Rhythm – A Short Story

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Melody peered over the dock. Ripples trembled along the ocean’s surface.

She stepped into the ferry, glancing around to get her bearings.

“Melody, over here!” Her sister sauntered up and pulled her to a line of reclining seats. “We arrived early to find a good spot. Isn’t this exciting?”

Melody tried to share the exuberance as she sat next to her sister. “Yeah, Steph, it’s great,” was all she could muster.

“Hey, where’s your other half?” Stephanie’s husband waved from where he sat comfortably, a broad grin on his face.

Stephanie shot a dark glance at her husband. “Ron, that’s mean.”

“What? I’ve never seen her without that camera.”

“I didn’t want to be distracted from Dad’s birthday with my photography.” The truth was, when Melody realized that she had forgotten her Canon EOS 6D, she was five minutes from the pier. No time to double back for it.

Stephanie gently punched her husband’s arm. “See?”

Ron only laughed.

Stephanie jumped up and waved wildly. “Mom, welcome aboard.”

Melody’s mother sidled over. “Your dad called. He’s bringing Craig, who insisted on bringing a friend.”

“But it’s Dad’s birthday,” Melody groaned. “It’s supposed to be just our family.” Did her brother ever think of anyone else?

“Mel, your brother can’t help it.” Her mother turned her attention to the steady trickle of passengers boarding. “Here they are.”

Melody didn’t even look. She strolled to the railing. Morning sun still danced over the waters. It would have made a great photo.

A tune warbled from the shaky speakers high above her. As if anyone can hear music in such a crowded place. Melody felt shaky. She wanted to be alone … with her camera. A loud horn sounded, drowning out Celine Dion’s words. The ferry began moving to the sound of scattered applause.

“Bon voyage,” a voice called. Celine began singing once more.

Melody approached her family. Stephanie was chatting with Mom. Dad was listening to Craig. A man in sunglasses sat near her younger brother. He looked at least ten years older than Craig. She chose a bench a few feet away. 

“If I attend all the classes at the Northeast Care Home, I might be able to get an apartment. Maybe work at the FoodsMart nearby,” Craig spoke quickly to their father, who listened with a frozen smile.

“You’ve been attending the classes?” Melody cut in.

“Not yet. Maybe next month. My heart is acting up, and my blood pressure …” Melody tuned him out. She had heard it all before.

“Hi, I’m Devon.” She looked over at the man in sunglasses. He sat up straight, holding out his right hand. “You must be Melody.”

“Yeah.” She shook his hand and smiled uneasily. Silence ensued.

Melody shuffled through her purse. Her hands fell upon an envelope. “Hey, guys.” She waved the paper toward her family. “I just got a contract from Nature Illustrated.”

“That’s great!” It was Devon, his hand reaching out. No one else responded, so she handed the paper to Devon. He ran his fingers across it and rubbed the magazine’s logo. “Congratulations. They have a good readership, right?”

“Three million,” Melody said.

“That’s awesome.” Devon handed the paper back. “I wrote an article for them years back.”

Melody’s interest was piqued. “I submitted a photo.”

“I had a photo in there too, from Sarajevo.”

“But then he had an accident and went blind because of a lack of oxygen to the brain because the hospital orderlies didn’t know what they were doing.” Craig’s words ran together, then stopped suddenly, like a train wreck.

Blind? Melody glanced at Devon. He didn’t miss a beat as he stated, “That’s right, Craig. I couldn’t have explained it more efficiently.”

Mom chuckled awkwardly. No one else said a word. “Is this ferry moving?” Devon asked. “I can hardly feel a thing.”

Smooth transition. “The movement is usually stronger near the back,” Melody said.

Devon stood. “Shall we?” He lifted his arm toward her.

He wants me to guide him. Melody gingerly took his right arm above the elbow. She felt toned muscles beneath his jacket.

“We’ll be back in a bit,” Devon said.

Her mom nodded. Craig was chattering to Stephanie and Ron. Her dad had reclined his chair, eyes closed.

Melody maneuvered through the scattered crowds to a quiet spot near the rear of the ferry.

Devon reached out, his hands finding the railing. She looked up at him. His black hair was untidy. His stubble reminded her of a wandering king. He lifted his face toward the sea breeze and a smile crossed his lips.

“So, Sarajevo?” Melody queried.

He cleared his throat. “We had a ministry to the orphans. My sister is still there.”

“How long were you there?”

“Two years. On the way to a village to pick up a child, our bus was hit by a truck. I don’t remember it.” His smile pinched. “Kelly wanted to return and take care of me. I said the orphans needed her more.”

“I’m sorry,” Melody said. That’s why he’s in the assisted living facility.

“It’s okay.” He turned toward her and spoke softly. “You learn to use the other senses.”

“What do you mean?” Melody asked.

“Close your eyes.” His voice was low, soothing.

Here? She felt her heart hammering.

“Your eyes are still open.” He laughed.

Melody couldn’t help smiling. “How do you know?”

“I just know.”

She noticed him sliding his right hand across the railing. It bumped into hers, then covered her left hand gently. “Close them.”

She obeyed.

“Smell the ocean? The hint of salt on the waters?”

“Yes,” she said, and for the first time in a long time, she actually paid attention.

“Hear the gulls? Their wistful calls?”

“I do.” She also felt the warmth of his hand over hers, steadying, as she swayed to the rhythm of the ocean.

“It’s like a song,” he said. Her heart felt tranquil, at peace. “If you listen, Melody, all you hear is music.”

Originally published in Spark (formerly Splickety Love)