The dream is always the same. I am walking down the path, the one that winds through the woods by Thorn Abbey and leads down to the beach. The air is cool and wet with rain, and my footsteps are light on the carpet of brown, fallen leaves as I hurry down to the place where I know he is waiting for me. My cheeks are cold, and my heavy wool sweater scratches against my skin, but I don’t care because I can already feel his strong arms around my body and his warm lips against mine.
And then I am at the bottom of the hill. The beach rises above the horizon, endless and gray. Suddenly, I feel exposed. Frightened. The air is different here: bigger, less forgiving. It smells like the sea and salt and dead things.
I move closer to the water. A wave rushes up to my boots and then snakes away, leaving two identical dark stains. I shudder against the chill and look around. Where is he, and why is he late?
Another wave comes up, more imposing than the last, and I step back. But the wave doesn’t retreat. It keeps rising toward me, not cresting or breaking. I cry out and stumble backwards. The wave grows larger, more menacing, finally overtaking me and sucking me into its icy deep.
Hands, fingers, hair. Her hands, her fingers, her hair. They wrap around me, colder than death, and pull me under as I scream. Her face—her beautiful, perfect face that he loved with a passion he will never feel for me—is the last thing I see as my lungs fill with the brackish water and I black out into the nothingness, still calling out his name in vain.