So, more fun tidbits – there is a sea shanty mentioned and sung in this installment. The shanty is my favorite shanty from Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and it is called Lowlands Away. The sea shanties were easily my favorite part of Black Flag, for the record, though I did also like how they incorporated Mary Read and Anne Bonny. Anyway! The song is slow, and a bit sad as it sings about a sailor being visited by the ghost of his dead lover, but it’s also as close to romantic as most shanties ever get. All that said, if you like sea shanties, and you want to experience something amazing, go listen to this.
The Arms of the Ocean
Leaning against the window outside, Marius waited for Rilla to come back out. He hadn’t entirely meant for dinner to happen. He called because he said he would, and then had heard her voice on the phone and – well, here they were. Sighing, he looked down the street. He really was enchanted with her, and he was starting to wish he hadn’t said anything to Priska. Which was a strange feeling in itself – since the Dive, he had always been able to go to her with concerns or when seeking advice. Feeling like he had done something wrong wasn’t sitting well. Maybe he needed to talk to her again – Priska wasn’t as old as Janus, but she was well respected, and she might have better luck getting information out of the elder.
Jingling behind Marius told him that Rilla was coming out, and he turned around as she locked the door and then also locked the metal grate over the glass door. She wore a cross body purse today that was about twice as large as the one she had taken on their date, and dropped the keys into its recesses before coming around and taking his arm. That was a welcome surprise that made Marius smile, and he adjusted for it quickly.
“So, this is your stomping grounds,” Marius said as they walked down the street. “I’ll take your suggestion on where we should go.”
“Ever had Peruvian chicken,” Rilla asked almost immediately, as if she’d already been giving the issue some thought.
Smiling again, Marius shook his head. “Can’t say I have.”
“Then I know exactly where we’re going.”
Down a couple blocks and over, Rilla pulled Marius into a surprisingly bright little restaurant. The interior had largely been painted white, with colorful accents and metal bartops and tables. It was full of a variety of people, and a number of patrons looked like they’d dropped in after work for food or just drinks. They were seated, drinks were ordered, and Rilla informed the waiter that they would be sharing a whole Peruvian chicken.
“So I don’t even get to look at the menu,” Marius asked playfully.
That made Rilla grin. “Nope! You had your chance to deny your appreciation of chicken, so now we’re on this adventure together. And you looked at a menu when you ordered your drink. You’ll have to tell me how the Pisco sour is, by the way, I’ve never had it. Because I always order the slushies. Because I’m twelve.”
“But with alcohol,” Marius noted with a laugh, smiling at her again. She was far more relaxed today. He got the impression her work day had been busy. Perhaps she was just too worn out to be nervous right now.
“I exist in a magical state of being where I am both twelve and my actual age,” Rilla shot back with a smirk. She did look just a touch shy after that, as if she wasn’t sure if she was being too cavalier.
“That’s quite a trick,” Marius said, still smiling. He liked her like this, free and easy, not tense or hiding. “I knew you were special.”
That got that slightly stunned blush out of her, and she looked down for a minute before looking back up with a shy smile. Her lips parted as if she were about to say something, but of course that was when their drinks arrived. They thanked the waiter and each took a sip, at which point Marius confirmed that Rilla would definitely not like the Pisco sour, and Rilla did not seem upset.
“So you don’t go into an office or anything,” Rilla ventured after a moment while they waited. “How do you find work?”
“Through contacts, mostly,” Marius answered, setting his drink down. “I work with many local and international salvage teams, a number of commercial dive companies, and I’m a member of any number of World War II memorial associations. It’s about knowing people, honestly, and making a name for yourself. In a lot of ways I just got lucky.”
“Fascinating,” Rilla said, and sounded like she meant it. “And that seems to be true for almost every industry. A lot of it is just knowing people. I mean, that’s how I got started at the theater and with the burlesque troupe. I knew someone. I had actually gone a few years without performing and then both of those opportunities dropped into my lap within a few weeks of each other.”
