Donovan Williams couldn't believe his luck. He thought his bid for the condominium unit was too low, but when his real estate agent called with the good news; his whoop of joy almost deafened her. A month later, he was sitting on his terrace looking out on Lake Minuit. The view was the primary reason he had wanted the condominium to begin with. He so enjoyed the tranquil beauty of the water and the trees that dotted the shoreline. Why did the water hold such a fascination for him? It reached deep into his soul with a feeling of completeness, like returning home after a long trip.
On the fourth night in his new home, the dream began. He was walking through a pearlescent mist. He could not see, but his steps never faltered. He knew where he was going. The mist parted like a theater curtain and he found himself in a cave.
A woman reclined on a flat rock the size of a king size bed. She wore a flowing gown of a translucent material, her full breasts all but visible in the plunging neckline. Her hips were wide, her legs long and her arms bare. Hair black as night framed a face in comfortable repose. He thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
He walked to the rock, climbed upon it and kissed her pale pink lips. Her blue eyes fluttered open and she smiled. I knew you would return to me. You are mine at last. Her lips never moved, but her voice was clear, resonating in his brain. She pulled him to her and their bodies molded together, he was one again, and he was complete...
Donovan awoke with a start, sweat pouring from him despite the coolness of the room. Try as he might, he could not get to sleep again. He wandered into the kitchen and ate some crackers. Who was this woman? Why was he dreaming of her? Why did he feel that he knew her? It was so vivid, so lifelike and the feeling of contentment being with her so comforting. He drank from a carton of orange juice, returned to his bed and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
Sitting on the terrace in the cool of the evening, the night sounds barely intruded on Donovan's thoughts. The dream, why was it plaguing him, filling his mind. Who was the woman? Why did he desire her? A movement on the lake's bank caught his eye. A dim, flickering light moved slowly, winking in and out among the trees. Was it a Will-O-the Wisp? Who would be out there now?
He felt compelled to investigate. Putting on his shoes, he descended the stairs and went out into the darkness. The moon appeared from behind a bank of clouds, lighting his way. When he reached the bank, the light was gone. Puzzled, he walked up and down looking into the groves of trees. Where was the light? Who or what was it?
"Goed dat mijn vriend gelijk maakt," someone said behind him. He turned and saw a tall woman with long black hair standing by a tree. She smiled and walked towards him. "Een mooie nacht voor stroll niet denkt du?"
"I'm sorry, I don't understand..."
The woman smiled again. "Ikben droevig vrijis mign Engels ... I apologize. It has been a while since I spoke English. I walk here at night. I have not seen you before."
"I just moved in two weeks ago, I live over there." He pointed to his building. "Aren't you afraid to be out at night alone?"
The woman's laugh tinkled like bells. "No one ever harms me. Besides, I have my light." She held up an odd-looking lantern, the flaming wick emitting a soft glow. "Walk with me, please. I enjoy company." They began to stroll along the shoreline.
There's the light. I didn't imagine it. She looks like the woman in the dream. I wonder...
Recovering from his initial surprise, Donovan saw the woman was barefoot, the hem of her flowing white gown trailing behind as she walked. The low neckline revealed her firm breasts and the off-shoulder sleeves her creamy white shoulders. Her face was gently rounded, her nose small, her cheeks and lips pale pink, and her eyes blue. When she spoke or smiled, she revealed straight, white teeth. He was captivated. Her beauty was in the classic mold. A generous figure well proportioned; she carried herself with dignity and grace.
Chatting amiably, they walked on. He told her of his life as a ship pilot, guiding vessels in and out of the city's harbor. How he loved the sea and how he felt more relaxed afloat or near water. The woman listened intently, almost eagerly as he spoke, occasionally studying his face as if searching for something. "I too love the sea," she said wistfully. "My true love was a ships captain, but he never returned from a voyage. My heart was broken. I mourned for weeks. He went down with his ship." A tear glistened on her cheek.
Instinctively, He moved to brush it from her cheek. Her skin is cold. Yet she's not shivering. Her dress is damp. Did she fall in earlier? What was that language she was speaking? It sounded so familiar. Does she live around here?
The woman took his hand in hers. The coolness of her touch sent a quiver through him. "I must be going. It is late and you need your sleep. Maybe we will meet again. Goodbye."
He looked about; they were back where they started, his building looming in the distance. Turning, he saw the woman walking away, almost gliding along the bank. "Wait! My name is Donovan! I don't know your name!"
"Ingrid. Ingrid de Bakker. Goodnight Donovan." She disappeared among the trees, the lantern light blinking once, and then all was dark.
He walked slowly back home. His mind filled with questions about the strange woman. He put his hand to his cheek and felt coolness. It was as if she had touched him again. Sleep came easily and he did not dream.
A week passed and there was no sign of Ingrid. Donovan waited each night, straining to catch a glimpse of her lantern, but there was only the moon on the water. Then as he was preparing for bed, he glanced out the window and saw a glimmer on the shoreline. Grabbing a robe, he ran down the stairs, out the door and toward the dancing light. The grass wet under his bare feet. She was there! Standing and looking across the water, her dress glowing softly in the moonlight.
