She carried her little broken backpack and walked along the beach, sighing as the shells in the sand poked the undersides of her feet. Maybe she would remember what it was like to be happy one of these days. Pushing the windblown tangles of red hair from her face, she looked straight ahead, observing where she was going. The cliffside much further ahead could be reached by a simple pathway that came up from the beach and climbed up the hillside.
“Nadine... hey...” A voice said slowly, as it approached her. A wave hit the shore just as she stopped walking.
She didn't move her eyes from the cliffside path ahead. She waited, wiping the dried sand from her fingers. Starting at the fingertips, the small freckled hands began to tremble.
“Don't worry, its just me.” The soft voice said, even louder this time. Nadine stared at the path, waiting for the voice to speak again.
“Its Jude, remember?” the voice physicalized itself in her mind. She hadn't seen him in years, but suddenly, the image of a familiar man came to her; Lanky body, brown eyes, sandy hair, and a smile to die for.
“Dear god, could it be you?” Nadine finally spoke, the words falling out of her mouth as though they weren't actually meant to be said. “Three years, now, right?”
Jude attempted to smile, but the most he could get was a stretched line across his face. Nadine could hear his footsteps as he walked closer, the sound of the cold sand giving way under his large feet seemed to crunch. He placed a hand on her shoulder. Her body tightened quickly.
“Yeah, something like that. Come here.” Jude said. He turned her shoulder around to have her face him, but her feet refused to move from their spots. He let go.
“Can't face me?” Jude muttered. Nadine could feel something bubbling in her stomach as he spoke, like each word stirred up a demon inside of her. She breathed, carefully counting to ten in her thoughts.
Nadine turned around, carefully lifting each foot and then placing it back in the sand.
“Your mother told me you had come here to escape...” Jude started, but he didn't finish. “...I thought I'd come by and tell you that I'm home. For good, this time. I promise. I'm staying here in Italy for as long as I can.”
“And what does that have to do with me?” Nadine spoke, her voice seemingly fractured into tiny, sharp pieces. “You don't need me anymore.”
“But that's not true.” Jude admitted, though his voice was layered with doubt. “I didn't need you back then. I need you now.”
Nadine turned back toward the cliffside path and began to walk, though her legs felt weighted down. She rubbed her salty face and breathed in deeply, the sea air stinging her windpipe.
Jude followed closely behind her. “Nadine, I mean it. My work has been done. I don't owe anyone anymore, I took care of everything.”
Nadine stopped, but the fight to keep moving raged onward. She turned around to face him, folding her arms across her chest and glaring into the sand.
“Jude, you gave up a lot for a big fat scheme... You gave up your family, your home.” Nadine stated, the gloom pouring out of every word. “For what? Three years of fame and fortune? Then you fell so hard... How could you put all your trust in money?”
Jude stepped back, not sure how to respond. Nadine continued walking, quickly taking the first few steps up the cliffside path.
“Wait, Nadine... I promise I took care of things.” Jude shouted, reaching out to her. “I paid off the sharks. I faked my death. I'm swimmin' with the fishes, as far as they know.”
“You wished for someone to love, you got me. You then wished for money, so you could do what you pleased...” Nadine said aggressively, wiping salty tears from her dry face. “Now, in the end, all you can make wishes for are swimming and fishes.”
She turned back around and stormed up the hill path, Jude following close behind. He quickly grabbed her to a stop, his hands wrapped completely around her thin arms.
“Nadine, I know I have a rough past, but please, I need you. I'm telling you this as honestly as I can. You know me... I wouldn't tell you this if I didn't mean it.”
“I knew you once, Jude.” She scowled, pulling away from him. Her broken backpack hit him across the face as she flung her arms out from his grasp. “I don't know you anymore. What happened?”
“First you tell me that we're going to be rich, live together in a villa on the shore and eat fancy every night. Then you tell me that we're over, we're through, that you never loved me and even saying goodbye is too much to ask. I'm told that, in my time of most need, you can't feel for me in the slightest, even though my heart was being ripped out. Next thing I hear, you've been in America, screwing up big time and digging yourself into a pit.” Nadine yelled, but then quickly became calm.
“Then I hear you've been asking for me. You've been legitimately asking for me; wondering where I am, talking to my parents and finding out where my new apartment is. When does it stop, Jude?”
His eyes looked into hers for a moment, before the piercing glares she sent him made the contact too much to bear.
She climbed a few stairs more before she stopped and turned back around. “I'd love to love you, Jude. But I won't be abandoned again.”
“I couldn't tell you goodbye.” He said.
Nadine rolled her eyes and continued up the steep stairs.
“You couldn't do it because I had been so great to you? Did I ever mean much at all, Jude?” She stormed up the stairs, finally reaching the top of the cliff. Looking ahead, there was only 300 feet between her and the edge.
“You meant everything to me. You just... stopped meaning everything for a little while, when I focused on other things.”
“Things like money.” Nadine said. Jude stepped up over the last step and stood directly behind her.
“You would always talk about what you would do if you had three wishes.” Nadine sighed, feeling her tension slowly releasing itself.
“Three wishes, one to get rich, one to get the woman of my dreams, and one to keep in case of emergency.” He said, slowly rolling over every word, like a piece of sacred text.
