A work in progress
Melisandre Chambers skidded her cherry red vintage Mustang to an abrupt halt, at the top of the steep gravel driveway of Wakes Peak cottage. Parking under the shade of a tall eucalypt and sighing deeply as she stepped out of the car. Gratefully breathing in the gorgeous ocean air as she stretched her cramped limbs and wiggled the stiffness from her spine. Glad that the long drive was over at last and more hopeful and happy than she’d felt in a hell of a long time indeed.
‘Home at last.’
It was all so wonderfully picture postcard perfect. The sun was shining but not too fiercely and the air was alive with the sound of crying seagulls and distant crashing waves. At last, she’d finally made it. This was her home now.
And a profound sense of comfort and relief, instantly inundated Melisandre’s heart as she reflected how she had worked so very hard for this opportunity. That she had endured so much turmoil and heartache to get here. But also that this was her time now, her chance to start all over again. To leave the pain of the past behind and begin again with a blank canvas. To build a new life for herself in whatever form she fancied or fashion she cared to invent.
Melisandre’s inheritance of Wakes Peak cottage had taken her entirely by surprise. She barely knew her uncle Alexandru. Indeed she hadn’t seen the dear old mariner since she was little more than a child.
She remembered Uncle Alex to be a jovial enough fellow, but also rather melancholic and oddly secretive. So wonderfully mysterious and intriguing. And to Melisandre’s childhood imagination almost magical.
She remembered there being a curious depth to Alexandru, as though he was keeping the most beguiling secrets. But there was also a kind of distance and awkwardness about him too. As though he had never quite found a way to fit comfortably into the world. As though he didn’t quite belong, but in a way which transcended ordinary social dislocation.
Her most vivid and enduring memory of Uncle Alex, was when he would speak animatedly of his travels to distant and exotic lands. He had spent practically his entire life as a merchant mariner. And he loved to talk about the innumerable countries he had visited on his adventures.
Sometimes he would talk longingly of the romance of the ocean vast and deep. As though his brief sojourns on dry land were an intolerable separation from his one and only true love.
There was a sincere sentimentality and gentle kindness to Alexandru. But even as a child Melisandre had always sensed a profound sadness about him. And Mel always wondered if the poor old soul had perhaps seen more of the world and its ways than was entirely good for him.
For there are horrors and abominations in the world as well as wonders, exotic mysteries and unfamiliar delights. Which fact Melisandre had come to understand all too well during the course of her turbulent life.
Alexandru’s memorial service had been a rather melancholy affair even for a funeral. There was no family other than Mel and her sister Penelope to wish him well on his final voyage. And Penelope hadn’t been able make it up from the city on time.
There simply wasn’t any family other than Melisandre and Penny left anymore. And the only other attendees at Alexandru’s memorial were passing acquaintances and casual well-wishers rather than bona fide friends.
Perhaps in the end Alexandru’s only real friend was the ocean. The seven seas his one and only true love. The thought was admittedly rather sad but also wonderfully romantic and endearing.
Melisandre held her hat down to prevent it flapping away in the steady ocean breeze as she took in her surroundings. Alexandru’s little old bluestone cottage sat at the top of Wakes Peak. A high promontory overlooking the Hartford peninsula and the pretty little seaside city of Whalers Rest.
On the city side of the narrow Hartford peninsula were the reef harboured swimming beaches which attracted the annual tourism trade. Home to most of the small town’s inhabitants and the commercial area of Whalers Rest.
But on this side was the vast open ocean which crashed relentlessly at the ever eroding ancient cliffs. There were beaches here too, hidden along the time worn and ocean battered coast. But they were too difficult to attain and too far removed from the amenities of Whalers Rest to attract casual visitors.
These ocean beaches were usually only frequented by locals, seeking respite from the perennial crowds of tourists. It was the perfect spot for a soul seeking to get away from it all and start again on their own terms.
And had Melisandre thought to imagine a fantasy escape where she might begin her life again. She felt sure that she could conjure no more ideal a place than this.
She’d saved enough money to quit her job at the publishers and strike out on her own as an independent editor. And was glad to leave the drudgery of the workaday nine to five world far behind and make a break for independence. Work as a freelancer was coming in steadily, a fraction too steadily in fact. And Mel was confident that she could live comfortably the way things were.
Most of the work coming her way was technical non fiction, which suited Melisandre just fine. And she had built up enough of a network of contacts in academia to feel secure about her future. There would be a steady stream of work from the universities and professional journals sufficient to keep her working indefinitely.
In fact her real concern was that the workload would become too much. And that she’d have to reach out for help. But too much work coming in was something of a quality problem which Melisandre was content to endure. If it meant she got what she needed to move forwards with her life. To heal.
Mel felt safe, she felt strong and finally in control of her own destiny. No longer at the mercy of misfortune and misadventure. And this place, moving here to Wakes Peak cottage helped with her sense of freedom immensely. This was her opportunity to finally make a place for herself in the world.
Mel’s final breakup with her partner, almost a year to the day since Lee’s last miscarriage had been unspeakably painful. Losing the baby had been the final death knell for their already sorely tested relationship.
The excruciating loss had torn them apart as individuals. And although neither of them could see at the time, it was tearing them apart as a couple as well. Not until it was too late and their relationship was simply beyond rescue.
Lee’s history of miscarriage early on in their several pregnancies had been hard enough. But getting so close to full term that last time, only to know heartache and loss yet again. It had proved too much for either of them to endure.
Lee was their only hope for having a child of their own. Melisandre simply could not and Lee was resistant to the idea of adoption. Obstinately and unreasonably so from Mel’s point of view, but that’s just the way Lee was.
She had a dream and she meant to have it come true perfectly. She just would not compromise, it had to be hers. But Lee was intractable about a lot of things. She could be kind of a bitch like that, but that had always been the hook.
Lee was the kind of girl who made fantasy reality by sheer determination. And when she pulled her miracles off, they were absolutely divine. But not this time, not this dream.
It had been such a joyous and hopeful time for them in the beginning. The world had seemed so full of opportunity and promise. Such wonderful plans they had for their little family, such gorgeous dreams they had conjured for themselves.
And they had come so very close to realizing that dream. But in the end they had found only heartache and loss.
The months which followed had been horrible, Lee was simply inconsolable with despair. She had fallen into a pit of depression and of anger and grief. And she was fast drowning in her fathomless sorrow.
And there wasn’t a thing Mel could do to help her, Lee was just too far beyond her reach.
But the drinking, it was the drinking that had made it catastrophic. Lee was brave and strong, she wasn’t at fault for seeking oblivion. But she had fallen hard and she simply couldn’t get back up again. She couldn’t bear to be sober with her grief any more.
And in the end it had destroyed them, loss and Lee’s alcohol abuse had simply ruined them. Torn the hearts right out of them both as individuals and ripped the very living soul out of their relationship too.
Mel had occasionally edited horror novels when she worked for the publishing house. She didn’t understand why people read them, wasn’t life horrifying enough on its own?
But that was all in the past now and Melisandre’s future lay ahead of her. And it was looking pretty damn bright and beautiful right now.
She was hopeful, still young and strong in spite of everything. And Mel was definitely ready to embrace her brand new life. And the adventure started here and now, at Wakes Peak cottage by the sea.
“Home sweet home.”