Coral and Pearl (part 1)
The sky was clear and blue, the aftermath of the terrible storm the night before. With a chilling breeze that introduced the autumn air, Coral found herself once again at the shore of the beach she had known her whole life. It was on these days that Coral found herself waiting the longest, the minutes ticking by feeling like an eternity. Then as if on cue, the deep waters of the sea parted, and steps formed out of the sand leading into darkness. Eager to make contact with the Ocean once more, Coral flew down the steps without looking back…
This, the secret Coral so closely held to her heart, is what the pregnant duchess saw when she stepped out into the chilling sand. With her bare feet exposed to the soft sand and her maids by her side to balance a parasol over her head, the duchess had come out to enjoy the morning air before retiring to her chambers for the bulk of the day. Instead she had seen the sea swallow up a girl, as if the turbulent storm that previous night had foreshadowed this forthcoming.
“Did you see that girl drown in the ocean?” The duchess had decided that the girl she saw most likely drowned, for despite how the sea had opened up and closed around its victim so readily, it was much too absurd to speak out loud. The duchess had turned to the maid directly next to her who escorted her by one arm; and who was the quickest one to speak and the most attentive of the three maids. But even this loyal servant with a sharp tongue had lost her words when she looked out into the now calm waves.
“Your grace, there is no one there to speak of.” the maid finally says.
“She drowned.” repeats the duchess.
“We saw no one when we came.” said the maid carrying the parasol. The maid at the very back of the procession carrying a stack of towels nodded her head in earnest. But as her maids spoke in denial of what their master saw, the duchess crept closer to the sea, her bare feet squelching into the wet sand as she met the point where the waves lapped over dry land. The maids scurried to follow the duchess without protest, the quick-witted one also gifted with swift movement, able to follow her pregnant master who needed her for support.
It was clear as day as to what the duchess wished to do. Without so much as a word spoken from their master’s lips, the maids all took motion. The most diligent maid continued to stay by her grace’s side while the maid with the parasol handed over her object to that same maid, and together with the maid at the very back; who had left the towels on the dryer patches of sand, rolled up their skirts and waded into the sea in search of the girl.
“Your grace, did you mayhaps see the girl’s face?” asked the perceptive maid. She wore no expression of concern, and the duchess knew this question was not of curiosity nor distress on the maid’s part, but of pure courtesy or politeness so that light talk may fill the silence and comfort her restless master.
Nevertheless, the duchess replied hurriedly in clipped short sentences and did not seem thankful for the light talk, “She was much too far away. And it was much too quick.” Then a pause, for the duchess had briefly seen the tip of the girl’s crown before she disappeared into the depths of the ocean.
“What is it, your grace?” asks the maid, who’s intelligent ears had captured the duchess’s hesitation. “Pray tell, truely what did you see?”
The duchess clasped her maid’s arm and recalled that the girl she had seen was a brunette. She left out the part that the shadows casted by the sea as it swallowed the girl may have misinterpreted the color. The girl could have been a redhead. But the duchess knew that that would be preposterous because the only redhead in the whole kingdom was back at the estate, still tucked away in her bed beneath the covers.
A few minutes later, the two maids returned, shaking their heads with defeat and squeezing out the salty water from their skirts. There was no girl. Dead or alive, she was gone. Or like the maids had suggested, that girl did not exist. Had the duchess’s own eyes betrayed their master? She wrapped an arm around her swollen stomach as if to protect her child from the very mouths of the Ocean that had consumed a girl moments before. “Very well,” the duchess spoke resolutely, “let us return to the estate. I am tired.”
As the young duchess and her maids retreated back to the grand estate, they failed to notice bubbles escaping to the surface of the sea, as if the Ocean itself were releasing a sigh of relief.