Aja Todd: Into the Tides

(Several, unsent letters by Jonathan Somers were found at the edges of the sea and inside an abandoned boat. Presumably addressed to Persephone B. Wynn, it is uncertain to this day if every letter was retrieved. Due to the dates ruined by saltwater, these letters have been placed in their assumed order.)

 

Dearest Persephone,

What do you think of me? Two years have gone by since we first met. We’ve experienced the four seasons and every holiday together, two times over now. My family members wonder if you’re the one I’m fated to be with. I fantasize about the idea, as well; you’d look wonderful in white.

Yet, I feel guilty because we’ve never discussed our future. Do you plan on staying with me longer? Do you want to? Unfortunately, I’m the one who is an open book. You’re the mysterious one, but I’ve always adored that about you.

Just once I wish you’d tell me more, though.

Is it difficult to share your feelings with me? I feel I’ve told you my fair share. You’re always quiet when I do. You’re either nodding your head, giving a shy smile, or laughing merrily at an embarrassing moment of mine. There are times you hold my hand, caress my cheek, or silently say how much you love me with light kisses on my neck. You especially do the latter when I’m sad, even if I don’t tell you I am.

“Your eyes droop and close slightly when you’re upset,” you said to me once. “You also trace random letters on your thumb with a finger while you’re brooding over something.” You paused at my expression, and I remember wondering how you knew me better than I knew myself. You smiled a little as you continued, “And you’re happiest when you’re looking right at me and wondering if this is where you’re meant to be.” I recall kissing you then, quite passionately as well. My hands lingered in your hair, on your face, and finally rested at your sides. Your fingers toyed with my necklace before you placed them on my shoulders. I believe this was the morning when I accidentally spilled coffee on your dress a few hours later and we had to hurry back home. A Tuesday, I believe. I still apologize for that. You suffered a few burns on your legs, and tears formed at the corners of your eyes because you held in how much it hurt. You shouldn’t have to do that, I’m sorry. I hope you’ll forgive me, or maybe you already have. I still think of it regardless. I’ll bring you back one day and we’ll have the date we were supposed to have, I promise.

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

Somehow I had forgotten how much you loved the sea. Today we walked on its sandy beaches and you filled your small purse with beautiful seashells. Then you lifted your skirt so conservatively as you walked to the edge, letting the water swallow your feet and kiss your ankles. You were mesmerizing in the sunlight; I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought this. You were quiet though—quieter than usual. Is there something bothering you? I wish you’d tell me.

Persephone, when we get married, should our wedding be on a beach? I would prefer a church or just indoors; I wouldn’t want the rain to ruin our special day. I’ll ask you about it later. We have a lot of time on our hands and, my God, I haven’t even proposed.

I’m too . . . terrified to describe my feelings. Every time I think of it, I think of your grace and splendor. If you accepted me, you’d certainly be settling when you could venture for so much more. I don’t know if what I want for you is to settle. I wish for you to be happy, whether with or without me. There’s also the possibility of blunt rejection, in which case, our relationship would shortly end and I don’t know if my heart could handle that either.

Please, God, give me strength to propose, and give her faith in me to accept.

With love,

Jonathan

           

Dearest Persephone,

            You looked especially beautiful today. The rosiness in your cheeks flushed a brilliant red, due to the unexpected chill of spring, and your full lips fell into a smile I’ve never seen before.

Your hair has been growing longer and longer than what I’m used to. Do you plan on cutting it? I hope you don’t. I love how thoughtfully you pull it into a bun in the morning, only for it to slowly unravel throughout the day. I think I’ve fallen in love with every little thing you do with each passing moment. I wonder if you feel the same about me. Should I ask you, or would that be too much? I don’t wish to suffocate you. I don’t know if I am, if you never say anything to me.

Shouldn’t couples at this point know each other too well? I’m trying to wait patiently for that time. I dream of your head resting on my lap, our fingers intertwined. You’d excitedly tell me your desires, or cry softly because you misplaced your heart only to find it broken. I want to see all of these things. I want to be there to experience you, in a sense. When will that time come, Persephone?

With love,

Jonathan

           

Dearest Persephone,

            Sometimes, I’m afraid to look into your eyes. Before they spoke of wonder, now they hold a burning desire yet lostness I cannot name. It sends chills of disgust through me, though I do not know why. Instinctively, I look away. It isn’t because I’ve lost my love for you, but I apologize as I haven’t found a reason for my actions.

            What are you always thinking of, my dear? Why do your eyes drift to the heavens, to the ground, and to murky waters before you cast a weary smile at me? Why do riddles come out of your lips instead of real words? I’m afraid whether you’re growing hateful toward me or simply mad.

