Emelie…” I stepped away from her.
“Emelie… you make this harder than it has to be!”
“Percy, why? What do you mean?!”
I spun around, grabbing her by the shoulders.
Tears streamed down her face. “Percy?”
I stroked her face, wiping away her tears.
“You’re so beautiful, Emelie. So, so beautiful.” I went to my knees, pulling Emelie with me.
Her eyes held mine, glossy from tears.
“Percy, I love you.”
I shoved her under the water. It splashed up, soaking me more. Her hand shot up, grabbing at my face. Her feet thrashed and the water bubbled where she tried to take in air.
After a few moments, the water stopped. Only the tide brushed against my leg.
I pulled her out of the water and drug her ashore. I kissed her forehead.
“I’m sorry, Emelie.”
I ran up and down the beach, calling for help.
Starting as a military brat traveling Europe, Katalina Bryant made her way to Florida where she graduated Full Sail University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Since then she has been studying to receive her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. She has three published works: “A Sunset of Blue Smoke” in Literally Stories, “Burning the Mistake” in Shotgun Honey, and “Satisfied” in Scarlet Leaf Review. Visit her at www.katalinabryant.com for more.