I have been working on this story for a few weeks now, considering how to write it and how the story should flow. I would love your thoughts on this first chapter.
“She loved the sea…
She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above.
It made her feel small, but free as well.”
– George R. R. Martin
She had no memories of a time in her life where she had not spent the morning hours by the sea, her toes buried in the damp sand, the salt spray from the waves covering her face. It was just proper for her to make her way down the hill from her great grandmother’s home to the wooden walk that sloped over the dunes and lead down to the water’s edge – as proper as tea in the afternoon and a bite of sweets before bed. Even as a young child, no one had stopped her from going to the beach, so long as she was accompanied and remained vigilant about the ocean’s rules.
“Never turn your back to the waves without a proper goodbye,” her mother would say, staring out at the churning sea. “The sea takes that as a great sign of disrespect, and it will crash over you and take you down into its depths without another thought. She is old, older than all of history, and she demands that that one form of respect be honoured.
“Should you ever find that you have dishonoured her, an offering must be made before she takes matters into her own hands – the best offerings are pieces of art, any art, that are filled with your thoughts and emotions and come from your hands. Paintings, jewellery, drawings, pottery – anything from your hands is worth more than one thousand words to the sea. Take the offering to the calmest spot on the beach and gently ease it into the water. She will take it.” Her mother had created many offerings for the ocean, whether she had wronged her or not.
“The sea holds firm to our souls, Cora, and she will call to us when she needs us home. No matter where you are, return to the sea as quickly as possible if you feel her tugging on your soul. You will know the feeling. It is gut-wrenching, it is this terrifying need to step into the waters, to feel the sand beneath your feet. Come home when you are called, Cora.”
She had left her family’s small island, one summer during her junior year of high school, and had gone to visit an old friend in the mountains. She had never been away from the island for very long, partially because her mother had not been able to keep herself away due to an illness that she had had from birth – however, Cora had made the decision that she would travel the world, spend as much time away from the island as possible so as to not become like her mother. During that summer, Cora had the most terrible dreams – dreams of tsunamis and hurricanes and animals washing ashore. There were no landlines where she was, and cell phone service was spotty at best; when she finally arrived home, the news reached her before she set foot on the pier. Her great-grandmother, her best friend in all the world, had passed away. When she opened the door to the home where she had been the youngest of four generations of women, her mother greeted her with stormy eyes.
“Why did you not answer the call?” her mother asked. Cora had no answer, and so the silence stretched between them across years. Her mother firmly believed that had Cora come home, the matriarch of their small clan would have lived many more years. Even as she sat on the beach, her toes buried in the sand as they had been years before, the silence had not been broken.
“Our lives, our existence, is contingent upon our relationship with the sea.” Cora had always thought her mother meant that they relied heavily on the fishermen that lived on the island and supplied the few families, including her own, with food. She had never considered that, perhaps, there was more to that simple sentiment than she thought.
Cora was no longer welcome on the island, though the other families that resided there would not have denied her access to her ancestral home. Her mother, however, refused to see her – and so, because she had chosen to leave the silence and the anger and the resentment behind, Cora found herself living in a small seaside town surrounded by waves on one side and forested mountains on the other.
As atonement for refusing to answer the call to return home, she spent much of her free time creating art that she would send out to sea on makeshift rafts lit by lanterns in the dead of night. It was cathartic to watch as the light from the lantern bobbed and dipped perilously on the waves only to be swallowed up and taken down into the depths of the sea, taking the art she had poured her soul into with it.
☽ ✰ ☾