The boat rocked slowly from side to side, seeming very small against the flat expanse of ocean. On the eastern horizon the thin line of land was almost lost in mist. Raymond liked to come this far out, beyond where most would dare, almost out of sight of land and safety. Bare feet braced, balanced against the rolling waves and humming under his breath to the rhythm of their swell, he pulled in the net and poured the gleaming blue-and-silver herring into the bottom of the boat, cool and wet on his ankles. They flopped about, slithering against his skin.
The sun was waist-high, and the dawn run of fish was ebbing with the tide. It was a good haul, better than he had expected; Raymond shook the last iridescent body from the net and folded it carefully away. Raising the sail again, he took one last fond look from south to north, across the expanse of ocean, before guiding the boat back toward the mainland and his home. Waves slapped its wooden sides with low chuckles.
He dragged the boat up onto the short strip of land before his hut, and drank a handful of water from the spring before pulling on his boots and fetching a large burlap sack. The fish were quiet now and warming in the late spring sun, and he swept them into the sack and set off along the narrow path toward the village. He had not bothered to tie the bottoms of his woolen trousers around his calves, and they flapped slightly as he walked. A rough shirt of his aunt's weaving fell to just above his knees, and he had bound his reddish curls back with a bit of cord. He shifted the sack of fish from shoulder to shoulder and sang softly to himself as he walked, used to being alone. He didn't mind it; rather liked solitude, in fact, though half the village thought him odd.
It was a mile or so to his uncle's house, much larger than his own two rooms and with painted shutters in the window gaps to show off the family's prosperity. His aunt was wringing laundry in a tub in the yard. She straightened as he approached and wiped her wrist across her forehead, pushing back the wisps of hair escaping from her linen hood. "Well, and what have you netted this morning?"
Raymond bent to kiss her dutifully on the cheek, dropping the sack heavily to the ground. "A good catch, aunt. Near three stone, and all fairly leaping into the net. Uncle shall find these fetch a good price."
She pushed him away. The only child of her husband's youngest sister, dead these four years, Raymond made her uncomfortable, with his quiet, easy manner that always seemed to look through her, beyond to something she could not see. She grunted and waved a hand at the shed, with the barrels of preserved and fresh herring, and the empty ones waiting to be filled. "Take 'em in, then, before they turn rank. Your meat 'n' all's in the house, Polly'll see to it." Turning away, she set herself to her work, pounding the harsh soap into the cloth. She did not look at him again.
Raymond bent and picked up the heavy burlap sack in silence. The fish would go in a barrel of sea water, to be cleaned and salted later, and he would take in return a sack of ground oats, and meat from the pigs butchered at Martinmas to supplement the fish he caught for himself. He kept a hen, though she rarely laid, but would have eaten no grain if not for the share he got of his uncle's farm in return for his fishing. It was a fair arrangement, and he had almost given up trying to turn his aunt and uncle to a better opinion of him.
His cousin Polly was in the house, trying to soothe the cranky infant twins and keeping watch on the soup-pot. Nine years old, she took her responsibilities seriously, and bustled about fetching the meal, and tying the salt pork and a cheese into a neat package. He thanked her and kissed her cheek, asked after his uncle -- looking after the stock, he was told -- and set out again toward his seaside hut. The smoky smell of the hearth lingered in his nostrils, and he walked quickly under the lighter load to get clear of it.
Four years since his mother had died, of the same cough that took his father the month before. He had been seventeen then, just coming into his man's growth, and eyed by the village girls as a likely prospect; though his father was poor, his mother's brother was one of the wealthiest in the little coastal village, with a substantial farm and always something to sell in the local market, buying fine candles as good as those in the church, or a cross brought from the Holy Land by a crusader, and blessed by the Pope himself, so the trader claimed. But he had had little to do with his uncle and cousins, living with his parents as his father fished and his mother mended the sails and nets. And when they died, though his uncle pressed him to move in with him, work the farm, Raymond had shaken his head. He liked the sea, the salt sting in his face; he did not want to be a farmer.
Back at his little cottage, he stowed the meal and cheese neatly in the chest and hung the pork from the ceiling hook, where the mice could not reach it. The house was neat and spare, the furniture his father had built simple and heavy. Two narrow cuts in the wall let in slants of sunlight when the wooden shutters were open, one in the morning, another in the evening; it was almost noon now and the interior of the main room was dark and cool. He cut a piece off the cheese and went down to the water, dipped the cheese in the ocean and ate it, staring out at the wheeling birds, the beckoning waves.
