tagRomanceTears on the Beach

Tears on the Beach

byYgraine©

She came to the beach again hounded by pain. Angus could feel it throbbing through the ether. He thought back to the dreadful night when they grappled with her death wish before. He healed her knife wounds then as blood dripped into the sea. What would she do this time when he was not there to protect her?

The shadow on the cliff top vented his frustration on the wind. Once more someone hurt the woman he loved and he could do nothing about it. Or could he? She was sitting on the cold sand watching the sun go down beyond the horizon - a huge orange ball bathing dark clouds in a crimson glow. The chill wind blew around her, blowing long strands of light brown hair across her elfin face, but she hardly noticed. Her hands were busy digging holes in the sand by her side, short nails full of grit as she burrowed deeper into the cold.

Angus wanted to talk to her, to be able to reassure her, but they were trapped in different times, only her pain calling him back to the beach. He could see her hunched shoulders, blood oozing from cuts on her bare feet where the sharp stones of the rock pools cut her when she was wandering aimlessly hours before. He could feel her emptiness. Even the pain was receding. Soon there would be nothing left and they would have to wait another lifetime to be together.

No! This wasn't right! He was waiting for her in her own time. If she did not come to him soon, his new life would be over as well except his body would live on, guarded by those who wanted his soul, who could not bear to see him happy with his love again. He could not bear another lifetime waiting for her, only to have her destroy what chance they had before it was even begun.

The sun slipped a little lower lighting up the dragons in the sky. Their outline awakened him to the time without time. Maybe she would see him. Maybe there was a chance!

Angus walked down the path and made his way to where she was sitting on the sand. He was a tall man, well over six foot. His long, golden hair hung down his back, his chieftain's braids resting on his broad chest. His broad shoulders and muscular arms would have made any man think twice about confronting him. Yet his clear brow and high cheekbones spoke of one nobly born, not a common fighter.

For a moment he thought about sitting beside her. Maybe she would feel his reassuring presence, even if she could not see him, but the way she sat - hunched up, hugging her bony knees with her arms - made him turn away to a more practical task. It should be easy enough to build a fire to warm her. Maybe the flames would reach out through the ether. It was worth a try. If flames could pass through and walk between the worlds, maybe he could follow.

He gathered driftwood from the beach and soon got it burning with his tinder box. The smoke began to blow towards Jeanette. She brushed it angrily away from her. Why should someone come to the beach and light a fire tonight of all nights? Why did they have to come now? She looked to her left and saw a man crouching by the pile of wood, blowing on the flames as if he were nurturing them. His leather boots stuck out from under his dark cloak. He seemed familiar. She remembered someone with boots like those.


Idly, she stood up and walked over to the fire. When he motioned her to warm herself, she leaned down and picked up a burning stick, bringing it close to her face and studying the flame intently. She wondered how quickly her clothes would go up in flames if she lit them.

"Careful, lassie, or the sparks will land on you" His voice was deep, rough and somehow familiar. His accent was Scottish. She wondered what brought him so far from home on a Cornish beach.

"Maybe that's what I want."

"T'would be a waste."

"I don't think so."

"There are those unknown to you who would miss you, whose lives will be darker if you were not in them."

Jeanette laughed mirthlessly. "Who sent you to be my conscience at this particular point in time? Will you be quoting 'For whom the bell tolls' at me next?"

Angus' eyes never left her, "You called me, lass."

Jeanette tossed the burning stick back into the fire. "I called you? I don't think so! I haven't even called the Samaritans and they certainly don't make beach calls!" She turned and walked away from him, kicking the sand so tiny gold-tinted showers erupted in front of her.

Angus stood up, his great height casting a shadow far beyond her. She was aware of him walking purposefully behind her, so she turned and confronted him.

"Why are you following me? I'm not afraid of you. You can't do any worse to me than has already been done."

Her words cut him to the quick." My job is to protect you, not harm you. I'm here because you called me."

