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There was a woman standing at the water’s edge. 

Alivia, a sincere lady in the full bloom of youth, stood alone on the beach, gazing over the sapphire water with her pure coffee crystals. Her French vermillion hair danced lightly in the ocean breeze, tickling against one cheek as she smiled to herself with anticipation, resting her cheek against one hand as she absent-mindedly adjusted her scarf. She wore an onyx shirt that left her milky, tinted with khaki, arms bare and vert shorts that looked comfortable and easy to wear. Her French vermillion locks brushed against her shoulders, complementing her caring healthily color-touched light-colored visage. She stood, awaiting her love. 

It must have been fate in mortal form that brought them together. She knew from the moment she laid eyes on him that they were meant to be. From then on, she cared about him with every fiber of her being, but Mr. Rigdon switched from warmth to coldness in a flash, struggling with his inner anguish. But she loved him no matter how many times he pushed her away. That was how it was to this very day. 

“Alivia,” Mr. Rigdon said simply with no trace of emotion. His forest-green orbs complimented his copper strands, kept masculinely short, belying his wretched heart. He was dressed in refined garb befitting his station. His henna body rippled with muscle. A prominent scar stood out on his henna skin. As Alivia drew nearer, she caught a note of his familiar scent that brought yellowed pages to mind. She smiled to herself. It always reminded her of the time they shared. 

“Oh, Bubbles! You came!” Alivia said breathlessly, reaching out to take him into an embrace. He took a half-step back, enough to remind her that he still preferred some distance. She humored him and dropped her arms without comment, still smiling. With that, they began to walk along the beach. 

“Mr. Rigdon,” she intoned, “the sea is beautiful, isn’t it? It’s so cerulean and glittering.” She glanced toward Mr. Rigdon, who was unresponsive. “U-um… I’m really glad we can spend time together today. It’s so lovely and warm.” 

“I don’t care about the weather,” Mr. Rigdon snapped. 

She jumped a bit and then fell silent, barely whispering, “Sorry.” 

Almost instantly, guilt flashed across his face, but just as quickly his cold facade returned to hide it. He looked at her, the loveliness of her peach hair, the hint of sadness in her sincere spheres, and her beauty pierced Mr. Rigdon’s heart with shame. Who was he, after all, to hurt such a creature? He was to her as a devil to an angel. He summoned the strength to confess, “No.” Alivia looked up at him with surprise. “Don’t be… never mind.” I should be the one who’s sorry, Mr. Rigdon thought to himself, but he couldn’t work up the courage to say it. 

Gently, she brought her hand toward his, whispering, “It’s okay. Don’t… don’t worry for me.” For a few moments they passed through another chilly silence. “Alivia,” Mr. Rigdon murmured at last. “I like these dates.” 

“Do you really?” she piped hopefully. 

He was so burdened by time. Not only that, he was even never good enough. And yet still Alivia looked at him with such adoration. He was undeserving. “Yes,” he muttered. “I like spending time with you.” She beamed such a happy smile at him that he couldn’t help but look away. “I admit it, all right? … I hate it when you’re sad.” 

Alivia slipped her fingers into his curled hand and whispered, “I’m not so sad. I wish I could make you less sad. You’re really hurting inside, I can feel it.” 

He accepted her touch and held her hand in his, saying nothing. 

After a few moments, they found themselves walking down the beach again. It seemed to Alivia that something had been bothering Mr. Rigdon for the last few hours — or maybe longer than that. His baleful hardened pea-colored windows to his soul were cast down and away, focused upon nothing in particular. 

She really didn’t want him to be troubled. She felt his pain as if it were her own. Tilting her head so that her locks fluttered against her cheeks, she murmured, “Mr. Rigdon… what’s wrong?” 

“Alivia… it’s, just…” 

Alivia slipped both of her hands into his, gazing into his mournful crystals. “Mr. Rigdon… I’ll listen.” 

He took a deep breath and gazed back into her cinnamon orbs with a look full of despairing sadness, whispering, “It’s just… I’m just no good, Alivia. I can never do anything right…. I guess, I’m sorry. I just ruin everything. I’ll probably ruin this…. I… forget it. I just can’t…” 

Alivia listened quietly, pain flashing across her features as Mr. Rigdon recounted his sorrows. At last, he finished, and a moment of silence passed between them. 