The next few days were spent working in his garden, mending his clothing, inspecting and repairing the thatched roof in preparation for the next winter: routine tasks that took little of his mind. He did not go into the village; Sunday Mass would be soon enough. He knew the folk whispered behind their hands, wondering why he chose to live so alone. The girls who had smiled at him when his parents were alive now glanced sidelong with quite a different expression on their pretty faces. It saddened him, sometimes; but for the most part he gave it little thought. The villagers bored him, irritated him with their endless talk of the animals, the harvest, the latest local scandal. Father Henry preached obedience and keeping the Commandments, while Raymond half-listened and gazed at the painted walls of the church, the saints and kings in finery, thinking of foreign peoples and great deeds. He had pored over the Holy Land cross his uncle had bought, disappointed when it showed itself to be only a bit of wood like any other, with no faint perfume or mysterious inscription befitting its exotic origin. Taking it back, his uncle had muttered at his failure to appreciate the value of the holy relic, and put it carefully on display above the hearth.
It was Thursday when he went out on the ocean again, the pleasure greater for having been missed the half week. With the sun just edging above the land, the mist of his breath hanging before him, he dragged the boat into the water, his trousers wet to the thigh, and threw himself into it, rowing far enough to catch the brisk wind and then letting the sail fill with it and send him out into the open sea. Much as he liked his little house, glad as he was for hot oaten porridge and the meat from his uncle's farm, he liked best the taste of fish, sweet and flaky from the fire, and the rough, jocular tossing of the boat under his feet. When the land had narrowed to the width of his thumb he lowered the sail and heaved the net out, watching it spread and settle over the water and then slip beneath the surface, and waited for the sharp tug of fish against it.
But none came. Surprised, he pulled it in, rowed a little further out and tried again. Again the net slapped the waves and sank, water welling up between the twisted cords, and again it hung empty in the cool green depths.
Raymond pulled it in again and checked his position against the sun and the distant outline of the land. Just here he had drawn the best nets in years, the past few weeks, and now the fish had vanished like tax money. He could move further south and try again, but that would bring him into the waters fished by the men of the village, and they would resent his intrusion. And it made no sense; where would the fish have gone?
He half-turned to throw the net once more, giving a final try, when a movement in the water to the west caught his eye. Turning so that the sun was behind him, he peered again; an arm waved in the distance before falling with a splash.
Stunned, Raymond checked his position again. He was nearly out of sight of land, and none of the other village fishermen cared to come this far out. Who would be in the water -- surely not a pleasure swim! -- still farther from harbor than he was himself? But a choked cry sounded faintly across the waves, and with an exclamation he rapidly stowed the net and raised the sail to bring him toward the swimmer. If some poor sinner was drowning, how he got there was a question that could wait.
The floundering figure was hard to see among the waves, and was further away than he had seemed at first. The last brown stripe of land faded away behind him as Raymond came close enough to see the struggling man; a dark head with hair cut short, and a pair of flailing arms, were all that he could distinguish among the froth of his struggles. He reached one oar toward him, careful not to knock the coughing man on the head. "Catch hold!" he called. "I'll pull you in."
Fingers snatched and clung; the man hung, gasping, from the wooden beam and Raymond pulled the boat closer, hand over hand. Reaching down, he helped the other man climb over the gunwale; the boat rocked alarmingly and he shifted his weight to counterbalance as the stranger collapsed in the bottom of the boat, retching seawater. Raymond shipped the oar and bent to inspect him.
He was naked, and his pale body was almost hairless, unlike Raymond and most of the swarthy men of the village, though like him the stranger was cleanshaven. Only the short cap of hair on his head gleamed wetly black, and Raymond had a quick glimpse of black curls before he averted his eyes out of respect for the other man's nudity, stripping off his woolen tunic to wrap it around the gasping figure and help him sit up. "Easy, man. Can you speak?"