“Do you have a dream, Jonathan?” you asked me today. You were sitting by the window while you gazed longingly to the sea, your face mixed with passion and a grimace. Your blonde hair has grown fuller now, spilling over your shoulders with curled edges.

“Yes, I do,” I answered. “Almost everyone does.” You were quiet, hands on your lap. “Do you have a dream, Persephone?”

You pursed your lips, interlocking your fingers. Were you trembling? “I had forgotten it for a long time.” There was a pause, a short exhale of breath. “But I’ve recently remembered it.”

“What is your dream, dear?” You didn’t respond for a while. Suddenly, fear was taking hold of me again.

“I cannot tell you,” you said it bluntly, but there was a subtle crack at the end of your voice. Were you about to cry?

“Why not?”

“Because you would hate me.” I was surprised by this remark.

“I would never hate you, Persephone. I love you too much.” You didn’t believe me; I could tell by how you faced fully toward the window. Then you didn’t speak to me no matter how many times I repeated myself or said your name. I left you there, but maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I should’ve held you in my arms. Maybe I should’ve spoken with actions and not words. I’ll try to bring this discussion up tomorrow.

But how can I reassure you that you are my everything? How can I redeem myself?

This is going to haunt me until I figure it out for you, I’m sure of it.

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

You are sleeping beside me currently. This evening, we had dinner at Emily’s. It was a nice gathering of friends, and I noticed you laughed several times with Emmett. I’m glad you had a good time. I had asked Emily a couple days prior to make sure she cooked your favorite meals. You should be spoiled more often. I should spoil you more often.

Is there a place you want to travel to? Is there anything you’d like from the shops nearby? I’d like to ask you these mundane things. I want to grant all of your wishes.

We still haven’t talked about your dream. You always avoid the subject with a distraction or a sad smile. I don’t want to sadden you, Persephone, but I want you to tell me why you’re making that an expression. You used to be much happier. What will make you happy? As each second goes by, I’m beginning to believe it isn’t me.

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

Have you lost your voice? Are you sick? You haven’t said a word for several weeks. I miss how sweetly you sound. I miss how your singing carried my worries away. I miss you, Persephone.

I can still feel how your back pressed into my chest this morning, how my arms were able to wrap around your thin body. I smelled the lilac in your hair and tasted the peppermint on your lips, but there wasn’t any warmth radiating off your skin. All you do is resemble a ghost of your former self. Each day I tell you what happened at work or with our friends, yet I can’t tell if you’re listening.

Do you even love me anymore? Are you dying? Is it both? I am lost. I cannot understand you unless you let me, Persephone. Please, stop this.

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

Where have you gone? I’m scared. Your things are still here, untouched. You went out for a walk, but you have not returned.

I’ve already contacted the police because I’m worried about you. If it is something I did, I am so, so sorry, Persephone. I love you more than I can bear, and I want you to return home safely now, okay?

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

You are still missing. Were you looking at our photo album before? I’m sure it was you; it couldn’t have been anyone else.

Why did you scribble out your face with a pen? The black ink is sticking to my fingers. You drew on our photos so ferociously, the ink is reminding me of blood. You’re scaring me more, Persephone.

You didn’t . . . die, did you?

No, I don’t want to think it. I won’t.

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

Worries are still haunting me. My imagination is growing and I don’t like the taste inside my mouth. It’s salty and bitter; it lingers no matter how much I try to wash it down.

I miss the taste of peppermint. I miss the sound of your bare feet on our wooden floors, the panels creaking under your light weight. You’re everywhere and nowhere. When I’m asleep, I hear the heavy silence you left me. Is this punishment? Was I not enough for you, or is my arrogance speaking for me, and I’m really not involved at all? I don’t know what to think. The future seems bleak and I can only look to the past, just so I can feel your arms around me, if only for a second.

How many weeks must go before you’re satisfied, Persephone? God? Whoever is torturing me and my sanity?

Persephone, what will I do without you? Please, come back.

With love,

Jonathan  

 

Dearest Persephone,

I saw you today. I finally saw you today. I was sitting in Emmett’s boat as it rested by the dock. He was gathering more bait when I saw you, and despite what he says, I’m certain that I did.

It was only your back—your beautiful, white back. Your hair was drenched and it clung to your skin, tossed over one shoulder. I’ve traced shapes and placed my lips on that back, I know it was your back and no one else’s. Emmett said I was delusional for the many months you’ve been gone. He said even sane people hallucinate at times.

