By Jackie Knight
Rosa dated the moon once. He took her to a movie, and they discussed that if there were magic in the world, it must be contained in water. He, a quick-thinking boy with cratered grey skin, did not believe in magic, and she told him about her grandfather who could turn lead to gold.
He had been 12 when he discovered the trick. Twelve and made of sun-warmed beach sand. A traveling girl in colorful skirts had tried to take the secret from him with a temptress hand tapping his upper leg. The girl made the wealthy boy’s bones rattle like ice in a full glass. Her grandfather, whose riches had turned him into a baby-shelled sea turtle, fell for her and they found a home on the coast.
The bride went out on a boat the day they were to be married, her neck heavy with African diamonds and rubies plucked from a princess’s garden in the east. She ran her fingers through the water and, when a swell hit the side of her boat, toppled over like a small stone. The waves swallowed the girl, twisting her torso in seaweed and tearing at her delicate skin. When she washed ashore, her lips were the color of the sky and the jewels she had worn were long lost.
Rosa’s grandfather wept over her battered body; and his arms became the wandering wings of a seagull. He cried out and begged for the girl that was his to come back. He swore his fortune, his land and his life, and the gods dried his tears. The girl’s heart glowed crystal clear, and life flowed through her once again. The ocean that had taken her, however, demanded she remain his own, so her body turned the color of pearls, her eyes into the flesh of an oyster. The girl fell back into the salty breath, never to walk dry land again.
The man, having given his vast riches to the gods, married a girl from his village. She was kind and nurturing with a face like his mother’s. Every night, he would walk the lonely shore and watch his mistress shepherd the tides. His children, with the soft hearted wife from the village, were forged of sun-warmed beach sand with skin of turtle shells.
Rosa and the moon’s fling was short lived, but no more than a day after they took separate paths, the moon appeared in Rosa’s window. His hair was frazzled, so stars were falling out as he trembled by her bed. He confessed he could go no longer without the hollow sound of her voice and the feel of her palm against his fingernails. Rosa batted her oyster flesh eyes and twirled her colorful skirt. “I know,” she said. “We are shepherds of the tides.”