My prompt was to take this picture and transform it:
So I did.
What happened was I took on a voice of someone completely different than anything I’d ever written. I’m not sure it’s good. I’m not even sure I like it. But until I’m 100% sure, I’m going to be proud of it.
Her name was Roma and she was beautiful, even if she was deadly.
When this whole thing started, I’d been looking standing on my balcony, the waves in the distance luring me into a sense of dreariness. At least I’d hoped it was the waves. I was only on my third Birra Moretti so I couldn’t possibly be drunk. No, I knew I was still sober all the way up until my fifth drink.
That’s when I saw what I thought could only be explained as an illusion.
With her hands, she touched the man like a thousand year old vase that might shatter at the slightest pressure. Her lips moved in a way that suggested she might kiss him at any moment. My conscious hinted that it would be proper to leave them be, to walk back inside my room, finish off my drink, then head to bed. But curiosity got the best of my bored self and I watched. I waited for the beautiful woman’s lips to meet with the man’s, but it never did. It was then I realized she didn’t plan on kissing him.
She was singing. Her lips formed shapes as whatever song she had picked left her lips. The man reached out for her, nearly tripping over his own feet where the water would have claimed his pride. I imagined the woman had a beautiful voice and longed to find out for myself if that was true.
I went back inside and pulled out the sixth and final drink for my night. The cool liquid eased down my throat as I reclaimed my spot outside. Surely the two sea-side lovers had made some advancement.
Advancement had been made, but not in the way that I’d suspected.
Roma’s fingers entangled themselves in the man’s hair, her body disappearing into the waves as she pulled him under.
At the time, I didn’t think. I just reacted. I nearly drowned my lungs in my beer when I jumped up.
The stairs seemed to jump out at me as I ran down them, two sometimes three steps at a time. I ran straight and sure, not caring that I’d left my shoes behind in my room. When I reached the spot where the lovers had been, they were gone. I looked for them, but found nothing but their shoes. Seeing as mine were missing, I picked them up and took them with me to my room. If they were still there in the morning, I’d know that this was more than a drunken happenstance.
When they were missing the next morning, I almost felt relieved. Almost. Perhaps my mother was right. I was a drunken fool, just like my father before me.
So I started my morning off with a coffee and vowed to start anew. I’d put my past in the past and keep it in the past where it belonged.
That was the plan, at least, until Roma’s knuckles rapped against my door, her voice like a bird speaking on the side opposite me.
“Did you enjoy watching me last night?” her voice sang. “I saw you. I felt the jealousy in you.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I had lied. “Please, go away.”
“But my shoes.” She knocked again pointlessly. “They are the only ones I possess. Please return them to me.”
Poor girl. If I hadn’t seen her drown a man, I might’ve felt bad for her.
“I didn’t drown that man,” Roma insisted. “He followed me under and I let him.”
“Demon? Witch? Tell me what you are.”
“I’m a woman that is lonely. And quite upset over the loss of her shoes.” I could hear the laughter in her voice and it did not amuse me. I might have been cloudy minded the night before, but I was thinking clearly now, minus the headache.
“If I give you the shoes, will you promise not to harm me?” My hand was already on the doorknob. I would let her in whether she agreed or not.
“I will not harm you. I only save those that wish to be saved.”
“Well.” I looked for the right words to say. “I don’t need saving so you may enter.”
She looked so out of place in the room, her seemingly glowing skin brightening up the dark hues I’d never painted over when I’d bought the place. She touched the couch and coughed at the dust she’d found on it.
“Why do you live in filth when your city is so beautiful?” Roma asked.
“Why do you take men out to the sea and drown them?” I asked. She didn’t make any hint that she would answer, so I carried on. “I live like this because I have no time for cleaning. I’m a very busy man.”
“My name is Roma. Your name is?”
“Salvatore.” She hummed as she walked around the room, slipping my name between notes. “Salvatore, are you a slave to drink?”
“I enjoy it, but slave am I to no one.”
“Would you wager on that?” I swear that even now I saw the hint of red in her eyes.
But because I’m only noticing now what I missed, I replied, “Name your price.”
She closed the space between us in one movement. Her hands greedily traced over my body without touching. “Spend the day with me,” she said. “Spend the entire time thinking only of things other than your precious desire for drink and then I will grant you a wish. Anything you desire will be yours.”
The wish was so tempting that I almost said yes straight away. But my thoughts, much like the waves, were not in my control. My head moved side to side, my answer being no.
“I shall make it easier for you,” Roma said, her fingernail grazing the back of my hand. “No drink can pass your lips before midnight otherwise I get what I want.”
“And that is?”
“For you to spend eternity with me in the sea.”
I frowned. “You’ll kill me.”
“You would be saved from a life where you are hopelessly bound.”
I didn’t mind being bound to such a sweet nectar, but Roma was beautiful and I wanted that wish. “Done,” I said, sealing the deal with my hand outreached. But Roma pushed the hand aside and wrapped her arms around my neck, sealing her lips to mine. “When I win this challenge,” I started once she pulled back, “You will be my wife.”
“Done,” she whispered.
The rest of the day went by quickly. I showed her to the gardens and bought her food of the highest price. We talked, or I talked, as she said she’d rather hear about my life. It was all too easy until night began to fall and my habitual instincts kicked in.
I needed a drink.
My body itched towards the place where I kept my drinks, my mind reverting to that of the man I’d been ever since my first wife left me. She couldn’t handle being married to one man and since I could not agree with her, she left. I’d found comfort in drinking and loved every moment of it. I never felt alone.
Sitting on the balcony, Roma sang to me a song. It was a beautiful melody full of passion and lore. I wanted to live in that song and forget about the pain I had been covering up all these years.
“Will it hurt?” I asked her. “If I drowned in your embrace?”
“To be happy is to choose pain,” she sang, her notes one long sting of continuity. “Are you choosing to be happy, Salvatore?”
“I want to be free of these shackles,” I told her. I fell on my knees and lifted my wrists to her. “Please, what do I have to do to be saved?”
“Choose life,” Roma said, her song ending.
“Put down your drink and go find ways to make life meaningful. You miss so much when your brain is clouded over.”
“I wish I could,” I said. “But now I am to drown in your arms.”
“Is that your wish?” Roma asked. “To choose life?”
I felt like a blubbering fool when I cried, “Yes.”
Roma smiled and ran into the room, her lips once again finding mine. “Then live like you’ve never lived before and enjoy your newfound freedom.”
It was then I awoke next to the waterfront, my back soaked from the rising tide. According to my watch, it was nearly midnight. In my left hand was my beer. Immediately, I emptied the remaining contents into the sand. In my right hand was a pair of women’s shoes, their owner nowhere to be seen.
I stood up a new man and shouted my thanks to the sea.