Lucy was the kind of girl at school for whom a young Tom Shaw wanted to scrawl ink hearts for, with arrows running through them and her name in the middle. Yes, Lucy was made just for the sole purpose of being on the back of Tom’s English book and his Maths book and his Science book. In fact, every book he had.
“Tom why have you brought me here?” Lucy asked.
“I want to show you something; something so secret only I know about it,” he told her. “You must never tell another soul, ever in your life. Promise?”
“I promise, Tom. Tell me what it is.”
“Just keep low. Lie absolutely still. It will come but you must lie absolutely still.”
Tom and Lucy did exactly that. They lay so quiet and still in the sand dune that even the mice didn’t know they were there. The waves rolled in gently under the brilliance of a full moon. Each wave spoke to them, bonding a friendship that would never let go. The waves were saying, Hold on to me and I’ll become your enemy; let me go and I’ll be your friend, and said that to them ten thousand times a day.
“Tom,” whispered Lucy, ever so quietly.
“Do you think at night the sky misses the sun?”“Not as much as I miss you when you’re not in school,” replied Tom. “I think it does, I think the sky does miss the sun. After all, imagine if you were the moon, and you came out at night and saw no-one.”
“Tom, you’re really weird, but nice.”
Tom chuckled, then said, “Lucy I read your essay in school today, you know, the one about the Unicorn? It was so beautiful, it made me cry.”
“The teacher said I had a vivid imagination, Tom. I’m glad you liked it. Do you believe in Unicorns?” She asked.
“I’ve seen one!”
“Shooosh, Lucy.” And he placed a finger gently on her mouth. “I have. I think it is the only one left.”
“Where — where does one see a Unicorn?”
“That’s why I had to bring you — you see, it will come tonight, the moon is bringing white horses on the sea and one, the special one, will come. Do you believe me, Lucy? If it does, will you never leave me all my life, will you run on my beach with me; tell me wild tales; run among the trees in the rain on summer evenings?”
“Tom Shaw, I’ll do all those things if you show me a Unicorn.”
“Then stay really still.”
And they did, and Lucy’s heart was exploding. She wondered what made her friend so different, why he never played with all the other kids? She thought about how he appeared but never came from anywhere, as though he was always behind some corner, some cloud, and just appeared without journeying.
He, on the other hand, wondered about Lucy. How when she sat next to him in history lessons, funny things happened in his chest. It felt as if every champagne bottle in the world had popped their corks at the same time.
“Lucy,” whispered Tom, “where will you go when you grow up?”
“I’m not going to grow up, Tom. I’m going to stay at this age until you come and find me again. You will come and find me, won’t you?”
“Are you going away, Lucy? I’ll miss you if you do.”
“I don’t know what is waiting for me, Tom, but I’ll never forget you.”
“I wish you wouldn’t, but I know you will. You will leave”
“What will you do, Tom?”
“I want to be a hero, better than the good John Wayne, I want to save every whale in the world, I want to write beautiful books, and I want you to stay with me, Lucy.” His voice was sincere.
“You’re the nicest boy in school — and the strangest.”
“You’re the most beautiful girl,” he told her.
“And do you know, Tom, I feel it when I’m with you.”
Tom smiled and then they were silent again. Lucy fell asleep on the sand, but then…
…the Unicorn shone brilliant under the power of the moon. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever, ever seen. It was smaller than she imagined, had the legs of a deer, so dainty and beautiful, a body sleek, powerful, but it was the head — such a head should belong to no animal.
The Unicorn was wading toward her in the waves. What creature ever looked so magnificent? And that head held eyes that were deep as a universe, and so true, so bright, holding more truth, more beauty, more love, than she had ever thought possible.
It came closer. Lucy’s breath faltered, her heart missed a beat. Then it was stood before her, the proud beautiful head showing the gold curl of horn that spiralled to a fine elegant point, glinting like a wand in the moonlight. The Unicorn sniffed the sea air, stamping a fore-hoof, and waited — for what?
Gently and quietly, Lucy rose to her feet. The Unicorn caught her image in the depth of his eye. It did not try to escape or run away.
They stood looking at each other for a long moment. Then, with rare confidence, she took a step closer — and then another, until she was only an arm’s length away, feet bathed in the cool sea water.
The Unicorn never let her image escape from his eye. He stood without fear in her life.
She raised a trembling arm and touched the warmth of something unbelievable, something more rare than an angel. She didn’t know why but tears were falling from her eyes, single droplets running past her cheek and forming a lake around her lips.
The two stood drenched in the moons light.
Quietly, she lowered her head and whispered, “I love you.” It was as if that was all the Unicorn wanted to hear before he turned, and with silver grace, walked back into the waves.
“Don’t go — don’t go just yet. I need you,” she whispered.
But the Unicorn had to go, for it was the only one there was and there were many shores to visit.
“Lucy — Lucy — wake up. Are you all right, you’re crying,” said Tom
“I’ve just had the most wonderful dream. The Unicorn, it came from the sea, Tom! It came from the sea, and I understood — I understood many things. It was a wonderful dream.”
Tom smiled. “A dream, Lucy — do you think so? If it was a dream, how did I see you with the Unicorn? How would I have seen that?”
“You saw? You saw me with the Unicorn — the only one there ever was, and it spoke to me, Tom, it did. I’m not afraid anymore.”
“That’s good, Lucy, you must never be afraid, you must never grow up.”
“How did you know, Tom? How did you know about the Unicorn.”
“Because we share our dreams — you are part of me now, and I am part of you, the Unicorn has made it so.”
“Why did it come from the sea, Tom?” She asked quietly.
“Back in the sea the Unicorn becomes the Narwhal, the most beautiful whale in all the oceans. Every now and then the Unicorn seeks out someone special, a believer. Tonight it chose you. This means that you are now protected, that your whole life will be lived with a child’s fascination and wonder.”
“Did you really do this for me, Tom? Did you know all the time?”
“If you must leave me, then do so with a glad heart. I will miss you, Lucy, as the sky would miss the sun; but one day ahead I will come to find you, you won’t know when or where. I will just appear in your life and it will be as though I’ve never been away, do you understand that?” And he looked deeply into her eyes.
“I will be waiting, Tom. Will I know you when you come?”
“Knowing me is not the important thing. Being ready is!”
As they walked from the shore Lucy spoke. “Tom — will you hold my hand?”
And he did.
They were quiet as they walked slowly away while the sea whispered its message behind them.