It had been another horrible blind date, just as Alena expected. The guy stumbled into the restaurant; already well on his way to being obnoxious. He ordered a bottle of their cheapest wine while his bloodshot eyes scanned the length of her. His snort was hardly complimentary.
Alena smiled weakly and excused herself to the powder room that was only feet from the entrance, and freedom. Outside she inhaled deeply and felt a relief that told her she was done with dating.
The restaurant overlooked the ocean and the sound of waves beckoned with a womb-like solace. Sliding off her sandals, Alena gave in and found a break in the shrubbery where she could feel the sand beneath her feet on her way to the water’s edge. The water felt cool and contrasted with the ragged rocks that tortured her feet. I deserve to hurt she thought. Something has to bring me to my senses.
She settled once more into that well of self-pity that relieved her of the responsibility to become someone she didn’t want to be. All the rules —all the expectations — all that came with being brilliant. Why can’t I just be a normal, shallow girly-girl? she asked herself. If I were just shallow, it would be far easier to find a guy who asks little from the world and wouldn’t threaten his masculinity.
Her green eyes welcomed the ocean spray as it whipped her ash-blonde hair about her high cheeks. She knew she had beauty; but whether it was attractive was the question. There was strength in the way she carried herself; the strength that comes from having lived through and witnessed the less elegant parts of life, even at her young age. She knew she intimidated men; but wasn’t willing to play possum to find someone who could fulfill her. Instinctively, she felt she had lived before; in another time and in another body. While she had no actual memory of it, there was a knowing within her; as though she knew this water and its every shallow and rock.
She had wandered far down the shoreline; the lights of the restaurant were no bigger than stars along the distant horizon. She cried out as her foot caught between the rocks. She caught herself to keep from falling hard on their jagged edges. Her foot was lodged, however, and although she tried to wriggle loose, it just caused more pain. Bending, she attempted to move the rocks, but they were not moving. She sat down as comfortably as possible to think.
The tide was coming in, so there was a clock ticking. At some point she would be submerged. Her heart beat faster at this and she breathed deeply, trying to remain calm. There was no chance anyone at the restaurant or the road above would hear her. The surf was too loud. She opened her purse to retrieve her cell, but there was no service at the water’s edge. It had just become a very expensive flashlight. “Damn!” she muttered and was beginning to feel a chill that came from more than the cool water and the growing wind.
It was then that she noticed a shape down the shore from where she sat. At that distance, his bulky silhouette and the way he walked indicated he was male. As he came closer, Alena began to wave and called out. “Hey! Excuse me! Help!”
His pace did not falter, nor did he respond to indicate he’d heard her. Alena tried calling out again, cupping her hands; no response. She quickly grabbed her cell and turned on its flashlight app, waving it in his direction. The night was bright with the full moon, however, and she doubted whether her phone would catch his attention.
The figure continued toward her and in the moonlight she could easily now tell it was a male; his form powerfully muscled and absolutely naked. This wasn’t that unusual; many people preferred to swim naked at night. She wondered if he was deaf, or perhaps drunk. Unlikely, as he walked erectly and with an almost serpentine grace that suggested he was quite in control of every step. It was too distant to make out his features but she could tell from his profile that he was every bit male; exuberantly so.
As she watched, he began to wade through the surf into the depths of the rushing waves. They washed over him in powerful thrusts; yet his step did not falter. Again, she tried calling out to him despite that her attempts were going unnoticed. Her heart sank as she saw him disappear beneath the water. He didn’t attempt to stroke to swim; simply walking flat-footed beneath the waves. Damn! she thought to herself. He’s a suicide! Just my luck! His body will probably wash up next to my drowned one and some jogger will find us in the morning.
It was then that she noticed a change in the waves just beyond her. Instead of their overlapping regularity, they began to swirl in an almost cyclonic downward spiral. If she weren’t so fascinated, she would be scared to death; except that escape was not an option so she realized she was a captive witness. Then came a protruding shape and it began to rise upward from within the swirling waters. Higher and higher it rose until it blocked her view of the moon.
With amazement, Alena realized it was alive. Seawater cascaded from its body and then, heralded by a loud flapping, similar to a schooner’s sail in a stiff wind, the creature unfurled wings and to her shock, a tail emerged and slapped hard upon the water’s surface. Silhouetted against the moon, Alena screamed as she realized she was being confronted with what appeared to be the embodiment of something from a child’s book.
Alena cowered as the creature turned toward her. It was a magnificent, deep purple dragon; its body ribbed with muscle and sinewy scales that shifted to its contours as it moved. Its head lifted and as she watched, fire burst briefly, as though releasing a pent-up energy that only the water could quench.
It turned its head and then twirled enough to face her; its head lowering toward her trapped body. Alena screamed again, certain that she was about to be bitten in half by the awesome creature. Instead, its snout lowered and briefly submerged in the water next to her and as it recoiled, the weight came off her foot and she could pull it free.
Although the foot still pained her, she scooted backward quickly in a crab-like fashion, unsure what the creature would do next. It seemed to watch her briefly and then the massive head lowered and with gentle jaws, closed about her mid-section. As she screamed, the dragon secured her and then rose from the foaming waters and into the air. Alena’s conscious thought left her then and when she awakened, she found herself on the sand just to one side of the restaurant.
Heart pounding and fear still driving adrenalin throughout her, she twisted in time to see the dragon’s silhouette against the rising moon. Its wings flapped with concussive power; its destination somewhere beyond the horizon.
Alena knew, in that moment, where her destiny lay. She was not meant for the ordinary and the fact that she had just experienced the last few minutes proved that. A peace settled over her then and when, a short time later, diners emerged and helped her to her car…she was smiling.