The ocean was loud. Nicholas arrived and didn’t see Serendipity anywhere.
He pulled his violin out. He waited, but she was late. He closed his eyes again and listened to the waves.
He listened to them crash onto the shore, and rumble up toward him, then heard the hiss as they rushed back to the ocean.
He began to play, lost in the music of the ocean. When he opened his eyes Serendipity was sitting on the rocks, just a couple steps away.
“I didn’t hear you,” he said.
“I’m still here, whether you heard me or not.”
“I did have a violin next to my ear,” he smiled.
She smiled back.
“I love the ocean,” she said, “I love the open horizon.”
The breeze blew through them.
“Nicholas, why do you come here?”
He stood, silently.
“This was our spot,” he said. “This is where I play my violin, because it’s the only place I can play my violin. I play it for her.”
Serendipity nodded her head and stood up, walking over to him.
“It’s a beautiful spot,” she said.
“She still feels close to me when I come back here,” he said. “It’s the only place … the only place that doesn’t feel empty. Every other place in my life I can feel how she’s gone. I can feel the emptiness. Feel how I’ll never hold her hand, hear her laugh, see her smile, never hear her voice again. Never see her dance. But here, we used to sit and listen to the ocean together. Stare at the sky together. Dream together.”
She searched his face as his eyes began to shine. She looked out over the sand toward the water.
“There are ghosts on the shore,” she said.
He turned to her.
“They like your music. They dance to it.”
Nicholas stared at her, incredulous.
“You don’t need to tell me things to try to make me feel better. It’s not …”
She interrupted him.
“I told you that music is a language spoken both here and beyond. And also across. Your music carries across to them,” she turned toward him, “I’m going to sing while you play your violin, and my song will carry them across to you.”
He stared at her, confused.
“What are you doing when you close your eyes?” she asked.
“I’m listening to the waves, waiting for my part.”
“We will both listen together then when you begin, I will follow. The night will last as long as you continue playing.”
She closed her eyes, and he closed his. They stood for a while, but his thoughts were scattered all over as he tried to decide what he should do. She was delusional. How had he so misjudged her?
She reached out and touched his arm.
He opened his eyes. Her eyes met his own, and she stared into them. He saw himself reflected in their light.
“Listen, then play,” she said.
He nodded, and decided one song wouldn’t hurt.
He focused on the waves.
Then he began to play. He opened his eyes, half expecting to see something. But there was nothing.
Of course there was nothing.
He looked over at Serendipity and saw her eyes were still closed. She began to sing. He kept playing, and her song wove itself among his strings and through the waves.
Then he saw a shadow, and glanced up expecting that a bird had flown overhead, but nothing was in the sky except the colors of the setting sun.
He looked again, and saw a figure. Then another. They were holding each other, dancing together. Just to the side of them he suddenly saw another couple. He felt like he was going to fall over, and almost stopped his bow mid stroke, but Serendipity reached over as she sang and touched his arm again. Somehow that stabilized him, and he heard her words echo in his head: The night will last as long as you continue.
More and more figures came into focus. Dancing. Smiling. Holding each other. Sometimes they would look over at him, and nod, or whisper something.
He was surprised he was not afraid. In his head he felt like he should be feeling differently than he was, but he was happy to see them. There was some sort of happiness and assurance that this was right, everything belonged. He belonged.
He looked over at Serendipity. She had stepped away. She opened her eyes briefly, and nodded her head, changing the song. He matched the change with his violin.
Then he felt two arms wrap around him from behind, embracing him. All the air left his lungs as he recognized the touch. He caught himself, continuing to play.
He felt Emily’s head rest against his shoulder, just like she used to when he would play for her.
It leaned gently back against her, and they swayed. He kept his head up, feeling his tears roll down his face.
He continued to play, and she walked in front of him. She didn’t look how he remembered her last, but rather she looked as he had always known her, how she had always felt.
So spirits do have faces.
She began to move in rhythm with the song and then began to dance.
And he watched her, fearing to close his eyes for even a second in case she would disappear.
He didn’t know how long he played, but after a while, in spite of all his will, his arm began to fall. He fought through it, his arm burning. He fought for every minute, every moment, until Emily walked up to him and put her hand on his chest, then raised her hand to his arm, and stopped him.
He felt her words even though he didn’t see her mouth move.
You played beautifully.
She guided him, helping him lower his violin. She took it from him and gently laid it on the beach, then she wrapped her arms around his neck. He put his arms around her waist, and they slowly danced as Serendipity began to come to the close of her song. He saw the other couples stop, and watch them.
Then Serendipity held one last note, and Emily leaned into Nicholas and squeezed her arms around him tight. Then she looked up, and kissed him.
He held her as tight as he could.
And then the song was over, and she was gone.
He stood, on the beach, alone with Serendipity. A breeze rushed through them again.
He looked up at her, and tried to speak but had no words to say. He walked over to the rocks and sat, his head in his hands, and wept.
Serendipity picked up his violin and carried it over to him.
“I wanted to keep dancing with her, my whole life. The rest of my life …”
“Sometimes you’re not the one able to dance,” she said. “Sometimes you have to be the one to play the music.”
She held out his violin to him. He caught his breath, and then took it from her gently, then placed it back in its case.
She sat down next to him, and they sat in silence, watching as the last of the light of the sun faded from the sky and gave way to the moon.
“Will they come back?” he asked.
“No,” Serendipity said, her voice quiet. “I have asked them to move on. To continue their journey.”
“And Emily too,” Serendipity nodded.
Stars were beginning to appear.
“I want to go with her.”
Serendipity turned toward him, her eyes wet.
“You forget how full of life the world is when you’re walking through a barren desert. You forget how full of light the world can be in the depth of night. Sometimes your path goes through darkness, but it doesn’t end there.”
“I don’t have a path. I don’t know where to go or what to do, except that I want to go with her.”
She searched his face.
“I know. I know, Nicholas,” she took a deep breath and held his eyes with her own. “You can’t tell how deep the ocean is from the shore, and you don’t know what the future holds. But don’t underestimate it or sell it short. You have to step out and meet it.”
She put her hand on his arm.
“The past is not waiting for you in the future. What you are looking for lays ahead of you. Meet it boldly.”
He bowed his head, and they sat in silence.
He didn’t know how much time passed, but eventually he stood up. He sealed his violin case, and then lifted it from the rocks.
“Thank you,” he said, looking at Serendipity.
She nodded, continuing to sit and look out toward the ocean.
“Are you coming back?” he asked.
“No,” she said.
She turned to him and met his eyes. Reaching up, she grabbed his hand and squeezed it one last time. He nodded, then began walking down the path toward the town.
“Nicholas?” she called.
He turned back to look at her.
“I wish you well. Whatever your path.”
He nodded his head, and tried to respond but couldn’t. He wiped his eyes, and when he looked up, she was gone.