Alabaster holds Coru in his lap in a way that both reassures and terrifies me. There’s a looseness to his grip around those fat little arms that I could not have dreamed of before Meov and still don’t really believe. A looseness, slack in the reins that has constricted and held back our lives. But this small thing, Albaster bouncing his son--my son (our son) on his knee playfully--this small thing is the proof that maybe the water is deep enough here. Maybe the mainland is just barely out of reach. Maybe this is enough.
“Maybe I just can’t catch a rusting fish.”
Innon laughs as I pull my bait out of the water again and see the skewered shrimp still on the hook. Damn. Not even a missing leg. Not even a nibble.
“You’re too impatient, Syen. You have to leave it in longer.” Alabaster grins at his own crudeness as Coru smiles too, smacking ‘Baster in the thigh with his own little toy fishing pole.
“Fish! Fish!” Coru laughs as Alabaster begins to bounce him again and I can’t be angry. I want to be angry, but everyone’s in a good mood today and even my brooding ends in hopeful up thrusts.
Innon comes close, puts his hands around my own needlessly as he guides the line back into the water. We’re huddled the far side of the island, away from the main docks. No more than a few planks of wood strewn up around a dilapidated old tie-up that Alabaster reinforced with a few solid pillars of basalt. Innon insists the fish bite better on the far side, away from the boats and noise. But really it’s for the privacy. Really it’s to make all three of us happy, in the best way we can. And so none of the others can see how bad I am at bringing in a catch.
“Let it fall to the bottom, sess the sediments kicking up, then pull it up just a bit, enough to look as if the shrimp is skittering along the ocean floor.”
It’s hard to look at his handsome face and see the seriousness blended so seamlessly into those features. He means it, of course, really thinks I’m going to stand here puppeting a dead shrimp on the ocean floor in the vain hope a fish will take pity on me, as if somehow something would change after an hour’s attempt. Innon has caught three fish already, but of course, he can draw just about anything to him.
Innon leaves me with a kiss on my collarbone and I feel him pad off behind me, the three fish he’s caught strung up together. Coru claps and squeals with delight at the wet scales as he reaches out for them as Innon passes. I don’t have to look to know all three of them are smiling. Which, is weird. But I’ll take it.
Another fifteen minutes pass. I sit down on my ass because now, I’m determined. The obvious thing would be to just sess the damn fish, spear one up and through with a well-placed blade of basalt, but that’s the easy way, and I’ve never known that path. Besides, Innon’s back now and he’s already pulled up a fourth snapper with nothing more than some line and half a shrimp. Biggest yet. And rust it, if he can do it, so can I.
Something about this feels... right, I think as Alabaster comes to sit on the edge of the dock where I sit, As Innon stands a few paces farther down, squatting on an outcropping of granite, pushed up into the water from the bedrock. Coru teeters along on his own two legs, nearly two years old now. I don’t feel any panic as he wanders forward, little fingers scrabbling against the wet stone to get a better view of Innon’s line in the water. I don’t wonder if Alabaster has fallen into brooding as he stares down into the water where my line dangles, sending little vibrations out in even circles. Even. Calm. Without a single fish to even sess.
“What sort of world is it, when it’s easier to move a mountain than convince a fish to eat a shrimp.”
Innon’s fondness at my simple bitterness rides the sea breeze back to me. Fishing like this is stupid; and I only agreed to it to humor the two of them. If we needed food, the sailors would be casting nets and I’d be stirring up the waters around them to lure them in. If we were starving, we’d be combing the beach for every morsel. Every crab, every dank pile of seaweed that washed ashore. Anything we had to, to survive.
But we’re not surviving--we’re living. We weren’t and then all at once... Huh. So that’s what that feels like.
Beside me, Alabaster scoots closer and the crease in his brow that I have grown so accustomed to is mysteriously absent. The sound of Coru’s giggles and excited handful of words he has learned bubble from his mouth as the waves crash against the rocks. And for fuck’s sake, as Innon pulls a fifth fish from the water, I realize the biggest worry in my life, at least for the moment, is if I can catch a fish. And so maybe now, yeah, I kinda see why they both wanted to get me out here and put a pole in my hands.
But now that we’re all on the same page... Maybe I cheat. A little. Maybe I kick up the sediment in a quick ring to lead whatever I can’t sess in the water towards my line. It’s works for the dolphins we see sometimes, those animals that come in for the scraps when the boats bring back their hauls to gut on the docks.
“Syen.” I ignore Alabaster and smile while I refuse to let the point in his tone deter me from my goal, I even ignore Coru as he waddles back towards the two of us and settles into Alabaster’s lap. Don’t even notice Innon leaves his spot to add his latest catch to the others on the tether behind us.
The tug of peace is gentle at first. Almost imperceptible. Like the first microshakes before a quake.
But I'm starting to feel it.