“That still astounds me,” Marius commented, shaking his head and leaning back. “I could listen to you…for hours, probably. You should be giving concerts to thousands.”
Blushing again, Rilla looked away. “I can tell you mean it, but it just wasn’t to be. I am not the only talented singer who didn’t make it. Most days I’m not bitter about it.” Shrugging, she looked back at him, and smile. “It makes me happy there’s something about me you like so much, though.”
Marius’s smile softened, and he reached across the table to take Rilla’s hand. “There is a lot that I like about you.” Her hands were warm. He could feel it through the thin fabric of the gloves he was wearing. He wanted to touch her, wanted to peel the glove off and feel her skin. It was too bright in here, though, and in such a stark environment she would certainly be able to see what was off about his color.
Unaware of Marius’s conflict, Rilla simply smiled back at him, holding his hand, and didn’t let go of it until the food arrived. She had been right, the chicken was excellent, roasted in a thick marinade that made for an intense and flavorful sauce, served with fresh tortillas. They ate and chatted and eventually left the restaurant arm in arm again, wandering without direction but content in each other’s company. Then ended up heading down to the waterfront, walking up along it through the thinning crowds.
“Do you know any sea shanties,” Rilla asked after a moment, quite out of left field.
Marius blinked in surprise, then smiled. “Of course. I’d be a poor sailor if I didn’t. Though, admittedly, that’s more because I like history. They weren’t really a thing by the time I sailed.”
“True, 19th century sailors were the best source for shanties,” Rilla said with a smile. They had wandered out to the end of a pier near the aquarium, looking out over the dark water, the sun long set. “So could you sing one?”
Leaning on the railing, Marius looked her over suspiciously. “Maybe. Looking for something specific?”
“Do you know Lowlands Away? If you lead, I’ll answer.”
Marius was quiet for a moment, looking Rilla over. He hadn’t sang for a very long time. Well, other than occasionally to himself as he worked. To her credit, she waited with a smile. He knew that if he backed out, she wouldn’t be upset. Music was important to her, she was seeing if they could connect more through music. It wouldn’t break her if he shied away. He considered for another moment, then took a deep breath and looked out over the water.
“I dreamed a dream the other night,” he began, his voice a little quiet at first.
“Lowlands,” Rilla joined him in the return, matching his key perfectly but also not using her full voice. “Lowlands away me John.”
“My love she came, dressed all in white.”
Smiling a little, Marius looked back at Rilla as he began the second verse. “I dreamed my love came in my sleep.”
“Lowlands, lowlands away me John.”
His voice was warming with each verse, and Rilla seemed beyond excited that he was singing with her, indulging her. He took her hand again, pulling her a little closer. “Her cheeks were wet, her eyes did weep.”
As the song continued, the call and the answer, Marius’s voice grew stronger and warmer, and Rilla matched him in each response. He could feel…something. They both touched the Song, she through her gift, he through what he was, and a resonating sympathy was building between them as they sang. They were charming each other, building a melody and a spell that caught them both. Rilla’s eyes fairly glowed as he looked down into them, and her gaze never wavered as their voices melded into harmonies that echoed into his bones. He had never known he wanted this. Now he didn’t know how he would ever live without it.
The song ended, and they stood frozen for a moment, the resonance still humming in the air around him. Rilla didn’t understand what had just happened, but didn’t care. Marius stared down into her eyes for another moment, lips parted as if he wanted to speak, but nothing came out. Rilla almost trembled, and then her hands were moving, grabbing the collar of his coat as she had wanted to last night, pulling him in and pressing her lips to his. His arms came around her and she whimpered against him, letting go of his coat and sliding her hands up around his neck, holding onto him as if she were drowning as the kiss deepened. Finally they broke from each other with a gasp, and Rilla looked up at him panting softly.
