Standing on the edge of the cliff, I wrap the shawl around my shoulders a little more snugly. The sea breeze whips my long red hair around my face, caressing my skin like a fevered lover. I look out to sea again. The seemingly endless horizon where sea meets sky stretches before me, pulling me into it, cajoling, calling.

I have waited like this more times than I can remember. Each time the yearning to see you grows stronger, deeper. And each time I leave a little more disappointed, a little more unfulfilled. How many lifetimes must I endure this before you stand beside me again?

The ocean below is growing more restless, reflecting my current state. The waves dance across the sea’s surface to crash on the rocks directly under me, white spray forming arcs against the dark cliff face. I shift my weight, my skirt rustling against the long grass, as I try to recall your features. Your strong face, deep sea-green eyes, golden hair. My Elf, my love, my life. Your image becomes more blurred each time, despite my efforts to hold it in my mind.

Suddenly, becoming more distinct on the horizon, I see it. Not quite believing my eyes, I strain to see more clearly, and gradually the image becomes more distinct. A boat, battling the waves, heading for shore. I feel my heartbeat quicken, my breath catch. Could it be? I find myself breathing a prayer, hoping, clutching the shawl closer to my chest. The boat seems to move more smoothly now, the waves beneath it calming. As it draws closer to land, I can finally make out the features of it’s lone inhabitant. Almost sobbing with joy, I run to the path leading to the shore below.

I scramble down the steep incline, not caring as the rocks catch my dress, the gorse snags my shawl. The boat is closer now, and I increase my pace, indifferent to any danger of a fall. Finally I reach the beach as the prow of the boat grinds into the pebbled shallows.

I stop. It’s strange, but at the moment when all my dreams are about to be fulfilled, I hesitate, unsure. What if it’s not how I imagined? What if I was wrong? What if we can’t go back? Then you look at me from where you are standing on shore, and I see that your eyes are still a deep sea green, set in a strong face with golden hair. Suddenly I find myself walking towards you, lost in the wonder of the moment, of you.

You take me into your arms and I hold you, revelling in the reality of you, the fact of you. Then, finally safe in your embrace, you whisper into my hair …

“Welcome home.”

© S McLean 1999 Originally published in “Images Inscript” (USA)

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