The stranger braced his hands against the wood, seemingly unaware of the tunic draped over him and slipping from one shoulder as he coughed and cleared his lungs. His flesh was cold under Raymond's hands, and Raymond knew he needed warmth and care. He turned, intending to find his direction home by the sun, when he saw an island to the west, where no land had ever been spoken of. Astonished, he shaded his eyes and peered east, toward the blank horizon beyond which lay his own home, and then west at the strip of coast. Well, whatever it was, it was closer than the mainland, and the man shivering in the wash needed a fire and care. He shrugged and set the sail, guiding the boat toward the white strip of beach visible along the island's shore.
The stranger still had not spoken, though he had caught his breath and watched, the shirt hanging loosely across his shoulders, as Raymond brought the boat into a natural harbor, a sandy beach very unlike the rocky mainland coast. The island was small, no more than a mile across, but wooded enough to indicate a spring, and he carried his flint with him; he could make a fire. As he swung over the gunwale to heave the boat the last few feet out of the sea, he saw a stone hut, old and slumped, at the edge of the beach.
"Here's luck!" he said encouragingly, helping the silent stranger from the boat to stagger up the beach, leaning on his shoulder. "Come on, just a few steps and you'll be fine." He guided the other man inside; it was warmer out of the sea breeze, and the ancient fireplace looked serviceable. He saw a mat of some kind on the hearth and led the stranger to it, thinking that it would be kinder to his battered body than the packed dirt of the floor; expecting ancient and brittle rushes, he was startled to find it a short-furred skin: sleek, black and so supple it seemed to flow around the stranger's limbs.
"Come on, then. That's right. Have you caught your breath?"
The stranger looked up, meeting his gaze for the first time. His eyes were blue, framed by dark lashes; his hair had begun to dry a little and had a faint curl. He pulled himself into a sitting position, legs to one side like a woman, and said in an odd accent, "Yes. Thank you. I... was far from shore."
"That you were!" Raymond squatted down beside him. "You'd better dry off. Use my shirt, it's dry enough." He took hold of the rough woolen cloth, meaning to rub it over the broad shoulders, and found the other man's skin cool and clammy. "You're cold. I'll start a fire." There was wood in the fireplace, dry and not at all rotten, years old by the look of it; he took flint and steel from the purse at his waist and struck a spark, expertly feeding the tiny flame with bits of twig and bark until it grew big enough to feed itself. The stranger held his hands out toward it, glanced at Raymond, and smiled.
Raymond sat back and looked at him. "All right. Who are you, man? And what were you doing so far from land? Near two miles, I'd say."
"Not so far," was the reply, again in that odd accent. "I was scarcely half that distance from the island when you pulled me in."
Raymond nodded distractedly. "But what were you doing out there?"
"So far out?"
The stranger shrugged. "I live...further west. I've often swum here before."
Raymond stared. One island where none had ever been spoken of -- well, the island was small, and the sea was strange, and the village fishermen stayed close to the familiar shore. But more than one! Surely the ships that traded in the port town to the south would have found them, the sailors spread word. "I've lived here all my life. I've never heard of islands near this coast."
The stranger shrugged again. "I have lived many places in my life, and learned that there is always something new to hear of." He smiled slightly, and his eyes glinted in the firelight.
Raymond shifted his weight. The stranger seemed completely unbothered by his nakedness, though the shirt around his shoulders and the casual sprawl of his legs emphasized rather than hid it. A faint smile hovered on his lips, and he seemed quite recovered from his near-drowning.
"What's your name?" Raymond asked abruptly.
"What is yours?" the stranger returned, not mockingly but with amusement.
"Bodie?" Raymond repeated. "I've never heard that name. It is your Christian name?"
"Well, what is your Christian name, then?"
"I haven't one," the stranger replied easily. "I am not a Christian."
"Not a--" Raymond jerked back in startlement. He had seen a heathen once, a Jew at the city fair, but the Jews had been banished from the land the year his parents had died. He knew, of course, of the Moors in Granada, and the Turks who held the Holy Land, but what would one be doing in Scotland? "Are you a Jew?" he asked warily.
Bodie laughed out loud. "No, Raymond. I am not a Jew." He stood up, holding in one hand the sleek fur on which he had rested. The woolen shirt fell disregarded to the floor. "Thank you for your help. I have been pleased to meet you. I shall swim back to my own place now." He strode lightly past the dumbstruck Raymond and quickly down the beach; catching up his shirt Raymond followed in time to see the pale body neatly cleave the water. He watched for several minutes, but there was no sign of Bodie again.
