The cottage was the same, save for ten years of dust and cobwebs. They had positioned the sofa facing the window, so they could see across the beach to the sea.
Yes, the sea, whispering as it spent itself along the sand, booming continuously as the water piled high, curled in a glassy arc and tumbled on itself in a racing white flurry.
Pounding, whispering -- endlessly pounding, whispering. How long had it been stroking this shore? How long would it continue? How many others would it entice into its deathly embrace? He walked to the shoreline, prepared to re-live every moment......
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"Come on, catch me if you can." Giving James' stomach a playful prod, she tore down the path to the beach as he gave pursuit.
Running after her, his heart was full, drinking in his bride's beauty. Her head strained forward and her hair streamed behind her; her shapely figure raced easily over the sand. He caught up and tackled her. They fell, embracing and kissing. Laughing, they got up and strolled hand in hand to the flat, dark rocks on the side of the beach. They clambered over them, searching the rock pools for sea-anemones and starfish. They stood on a rock draped in emerald seaweed. Sea spray, from the wild waves beating the rocks, caressed them as they caressed each other.
James remembered a mother-of-pearl he'd seen in a rock pool further back. "Wait here," he said, "I've got something to remember this time with forever." He hopped over the rocks nearer the shore. As he picked up the pearly shell, water tumbled into the pool from the sea. That must've been a giant wave. He looked up for Jenna. His heart stopped. The rock was empty. This can't be happening. Now his heart was racing in panic.
From then, things became a blur: The frantic scanning of the sea. No sign of her. The plunge into the waves, searching, searching, calling, till he was in danger of drowning. The dash back to the cottage. Sea Rescue helicopters and motorboats, Jenna's parents, news reports.
And the cold knife through his heart, as he identified her body washed up two days later.
For nine years he was lost, not daring to do anything to erase Jenna's memory. He was to blame. He'd told her to stay on the rock. He dared not be happy, with that on his conscience. He tried to work, to paint, to socialise, but with a cold emptiness and guilt, everything was meaningless -- an endless procession of minute upon minute till he died.
Nine years later, on impulse, as he walked past a church, he walked in and spoke to the pastor.
"I killed my bride. I can't let go. I owe it to her not to forget."
The pastor looked in his eyes. "Your love doesn't end when you let go and get on with your life, James. No matter where you are; no matter whom else you meet, your love for Jenna will always be. We think love must be apportioned -- with only so much to go around, but it's not like that. Love is endless. You'll never stop loving Jenna. No matter what you do, when you think of her, all the love will come flooding back."
He looked at James. "Did Jenna know Jesus?"
James nodded. "She often spoke about Him."
"Well then her life, too is endless. It's just the other side of the grave. You'll see her again, if you also follow Jesus."
James shook his head. "I couldn't follow a God who took my bride after two days."
"Well, just remember, your love won't fade if you get on with your life."
It was a turning point. Sure enough, James found as he looked outwards once more, nothing could shake his love for Jenna, even beyond the grave. After a year, he was ready......
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"I'm coming to say goodbye, Jenna. You've left this world and I need to say goodbye. But I'll love you forever." Shaking with grief, he pressed the mother of pearl to his heart and turned back to the cottage.
He sat on the couch, picturing Jenna beside him. His hand dangled down the side. What's this? Jenna's Bible!
As he picked it up it fell open: "Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
Always? Endlessly? God, are You trying to tell me something about You? Perhaps I need to see that pastor again.
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