It has a way of calling to her, the sea. When in close proximity to the salty air and sun bleached sand Emma would find herself drawn there by the briny scent and constant shifting of the tides. Memories of a far off place, ages removed from the present. Strolling, the grains of sand between her toes, she was transported almost effortlessly to distant places. Whether the small Norwegian ladested where her life began all those decades ago, or a tiny island in Greece where a short visit had stretched into months. The ocean was the same everywhere, and yet so very different. The world the same, and yet always changing.
The city had the energy of other large metropolises, and yet managed to have a feel all its own. The population, large and varied, provided a haven for some that were far from typical humans, she had noted. But there were very few that would recognize her energy for what it was, or that could even put a finger on or a name to the difference once detected. Was her sister already among the masses, or soon to be counted there? It was impossible to say yet. But she planned on trying again.
The early hour left her alone on the long stretch of pale sand the Pacific Ocean tumbled against. There were signs someone had been there not long before, footprints that marred the windblown surface of the beach. A morning jogger, perhaps. It wasn’t a spot that attracted throngs of beach goers and their brightly colored chairs and terrycloth rectangles, used to claim a spot. But that was precisely why she chose that particular location, even though most sun worshipers wouldn’t be starting their day for another couple of hours. Picking a large, flat boulder by the water’s edge, Emma sat, quieting herself inside, eyes closing.
Time blurred, the churning of the water and the soft caress of the wind her company as she tapped into the life-force that made up everything around her. Minutes, an hour, and then there was something that stirred her from her meditative state. Like a flutter in her mind, she became aware of someone else close by. Something tickled at her subconscious, but in a sort of aggravated frustration she pushed at it. Emma had hoped to have more time there alone in her search before being encroached upon. A few more breaths and her eyes opened.
Scanning the horizon she found the one that intruded on her time. Something inside of her tightened in knowing. This wasn’t just some lonely wanderer or early bird that had ventured there by chance and interrupted her morning. There was no “chance” really, but a predetermined plan of tangled paths and crossing lines that could seldom, if ever, be redirected. Emma knew, deep inside as only she could. Though too far away to distinguish features or confirm it by sight, she knew. And the world stopped spinning, just for a moment.
She could recall every lifetime, every moment filled with pain or joy or longing that spanned the bridge between that first time and now. Emma could produce names and dates and the smallest of details, like the particular shade of weathered red belonging to the walls of the first place they met. How he always had an affinity for nature, no matter the time or place. How he enjoyed sunset as much as sunrise. And that he never remembered any of it himself. He never remembered her. And this time wouldn’t be any different. For him, it would be as if they were meeting for the very first time.
There were so many reasons to flee, to leave the small outcropping of rocks that were her seaside perch and go. This was a story with happy moments, but no happy ending would be had. Emma stopped questioning long ago. She didn’t ask why he always came into her life. Briefly she wondered if this was why she was in Seattle, but she didn’t think it was the only reason. There were real signs that led her there in the quest to find her sister. But there he was walking towards the rocks, backpack on.
More than thirty years had passed since the last time she saw his lop-sided smirk and eyes paler blue then her own. The doppelganger of the first and only person to ever capture her quite that way walked towards her. Not to her, of course, but towards where she sat as still as stone. It was hard to breath. They had so many “first” meetings, and yet it never softened the shock of seeing him again, or the bittersweet knowledge that he was there but had no memory of anything that came before. It was always a strange one-sided reunion where she was the sole person that carried memories inside, never getting more than a vague sense of having met somewhere prior from him.
He smiled, the casual grin of someone in passing being polite. Something inside of her fractured but was hidden well. She had practice, after all. In his second life she had been so bowled over by it all that she had managed to terrify the poor man before he could gather his wits. Emma had learned the hard way.
It was a simple greeting from him that she returned exactly the same, her accent worn down by time and travel so that it was just a shadow of what it used to be. Decades in England had rubbed off on her, and it was what was most noticeable to a trained ear now. He rested his bag in the sand and walked toward the foamy water’s edge, Emma trying not to stare and so far repressing the desire to move closer.
It never mattered how many times she was faced with the very same predicament. Each time that their lives collided it was like starting fresh all over again. Somehow they always found each other. Things would progress, though that progression had varied vastly over the span of his lives. But the end game was always the same. It was the most double-edged of swords, though. True, they had so many happy memories and treasured times. Or at least Emma did. In return, she also had to carry with her those memories that she wished she could wipe clean from her mind. Try as she might, and she had fought so hard to find a way, things never ended well.
Emma watched the water roll and foam against the rocks and sand, as quiet as he was. This part was both exhilarating and trying. How many people got to experience that first moment of locking eyes and exchanging words with a true soulmate more than once in a lifetime? There was something special and unique about meeting him each time. He was always the same man, deep inside, but a different person.
Her thoughts were pulled back to the present when she noticed movement from the corner of her eye. Much to Emma’s surprise, a rather large dog was bounding across the sand, directly toward her. A smile crept onto her calm features. It wasn’t the energetic animal that brought about the look, or not exactly. It was more that the golden furred pet existed at all. It was no surprise to her that he would have a four-legged companion. For someone who was as human as they came, he always had an affinity for nature and all its creatures.
Reaching down, she patted the dog’s soft head, the ball the animal had been carrying dropping to the sand. Animals were remarkably intuitive, and there was a look of understanding, at some level, in those eyes that gazed up at her. The canine’s owner approached and she looked up, bracing herself as best as she could to look upon those piercing eyes and strong features she knew so well. What was his name in this life? Silent as he retrieved the ball sent the dog on its way once again, she took the moment to drink in the little details and differences visible to her, like a small scar on one of his hands and the way his hair was cut.
“Sorry about that”, he apologized. “Sadie usually doesn’t make a habit of charging after strangers.”
“Oh, it’s no bother. Really.” Did he sense anything out of the ordinary? He had admitted in the past to the hard to place sensation of having met before. Long ago she had given up any hope of some miraculous jolt of recognition, but clearly the bond that tethered them was strong. “She was merely curious.” For a few seconds, nothing awkward, there was silence and then Emma rose, feet sinking into the wet sand. “I’m Emma”, she said by way of introduction and extending her hand.
“Cody”, he replied, taking her hand.
Forcing herself to breathe, to speak, she earnestly replied, “It’s nice to meet you, Cody.”
Story by: Tammy Amaro
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