A tragedy involving a girl named Lorelei, a sailor and the ocean.
The sun shone beautifully as it appeared on the horizon. Lovely rays of pink and gold reflected off of the restless waves of the sea. Soft cries of gulls filled the morning air. A young maiden sat on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. She observed the sunrise but her heart was untouched by the warmth of the morning. The radiance of the morning seemed to mock her.
It reminded her painfully of a beautiful morning like this one. It was two years before (had it truly been that long?) in the cottage she grew up in. She was sitting in the garden where she first sang, where the intrigued village boys came to listen, where she first met the man who was holding her tenderly in his arms.
“You will come back soon, won’t you?” she asked.
She deeply hoped he would smile reassuringly and make the promise her heart longed for, but he did not. Instead she was answered with a distant look in his eyes.
“Lorelei,” he whispered.
She shivered when he spoke her name.
“I adore you.”
There was hope!
“But I am a sailor. My first love is the sea. I will be gone for a year at least.”
Lorelei’s heart sank. In her heart she knew that he could never love her as he loved the ocean, but that didn’t soothe the pain.
He left that morning on his voyage. She watched his ship sail away. But even as he was carried farther and farther away she still carried hope in her heart.
“He will come back,” she whispered to herself. “He will be gone for a year, but he will return to me.”
And so she waited.
For a year she tended the garden, always remembering his soft-hearted words. I adore you. She wouldn’t allow herself to think of the words that followed. Soon she forgot them.
For a year she visited the forest where they used to walk together. For a year she sang the songs he liked so much. For a year she went down to the shore every night and sang, wishing that somehow the waves would carry her voice to him.
When his ship returned Lorelei wore the dress that he liked the most. She let her hair down, the way he liked it. She walked to the village and stood at the edge of the dock, eagerly waiting for him to climb out of the ship and run to her with open arms.
But he never came. The captain told her everything, how he boarded another ship months before.
“I will find him,” she said.
“Miss, forget about him,” the captain replied. “He could be anywhere right now! He might not even be alive!”
“No!” Lorelei insisted. She would not allow herself to think that.
“He is alive! He is alive, and he loves me, and I will find him.”
After much persuasion the captain revealed the name of the ship and the city. Lorelei boarded a ship an hour later and sailed away from her home without looking back.
For a year she sailed. Port to port. City to city. Always in search of him. Everywhere she went she discovered that he was already gone. But she also found where he went, and that was where she traveled to next.
Until one day she found him. She walked away from the docks and toward the new city. By then Lorelei had seen plenty of towns and cities of all shapes and sizes. This city was no bigger or grander than any of the others, but there was something about it that she sensed immediately. Somehow she knew he was there.
She asked local sailors about him and she learned that he was about to board another ship. She rushed to the vessel. She searched among the faces for the man she loved, who loved her. The man who she had not seen for two long years; since that morning in the garden when he whispered I adore you.
And there he was, carrying a crate across the dock. His sleeves were rolled up, his back bent and his brow sweaty. He looked tired. And beautiful.
She was just about to run to him, to shout his name, when she saw something else. A girl with dark hair walked up to him. At the sight of her he stood up straight, all signs of weariness banished. She spoke to him. He smiled at her. Then he kissed her.
Lorelei watched with dumb amazement. Time seemed to freeze in that moment. She felt her knees shake beneath her. Her lips trembled. Her body swayed from side to side as her head spun from the shock. Then everything sped up. The faces went by so quickly. The tall city buildings grew smaller until they were no more than specks on the horizon. The shipyard, the busy city streets disappeared and were replaced with grassy cliffs.
It was only when Lorelei stopped running to catch her breath that she thought of his last words to her, the words that for so long she had forbidden herself from thinking of.
My first love is the sea.
Lorelei looked down at the ocean, the restless waves glittering from the rising sun. How wild the sea was, how magnificent. She almost understood why he loved it more than he loved her.
Lorelei slowly walked over to the edge of the cliff. She inhaled the warm, salty air and let it out slowly before she closed her eyes and stepped over the edge.
The fall was quick. The sudden crash into the water brought unexpected pain. As the wind was knocked from her lungs Lorelei opened her eyes. Beneath the surface the water was darker, foggier.
She was alone in the water, alone with her sorrow. Bitterness filled her heart as water filled her lungs. Then she was consumed by it all: the waves of bitterness, tides of sadness, the darkness of the ocean. Slowly she drowned in the cold, beautiful abyss. She was the sea.
My first love is the sea.
Lorelei opened her eyes to find that she was no longer sinking, but rising toward the light. She emerged from the water and stopped. She looked down at her reflection in the water just below her feet. She looked the same but she knew something had changed. The girl who threw herself from the cliff had disappeared in the darkness below the surface. She pressed a hand to her breast and felt her heart beat. Yes, it was still beating, but not with blood; with water.
Then she did something she hadn’t done for a long time: she sang.
She sang a song from her childhood that took her back to simpler, happier times in her garden. The waves calmed at the sound of her voice. Then she sang a love song, one of his favorites. The sea became restless as she remembered that when she sang her heart out for him he had only thought of the sea, his first love. She had merely been a distraction. She tried to lure him away from what he truly loved. That is what all women did to sailors: tear them away from what they loved. And above all else sailors loved the sea. They loved her.
She could bear the heartache no longer.
No one should endure this pain! No one should be parted from where their heart resides!
She sang her heart out to the poor sailors who were drawn away from their beloved sea. She called to them, beckoned them to her, to become one with the sea as she had.
Dark clouds gathered in the sky and blocked out the sun. Wind blew with a sudden unexpected strength. As it started to rain the waves grew taller, stronger, rougher.
Lorelei calmly walked across the water, still singing. Despite the roar of thunder and the crash of waves, her voice carried off into the distance.
In the darkness she saw a ship. Somehow she knew it was his ship. She approached it, pleading him and all of the other sailors to give in and come to her.
And they did. She saw them stop what they were doing to stare at the mysterious creature with the beautiful voice. Gradually the sailors fell under the spell of her song. Slowly they stopped resisting and gave in. One by one they jumped. They swam toward her, fighting the currents. Then gradually they gave up all struggles and sank beneath the waves: becoming one with the ocean forever.
He was the last to come. He stared at her for the longest time before walking to the edge. He climbed onto the railing and prepared to jump. Then the dark haired girl grabbed his hand and pulled him back. He fell backward, dazed.
Lorelei sang louder but he did not succumb. Instead he collapsed against the mast of the ship and took the girl in his arms. Lorelei kept singing but he no longer heard her.
Lorelei didn’t understand why he was resisting what he loved. Why would he not come to the sea? Why would he not come to her? Why didn’t he embrace what he cared for more than anything else?
And then she realized that he was. He looked at this girl as he had once looked at the ocean. As he never looked at her. That look so desired, so loving.
The sea was his first love, but not his only love.
Lorelei felt herself slowly sink beneath the water. She went deeper and deeper into the darkness, letting go of everything: bitterness, sorrow, grief, jealousy, until there was nothing left.
In the moment before she joined the drowned sailors she noticed that above the surface the storm had stopped. The sun was out, and the seas were calm.