I’ll never forget how she smiled at me, her rosy lips parting to reveal the perfect white smile, with complete content written all over her face. That cold, bleak night was the time I fell in love with the girl the locals called Lumeria.
She frequented the beach, as a lot of local girls do in the summer, but Lumeria had a certain way about her in doing so. She never cared much for the bright, sunny summer days, but rather the darker ones, when the tides would hit the light brown sands and make them flee for cover. She loved the wind, and how it occasionally bit when it zipped down the coast. For a girl, she had a lot of courage, or at least, so I thought when I couldn’t have been any more than ten years old.
It was raining back on September 16, 1982 when I ascended the front steps of my house that overlooked the coast outside New Haven, Connecticut. I had grocery bags in my hands; the plastic felt like it was going to cut my fingers clean away from my hands. But I trudged on, through the softened earth in my front yard, up those painted and stained wooden steps and through the front door, on the quest to get the milk and eggs out of the elements and into the brand new refrigerator my father just bought. He was so proud of this investment and wanted to get fresh groceries in it as soon as it was installed in the kitchen, so my mother, ever the obedient wife, agreed to make the stop to the local market a couple of days ahead of schedule.
I placed the bags on the counter in conjunction with the bags my mother had brought in, and began placing the food into the refrigerator in an extremely anal-retentive fashion. My father would have had a fit if anything had been put in there in a way that could cause damage upon the opening of the door.
My father sat in the den, smoking a pipe and reading the newspaper, as was what he did every evening. The fireplace roared near him, casting a reddish and orange glow all around the wooden paneled walls. He appeared to be deep in his read, but I still needed him to tell me where to put the ham and cheese.
“In the drawer on the left side of the refrigerator,” he replied without looking up from the business section.
“Okay,” I replied back, pulling the lunch meat and cheese from the bag. I placed the items in the drawer, as my father said, closing it and the refrigerator door after my feat was accomplished. It waded up the plastic bag and placed in the trashcan next to the sink.
“Thank you, son,” my father praised me from his easy chair, a fairly good size cloud of aromatic smoke rising from him.
“You’re welcome,” I smiled at my father’s acknowledgment of my deed.
I left the kitchen and made my way up the stairs, opening the colonial tract door at the top and entering the second floor landing. I made my way through the darkened hallway to my front door, entering my room and taking a seat on my bed.
I pulled a box of baseball cards from underneath my bed, eyeballing my Ted Williams commemorative. I pulled it out and placed it on my nightstand and began pulling cards out of the box, when a sudden chill hit the middle of my back and traveled up my spine. I shook my head and chose to ignore the feeling, but it wouldn’t leave so easily. It felt like someone tracing my spine with icy fingers, and just out of self-assurance, I turned around, only to be met by the headboard of my bed.
“Get a grip,” I told myself frustratingly, as I turned my attention back to the box of baseball cards.
The feeling crawled up my back again, and I quickly got up and shook my head, attempting to free myself from the invisible frosted hands that seemed to have left their chill on my back.
“Maybe my window isn’t completely closed?” I asked myself. I slowly walked over to the window, with the intent to latch it if indeed it was partially open, but as I got there, the corner of my eye was caught by a figure running on the beach behind my house.
I had never seen this girl before, but she couldn’t have looked any more than two or three years older than I. Her long, raven toned hair seemed to reflect the emerging moon above her and created almost ethereal contrast to her snow white skin. She wore an outdated style of bathing suit, one that was way less revealing than the ones you could find in many department stores of the early-80’s, and was a deep shade of red with white polka-dots. The mystery girl appeared to be heading out to the low surf that was moving it’s way further inland with each passing second.
I had been living in this house my entire life, so I knew that the little surf of the early evening could very quickly become strong enough to carry people out to see in a blink. Especially since the rain was coming down harder and the wind had picked up somewhat. I pondered if I should go warn her.
“She’s probably not from around her,” I told myself as I continued to look out the window and monitor her activities, “she may not know how strong the beach can get.”
I convinced myself to go out there and make sure the beautiful mystery girl knew of the danger she could be in, so I grabbed a jacket and threw my boots on to shield myself from the rain. I raced out of my room and through the hallway; opening the door and flying down the stairs, leaving the back door wide open as I left the house.
