Like a Sand Castle
Cold water closes over Kai’s head, blurring Tera’s tear-filled eyes. Liquid fills her ears as Tera’s excuses and begging fade away. Sharp salt saturates Kai’s sinuses, washing away the scent of Tera’s hair and skin. The sea is forgetfulness, and Kai settles into its familiar comforting embrace.
It began so hopefully. Kai was slow to trust someone so different, but Tera seemed open and honest, so eager to understand, to know. It had been too long since someone truly knew Kai, so she let her guard down. Walking in the sun with Tera, breathing the clean island air, Kai was at once completely out of her element and oddly at home.
Saltwater rushes into Kai’s lungs, forcing the air out, transforming the tissues. For a few seconds, her body tries to panic; it has been weeks since she was in the water like this, and her lungs have become accustomed to air. Then her muscles relax, remembering what she was — what she is.
The first few days with Tera, everything was wrong. The sun was too hot, the air was too dry, the ground was too hard. But then Tera would smile at Kai, her eyes bright and happy, and the world would shift and it was all worthwhile. Kai soon began to appreciate the clear bright undistorted colours of the sky, of the trees and flowers, and of Tera. And the warmth of Tera’s hand on Kai’s skin was a pleasure she had never imagined. With Tera at her side, everything was right.
Kai’s legs twist together, melting and merging as her feet elongate and flatten, combining into one. Scales cover Kai’s skin, protecting her from the chill of the depths. Her human guise falls away as she sinks into the sea.Tera’s visage fades as the water piles up between them, obscuring Kai’s view.
Once acclimated to land and air, Kai was happy. Being with Tera was freeing, and Tera’s many fascinated questions flattered Kai. No matter how invasive the questions, Kai believed that she simply wanted to know her. Kai couldn’t see what was right in front of her, the beginnings of the end.
Never again. Her tail flicks, powerful muscles propelling fins against the water, rocketing her far far away from Tera. Deep into the sea she dives, putting fathoms of water and distance between them.
When it came, the betrayal was a blow like nothing Kai had ever felt. Tera wept and pleaded for Kai’s understanding and forgiveness, but her tears were nothing to the emptiness in Kai. The trust she had placed in Tera crumbled like a sand castle beneath the tides, leaving only the sea and the sand.
This piece is part of the short fiction challenge of the LGBTQ Fiction Project, hosted on Crossin(G)enres. This week’s theme is “Swimming and Betrayal.”