"Who the hell do you think you are?" Jeanette exploded, "I haven't called you or done anything else to you! Go away and leave me alone!" She moved as if to walk around him and go on her way, but he stepped in front of her.

"I am Angus of Clan MacSidhe"

"Then go back to them, whoever they are. I don't want you here, you're in my way. Go and find another beach!"

Angus said quietly, "You need me!"

"I don't need you," Jeanette screamed at him. "What are you going to do - hold me under the waves if I ask you nicely? Push me over the cliff when I shout 'now'? Go away!"

"No."

"Why not? Don't tell me you're some weird kind of guardian angel!"

"Whether you know it or not, you need me here," Angus reminded her. "As I said, it's my job to watch over you, but I'm no angel, lass."

"It's my job to watch over you" Jeanette mimicked him, "Go and watch over someone else for a change!"

"Do I LOOK like an angel?" Angus protested, for one moment his eyes twinkling like the first star above them.

"How should I know? I didn't think they all wore fluffy wings and bright shining halos, they could wear shirts and cross–gartered trousers and long woollen cloaks for all I know, but you're more likely to be some strange lunatic from the local re-enactment group."

The thought flitted across her mind how she knew his trousers were woollen and cross gartered above his leather boots, or that his shirt was a mixture of linen and nettles when everything was hidden by the darkness of his cloak. It was fastened with bronze pin with the picture of the sun moulded on the face. She knew the shape. She knew how the pin would feel as she fastened it into the thick cloth. Without thinking her hand reached up to touch the pin, but then he spoke and her anger washed everything from her mind.

"Just accept I'm here and I'm not leaving."

She brushed past him and started to climb up the cliff path, ignoring Angus following behind her. Eventually she sat down on a boulder overlooking the beach, glaring at him when he sat down beside her and flashed his wonderful smile. She remembered his smile. She remembered how it used to warm her in another time.

The wind blew, biting through her thin blouse and cotton shorts. There was no warmth in this world. Suddenly she felt very tired; her feet were sore and ached.

"Go away!"

"I've been away. It hasn't done you any good, has it? You need me."

"Oh sure, I need every fucking stranger who turns up on a beach!"

"No, you need ME."

"Will you get this through your thick, fucking skull -I don't need anyone."

"That's where you're wrong . . ." Angus told her, "you need me, but more importantly, you need you. Where have you gone?"

"Oh God, you're more out of your mind than I am!" Jeanette waved a hand in front of his eyes. He fought the temptation to grab it and hold her to him. "Blind now are we?"

"I see very well" His eyes scanned the details of her face. It was different now from his own Ygraine, but she still bore the fine Sidhe-like bone structure. Her eyes were blue, almost grey, reflecting the colour of the sea, her hair light brown instead of raven black, but he would have known her anywhere, even if she did not know herself yet. Her voice was sharper too, but that was the pain. It cut through his thoughts.

"Good, then perhaps I can go on my way without you lumbering behind me!"

"That's not at all likely . . ." he searched for her name in his mind. What was she called now? Jeanette - a gift from the Goddess. Yes it was a fitting name for her, the Lady had given her to him to watch over, to give him a second chance at life after madness so nearly consumed him. He tried the name out loud, "Jeanette, what do you see?"

She snapped her head towards him, her eyes blazing. "I see a towering imbecile bent on wrecking my last few hours before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Go home to your precious Clan! Find someone else to bother and leave me alone!"

"If you're intent on ending yourself, why do you care about your last few hours?" He thought for a moment, struggling for the right words. "Tell me, lass, what is it about your life that's so bad? Many people face many worse lives. Sometimes challenges make us stronger. "

"How would you know?" She screamed, but then the wind blew again, parting his tunic, revealing a livid scar running down his chest. The sight of it made her shudder, as if she were part of the violence creating such a scar. Maybe he did know something. It wouldn't hurt to tell him the truth, then maybe he'd leave her alone.

She kept her eyes on the incoming waves, not wanting to see his reaction as she spat out the words. "Four months ago, I ended a relationship. He raped me. Last month I found I was pregnant, only it was lodged in the fallopian tube instead of in my womb. They cut it out. Now I can't have children. Part of me is dead. It's easier if all of me dies."

