She taught me languages by calling into the air in German, Swedish, Norwegian, rolling her northern dialect off her tongue effortlessly. She told me once that her eyes were from her Viking heritage, a lush green with hints of copper and silver, rimmed with a band of rich hazel. I believed every word.
Her mother was Russian, a willowy woman with smooth pale hands. She spoke with a lisp and absently stroked the side of her face when she was nervous, and had a laugh that sounded like a prayer, hollow and darkly warm. Her father was Swedish. He told me he had been born with brine in his veins, told me stories of ice across vast lakes and the time death missed his hand when he was a foolish light-eyed lad of thirteen. He sailed for a living and his arms were solid and heavy. His hair was cropped short, a dancing play of light between red and wet sand, eyelashes so fair they could be dusted with ice crystals, as if he had walked out of a fairy tale wood and never looked back.
I couldn’t see where she went that day, when we walked along the beach in mid-March. She was throwing Old Norse at the sea and it roared back at her. She listened intently. I laughed. She blushed and said that the waves were asking if I would go looking for her. I felt the words slip from my tongue and lay heavy, unanswered, ‘Why, where are you going?’
If only I had not fallen asleep on the sand. I awoke, my head full of pain and sand crystals on my face. She had gone. Maybe walked out to sea to try and catch a wandering star. She never really belonged to this world, living like a fae with beliefs in magic and things unseen. The last words from this child of other lands were, ‘Would I go looking for her?’
I willed the strength to search. I was trying to find a whisper, a myth. I searched for her footprints but only my own marked this sparse landscape. The beach sighed with me as I listened for the things on the wind that she told me once were there: words and curses, prayers and songs, thrown away as carelessly as they had been created, and that still lived in the layers of the air. I heard a Celtic song sung to a child, an argument between lovers and the heated devotion, all on one gust of wind that blew hair across my eyes.
‘Not just fair, but a beauty. Standing closer than you think. Where the sky and sea meet in a bright light. On a land without sin.’
It was spoken in a rush. I turned, tried to hold onto it, but then it was gone over the grasses, joyous in its escape.
Previously published at Word Bohemia.
Jade Kennedy is a writer of poetry, prose, flash fiction and a collector of borrowed expressions. Her latest collection of poetry and flash fiction ‘Alchemy’ is available from Amazon & Kobo etc. Her poetry has been included in various zines and she is now looking to find more homes for her flash fiction and prose. She writes a blog – ‘Borrowed Expressions’ at www.jadekennedywriter.blogspot.co.uk.