I hurdled the porch steps and continued running until I got to the small cliff that separated my lot from the beach. I stood there for a second, wondering if I should attempt to jump the fifteen-foot cliff or if I should play it safer and descend it quickly, but carefully. I scanned the beach looking for the mysterious girl, and spotted her splashing in the surf, at which point I decided to take the leap. I backed up a little and got a running start, clearing the jumbled rocks that rested directly underneath.
My feet hit the wet sand hard, sending the pop and a painful wave up my back, stunning me for a second. I ignored the pain and ran toward the shoreline, calling out in the process.
“Hey! Hey! It’s not safe! Get away from the surf!”
She just ignored me, continuing to play in the water. The rain and the wind continued to intensify, graced by a low rumble, followed by a sharp crack of thunder. I called out to her again.
“Hey! I’m serious! It’s dangerous out here!”
The girl continued to ignore me, running a little further out. I got to the shoreline and stopped, catching my breath and watching this beauty continue to risk her life no more than ten or fifteen feet in front of me.
“Come on! You can’t play in the water right now!”
My words must have pierced through the rumbling, because she stopped and turned her attention to me, an angelic smile across her face. I could only stare at her. Call it Cupid’s arrow or something, but at that moment, I felt nothing but love for the mysterious girl with water slashing up her legs. I tried to regain my composure, but could not find anything to say to her.
She stared back at me with that beautiful smile on her face. She blinked and let out a soft giggle, turning around and running further out into the water, diving underneath. I shook off the immobilization and realized what she had done.
“Oh, hell,” I said. I quickly removed my jacket and T-shirt, working my way to taking off my boots and jeans. In nothing but my boxer shorts, I ran out into the surf, battling the water as I made my way out to where she dove under. I had to save her. The surf could swallow her any second.
Whoosh! I dove down into the beginnings of the Atlantic, opening my eyes in search of the girl, and being met by the familiar burning sensation in my eyes I have felt for many summers on this very beach. I ignored the pain and continued looking around, finally spotting the girl swimming toward an underwater cove a couple hundred yards away. I emerged for a second and caught a large breath, submerging myself afterward, in pursuit of her.
Watching her swim her way into the cove, I accelerated, the water rushing my open eyes that were deadlocked on the underwater space. I flipped my legs and feet like they were fins and used my arms like oars, hoping to move faster so I could catch up to the mysterious girl. The water pushed back against me, making me strain more the deeper I got, despite my mastery of swimming.
The girl reached the entrance to the cove and stopped, turning around and staring at me in pursuit of her. He smiled with a closed mouth and swam through the entrance and into the dark cavern. I pushed myself to speed up even more, flipping my legs and arms harder and harder as the cave entrance came closer and closer. When I swam through, my air had pretty much depleted itself, so I turned and swam upward in the hopes of having a small airspace above.
I forcefully emerged into the airspace, gasping and begging for air. I coughed and blinked my eyes hard several times, trying to flush some of the salt out of them. I regained my breath and scanned the airspace, spotting the girl to my right. She smiled at me again and giggled, diving back under the water. I watched her dolphin-like movements for a second, gauging which direction this cat-and-mouse game would take me before taking in another huge breath and diving again myself.
I swam through a short, dark tunnel for a second and emerged out of the cove, following the mystery girl quickly. She picked up speed as began dodging rocks and pieces of wood and other debris, but my experience and agility kept me from falling victim to these aquatic tests. She looked back at me for just a second, sizing me up. She delivered a quick smile and bolted downward, her speed appearing to slightly increase.
I stopped myself and looked down at her in disbelief.
‘Is she searching for something?’ I thought to myself, confused by her sudden charge further down into the dark ocean. I adjusted myself and continued following, pounding through the water as quickly as I could, trying not to succumb to the burn my arm and leg muscles were experiencing. She kept going further and further, with great speed, and my attempts to keep up with the jet-like girl caused my arms and legs to scream at me even mores.
As she descended, she made a very quick right turn, in a manner similar to the audacity of her unnatural looking jolt into descending further into the ocean. I stopped again as she sped off, leaving me alone in the water and within my own confusion. Suddenly, it hit me. I was nearly out of air.
