BOTTLED • by Marte F. Klaussen

I didn’t understand at first, why you suddenly wanted to become a fisherman. That you wanted us to abandon the life we had built in the city, our social circle, jobs, pay checks. Leave everything we worked for behind in favor of an old fishing boat and a rundown house in the middle of nowhere. I only agreed to try because I saw how much it meant to you, to follow your dream. And I did my best to stay patient when you said our ‘shed’ only needed a bit of painting to become the dream house we had always wanted, when the roof started leaking during every rainstorm, when the wind threatened to tear apart our thin cardboard walls or when the water in the pipes froze in winter because the house had not been modernized since its building days seventy years ago. Not even when your tarnished boat failed to start or when you day in and day out came home without a single catch — your face looking as weather-beaten as old breakwaters — did I say a word.

I know you saw the contempt in my eyes although I never voiced it. Still, you did not give up on me — on us — your dream. As the harshest weather ceased, you tried to show me the beauty of tranquility; made me listen to the sound of seagulls returning in early spring, the melody of the cord tinkling against the flagpole, and the gentle drip of thawing snow — but all I heard was remoteness. I was still mad at you, having forced me to endure my life’s worst winter, so far away from the life that defined who I was. So I started working against you, in hope you’d give up.

I would often give you cold shoulders, but every time I did, you would tickle me or make funny voices or surprise me with a potato that looked like your mother, so that I couldn’t keep a straight face. I stated that your boat seemed ready for the scrap heap, but the next day you had lacquered the tired wood of the hull and painted the rust-speckled deckhouse white, so that it almost looked new. You even named it after me, in hope I’d grow to love it. And when I one day decided to finally tell you that I missed the excitement of the city — remember what you did? You bet that I couldn’t stay a whole night on your boat without having fun. So the following night, we anchored in the middle of a bay, where a million stars lit up the sky and glittered on the ocean surface. We drank cocoa under woolen blankets and talked about things we forgot we enjoyed talking about. Maybe you noticed, but — I didn’t mind losing the bet that night. You ignited something in me, dripped bright colors on my grey perspective, because all of a sudden, turning the shed into a home seemed possible.

I don’t think I have ever seen you as happy as the day you came home with your first fat load of cod, haddock and saithe. And I’ve got to admit it put a smile on my face when your enthusiasm made you so eager you fell into the ocean before you had time to moor the boat.

As spring turned into summer, you wanted to try a hand at stockfish, and so I helped you build a wooden rack for drying. We had a good laugh when it turned out more like a crooked Tower of Pisa than a triangular tent. But it didn’t matter; it was our masterpiece and perfect in its own way.

You should know I truly loved that summer. It was as if we grew younger every day, got to know each other anew. Do you remember how our home used to smell like wild flowers every day? How we used to run barefoot through the moist grass? And how often didn’t we share a bottle of wine on the rocks as we watched the sun go down to take a short dip in the sea before it rose again? You even wanted to teach me how to fish at one point. But disappointingly, all I got was the smallest mackerel you’d ever seen. You tried to cheer me up by telling me stories of how the mackerel was the smartest and feistiest fish in the sea, and that I should be proud to have caught one on the trolling lures. We named him Finn, remember?

As the summer came to an end, you wanted to leave the coastal waters to try your luck further out. I knew what it meant, and I knew you would be gone for a long time. I didn’t like it — the added risk and longer journey — but I supported you. And so I watched the boat putter away, zigzagging between skerries, islets and peninsulas towards the distant horizon, believing then as I do now, that you will return. They tell me you are gone, but I know you’re not. Because you never give up, right? So don’t let the dark and the cold bring you down. Look for a light in the distance. It’s the light from our windows. Strong and warm and constant. Let it guide you back, so that I can run into your arms, hold you tight and tell you how much I’ve missed you. Because if you won’t give up, then I won’t either.

And I need you to know that.

That’s why I sit here on the floating dock you assembled, day after day, hearing the waves lap towards the seaweed-rocks, listening to the peaceful tranquility of the breeze as I write you your daily letter. Hoping that, eventually, one of them will float your way.

Marte F. Klaussen has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature & Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University in Wales. She is originally from Norway, where she now also resides. This is her first publication.

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Every Day Fiction