Raymond crossed himself fervently and muttered a quick prayer, then hurried to the boat, tossed his shirt into it and shoved it into the water, jumping in and swinging the sail to catch the first hint of wind. He did not stop until he was well away, the strange island long since fallen beyond the horizon and the familiar coastline ahead as broad as his hand. Then he stopped and, panting, gave a quick thanks to Mary and the saints. The sea was as ever, the waves unchanged. He glanced at the net still sloppily bundled in the bottom of the boat and reminded himself that, come what may, he had to eat; picked it up and refolded it so that it would fall well, and cast it out over the water.
To his surprise, within moments the herring had filled it to bursting, flinging themselves headlong into its sweep.
Father Henry came to visit him the next day, puffing slightly as he made his way along the path from the village. Hearing him, Raymond glanced up from where he had been sitting in the sun, twisting cords to mend a hole in his net, and got to his feet to welcome the priest. Sometimes in his sermons Father Henry spoke of the deeds of the great Christian kings, things he had heard of when he was a child in the great monastery near London. Raymond liked to hear the stories, though the pious morals the priest drew meant little to him.
"Father," he said formally. "You are welcome. Will you eat?"
"Aye, thank you. A bit of cheese."
Raymond ducked inside, returning in a moment with a bowl of cheese and meat, and a mug of sour ale. The priest lowered himself to the smooth stone Raymond had sat on, and patted the ground beside him with one hand while accepting the bowl with the other. "Sit, Raymond. We must talk."
Raymond obeyed, uneasy. He missed Mass no more often than the men of the village, and confessed at Lent as the Church required. Easter was several weeks past -- surely if the priest had found some major fault, he would have spoken before now. Then he remembered the stranger, Bodie, and chilled. Perhaps the priest knew...what? He had done no wrong, whoever the naked heathen was.
"What about, Father?" he asked, keeping the tension from his voice.
Father Henry washed the cheese down with ale and put the mug aside. "You're a man grown, Raymond. It's time you married, had a family. It's not right, living so much alone as you do."
Raymond shook his head. "I'm not ready to wed, Father. I don't mind living alone."
"But you should!" The priest glared sharply at him. "A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. Well, your parents left you four years past, and it's time you found a wife, had children of your own. There's muttering about you, among the folk."
Raymond turned away, stared out across the short strip of land toward the sea. A wife, children...he would be tied even more to the land, the village. And there was no woman he wanted, not like that. "Who'd have me?" he asked. "Living alone, and muttered of as I am."
"There's Grace, the miller's daughter. Priest though I am, I'm not blind; I've seen the way she looks at you Sundays. You could speak to her father."
Raymond shook his head. Grace had pursued him since they were young; when he was eighteen, lonely after his parents' deaths, he had thought she might be able to ease the ache inside him. He had been wrong. He had lain with her once, fumbling, half-afraid; it had been an awkward, unpleasant experience, and hunched over her afterward, panting heavily, he had known he would not want it again. She knotted the laces of her bodice when he moved away, pushed her skirt down over her knees.
"And if I am with child?" Her eyes met his, ducked away again.
He had felt numb. "I'll marry you," he said.
But Sunday a fortnight later she had caught his eye, shaken her head at him while her mother gossiped with a neighbor and the miller watched Father Henry prepare the Host. Knowing the gesture's significance, he had avoided her gaze, had avoided it since, feeling guilty for the sick relief. After a while she had ceased to linger near when he came to the village, but her eyes still followed him in church.
"No," he said now, shaking his head. "Grace and I would not suit."
"You're a young man." Father Henry said. "A young man needs a woman, and better it should be a wife."
Raymond flushed. He knew the achings of the flesh, had confessed them only two months gone to the man at his side. But he had never confessed -- could never confess -- the dreams that came sometimes. He prayed to be free of them, of the longing... but as he fell into sleep, sometimes, he thought of them.
He bowed his head. "I know, Father. I must think."
Father Henry laid a hand on his head, then stood upright. "Do so, my son. I will see you on Sunday?"
"Yes, Father." He walked the priest to the edge of the trees, where the path to the village began. Then, shaking his head, he wiped out the mug and bowl and put them away again. He did not want to marry, but probably he would have to, soon. Or join the Church -- he laughed sharply. He had no learning, and a poor man with no learning could be no more than a servant for one of the monasteries that might accept him. He was no clerk!
