Emptiness

Cover art for Heads or Tails by S.K. Munt - Emptyness is based on her novel.This short story, about a character named Lincoln Grey, is concerned with S.K. Munt’s Fairytail Saga. Ms. Munt held a fan fiction contest following the publication of Heads or Tails, the third novel in the series. My entry sort of violated the parameters for the contest and I really didn’t mean it as a contest entry. It was more a writing exercise dealing with a person in a very dark emotional state. In Urban Mermaid, the title character starts off in a dark emotional state and I felt that this would be good practice for me.

Nonetheless, I sent it in, more curious as to what Ms Munt would say about it than as an actual entry in the contest. S.K. Munt is a very gracious lady. The story took first prize and was published at the end of Stained Glass, the concluding story in the series.

A brief synopsis of the story thus far: Lincoln Grey has lost the love of his life to a rival. While he may not have stood much of a chance, there was always the hope that he would prevail in the quest for the hand of Ivyanne Court. My story opens after a number of years have passed and Lincoln is just starting to come out of the deep dark depression that settled on him following Ivyanne’s marriage to Tristan Loveridge.

For more background, see my review of Heads or Tails by S.K. Munt. Better yet, why not read the entire Fairytail Saga, available at Amazon.com? (Both links will open a new browser tab.)


 

Emptiness

The Barefoot Bar was empty. The resort was empty, For the most part, Lincoln was empty . . . Or that’s the way he felt today and had felt for the past eighteen-hundred-and-some days. He had stopped counting around four years ago, but it was pretty easy to do the maths when he wanted to know – which was seldom, if at all. This was the off-off season at the resort. Few, if any, bookings and Lincoln had given most of the staff time off to swim home to their families. The few that remained were involved with maintenance duties, and they would get to swim – or drive – home in a week or so.

If he had accomplished anything he could be proud of since returning to the Seaview, it was the staffing situation. As the human staff members had left for better jobs or to return to school, Lincoln had replaced them with Mer. Most of them were young, doing the same sort of jobs that humans of their age would take but being able to live and work in a Mer-friendly atmosphere was a godsend, and Lincoln had stacks of letters from grateful family members to prove it. This policy had resulted in a significant uptick in Mer-tourism. There were still plenty of humans, and they were always welcome, but the resort was now booked solid throughout the high season and for a good part of the low season as well. At this moment, the tide had gone out, but it was due to begin rising again by month’s end.

Then, there were the destination tourists. Word had begun to spread soon after the wedding. Lincoln had asked that it be kept quiet – for a while – that he could turn humans at will, but no-one had paid much attention to his request.  The inquiries began and kept on coming. Husbands wanting wives, wives wanting husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends.  One guy had wanted his entire family turned. Link had leased a few acres of land on a small cove away from the resort and built two bungalows there so couples could live and swim for a week or so away from the public eye at the resort. What other Mer would have thought of providing accommodations for the recently Turned?

At the start of it, he had felt good about what he was able to do for his people. However, over the last couple of years, he had begun to feel like a one-trick pony and hit rock bottom a few months ago when a woman had offered him almost unlimited sex if he would fly to the Seychelles and turn her husband. Link was not that desperate.

His fling at playing the field had not lasted long. Too many potential bed-mates had wanted a go at the runner-up in the royal marriage derby and too few had wanted Lincoln as himself.  The reality of bed-hopping just was not what Lincoln was about. The legend of Tristan Loveridge – at least that aspect of it – would remain intact. As for the greatness that Ivyanne had spoken of, nothing had come of it, but it was still early days yet.

Ivyanne. Sooner or later it would come around to her.  It always did. Five years on, he was devoid of just about all feeling for her. The wounds she had inflicted were still tender to the touch, though. Even if she had turned up at The Seaview saying that she had seen the error of her ways and asked for forgiveness, there was no going back. She had broken his heart too many times for any redemption. As far as he knew – and he didn’t really care to know – she and Tristan were happy. Every once in a while, someone would tell him they’d heard through the Mer-vine that the royal couple had gone there or had done this, but Lincoln really wasn’t interested.

Then, there were the messages. Ivyanne’s secretary, Saraya, had kept in touch, occasionally asking how he was doing or telling him the state of things in the kingdom, all the while scrupulously avoiding mention of the Queen. Link had suspected that she wanted to toss her hat into the marriage-ring, but he’d be a fool to consider any sort of liaison with someone that close to the royal couple. Besides, there was no competition – official or otherwise – to marry Lincoln.

One day, he did receive an e-mail from Saraya, telling him in an official tone there was apparently some sort ceremony associated becoming a Knight and the Queen wished him to come and receive the accolade. Lincoln had immediately clicked the “Delete” button and had continued to do so with her subsequent messages until Saraya had gotten the hint and backed off.

Then there were the letters. One arrived at the Seaview sometime after that, written in Ivyanne’s hand which Lincoln remembered all too well from the ballot she had shown him that terrible night. The letter had gone in the fire, posthaste. Unopened, unread, unwanted. Another letter had subsequently arrived, a multiple page epistle from the heft of it. That letter quickly suffered the fate of its predecessor. Neither Ivyanne nor anyone else from the royal court had seen fit to show up at The Seaview, and Lincoln was grateful for at least that much.

