The smell wafted up on the tidewaters. It stung Hal’s nose, and he made sure to wrinkle it when Katie was looking. She stared at him mutely, and then went back to picking careful steps through piles of seaweed. The rotting mounds buzzed with gnats and tiny crabs. Hal watched the creatures climb over the black and green mess, thinking that Katie just might be right. The ocean was sick, heaving its verdant guts all over their pristine beaches.
He called to her, wondering if she could hear him over the waves. Hal hopped a bit, pulling emerald strings off his ankles. Katie didn’t respond. She was calf deep in the water and letting the waves soak the rolled cuffs of her jeans.
Hal reached her side. The breeze had pulled bits of hair from her ponytail. The frizzy little strands framed her face, which was red and tight from the wind. Her windbreaker was an ugly shade of dirty purple. She’d bought it for her research here, replacing the bikinis and bohemian shifts she’d worn to the beach before.
Those clothes were only memories now. Hal remembered when she’d smelled off wisteria and hairspray, instead of brine and rotting seaweed. He’d loved the beach then. They’d met on a beautiful white-sand shore, right next to a cultivated private green. Their parents introduced them on the sand, and Katie had favored him with a small shy smile. He knew now it’d been a fake thing, something demure and softly contemptuous.
He would welcome that sly dislike now. Even it would be better than the blank windswept girl waiting for him in the water. Something had occurred, something here had stolen Katie from him and the perfect white beaches where they’d shared sharp smiles. Hal looked out over the dark grey water, knowing the white capped stretch hid greater expanses beneath. Next to him, Katie also watched the waves, her eyes fixed on whatever penetralia she’d found there.
Chilled fingers found his, clammy and slick. Hal shivered at her touch, and tried to draw her away from the water and back to the stinking shore. She did not move, and would not loose his hand. He pulled at her but the tide tugged back, sucking their feet into the sand as water churned about their legs, rising.
He opened his mouth for some purpose, a demand or curse, but her cold lips found his before words could form. Hal choked as she kissed him, brine rushing into his mouth as the tidewaters claimed them.