He dreamed again that night: a deep voice in the darkness, muscled arms holding him. In the morning he was sticky with the evidence of sin.
He was out on the ocean again the next dawn, sailing westward and hoping that the fish would still be so plentiful. But when the land was finger-wide and he prepared to cast his nets, a hail stopped him.
"Ho, Raymond! Is it good fishing?"
Surprised, he looked about, found no boat nearby, and then saw the stranger treading water easily not twenty yards from him. Bodie grinned, flashing white teeth in the weak morning sunlight.
Raymond twisted his hands in the net he held. He did not reply.
"I hope you are not planning to net me, Raymond. Have you eaten?"
The sheer unexpectedness of the query startled an answer from him. "No."
"Then break fast with me. At the hut!" And Bodie turned and dove, swimming strongly away with a speed that Raymond could only wonder at. He was out of sight before Raymond had stowed the net and raised the sail.
As he sailed west, he berated himself. Bodie was a stranger, unChristian -- Raymond had scarcely in his life encountered either before. Who knew what he might be hiding? The Jews murdered children, it was said, and the Turks profaned the holy places. The last stripe of familiar coast slipped below the horizon, and part of his mind wondered if he would ever see it again.
But Bodie had offered to break fast with him; that was said to bring protection. It was a great sin to harm one with whom one had eaten. And if he was a stranger, and unChristian... Raymond admitted to himself that just those things drew him. He was curious. Surely it was no sin, to eat with a stranger?
He came to the island and pulled the boat up on the beach, in the same natural harbor he had found two days before. Bodie was sitting on the ground, legs to one side in the odd position he seemed to favor, and waved as Raymond approached. He was naked, as before.
"The fishing is good." He had two fish laid on a smooth stone before him, cleaned and gleaming, and was wiping the blade of a horn-handled knife with a clump of grass. "If you want them cooked, you must light the fire. I have no flint."
Raymond glanced at him, then away, disconcerted by the nakedness Bodie seemed unaware of. Unspeaking, he gathered driftwood and struck a spark in a little depression in the ground. When the fire was burning, he looked up. "Have you a pan?"
Bodie spread his hands expressively, and shook his head. "Then they cannot be cooked," Raymond said. "I have oatcake and cheese." He went back to the boat to get them, and brought as well two slender green wands stripped from a tree. Handing one to Bodie with half the oaten loaf, he skewered the remainder on his branch and held it over the fire to toast.
Bodie copied the movement. Tilting his head to one side, he said, "Why will you not look at me, Raymond?"
Raymond flushed slightly, then pulled his bread off of the branch. "In the name of Jesus Christ and Mary his mother," he said clearly, and looked straight at Bodie.
Bodie threw back his head and laughed. "Did you expect me to vanish, then?" he asked, shaking his head. "Or turn purple and flee? I have no animosity toward your god, Raymond, and he has none toward me -- at least, he has never mentioned any! Bless your bread, if you will. Will you bless the fish, too? They may feel neglected."
Half-embarrassed, Raymond found himself almost smiling. Bodie's voice was so normal, hearty, it left him mocking his half-formed fears. Perhaps he had expected Bodie to flinch, or cry out; and while he did not think Father Henry would have approved Bodie's laughter, it was hardly frightening. He met Bodie's eyes, then glanced down. "Your bread is burning."
Bodie hurriedly raised the smouldering bread from the flame and waved it about to cool it, then broke a piece off. "Is that why you would not look at me?"
Raymond glanced over at the other man. Bodie's hair was still wet, dripping a little onto his shoulders. He held the stick in his left hand, while in his right he rolled the hot bit of bread between his fingers. Despite the breeze off the ocean and the early hour he sat easily, no prickling of cold visible along the pale arms and hairless chest. His feet had dug a little depression in the dirt as he shifted slightly.
He was quite naked, and Raymond looked quickly from his feet back to his face, and then away.
"Aren't you cold?"
"But you are not wearing anything."
"Should I be?"
Raymond flushed. "It would be more seemly."
Bodie got up and walked away, into the abandoned hut at the edge of the clearing, returning in a moment with a black fur wrapped around his waist. He sat down again and picked up the cheese from the leather bag it had shared with the bread, cut it in two and offered half to Raymond. "I apologize," he said. "I did not realize it would disturb you."
