This is a response to Vol 12 John 5 ("The Woman By The Well")...
[This is part five of "Dolphin & Melanie"]
And so he stayed with her that night, and the night after that, and the night after that. He covered her scarred face with tender kisses and she looked up at him and called him "Love." As the days wore on she slowly opened to him as a flower opens to sunlight, and to his amazement he found himself opening to her in just the same way. He told her things he had never even told himself. He told her funny stories about his village and the three witches. He even told her about his sand castles, and he described them so carefully that she hugged him and said she felt as if she had grown up inside those castles herself.
But there was much about her that disturbed him. Her name was Melanie but she could not say who her parents were or where she came from. Sometimes at night, especially when the moon was heavy, she would disappear for hours on end and return with blood on her face. When he asked her where she had gone, she said he wouldn't understand, and sometimes as he was kissing her she would burst into tears.
She finally told him that she heard voices. Or rather, one voice, the voice of a child calling to her from a great distance. She felt as if she should know this voice, and that she was forgetting something very important. Perhaps it was her own voice calling to her from a buried childhood. It was her great secret, and the only ones who knew were Dolphin and the wishing well.
This frightened him, but he tried to comfort her as best he could. He taught her about dreaming and helped her to stop running from dream monsters. As the days passed she grew to trust him more and more and they played together in the woods and threw snowballs at each other. A single one of Dolphin's pearls brought enough money in the village of Love's End to feed them for a winter.
In later years, as he sat before cozy fires and thought back to his winter with Melanie, Dolphin found it hard to reconstruct what must have happened to his heart. Often he would lie awake and wonder who she was and what he was doing in her bed. His heart had slipped its leash and was running far afield. He was off course and he felt a growing sense of doom. At yet, he had never been happier. The people of the village kept their distance, as if they could smell a dark enchantment. Only Joe, the blacksmith, dared look at them straight in the face and his was not a friendly look. He looked at Melanie and licked his lips.
When Spring came Dolphin grew restless and began to think of mermaids. He had been away from the sea longer than he had intended, and was beginning to feel far too much for this strange, haunted woman, with her scars and her voices and her strange ideas. He told Melanie about his quest to find a great love and she said that love was not a person but a place, a fair country that lay in a cirque inside the Last Mountains. Many strong lads from the village had perished in the attempt to scale the icy walls of that country, yet there was a secret way, a path that a man and woman could take together, but only if they were married.
"What nonsense!" humphed Dolphin.
"It is common knowledge. Why else is this place called Love's End?"
"And what is it like, this fair country?
"I don't know. I told you I can't see it until someone marries me." Melanie's voice fell to a whisper. "But that is where the voice comes from." Dolphin became angry.
"Then it is no country I care to see, unless my mermaid is there."
"Mermaids! I am sick to death of mermaids!"
"Then you must be sick of me! I was born to find a mermaid. Even as a boy I heard their song. And it's my song now. It's my whole life."
"Then you are a fool. There is no such thing as mermaids. Only a man could believe in such nonsense! Women know better! You will waste your life looking for something that never existed and you will die alone."
Just then a church bell rang. It so happened that on that very day there was a wedding in the village and as the bell continued to peal the sounds of merry-making could be heard drifting through the trees. Melanie put her hands to her ears and shook with rage.
"You never loved me! And you never will! Go back to your stupid sand castles and your stinking village and leave me alone! Just leave me alone."
She threw his cloak in the mud and pushed him out and slammed the door. The bell kept madly singing and Dolphin stared at the closed door with tears in his eyes. He wanted to shout "I LOVE YOU!" but he couldn't. Somehow he couldn't. So he whispered "I'm sorry" and he turned and walked into the forest. From behind the door he heard Melanie crying. "Leave me alone."