But it was you. It was you who slipped back into the waters, a beautiful fish tail waving at me as you dove underneath the surface. I know it. I saw it, and I can’t unsee it.

My eyes had widened and I screamed your name until my throat burned. I almost jumped overboard until Emmett pulled me back, cupping a hand over my blubbering mouth. He told me to shut up before more people stared at me, but I couldn’t. I almost bit his hand off, actually.

But it was only because I was so overly ecstatic to see you that I couldn’t control myself. You were in front of me, safe and unharmed! Furthermore, I believe I learned what your dream was! It was to return to the sea, was it not? I should’ve known you were not a creature of this world. You are far too exquisite to be human!

Why on earth would you think I’d hate you after learning this? Is it because you knew you’d return one day, that we could not be together? There is no hate because of this, only sorrow. Like I have said before and will say forever: I will always love you, Persephone. I hope you know that.

With so much love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

I decided to visit “you” at the beach today. It’s been a long time since I have written to you. The water feels cold on my feet. Does it feel good to you? I hope so, my dear. You still deserve the best.

What are you exactly, I wonder. Are you really called a mermaid? Or are you something humans cannot yet fathom?

I have tried to get over you, Persephone, but everything reminds me of you. There is this longing I cannot shake off, and this prickling pain in my chest. I feel it growing stronger and stronger by the minute. Will it consume me one day? That is what I have been wondering as of recent. I’m scared, yet not at the same time. I don’t mind it, because I’m sure you were afraid too, Persephone, before you returned to the sea. I will hold out for a little longer.

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

I haven’t found you yet. I keep going to the sea, day and night, night and day. Work has been calling, they’re wondering why I haven’t returned. I don’t want to return. I want to be with you. I miss the touch of your skin, my lips pressed against yours. I’m still madly in love with you . . . and maybe I should stress the word mad.

I see you everywhere I go. You can take this romantically and picture this as daydreaming, but I believe I’m borderline hallucinating. I can hear you even though I know I shouldn’t. I feel you with me even though I know you aren’t.

There was one time I was lying in bed and you were somehow curled up next to me, the edges of your newfound tail brushing against my leg. I instinctively moved my hand toward your side, running my fingers down your fish scales and lingering for several minutes. I was repulsed yet entranced at the same time. You used to have legs, and it is completely alright that you don’t anymore, but I absolutely apologize for my subconscious disgust. I quickly quell it every time it shows itself, and I instead admire the indescribable beauty you have.

Your still-growing hair was resting upon your bare breasts, beautiful waves and curls dancing upon them. Your eyes gleamed with an unexpected fascination and desire toward me, so much that my face felt hot.

“Come find me,” you whispered, your teeth sharp and peeking out of your lips. “Let’s be together.” Your words burned and ran through my entire body. I absent-mindedly nodded my head, and before I knew it, you were gone. And I was wide awake.

Yet, I still haven’t found you.

How far do I have to search, my dear?

Am I getting closer?

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

The sun feels hot on my skin. I’m sitting here in this boat by myself; Emmett is too selfish to lend me his boat now. He used to do it before, but now he’s severely against it.

The boat is cramped and wooden, only enough room for two. That’s alright with me. It cost much more than it’s worth surely, but we had a lot of money saved. I assumed it was okay to use since this is what you desire, for me to find you.

How far do you travel each day? Do you ever go to the shore to see what you have left behind? Will you tell me? Can you speak?

I have so many questions for you, Persephone. I can’t wait to meet again. I love you.

With love,

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

I have run out of food and water, but I’m terrified, Persephone. If I leave, what if we miss each other? What if you’re nearby?

I don’t want to miss you, I won’t. I cannot do that. I don’t care what Emmett, Emily, and the others think. We are meant to be. We belong together. We will see each other again. Definitely.

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

I love your hair, your eyes, your back, your smile, your arms, your tail, your skin, your skin, your taste, your taste, your taste, your skin.

Hold me, kiss me, touch me, feel me.

I

know

I

will

never

return

again.

Jonathan

 

Dearest Persephone,

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,

I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU.

Jonathan

Dearest Persephone,

(“BACK AND FORTH, THE BOAT ROCKS. BACK AND FORTH” is written on the side of the final letter. His writing is scratchy and blurred together.)

I still hallucinate that I see you, Persephone.

You appear transparent. (“LIKE THE SUNLIGHT THAT USED TO ADORE YOU” is crossed out several times.)

You always open your mouth and smile when you look at me.

I feel you in my skin. I feel you devouring me.

(One sentence is written across all the words, ink blots and scribbles filling the rest of the page.)

“EAT ME ALREADY.”