Authors: Alice Gaines
Quarian took her hand and squeezed. “Trust me.”
As if she had any choice. The wave crested right over their heads and pulled them under. A current caught her up and swept her out to sea. It should have terrified her, but Quarian’s hand gripped hers to reassure her. Colors rushed past her -- the crystal blue of the water, the greens of seaweed below them, the rich gold of sunlight as it penetrated the water. Like all the paintings she’d ever loved, but not an illusion this time. Everything she saw was real.
The current gentled after a while, and the images took on more solid form. She and Quarian floated slowly to the sea floor until her feet touched sand. She dropped his hand and turned around slowly. On one side, tall blades of seaweed waved in the current, bending and bowing back and forth. Fish colored like jewels ducked in and out of the branches. Red, blue, brilliant black. A mountain of coral in the loudest hue of pink she’d ever seen stood on her other side, with the fish populating the nooks and crannies there, too.
You love beauty above all else. Tell me what you see
. It was Quarian’s voice, but it came from inside her head.
She turned and looked at him.
Is that you
Sound distorts underwater. Best to talk via thought
, he answered.
Now, tell me what you see.
Everything’s incredible. The fish, the coral. The way the sunlight penetrates even down here.
Like one of your favorite paintings, no?
A small shark swam by, no more than inches from her nose. Only a few feet long, the animal stopped to study her briefly, its eyes filled with ancient wisdom. With a flick of its tail, it dashed away again.
What do you have in New York that compares to this
Good question. She loved her museum, loved her place in New York’s intelligentsia.
Art, of course.
Bah. Reality offers far more than the small vision of modern mortals.
Contemporary painting is beautiful in its own way.
It’s clever, not profound. A mere trick of the intellect.
He stretched out his hand and a shrimp flew into it. The tiny creature rose up on its tail and waved its legs in movements reflective of the current around it.
This baby has more to teach us than any hundred of the paintings in your museum.
That isn’t true,
she said, even though every bone in her body told her it was.
You want beauty, Gloria, and they give you fashion. You want enlightenment, and they give you trends. What did they say of the portrait of me you hung there?
That it was trite. That no one did realism anymore.
And what did your heart say
? he asked.
She’d had to fight to convince the board to do a Pre-Raphaelite show. Not a single one of the experts wanted the exhibition, and she’d only managed to sneak it past them by claiming it would bring in more money from Philistines like Mrs. Homersby. The truth was that she’d wanted those paintings in one place where she could delight in the colors and play of light, but she hadn’t dared to admit that.
Somewhere along the line, she’d grown ashamed of her own tastes and feelings about art. She’d lost touch with everything that had made her happy. No wonder she didn’t eat or drink but did snap at her staff. How could you enjoy life when critics had soured your view of everything that made your spirit soar?
Beauty lives in your heart, not your intellect. It grabs your gut, not your cerebrum.
What do you know about beauty?
I’ve lived for centuries. Millennia. When you have, too, you’ll see what I mean
She looked around her at the majesty of nature. He could be right. Despite her years spent studying art, she’d never seen anything to rival this. She had all of eternity in front of her. Why shouldn’t she spend it here? Quarian had tricked her into immortality, but she did love him, and he’d loved her enough to mate with her for all time. If she stayed with him, she’d have company. Besides, she could get back at him for his deception for the next couple of centuries. That would serve him right.
I could show you much more than this. Mountain lakes, for instance. They’re too cold for mortals, but that wouldn’t bother us
You mean like in the Alps?
The Alps, the Sierras, New Zealand. I know a lovely place on the South Island no human’s ever found.
We could swim the Amazon. Converse with the manatees in the Everglades
She stared at him.
You can talk to them?
They tell me which boats are bothering them, and I put the engines out of operation.
Come with me, Gloria. What’s waiting for you if you don’t
She turned to him.
You really do love me. You wouldn’t get tired of me and run off?
Tired of you? With your appetites and imagination? Eternity wouldn’t be long enough.
I’m not joking, Quarian
He took her face in his hands and gazed into her eyes. The water shimmered between them. Sunlight in his hair. In his eyes. Her own reflection stared back at her -- a water creature, just like him. They did belong together, even if he had tricked her to bring her here.
I love you, Gloria. Don’t make me live forever without you.
Yes, Quarian, my love. I will be your mate
Or, in the long scheme of things, perhaps just the beginning
Award winning author Alice Gaines has published several sensuous and erotic works. She prefers stories that stretch the imagination, highlighting the power of love and sex. Alice has a Ph.D. in psychology from U. C. Berkeley and lives in Oakland, California, with her collection of orchids and two pet corn snakes, Casper and Sheikh Yerbouti.