Angus longed to take her in his arms, to rock her, to comfort her, to take away the pain. Instead he murmured, "Death won't end your problems, Jeanette. You'll just have tae work them out next time around. You're still alive, so anything might happen to change things for the better."

"Nothing will change."

"It already has. I'm here."



"Will you shut up?" Jeanette railed at him, holding her hands over her ears to keep out his words. How dare he! How dare he tell her there was hope when all she felt was loss? Suddenly he got up, grabbed her under her arms and swung her out over the edge of the cliff. The shock took her breath away, only her eyes showing how petrified she felt. In another second, she was back standing on solid ground.

"See?" he said, "You don't really want to die!"

For a moment she stood like a startled deer, but once she realised he no longer held her, she turned and ran back down the path as fast as she could. All she could hear was blood pounding in her ears. The path blurred through her tears, but she ran on, conscious he no longer followed her. The loose sand made it hard to run and her legs ached. Soon she had no breath left and sank onto the sand, crying her heart out. She did not hear him kneel beside her, but somehow his soft brogue broke through the walls of pain she built around her.

"I never wanted to scare you, lass. I wanted only to prove you didn't want to die, not really." He waited for a moment to see if she would respond, but when she did not move, he continued, "If ye want tae yell at someone, blame someone for all the horrible things happening to you . . . go ahead, blame me. I should have been protecting you all along."

Jeanette sat up, her face hidden by a wall of hair. She shook her head. "No it wasn't your fault, I asked for it, that's what he said." Her voice was dry and lifeless.

Angus wanted to take his broadsword from its scabbard hanging on his back and rid the world of the man who treated her like this, but he fought down his anger. The Gods knew there must be a crisis; this man was just their tool.

"There have been times that I wanted to die as well," he said, his hands resting lightly on her shoulder, "when I wanted to be oblivious to the nightmares in my mind."

"That makes two of us."

"You never saw me like that," he continued, "it was before I came here and promised your father to look after you, but you saw me at my other low point, when I tried to kill myself with drink because of the loss of you."

Jeanette brushed the hair away from her face. Angus could see it was streaked with tears and sand. "Why do you keep talking to me as if I know you?"

"Because you do." He sat down cross-legged beside her, gently easing her into his lap as he wrapped his cloak around the two of them. She made no effort to resist, turning her face into his chest as tears took hold of her again. He let her cry herself out before he spoke again, asking gently, "Will you let me show you pictures?"

Jeanette wondered how pictures might help her and where he kept them, but she just sighed and said, "Why not? I've got nothing else to lose."

"I'll not harm you, but you already know that, don't you?"

She nodded feeling his hand begin to gently stroke her hair. It soothed her, almost making her cry again. "Why couldn't there be someone like you for me?" she wailed, "just once!"

"There is," he told her, "he needs you."

"Oh sure, like I could be useful to anyone!"

"He's broken, but you can mend him."

"I can't even heal myself!"

"Would you like to see him?"

"Is he real?"

"He's real, but he's far away. Perhaps, you'd like to see times when you knew me?

"Did I really know you?"

"You tell me."

Jeanette thought for a moment, breathing in the smell of his soft leather tunic and warm linen shirt tinged with a familiar scent of sweat and woodsmoke. It was a smell she associated with safety and contentment. She wrinkled her nose. "You smell nice," she told him, "I can hear your heart beating."

"I canna be a ghost, then," Angus allowed himself a small chuckle. "What would you like to see? The man who waits for you or something from our life together?

Jeanette thought for a moment. She was curious about the man Angus mentioned, but she could not allow herself to think there might be someone out there for her. Better to stay with something safer. She doubted Angus could prove a previous relationship. She knew she had never been out with a tall, long-haired Scot with a penchant for leather boots, cloaks and interesting scars, but she was curious to see what kind of photographs he might produce.

