Steve's first love was the sea.
Beneath its surface there's no sight or sound, only the sting of salt in his eyes and the freedom of weightlessness, all burdens erased and all cares banished to its briny depths.
He ran to it after his mother died and his father pushed him away, its cold embrace offering comfort when nothing else made sense. In the Navy the constant presence of water was a touchstone, a connection to the life he left behind. After every inland mission he always returned to the sea, waiting for him like a steadfast and devoted lover, welcoming him with open arms no matter how far he strayed.
The water brings him peace. It completes him.
He stands poised at the threshold to the lanai and savors the anticipation of the first swim of the day, the breeze ruffling his hair and teasing his nose with the tang of the ocean, the waves breaking over the distant reef in a soothing rhythm. It's a perfect Saturday morning, quiet and serene, the start of a long, lazy weekend filled with nothing in particular to do, no demands to meet, no promises to keep.
Until the phone rings. "Yo!" Danny's voice booms from the speaker, pushy and intrusive as always. "You busy?"
"Grace and I are going to this thing at the aquarium, some new show about seals or sharks or whatever swims around here. Want to meet us?"
He looks longingly at the beach and doesn't know what he's going to say until the words are out of his mouth. "My mom used to take me there." He winces at how small and broken they sound.
There's a long pause filled with Danny's soft breathing until finally he speaks again, the affection in his voice nearly buckling Steve's knees. "So come. We'll wait for you out front. Better get a move on, it starts in twenty minutes." He hangs up without waiting for an answer.
Danny is like the sea, moody and unpredictable with his sudden storms and shifting currents.
Warm where the ocean is cool, a rising flood tide of words and emotion and heart, dangerous like the thundering North Shore surf, calming like the placid water off Lanikai Beach, crashing into Steve until he's tumbling head over heels, dragged through the waves and no longer sure which way is up.
Change sits uneasy on the horizon, as clear as the gathering clouds before a squall at sea. The sand is sinking under his feet, the undertow tugging him down, the gravitational pull rotating 180 degrees. The tide is rushing in, carving a path through the ocean floor, eroding and rebuilding everything in its wake.
It doesn't look like it's going back out again for a long, long time.