A Woman like the Sea
  An artist becomes obsessed with her married lover, but when she has to make a choice between the woman she loves and her art, which will she choose?

A Woman like the Sea - Extract

The sea has always been my enemy, and also my friend. This dichotomy is not something that I expect other people to understand. Why should they? It is for me a fact of life, a feeling, an attitude that is part of who I am. I know this is strange, especially bearing in mind the place where I live and my own former profession.

I am, or rather I was, an artist, a good one. Not a great one, although I spent years trying to be great, but still good enough for my name to have been known even in non-artistic circles for a time. Indeed, I may be familiar to you, an echo from the past, as some of my paintings have found their way into prints or cards sold to casual browsers on the coast. And what I painted back then, or at least what I was best known for, were my pictures of the sea.

If now you ask me how I painted it, I would have said I painted it in all its moods, for it is neither male nor female. No, it is faceless, a primeval force like anger or fear or love. Sometimes, on bright summer days, it is as translucent as glass, whilst in winter, it is wild and grey like the western moors. Or when the wind rises or there are storm clouds on the horizon, it breathes out swirls of foam and hurls them, spitting and snarling like wild dogs, onto the glistening rocks. But it is the nights when I love it best. Nights when the fading light touches the surface of the salt-water like a lover's hand and I watch the colours shift from blue-grey to grey to purple-black. And then at last if the moon is full, the single streak of silver reflected over the sea is like a brushstroke from another world. A Rothko, a Mondrian.

So it is surprising that I should also hate that which fascinates me and from which I once earned my living. But I cannot stay away for long. Now as I speak to you, I am sitting on the deserted sands where I once lived. The rough stones against my back are pricking my skin, and now and then the wind lifts the faded blonde hair from my face. It is evening and the air is becoming colder.

She is late. I am waiting for a woman, a woman like the sea. I do not know yet whether she will come..

As I gaze out, I can just see the pulsing beam of the lighthouse. It sweeps across the water which tonight is calm, deceptive, and outlines the cruelty of rocks as they lie cradled beyond the furthest point of land. I envy its overriding purpose and stability. How long must I watch it?

I refuse to scan the beach any more for signs of movement. It is important to keep close to normality, but sometimes I dream of an approaching figure hurrying to relieve my vigil after so many years and wonder if it can ever be true. How can you long for the thing you fear most? I cannot turn my heart to such questions. Instead I close my eyes and try to remember what has brought me to this place and kept me here.

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