"Can I see us first and then him? I need something to hold on to when I wake up from all this." She waited for him to reach inside his cloak and bring out a battered envelope, but instead he clasped his arms around her more tightly and began to breathe slowly. She wasn't sure what was happening for a moment, but inside her head an image began to form. Two elderly people sat beside a hearth. She recognised an older version of Angus, but the woman was a stranger to her. Around them played various children and two tall men, one the image of Angus, came in and out of the picture.

"Did you see us?" Angus' voice whispered in her ear. "We had a long lifetime together."

"We did?"

"Aye." She felt him touch his lips to her hair, an action which should have made her stiffen and flee, but from him, it was more a fond remembrance, helping her relax into his embrace, opening herself more to his touch.

"Let's try another time from the same lifetime."

This time her mind was filled with the blackness of night lit only by hand-held flares. Animal carcasses were strewn across the ground. She saw a young girl, a child, running across the field, screaming Angus's name, then sliding to her knees next to a dark, motionless body and throwing herself across him. Jeanette felt herself tense, suffused with anguish for the child. She wanted to go to her, to take her away from the bloodshed, to hold her safe, but instead she was forced to watch as the girl rolled the corpse over and placed both her hands over the gaping wound across the heart.

Jeanette held her breath as she felt her own hands become warm. She watched incredulously as the wound slowly closed and the corpse suddenly began to breathe again.

"Not a pretty sight," once more Angus' voice was in her ear, "but you see why I need you as much as you need me?"

"I was that child?"

"Aye."

"She saved your life. Is that why you stopped me from taking mine - some kind of debt?

Angus nodded, "Aye, she saved me more than once, not only with her healing and her herbs; just by being there. There's no debt, lassie. I'm the own who holds the debt to my Grainne."

Jeanette tingled as she heard him roll the name around his mouth as if reluctant to let it go into the cold night air.

"You say I'm supposed to go and find someone else and heal them?"

"No, he's waiting for you. You could say he is really me."

"He's you?"

"Just as you were the little girl in the image I showed you." Angus' voice was patient with her. "I am not of this time, he is."

Jeanette sighed, "I knew it was too good to be true. Can't I just stay with you?"

"No, lass, it wouldn't be right if you stayed with me. He's the one you want now, I'm only a memory. We always find each other, don't you fret."

Jeanette snuggled deeper into his embrace, "I wish all memories were as comfortable as you are."

"Would you like to see him," he asked, "as he is now?"

Jeanette shrugged, "I suppose so, he can't look worse than I do."

She saw an image of a tall man with thick red hair touching his shirt collar, checking his watch in a meeting. Although the room was full of people sitting around a large table, he looked bored. She saw him stare out of the window, gazing into the distance, oblivious to the urging of a striking woman with blond hair sitting next to him. Another, older woman sat opposite him, her perfect features marred by the waspish expression on her face as she addressed him.

Jeanette was surprised by the attraction she felt for the tall man. Whoever he was, he looked rich and successful; totally out of her reach. Married, too, she shouldn't wonder.

"Nice clothes," she murmured, trying to be nonchalant. She did not see Angus' eyes twinkling in the starlight. He knew she had made the connection and she would be safe now searching for him.

"He looks uneasy," Angus said, cradling Jeanette as she settled herself more comfortably against him.

"I won't be able to do this with him," she muttered into his chest.

"Aye, you will. Just get him out of those clothes and away from those people. He doesn't want to be there."

Jeanette did not respond. She was fast asleep. Angus rocked her in his arms, savouring the touch of his own beloved once again.

As the temperature fell, Jeanette woke to find herself alone on the beach. The moon was high in the sky. Such a strange dream to have after so much misery. The moon left a silvery path across the still water, but she no longer wished to follow that path into oblivion. For some strange reason she felt hopeful. To have someone show such care for her, even in a dream, seemed cause enough to try again.

She pulled on the dark, leather jacket lying beside her. Its smell reminded her of her dream. It made her smile as she walked back up the sandy path to where she left her car a lifetime ago. She got in and carefully drove the long way home.

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