“My three wishes, Jude, are much different.” She said.
“What are they?”
“They're much like what you DID with your three wishes.” Nadine sighed, though Jude didn't understand what she meant.
“Come with me. You need to see this.” Nadine said.
She lead him to the edge of the cliff, and sat down, her legs dangling over the jagged rocks in the ocean below. Jude stood beside her, looking out on the horizon.
Nadine looked up at him, her hair being blown out of her face by the salted wind.
“Sit.” She said.
Jude looked down at her and carefully crossed his legs about a foot away from the edge.
“Look, below.” Nadine began. “The ocean is filled with knives.”
He peered carefully over the edge, uneasiness filling his stomach as he peeked at the jagged rocks below.
“Well, they might as well be knives.” Nadine sighed. “I stared at the bottom for so long... I never had the ability to jump, though.”
Jude stood up quickly, pulling her up too, and taking her away from the edge.
“You wanted to jump?”
“When you left, sure. I had thought about it.” Nadine stated bluntly. “But now, I just stare. I had thought that I loved you. I truly thought I loved you.”
Jude sighed and looked into the sky. His eyes appeared to be swelling with tears, though none fell from their ducts.
“Nadine, I'm sorry. I might as well have pushed you off the cliff myself...” He held her hand, intertwining her fingers with his.
Nadine looked into his eyes, no longer angry. “You're lucky I didn't jump.”
“I'm lucky you didn't for so many more reasons than just the guilt, Nadine... I have a chance to see you again, and that is all I could ask for at this point.”
“I thought you wanted me back.”
“I do, Nadine. But I can't force you to accept my poor plea.”
She carefully observed the worried cracks and wrinkles in his skin, now slowly becoming wet with silent tears.
“You love me, don't you?”
Jude took her other hand too, and nodded slowly. “I shouldn't have ever given up on you.“
Nadine stared out at the cliffside for a moment, smiled, and then turned her face back to him.
“The loan sharks really think you're dead? They really think you've flown off to heaven or sunk down into hell?”
“Yes. I promise you that.”
Nadine closed her eyes for a moment, and breathed in the salty air. She pulled her hands from his, and then went to her backpack, carefully setting it down on the cliff's thick grass.
“Here, let's sit on this blanket. Just for a moment.”
Jude smiled, letting her unfold the plaid quilt. She placed it on the ground, about ten good feet from the cliff's edge.
Nadine quickly sat, legs crossed, on the blanket and faced the open ocean. She felt Jude's soft hands glide across her shoulders until his arm was around her, holding her close.
“Jude, I still love you.” She said flatly.
He smiled. “I know. I love you too.”
She looked over the cliffside, never making eye contact with him. Jude leaned over and kissed her cheek, but still she didn't move.
“I'll take you back, sure.” Nadine stated. “But you owe me. You have no idea how much pain I suffered without you.”
Jude smiled and hugged her close. “I know, I know. I'm sorry.”
“I mean it, Jude.” Nadine said, blinking rapidly as her body tensed up again. “You will never know true abandonment like I did.”
Jude pressed his cheek against the top of her head, the smile still smeared across his face. He held her tightly against himself and spoke slowly. “I'm sorry, Nadine. I mean it.”
“Yeah. I know.” She said, seemingly unfazed. ”I'm tired, Jude. I want to lay down.”
He quickly let go of her, and laid down across the blanket, holding out his arms for her to join him.
“Thank you.” Nadine said, monotony striking every word.
“I love you.” He whispered, as she laid her head on the blanket, staring directly into his eyes.
“Jude, the last wish in your three wishes...”
“Yeah? Its always for emergencies.”
“What makes an emergency?” Nadine said. Her eyes went dull.
“I don't know. I suppose it would be used at a time of my greatest emotional or physical trial.”
She trailed her eyes from him and looked into the sky.
“You owe me.” She stated again. He laughed.
“I promise, We'll spend the rest of time together. It'll make it up.” Jude smiled. Nadine did not.
“Let's sleep.” Nadine commanded rather than suggested.
He closed his eyes and held her hands. “I agree. Its so hot out... I'm drained of energy...”
She didn't close her eyes. She waited.
We'd be so less fragile
If we're made from metal
And our hearts from iron
And our minds from steel
And if we built an armor
For our tender bodies
Could we love each other?
Would we stop to feel?
You say you want to know her like a lover
And undo her damage, she'll be new again
Soon you'll find that if you try to save her
It renews her anger
You will never win
When he heard the rustling of grass, he assumed she had just gotten up to use the restroom or something. He didn't open his eyes until he stopped hearing the rustling, when the world went silent in the eeriest of ways.
Standing quickly, he could feel the adrenaline coursing through his veins. His hands trembled and his eyes blinked rapidly. Jude rubbed his eyes, the crust of salt and sleep falling from them.
He peered over the edge, the knives of the ocean sticking up into the sky.
The mangled body at the end of the points screamed at him. He scrambled back to the blanket, where he found the note.
Signed carefully on a scrap piece of paper, Nadine's final words left him with nothing but love and revenge.
You want three wishes,
One to fly to heaven
One to swim like fishes
and one you're saving for a rainy day...
For if your lover ever takes her love away.