I looked at the beautiful and unique scenery that was presented before my eyes. I don’t know what a more perfect combination than a sunset, the sound of waves crashing, a cool breeze, and a swarm of fireflies circling around me. The waves brought a large sea conch shell to the shore, attracting my attention that very second.
“That shell contains sounds from the ocean floor. Listen carefully. Who knows, someone is telling an interesting story from somewhere. A place that may never be reached by any human being”, my mother once said. At that time, I was very young. Mama brought me here as a gift for my fifth birthday.
Tempted, I held the shell close to my ear. But of course, the only sound that could be heard was the echo of empty space mixed with the sound of waves.
“Listen carefully, Merrick.” My mother’s voice echoed in my head.
I held it next to my ear. Funny. I feel like I’m calling someone.
Faintly, the sound of crying was heard which immediately turned into laughter. Suddenly, there was a melodic murmur that I had never heard before. The strange sound was truly disturbing and alluring at the same time.
“If you’re lucky, maybe you can hear someone calling your name.”
The sound of the waves crashing loudly interrupted my thoughts. My hand remains suspended in the air, pressing the shell against my ear. I quickly put it back into the water. Slowly, because Mama always taught me to behave politely to nature.
I sat on the sand, ignoring my clothes which immediately felt heavy and wet. I’m no stranger to the ocean. Mama brought me here often, and I never once regretted it. The sea is a place for me to pour out all my feelings, my burdens, and my stories. Now, for example.
“Hey,” I whispered softly. “Do you know where Papa is?”
The sound of the wind began to sound, forming a word, “Rin…du…?”
“A little,” I grimaced. I play with water around me.
Old people say, twilight is when the magic really happens, and that’s what happened. The magic of the twilight allowed me to converse with the sighs of the ocean breeze. The magic I discovered on the first day I set foot in this place, when the sea called my name through the shell.
I laughed nervously. “Okay, fine, a lot.” I scratched my throat which didn’t itch at all.
“Go… twilight… end…”
I looked up, looking up at the sky turning purplish with a hint of orange tinge. The stars began to appear behind the clouds, and the firefly swarms began to look more crowded. They flew so nimbly around me that they looked like sparks dancing in the air.
My mother’s faint voice came from the direction of a large villa not far away, inviting me inside before the cold temperature began to bite my bones. I patted my pants to remove as much of the sand stuck to them as possible. I gave up when my mother called a second time and started to leave the beach, the sea, and the swarms of fireflies. I turned my head once more, just before the sun had completely set. The fireflies looked much brighter than before.
I never told anyone about my friendship with the sea, not even my mother. I’m not ashamed, but who would believe a 12 year old’s words? Age is just a number, and I know I’m not like other kids my age. But yeah, adults are always pretentious. They’ll think I’m just bragging.
The next day, at the same time, I visited the sea. This time, with my mother. I don’t know why he suddenly wanted to come with me. So far, Mama has only admired the sea from a distance. I was confused when Mama stepped into the water without the slightest hesitation. I couldn’t understand it even more when Mama sobbed as her feet were submerged in the warm salty water.
“What’s wrong, Mom?” I asked quietly, almost in a whisper.
My mother was silent, sobbing without pause. Her sobs are getting more and more heartbreaking.
“Mom, what’s wrong? Why is Mama crying? Don’t you like the sea?” I hug the woman I love so much. The woman who single-handedly raised me all this time.
“Sorry, Merrick,” he said hoarsely. “Mama just can’t take it anymore…”
Mama’s slender body slumped down, kneeling on the ankle-deep sand soaked in water. His shoulders shook violently, and tears began to drip into the seawater.
The sun was already at the end of the day making the wind blowing a little cooler than before. I quickly slung my jacket over Mama’s shoulders before I hugged her tightly.
“Mom, please tell me. What makes Mama can’t take it anymore?” I beg.
“Mama misses your papa, dear… miss you so much… and Mama’s heart hurts so much when she sees this sea…” Mama said in between sobs.
“What’s wrong with this sea, Ma? What is the relationship between Papa and him?”
Mama pushed me slowly, forcing a smile that looked so painful. “Mama doesn’t want to make you hate her, honey,” she said softly and quiveringly. His wet hand grabbed my face, stroking me gently. “I know you love the sea… I also know that you are a special child for this sea.”
I gasped, but I thought, I better not think about it. “Please just tell me, Mom. What happened to Papa?” I’m begging.
