The sensation of cold water woke Marin. It was dark. Was she in the wave? Where was she? A few seconds passed before Marin remembered that she was in an old hotel in Cornwall. She was here for her aunt’s wedding. Still groggy, she lay in bed wondering what had prompted the strange dream of mermaids and the monstrous wave. Marin concluded that it had been triggered by the bus driver’s comment about the Bay of Mermaids.
Wrapping her silky kimono around her, Marin walked over to the large bay window and sat down on the soft cushion seat. A nearly-full moon hung mid-heaven. Beneath the moon, the sand on the beach glowed. The sea was black except for a long string of light cast by the moon that undulated rhythmically with the swells that were rolling in.
For having been so exhausted, Marin was now wide awake. The wind-up clock on the bed stand indicated that it was 11:30 p.m. This translated to 7:30 a.m. back home, her normal time to wake up. Marin sighed. In addition to waking up in the middle of the night, she had slept through dinner. Her complaining stomach reminded her that the only food she had eaten that day was a breakfast sandwich and chocolate raisins. The thought occurred to her that maybe the pub downstairs had food. Even if it was just nuts and pretzels, it would be something. A nightcap would help her fall back to sleep and adjust to the new time zone. After quickly dressing, Marin grabbed her long blue mohair coat and carefully descended the dimly-lit staircase.
There was no one in the lobby. A few yellowed lamp shades, hidden among the potted palms, illuminated small areas. It felt as though the old resort had gone to sleep with its inhabitants. In the soft light, the gold-lettered pub sign glinted and beckoned. Underneath the sign, the wooden-bead curtain had been drawn to one side and secured on a brass knob. Walking through the doorway, Marin expected to find a proper English pub, but what she saw stopped her mid-stride.
The pub was decorated in tropical kitsch from the 1950s. Fish nets, plastic fish, and glass balls hung from the ceiling and walls. On a dozen tiny tables, votive candles flickered in red, orange, green, and blue glass candleholders for non-existent customers. There were even large tiki statues and fake palm trees stuffed into corners. Blue light from recessed lamps gave the room a submarine grotto feeling. Over the bar, a large replica of a four-masted sailing ship with a giant purple squid wrapped around it completed the scene. Marin was studying the ship’s figurehead of a mermaid when a motion at the far end of the bar caught her eye.
A man was hunched over a book that lay open next to a row of back-lit bottles. He had just flipped a page. The light from behind the bottles illuminated a pale face with an unusually long nose. Dressed in a long, black leather coat with lots of buckles, he looked as if he had just stepped away from a steampunk concert. Half of his head was covered with stringy jet-black hair that draped over his face. The other half was shaven, exposing a tattoo of an orange-red octopus clinging to his skull. This was too much for Marin’s sleep-deprived brain. Her right eye started twitching. So as not to draw his attention, she slowly began backing out of the bar—and backed into a chair. At the screech of the chair, the strange man looked up. His eyes, which were slits, had the look of a cat that was amused by a trapped mouse. A mischievous, elfin smile spread across his face.
“Ayes? What will you have?” he asked. The voice was polite but impertinent.
“Are you the bartender?”
Theatrically, the odd fellow made a point of scanning the empty bar. “I must be, mustn’t I.” Pausing for effect, he asked, “ Now what can I, Jameson the bartender, pour you?”
“Do you have any food?” The bartender knitted his brows and looked at her as if she had just asked for a vacuum. “Food? This is a pub, dear,” he stated flatly. “We have libations—or drinks, as you Yanks call them. Do you want one?”
There was a smugness to him that was rubbing Marin the wrong way. Again she thought of walking out, but she was starving.
“Yes, I’ll have a drink—or libation, as you call them,” Marin shot back. “A Baileys please, if you have it.”
For all his rudeness, the bartender poured a brandy snifter full of Baileys. Admiring the glass, he uttered, “Pesk, kober, ha stehn.” Not understanding the words, Marin wondered if she was losing her cognition of speech.
“Fish, copper, and tin. It’s an old Cornish toast. This one is on the house, dear. You look like you could use it.” The sentiment behind the words was more snarky than it was kind.
As he extended his arm to hand her the drink, his sleeve pulled back. Marin could not miss the blue-green fish scales tattooed on the bartender’s wrist and forearm.
Feeling uncomfortable sitting in the empty bar with the peculiar man, Marin decided that she would go out on the veranda and watch the waves in the moonlight—a perfect way to end the marathon of a day. Occupied with his book, the bartender took no notice of her as she quietly left the bar. Retracing her steps across the empty lobby, she reached the french doors that led to the wide veranda that faced the sea. A cool night breeze rushed in as she opened the doors, carrying with it the smell of the ocean. A row of white wicker seats beckoned her. Before she sat down, she placed her hand on the blue-and-white-striped cushion, and let out an exasperated sigh. The cotton cushions were damp from the mist off the sea. Another idea crossed her mind—she could walk on the beach.
Beyond the patio, the sea was black except where the light reflected off the white water of breaking waves. Walking across the flagstone patio, she carefully descended the uneven stone steps down to the beach. Cool hard stone gave way to soft crunching sand. As she walked, dry sand gave way to damp. In the dark, Marin stopped and rolled up her pants legs. Slowly her eyes adjusted to the night. The smooth swells were spinning off gentle waves that sent water racing up the beach face. Marin stood on the beach letting the water run up and over her feet. It felt oddly warm. Having greeted the sea, she walked back up the slope to an area beyond the reach of the waves, where she threw down her coat. Sitting on it, she stared at the moon. As she stared at it, she was filled with a longing. She didn’t know what the longing was for, but it was always there when she watched the moon. Warmth and sleepiness flooded her body as she sipped her drink. Resting her head and folded arms on her propped up knees, she closed her eyes.
Despite the mild night, Marin found herself shivering. Pulling her big coat around her, she realized that she had lost track of time. The moon that had hovered in the western night sky was about to slide behind the dark sea. There were no colors, just shades of silver and black. Marin watched the long tail of moonlight snake across the silvery water, undulating with the gentle swells, until something in water made her freeze. The hair rose on her arms and neck.
Amidst the glittering water, she could see the dark, square-shouldered silhouette of a man from the waist up. He was out beyond where the waves were breaking. Either the bay was very shallow or he was standing on a sand bar. Studying the figure, she noticed that it was ever so slightly swaying, forward and backward, forward and backward. She could not see his face and decided that he, too, must be watching the moon.
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About the Book
You are invited to join Marin and her exuberant sister Gen on vacation in Cornwall, where they attend a seaside wedding. During their stay, Marin is acutely aware of the mysterious people who staff the old resort where the wedding is held. She is particularly drawn to Geoffrey, who challenges her to feel her emotions and overcome fear. In the process, Marin discovers an ancient world that coexists with the modern one in this remote and scenic land.
About the Author
The author loves the sea. With degrees in oceanography and geology, she has taught oceanography and environmental science at the college level. Her interest in Cornwall was piqued by a vacation there. She currently commutes by ferry between San Juan Island and Seattle, with the surrounding emerald-green water providing inspiration.