She Loves Me

Entry by: Alex Fleet

27th February 2015
It had taken quite a while. I first noticed her when I had ambled down to the seafront for lunch. She seemed to be there most days, at that same time. Each day I would always sit in the same place and after I while I realised that, gradually, she was getting nearer day by day. I felt as if she might be watching me, so I waited to see what happened.

Each day would be the same; I would set there on the sea wall with my sandwiches, by myself. If someone came near, my observer would slip quietly away and watch from afar.

One windy day, I moved from the sea wall down to the shelter of the beach and sat on the shingle, sheltered from the wind and from the view of folks passing by. Down here, she seemed more intrepid and came closer than she had been before.

Finally she sat next to me, close enough for me to touch, but as always I just sat there eating my sandwiches. We would exchange silent glances.

One day I shared my sandwich with her. She seemed to appreciate it and I soon found that her preference was for sardines.

It became a habit, a ritual, this sharing of the sandwich, till finally one day she brought me a little gift, perhaps in repayment for the fishes I had let her share. The little fish she presented me with lay there glistening in the sun, its scales shining like jewels. She looked me in the eye, almost seeming to laugh. I put out my arm and touched her shoulder, smiled at her. She blinked back. I was amazed at how we could communicate without the need for words.

After that she would sidle up next to me and we would sit there like an old couple, leaning against each other, her weight solid against mine.

I guess to others that knew her, she was pretty: she certainly had the largest, deepest eyes I had ever seen. I must admit that her rather fishy breath was a slight downer but I could not help but to admire her whiskers.

Finally the warmth of the summer came and we would swim together for a while, she swimming away then surging back, diving beneath me and coming up the other side. I would dive down and we would swim along the stony bottom of the sea together.

One day, instead of a fish she brought me a brightly coloured plastic bottle. She dropped it at my feet, pushed it towards me. I accepted it with due gratitude even though I was perplexed at this development of events. I took it away with me and threw it in a rubbish bin.

The next day there was another bottle, also brightly coloured.

This went on for several days. I wondered what would happen if I kept hold of that day’s bottle so she could see I had kept it.

The next day I went back and placed the previous day’s bottle next to me, where she could see it. She again brought another bottle, but seeing yesterday’s sitting there next to me, touched it and looked up at me.

The next day there were five bottles waiting for me at our meeting place, down on the beach. At first I thought they had just randomly ended up there as there are quite a few bits of rubbish down at the seashore. Giving me a sixth bottle though, she put it with the rest.

Next day there were ten. I put them in the rubbish bin.

The day after, the rubbish bin was full because she had found fifteen bottles for me.

Each day the number increased until I was taking a dustbin bag back to the car at the end of each lunchtime.

My workmates would laugh. They knew about my rather strange friend. “So how’s Cecelia then?” they would ask, chuckling. I was sure that one day they would come down en masse to pay Cecelia and me a visit.

Then, after a few days more, as well as the plastic bottles there were cheerful carrier bags, brightly coloured foil crisp packets, anything bright or shiny.

The collection of treasures increased each day in its volume and variety, to include more every-day things. Anything from cotton wool buds to bicycle parts were left in a pile at our meeting point and each day I would collect my booty in several bags and put them in the back of the car, which I had now started to park next to the seawall in preparation for the uploading.

Cecelia had been joined by some of her friends now: I took fishy sandwiches for them too. In return they all piled up the strange assortment of flotsam and jetsam for my perusal and approval.

Cecelia and her friends were limited by the amount of offerings they could bring by virtue of their lack of hands. On one occasion they worried an old tyre up onto the shore, but could not drag it further than the strand line, so I pulled that one in for them.

Then there was the fishing gear. There would be the occasional part of a rod or its spinning mechanism: the occasional fly or lead weight would be a rare treat in Cecelia’s eyes. What worried me were the sharp hooks which might damage Cecelia or her friends. I would find a complete tangle of fine fishing line, complete with hooks and barbs, caught in amongst the rest of the pile. I was not even sure whether the line had arrived afterwards or whether it had already been tangled up with the rest of the stuff. There whole were sections of fishing net dragged by Cecelia in her teeth, its rugged twine broken down into smaller sections by wind and tide.

Cecelia seemed to be getting tired. While we ate our lunch she would lean against me, almost falling asleep. Her whiskers had lost their lustre. Her dark eyes seemed to have faded a little.

I wondered how long she took to collect all this treasure from the sea as her love offering to me. I could not imagine how I could stop her doing it. Maybe I should simply stop coming. I did for a couple of days but the pile was huge by the third day. People would stop and make strange comments when they saw it.

Finally there was the day that Cecelia was not there.

She was not there the following day either.

I walked along the shore both ways but did not see her.

Finally there was an extra low tide and I wandered out to where the waves met the outer reaches of the sand. In the distance was the section of breakwater, its ancient timber props marching out across the sand like the spiny backbone of a dinosaur. I looked at my watch: I would walk to it then get back to the office.

I found her there, at the foot of the breakwater. Cecelia lay wrapped in a great fishing net, mummified within its mesh. She must have been struggling to pull it free, to bring it in to shore, another love token between us. Instead she must have been trapped within it beneath the water, unable to get to the surface to breathe.

She lay there, her whiskers hanging limply, her eyes misty white.

I wondered how many other Cecelias had met similar fates, just swimming about in their everyday way, caught up in the detritus we unthinkingly discard.

Back at the office, the guys sense something was wrong. Finally I had to break the news to them.

They meant well of course. But to say “Well, she was only a seal” was no consolation.