I swam around frantically, hoping to find something I could scavenge oxygen out of. With my arms and legs feeling like they were about to burst, a wave of fear overtook me as I realized there was no place to go for air. I was clear in the middle of nowhere, with my respiratory clock expiring. Everything around me went black…
I awoke on the shore of an unfamiliar coastline, coughing up water and wincing in muscular agony. The storm had been reduced to nothing more than some incredibly light misty rain. I attempted to get up, but found my arms unable to support my efforts. I closed my eyes again, letting the somewhat cold air from the ocean hit me, chilling my body and freezing my bones.
The voice of a man whistled through the wind, catching on to my ears and causing me to open my eyes once more. I turned my head to the left and saw a bouncing light heading toward me. As it made it’s way closer, it revealed itself as being a lantern held by an older man with a blue sweater, khaki pants, and a ring of white hair around the back of his head feeding into a short, white beard.
The man knelt beside me and evaluated.
“Are you okay, son?” he asked me with grave concern on his face.
I groaned and rolled my head the other direction, blacking out once again…
The next time my eyes fluttered open, I was lying in the den of my house, covered up in my grandmother’s old quilt, lengthwise on the couch. I felt the warm washcloth resting on my forehead and looked over to see my mother and father standing over me, joyous that I had awakened.
“We were so worried about you,” my mother said to me with tears racing down her face.
“What were you thinking?” my father fought through his own tears, attempting to come off as stern.
“She… she… wouldn’t… listen…” I tried to choke out my words, but slipped back into unconsciousness.
The rays of the morning sun hit my face, causing me to open my eyes once again and shut them repeatedly in defense of the brightness. I uncovered myself and got up, letting the quilt coil on the floor. I walked through the archway and into the kitchen, where my parents were eating breakfast at the large, oak table.
“How did I get back here?” I asked them.
“The lighthouse keeper found you and brought you back.”
“How did her know where I lived?”
“He watched you while you were outside.”
“Does he know what happened to the girl I was trying to save?”
“He never said anything about a girl.”
I nodded and quickly raced back up the stairs and into my room, putting a sweatshirt, jeans, and my sneakers on. I sprinted back downstairs and out the front door, my sights locked on the lighthouse.
I opened the door.
“Hello?” I called out.
“Hello there, visitor. How do you feel this morning.”
“What happened to her?”
“To whom, son?”
“The girl, the one with the black hair.”
“Who are you speaking of?”
“You should have found a girl with black hair. I followed her, trying to get her to come out of the storm last night, but she wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t have survived the storm. Where is she?”
“Oh, I had a feeling.”
“Son, you had an experience with Lemuria.”
“What do you mean ‘experience’”
“Son, over thirty years ago, a young girl disobeyed her parents and went out playing in the ocean on a stormy night, like the one we had last night.”
“She was caught in the surf and drowned.”
“No way, you’re lying to me!”
“If I remember right, she had long black hair that seemed to reflect the moon whenever it was out. She had pale skin and was wearing a red and white polka-dot bathing suit the night she drowned.”
I stood there, completely speechless, not sure whether to believe what I was hearing.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened,” the light keeper said, “about two years ago, another boy had this happen to him, and a couple years before that, it happened to another boy.”
“Yes, son. It is said that Lumeria led them through a cove underwater and through a minefield of rocks and debris, each time appearing to swim faster and faster.”
I just stood there, gaping at what the man was saying.
“You’re lucky to have lived. If you had been any further out, there would have been no chance the surf could have swept you ashore.”
“Or, that Lumeria could have brought me up?” I asked him.
“Possibly,” the old light keeper smiled and nodded his head.
I nodded mine.
“You should be going. I have work to do.”
“Sorry to have bugged you sir. Thank you for bringing me home.”
“You are very welcome.”
As I made my way back to the front door, I noticed a small mantle on the wall to my right, upon it sat a picture of a familiar face.
“Sir, if I may ask, who is this picture on your mantle of?”
“My young sister, who was taken by the sea,” he said.
I stared at the picture with a sense of shock, for I was looking right at the raven-haired beauty that captivated me with a smile and a chase, the one the locals call Lumeria.