Mom wiped her tears. He grabbed my hand, inviting me to sit next to him. I was surprised when the water that should have started to cool after sunset was even warmer than usual. The fireflies began to appear, filling the darkness that was starting to form around us. As if he didn’t want to disturb Mama, the sound of the waves was getting slower.
“Twelve years ago was the happiest day in Mama’s life,” Mama said, her voice still shaking a little. He looked at me with a wistful smile. “It was two months after Mama married your papa. He was a very, very extraordinary man. He is very kind, polite, intelligent, charismatic, and of course, very handsome. You look a lot like him, honey.” Mama put her arm around me and pulled me to lean on her.
“Your papa invited Mama here for his honeymoon. We spent quite a long time here, and every day was beautiful. There were only the two of us in the villa. We do everything together. Those are the moments when Mama feels very happy and grateful to be born in this world. But apparently, it’s unfair for humans to feel happiness all the time.” Mama’s voice began to sound lower and bitter.
“I remember very well that day, at sunset, we sat on the beach and chatted casually. Your papa said if Mama gave birth to a son he would name him ‘Merrick’, because it means ‘Lord of the Ocean’. At that time, your papa did not know that Mama was pregnant with you, and Mama intended to surprise your papa. But before Mama could tell him, the waves suddenly turned violent. Fireflies suddenly appeared from the forest behind the villa. The sky darkened and a gale surrounded us. Your papa is trying to take Mama to take shelter to the villa, but the sea doesn’t seem to want your papa to go.
“Your papa told Mama to go, alone. He said he had to pay for his sins. I don’t know what that means. But for sure, Mama knows that in the past, your papa was just like you. He has a strong relationship with the sea, even loved by the ocean. That was the last time Mama saw your papa, and also the darkest day in Mama’s life,” Mama recalled with a blank stare at the ocean.
I jumped to my feet. Feelings of shock and anger mixed in my mind. So all this time, I was friends with my father’s killer?
Without thinking, I stepped into the water. I stomped my feet hard, hoping it would hurt him. I feel betrayed. I thrust my hands in all directions vigorously. Satisfaction overtook me as I felt the temperature of the water starting to cool and the waves starting to get bigger.
“Merrick! Don’t be mad at him! Come back here!” cried Mom worriedly. He looked like he wanted to come closer to me, but the sea forbade him. The waves repeatedly pushed him back slowly, driving him closer to me.
“You tricked me,” my voice choked in surprise. “Why? What is wrong with it? Why did you snatch my father? Why are you acting like I’m your friend instead?”
A firefly flew past me, startling me and tumbling backwards. I fell into the water. I was drowning, but strangely, I didn’t feel suffocated. It felt like I was floating in the air.
My eyes widened when I saw thousands of fireflies appear before me, in the water.
“It’s Papa, honey,” a deep male voice echoed around me. “Why are you so mad at Papa?”
Slowly but surely, the fireflies formed a man. A handsome-looking man who looks a lot like me, who is smiling.
“Papa is very happy that you are growing healthy. Sorry, Papa can’t accompany you and Mama. Please take care of Mama for Papa okay?” he whispered in a voice full of sorrow.
The waves of the water carried me to the surface, pushing me gently to the shore. Mom immediately hugged me anxiously, asking if I was okay.
“I met Papa,” I said as soon as I recovered from my shock.
Mama’s face immediately showed an expression of surprise mixed with joy. “What?”
“I met Papa, Mama,” I repeated. I pointed at the sea with my fingertip. “Papa is in there.”
Mama’s tears flowed, followed by a smile that seemed to tremble. His eyes fell on the calm sea and the fireflies flying above it.
“You look beautiful, honey.” I heard Papa’s voice being carried by the wind.
Just before the sun went down completely, I saw Papa’s reflection. Not from the fireflies, but really from the shadows. Her hair was dark brown, her eyes were as blue as the sea, her skin was the color of sand, and her smile was so calming. The fireflies flew around him, making him look even more radiant.
I think Mama also saw what I saw, because Mama immediately covered her mouth. Her tears flowed harder.
“I’ll stay here, honey, until the world ends. Live happily, and tell me everything, whenever you want,” Papa’s voice sounded so soft. “I’m glad you actually named our son Merrick.”
As soon as the orange tinge was completely replaced by a purplish blue, Papa’s shadow disappeared, leaving behind a swarm of fireflies still flying merrily above the water.
To this day, I never realized it. Why do fireflies appear on the beach? Why do they always show up at dusk and into the night, when I’m visiting Papa? I found the answer when I accidentally read an article on the internet, days later.
Apparently, from the start, Papa was always with me.