"Ingrid! You came back! Where have you been? I looked for you..."
A merry laugh, "Did you miss me Donovan? How sweet. I have been ... away. I am glad to see you. Shall we walk?"
It seemed to him that they strolled and talked for hours, returning to the place where they began. He knew she was about to leave and said "I had a dream. I was in a strange place. A woman was there, lying on a rock. She looked exactly like you." Ingrid took Donovan's face in her hands, her cobalt eyes gazing into his very soul. "Am I familiar to you? Do you remember me? Am I a faded memory perhaps?" She smiled. "It will come to you; it will come to you in time." She picked up her lantern and glided away.
Donovan waited until the light disappeared, then walked back home. His bare feet were wet, but he felt no chill. Her hands! They were warm! She seemed more ... alive ... happy to see me. I was happy to see her. What did she mean when she asked if I recognized her? Her eyes, so blue, like they can see right through me, I don't understand ... Climbing the steps, his mind was whirling; What does it all mean? She's so beautiful ... He fell into bed and was instantly asleep.
The next morning he stood on the pitching deck of the pilot boat as it hove to alongside the supertanker. Crewmembers were waiting to help him on board to guide the ship into the open sea. Gripping the railing of the boarding ladder, Donovan swung easily onto the platform as he had done hundreds of times. His foot slipped and his head slammed into the tankers side.
"She won't answer the helm, Cap'n!" The coxswain bellowed. "The rudders gone and there be breakers ahead."
The captain glared at the raging sea and barked, "Brace for collision. All hands stand by to launch boats."
Sails reefed and rudderless, the Verijheid plunged helplessly toward the jagged half-submerged rocks. Another three hours and they would have made port, but a vicious squall overtook them with powerful winds and slashing rain, towering waves briefly submerging the ship in green water.
Timbers groaned, splitting and crumpling as the schooner swept against the rocks. It shuddered like a dying creature, the foremast snapping like a twig. Sailors scrambled on the pitching deck, readying the pinnace. A howling gust blew the ship sideways, tilting her hard starboard, spilling many crewmembers into the sea.
The captain gripped the port rail with all his strength. He would see his true love again if he had to spit in the Devil's eye. They were to be married when he returned. Her face flashed into his mind; blue eyes, long black hair...
It was his last thought. The toppling mainmast crushed him as the Verijheid broke into a thousand pieces. The sea was triumphant once more.
Donovan regained consciousness, his head throbbed and his body ached abominably. Neil, his assistant pilot was bathing his forehead with a wet cloth. The motion of the boat told him they were traveling at top speed.
"Mr. Williams, are you alright?" Neil said anxiously. "You've been out almost an hour. We're almost in port. There's an ambulance waiting. The doctor's concerned you may have a concussion."
"What ... what happened? I don't remember..."
"You slipped boarding the tanker. Hit your head on the hull. The crewmembers got you before you went overboard. I took her out, and now we're headed back. The doctor said you shouldn't move."
He lay back on the bunk, head spinning. A shipwreck! I was in a shipwreck! I died in a shipwreck! I thought of Ingrid! We were to be married. She can't be alive. What is happening to me?
The thumping of the boat against the dock ended his reverie. Paramedics were examining him, and then lifting him on a stretcher. The ambulance doors closed and they sped away.
Home sweet home. It's good to be back. When Donovan opened the door, a flood of wonderful aromas filled his nostrils. Several vases of wildflowers were on the mantel. A plate of cookies and a loaf of bread were on the table. Puzzled, he looked in all the rooms. Nothing had been touched. Who could have done this? Only maintenance has a key. I know no one else.
A scrap of yellow paper under a vase of flowers caught his eye. It felt odd to the touch. In a precise, copperplate hand it read: My Dearest Donovan. I am so sorry for your accident. I am happy you are well. Enjoy the treats I have prepared. I will see you soon. Love, Ingrid. Parchment! This is parchment! Love Ingrid? She was here! How did she get in? A wave of dizziness swept over him. He stumbled to the couch. His head ached. He lay back and stared into the deepening twilight.
When Donovan awoke, a new moon bathed the living room in a silvery light. He removed his salt crusted clothing and took a hot shower, careful not to dislodge the bandage on his forehead. There was no damage other than a large bruise and a lump. The doctors were reluctant, but they had released him.
Toweling off, he thought he heard a noise come from the bedroom. That sounded like a woman's laugh. That knock on the head really scrambled my brain. He heard it again. He opened the door and gasped in surprise. Ingrid lay on the bed, naked. "I thought you were never coming out. I've been lonely. Join me, please." She patted the mattress next to her and smiled.
He walked slowly to the bed, his eyes sweeping over Ingrid's alabaster body. Her neck curved gracefully into her shoulders. Her full lips, full breasts, round belly and ample hips giving her a Rubenesque quality.
At the juncture of her long, tapering legs, a generous growth of black pubic hair hid the treasures that lay within. She stretched her arms above her head and stretched luxuriantly.