He seemed so morose and unsure. She brought her head against his chest in reassurance, murmuring, “Mr. Rigdon… I… I don’t know what it’s like, to live with your legacy of failure… but… I’m sorry, Mr. Rigdon. I wish… I wish I could help.” Mr. Rigdon’s eyes began to redden, and he abruptly pulled her into a fierce embrace. Her pools widened at first, but then she too felt overwhelmed by emotion and succumbed to the warmth of his touch. 

“You,” Mr. Rigdon whispered, his breath hot on her ear. “As long as you’re here, I… I can make it.” They held each other as tears trickled down cheeks and dripped onto the shifting sands to be carried away into the sea. Their pain dissipated into a mist swept out by the ocean breeze and toward the setting sun, where dark clouds began to loom into sight. 

They basked in each other’s quiet companionship for a few moments. 

“Mm. Sunset.” 

Alivia lifted her head at Mr. Rigdon’s words to behold the dying sun’s carrot-colored radiance. But even as she replied, “How beautiful,” the atramentaceous clouds looming on the horizon worried her. “Bubbles, I’m worried about those clouds. Maybe we should go back.” 

Mr. Rigdon looked at her with such haunted orbs and asked, “Just a few moments more? I don’t want it to be over yet.” 

“Mm… if you want to,” she relented. 

They were unprepared for how swift, how brutal the coming storm was. The rain poured in torrents, bading the ocean itself to rise. Winds whipped about them and kept them from moving on the shifting sands. Soaking, shivering, they fought against the storm. 

“Mr. Rigdon!” Alivia screamed against the wind. “Please, don’t let go!” 

“I won’t!” Mr. Rigdon shouted back, his hand clasping hers firmly as he struggled upward on the beach. “It’s my fault! I won’t fail you, Alivia!” 

“Mr. Rigdon–!!” 

Her scream was lost in the crash of waves against her body, the roar and power of the sea risen to steal her from her lover. 

She struggled against the water, but it was too much. The violence of the storm-swept waves forced her under without contest. 

The waves had beaten the air out of her lungs. Desperately, she willed herself not to suck in the icy water about her. Will I die this way? she wondered. Will I die… like this…? 

A firm hand seized hers and she felt herself being pulled up, up and up until the cold wind hit her face again. She coughed, sucking in the air greedily. Her arms had tightened themselves around Mr. Rigdon’s neck without permission, and he was shouting, “Hold on, Alivia. Hold on!” 

“Mr. Rigdon,” she murmured. “You shouldn’t have. We can’t make it out here. This way, you’ll die, too….” 

“Don’t talk like that, Alivia,” he commanded. “Your life is worth far more than mine.” 

“Mr. Rigdon…” 

Thunder crashed in the distance, and the waves pitched and brought a mouthful of salty water against their faces. She coughed and held on to him, thinking, no, this isn’t how it should end, this isn’t how *Mr. Rigdon* should die… 

Something bumped against her leg. A shark? Fear coursed through her body. But before she could react, another wave pushed them under. Mr. Rigdon slumped against her, momentarily knocked senseless. With burning eyes, Alivia saw a large silhouette with a slender body and a bottle-like nose. 

A dolphin, she thought. How lucky. 

Summoning forth all her will, she put Mr. Rigdon on the dolphin’s back. 

It was the last thing she did before her world went black. 

***Three days later***

“She was always so sweet, so gentle. I don’t think I’ve met anyone else so kind.” 

“The world is truly darker without her, without our little light.” 

“Don’t forget what she did. How much she helped us in those dark times.” 

Mr. Rigdon sat on a chair by the coffin, his hands around his knees, his pools dry, his soul too numbed to grieve. The funeral attendees nodded to him as they passed. He was motionless in response. 

The reception lasted hours, but it seemed to Mr. Rigdon that it was only moments before the crowd disappeared. He picked himself off the chair and turned to look into the coffin for the first time since the funeral started. 

Eyes closed and still, Alivia laid inside in a fine starless dress, her hands clasped over her chest. She could have been in a very deep sleep. Mr. Rigdon fought the urge to reach out and nudge her awake. Alivia was gone. Gone because of him. Because she loved him. Trembling, Mr. Rigdon leaned in and laid a single kiss on her lips.

… Thus concludes our tale. 

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