“I have never wanted anyone so much in my life,” she confessed breathily, blushing as Marius’s eyes widened in surprise. “I…I’m sorry if that’s too much, or too soon, but you…I have never met anyone like you.”
“It’s not,” he said, almost whispered, and Rilla felt her heart surge as he pressed his lips to hers again. This next kiss was no less passionate, and when they parted again she could feel him hesitating again, as he had the night before. He looked into her eyes for a moment, almost searchingly it seemed, his hand reaching up to cup her face and caress her cheek. She turned her head and kissed his palm, still looking into his eyes, and his expression changed.
“Will you come home with me,” he asked softly. There was something strangely vulnerable in his voice.
“Yes,” she whispered in response, smiling tremulously. “I think I would follow you anywhere right now.”
The smile that had broken over his face when she said yes was beautiful, and he laughed a little before kissing her again, softly this time. “Hopefully West Seattle will do.” She giggled a little in return as he took her hand and began to lead her away from the pier. It was a little while before either of them said anything else, they just kept looking at each other and smiling. When they did start to talk again, it was pointless banter about the night, the stars, the city lights on the water. Getting to the car he opened the door for her, as always, and as they drove he made polite inquiries about where she had to be and when the next day. Rilla was utterly delighted to inform him that she didn’t work on Sundays, and his answering smile made her heart beat a little faster.
As they pulled up to Marius’s house, Rilla wavered for just a moment. It was a very nice property, not huge but a good size, and right on the water. He had his own beach. She felt insecure and inadequate for a moment as he came around and opened the door for her again. As her offered her a hand up and pulled her out of the car, she looked up into his eyes. This time she was searching, needing to see something that showed her this was real and he wasn’t playing with her. He looked at her curiously, not sure what she wanted, but still smiling softly, his hand reaching up to touch her cheek again.
“Are you sure this is what you want,” Marius asked softly, noticing her hesitation and not understanding the source of it. Interestingly, that was what reassured her. If he was toying with her, she didn’t think he would have stopped to ask.
“Yes,” she murmured, smiling in return, then giggled. “Now take me inside before the neighbors start talking.”
Laughing, Marius led her to the door, holding her hand the entire time as he unlocked it and they went inside. “I don’t even think my neighbors know who I am,” he said as they stepped into the house and he took off his coat and hung it on a rack by the door before turning to take hers. He also slipped off his shoes, and Rilla followed suite. “The house north of us is a vacation home, they come out in the summers with their grandchildren. And I don’t think the people to the south are concerned with much past their rather tall fence and gate.”
Hanging up Rilla’s coat, Marius turned back to her and pulled her back into his arms, kissing her once more, full and deep and with a yearning she could almost taste. Perhaps the most intoxicating thing about the man holding her was that Rilla could not remember ever having felt this wanted. It was not that she’d never shared a heated moment with anyone, and she’d certainly had boyfriends in the past who cared for and desired her, but never had she been kissed as if she were the only water in the desert.
“I am forgetting all my manners,” Marius said with a quiet chuckle as they parted again. “I should offer you a drink or something, but all I want to do is take you upstairs.”
What was it Karin had said? Don’t play games, be honest with what she wanted. “I don’t need a drink, we had one at dinner,” Rilla said with a smile. “I don’t need anything other than you right now. Let’s go upstairs.”
Taking Rilla’s hand again, Marius led her up the stairs into a bedroom that surely took up the entire top floor. A wheel from an old ship was mounted close to the stairway, and Rilla tried to make a note to ask about it later. Windows looked out over the water, and were the primary source of light in the room other than some very low lamps on either side of the bed. Looking around, Rilla blushed a little but was past worrying about whether or not she belonged there. As far as she was concerned at this point, she belonged anywhere Marius did.
“I’m assuming that door is the lou,” she asked with a grin.
Marius grinned back. “Yes, and do you always call it that or was that just for me?”
“I suppose we’ll never know,” Rilla answered, the grin persisting. “I’ll be out in three. Don’t go anywhere.”