Monday, December 14, 2020

Anchored: Selkie prompt inspired short story.

I blinked at him, still not sure if it was a dream.
Heaven knows I have weird dreams all the time.
I pinched my leg with my right hand, hidden under the table, blinked hard.
Nope, there was still a surreally beautiful, silver-haired man with a small black velvet box in his hand, holding a ring with a blue stone.
And everyone in the small café had noticed too. No sound of chatter or the clink of spoons in ceramic.
“What?” I repeated. Because apparently, that was the only word I could remember.
He swallowed and licked his lips nervously. His beautiful, rosy lips--
I shook my head. 
“Maybe I should have invited you to a coffee first before proposing,” he mused, an adorable flush settling on his pale cheeks.
No, not adorable, dammit!
He’d just proposed in the middle of a busy café to a complete stranger. He was probably not right in the head. And if an anxious disaster like me could tell, then that wasn’t very promising.
“Say yes!” said one of the waiters, the kind-faced lady that had given me free cookies the day before.
Others echoed her, lifting their frothy cocoa mugs as if they were beer tankards and we were all toasting.
Some look just as stunned, probably gawking at the man, at the silvery coat that seemed to glow even in the soft light of late afternoon coming through the windows. At his elegant six-foot frame and that face that seemed carved by an artist.
I felt lightheaded.
“I-I need air,” I said, getting up, almost stumbling with my clumsy feet as I rushed towards the glass door and pushed it open, rushing across the cobbled street of the quiet little town and then running, not sure where.
It’d been a long time since I’d literally run from a stressful situation, but I had a good excuse. I’d never been proposed by a stranger. A too-beautiful-to-be-real stranger.
I stopped, clammy hands on my knees as my lungs burned for air.
Breathe, you idiot, I scolded myself.
I did, gulping, salty, cool air, the beeping in my ears receding. The sound of waves crashing against stone helped as well. I matched my exhalations with every wave. Minutes later, no idea how many, I was able to stand straight, and overlook the imposing view of the ocean, beating against the cliff. 
The sun was setting, casting orange and purple light over the horizon. So beautiful that I forgot for a moment about how my face still burned and my hands were shaking.
I knew the image would be forever imprinted in my mind, and even though it had been years since I’d painted, I wanted to render that sunset, even if I could never do it justice.
“I’m sorry.” 
I froze, half turning towards the sound of that voice. 
Oh my gods, the loon followed me!
Strangely, the sharp edges of panic poking at my stomach became duller at the sight of him. Silver blond hair waving in the breeze, ocean eyes open, and kind and embarrassed. The sunset light made him look even more beautiful, something that should be impossible. His coat waved a bit on the wind and I felt compelled to touch it again.
I clenched my hands.
No, that was the reason why this mess had begun the day before at the very same café I'd just fled.
I didn't approach people normally. But he’d not noticed when his coat had dropped from the back of his chair, too engrossed in the book he was reading. What if someone had stepped on it? So I’d swallowed the awkwardness and handed it to him, mesmerized by those eyes that managed to be gray, blue, and green all at once.
And I was staring like a complete idiot again.
“My sister did say that humans in this era might be a bit stunned with a marriage proposal so fast,” he said, head tilting slightly, a shy smile on his face.
I let out a hysterical laugh. “Yeah, a bit. And what on Earth did you mean by 'getting married according to human customs as well?'”
He blinked, something like apprehension flashing in his eyes. “I would explain right now, but I think you need some time,” he took a step closer and handed me my book and my blue wool coat, careful, waiting.
I took a step forward and received my things, my fingers brushing against his for a moment. A warm, pleasant tingling sensation raced through my skin from only that minimal contact.
“Do you mind if I accompany you? Perhaps invite you to have some dinner, since I didn’t allow you to enjoy your cocoa?” he requested, voice deep, but velvety, mesmerizing.
I licked my parched lips, shook my head to clear my thoughts.
Part of me wanted to say no, but hadn’t I come here to this quaint little town that barely did show up in maps to be different?
To learn how to let go and just exist without worrying about things like being reasonable?
And wasn’t spending time with a beautiful and mad stranger a good way to keep that promise to myself?
He waited, no signs of wanting to rush me, and that helped me decide.
“Okay,” I agreed. The blinding smile that stole his face made my heart race for an entirely different reason. “With one condition,” I amended. 
He approached one more step, leaving two feet between us but close enough for me to feel that warm, ocean, and mist scent that had made me want to sniff his coat the day before.
“Anything you want,” he promised.
I took a deep breath. “No more marriage proposals tonight.”
That made him laugh, a charming laugh that made the corners of his eyes crinkle. “No more marriage proposals tonight,” he vowed, stretching a hand towards me.
I took it, expecting the warm and sizzling feeling but still being shocked by it.
His eyes met mine, a slow, shy but pleased smile spreading across his face, and I knew he felt it, too.
I blinked and looked away, breaking the daze before I did something reckless like getting on my tiptoes and kissing him.
And why had I added that ‘tonight’ instead of just banning marriage proposals in general? I wondered as he took us towards the path that led down the small hill.
Ah yes, because I’d lost my mind.
I risked a glance and met his eyes again, finding the same charming smile and echoing it with an awkward one.
Who needs to be reasonable anyway? 

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