If the truth be known, Lincoln did not give a rat’s ass about the Knighthood. He had not sought it and had only done what anyone else would have done in that situation. The money that went with it remained untouched. That just wasn’t Lincoln, and he had no desire to see the Queen, however briefly. Maybe he’d feel different a century or two in the future.

It was getting dark outside the restaurant. Things had been dark in Lincoln’s soul for some time now. He still had the gun from his stint with the Royal Guard – a lot of good that had done him – and there had been more than one stygian black night when he seriously considered using it. Something had stopped him each time; a candle of sorts out there in the darkness. He didn’t know what it was or why it was, but the gun had remained in its holster for the past three years.

Lincoln had been sustained through that period by the strange candle and something else. Anger!! Yes, he could accept the fact – as difficult as it had been – that Ivyanne had chosen Tristan out of love, hormones or something else. That last conversation with her, though, had constituted cruel and unusual punishment. She had stabbed him in his heart and before she went back inside, had twisted the knife one last time. Mocking him because he’d called her Ivanna had bordered on sadistic. The other stuff about holding him back or standing in his way was simply code for “I can’t keep my hands off of Tristan Loveridge.”

If managing The Seaview had taught him anything, it was that the sick and the dying called out to those no longer amongst the living. That elderly lady from two years ago, the one who had fallen and broken her hip, was a prime example. The medics had taken forever to arrive and as she lay there in agony, she repeatedly called for her mother, long since departed. The medics finally arrived, much too late, and The Seaview had helped to pay her final expenses.

Lincoln had been dying that last night with Ivyanne. He had known her as Ivanna for well over a decade and as Ivyanne for only a relatively few months. Yes, he had understood the necessity of the subterfuge when they met in later life, but Ivanna had been the name he had whispered to her when he was a lifeguard at The Seaview and the name he had called in his dreams over the following ten years. Lincoln understood that things had changed for her through the intervening years, but he’d had faith in her and held out hope that, with his love and help, she could and would heal. Apparently, she wasn’t interested in that. Still, calling her Ivanna was as natural as calling her Ivyanne.

When she had walked back into his life, she had told him that Ivanna was dead. As she was walking out of it again, telling him once more that Ivanna was dead, was tantamount to invalidating all of his memories – both past and recent – all of his hopes, his dreams and yes, his love for her. And after she ground the remains into the pavers with her foot, she walked away! That. God. Damned. Bitch. Walked. Away!!!

In retrospect, he had been a fool to follow her to Hawaii for the wedding. Of course, he’d heard about her nuptial wish, and he didn’t believe it for a second. If anything, to him it was a paltry attempt to atone for what she had done; the anodyne words that the hosts of reality shows utter when a contestant is voted off.

The only saving grace of the whole trip had been . . . Grace. The words she had uttered there on the bluff meant more to him than anything Ivyanne could say, then, now or in the future.  That evening, they had been a slight balm to a severe jellyfish sting, but after he had returned home, they had burned of their own accord through those dark days and nights. And now he understood. Those words had been that strange candle glowing in the darkness of his soul.

Grace had mercifully given Lincoln his space and had remained silent during his lame attempt to emulate Tristan’s love ‘em and leave ‘em methodology. She must have certainly had her contacts at The Seaview because every time things had become really black for Lincoln, Grace had appeared. Not to beg, not to tease, but as a friend who would thread her arm through his and kiss his cheek. Someone to walk him out of the utter darkness to where things were only charcoal grey. And then, she would leave, not with any intimation of things that could or would be or even a call to follow her. No, she would return to school with the unspoken promise that she would be there if he needed her.

Lincoln remembered her promise to wait for him. That promise fueled no lust within him. Yes, there was the slight temptation to do Tristan’s niece as a way of getting back at him, but Lincoln had too much respect for Grace. Too much respect and too much . . . love. He could never treat Grace the way he’d been treated, no matter who her aunt and uncle were.

Throughout these five years, the only thing that he had really enjoyed, really looked forward to was swimming. Lincoln had often considered Ardhi’s “gift” to be more of a curse; one that, at the time, only served to prolong the agony of losing Ivyanne. He steadfastly believed that having someone expunge his memory with a song, or even drowning would have been a blessing compared to what he had been through. Yet the simple act of shifting legs to tail and swimming for an hour or two had provided a welcome respite, and though he would never openly admit it, Lincoln was grateful for this solace.

Lincoln had usually swum alone the past five years. Occasionally, someone from the staff like Pintang would ask to go along, and the conversation was welcome but for the most part, he sought solitude. Now, though, solitude was not as tempting as it once had been. Lincoln had found that he was starting to want someone to swim with nowadays. The big question was, with whom? Pintang came to mind first but asking her might send the wrong signal. He was grateful for that night on the dock and the few times afterward when she sought him out, but she really deserved so much more than providing mercy sex and serving as a swim buddy. So much more.

Then there was . . . well . . . Grace. They hadn’t ever really swum together before so maybe it was time. Yes, maybe it was. He’d like that. But how to ask her? She was done with school, and he hadn’t seen her recently so broaching the subject was going to be a bit tough for him. Maybe some flowers would help. That’s it! Flowers. And a card with a three-word message: “Swim with me?”

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