Oddly, the even-toned words left Raymond far less nervous. He accepted the cheese, and after a moment's thought found a way to lay a bit of fish across his bread and roast it over the flame. Bodie took another bit of the white meat between his fingers and ate it raw. Seeing Raymond's start of surprise, he licked his fingers and grinned. "There are lands where raw fish is a great delicacy, you know."
"Truly? They must be very strange."
"Oh, they are." And Bodie began to spin a wild tale of men with yellow skin and eyes like cats, who ate raw fish and whose women bore their children in litters. Raymond listened wide-eyed, half believing, until Bodie added that each woman had six nipples, to nurse the babies; at that Raymond snorted disbelief and Bodie laughed.
"All right," he admitted, "I have never been to that country myself. But I had it from my father, who had it from a Venetian sailor, years ago. And my father never lied!"
"And the Venetian?" retorted Raymond.
"Who knows?" answered Bodie, unbothered. "I put in the nipples myself; I thought it went well."
Raymond laughed with him, caught up despite himself in the other man's genial talespinning. He licked the fish juice off his fingers and looked up the beach. "Is there a spring near, do you know? Cheese is thirsty food."
Bodie ate the last of the fish, wiped his hand on his thigh and stood up. "Yes, only a little way. Shall I show you?" And he reached down to pull Raymond to his feet. As Raymond grasped his hand he saw, with surprise, that the muscled forearm extended to him was not merely pale, but quite hairless. Bodie's grip was strong; he pulled Raymond easily to his feet and led the way up the beach.
The spring trickled from between tumbled rocks a little way into the trees that bordered the cove. They knelt and washed their hands, then drank deeply before returning to the beach to douse the fire with sand. Bodie walked easily in front of Raymond, the black pelt wrapped around his hips; Raymond found himself watching the strongly muscled thighs as they brushed against it, and pulled his gaze away, only to realize how close to his heels his shadow lay.
"Mary's mercy," he swore, shocked, "the morning is gone! I've caught no fish, and we've eaten my supper!" He picked up the leather sack and stood, stuffing his flint and steel back into the purse tied around his waist. "My uncle will not be pleased."
Bodie looked up from running the warm sand through his fingers. "Your uncle?" he asked curiously. "Why should he care? And as for fish, they will run again tomorrow, and the next day. Today is today. Enjoy it, with me!" And he lay back and stretched, grinning, his skin gleaming in the sun.
Raymond watched, suddenly uneasy. The hen might have laid; he should have checked her roost hours since. Thursday's catch still needed to be cleaned and salted, and his uncle was expecting more; Jock Fishseller would be arriving soon, to buy what they had and sell it himself at the great market in the town. And Bodie lay sprawled before him, naked and uncaring. He backed away a step.
"Who are you?" he said, and heard his voice shake.
The dark head rolled to face him. "No one," Bodie said quietly. "A friend."
Bodie sat up, the languidness gone from his limbs, his face serious now, but the blue eyes glinting. "I saw you, one morning since. On the ocean, singing with the fish. I thought to meet you."
"You saw me?"
"I was swimming. You're beautiful, did you know that? More beautiful than my mother was, when my father saw her on the ocean and took her for his own."
None of this made any sense to Raymond. "You're mad," he said, shaking his head. "You're a mad heathen, and I madder still to have sat with you. I must go." His skin prickled as the blue gaze passed over him, and he turned away to pull his boat out into the slapping waves. Glancing back over his shoulder as he swung over the gunwale, he saw Bodie standing where he had left him, unwrapping the pelt from around his body. He tried to look away, but though he busied himself with the sail he could not help but watch. Bodie threw the skin across his shoulders, where it only emphasized his nakedness, the startling black thatch at his groin, and strolled to the water's edge to dive in. As long as Raymond watched, he did not resurface, and Raymond sailed straight for home, not bothering to try the nets for any late-passing fish lost from its dawn run. There might have been some, he knew, for he saw a seal nearby, leaping and tossing in the water. It swam with the boat for a while, then turned away as he drew near land.
He stayed near the cottage the rest of the day, busying himself with tedious household tasks -- work he normally disliked, but welcomed now as a distraction. He did not go to his uncle's house, though he knew his uncle would wonder what had kept him from bringing the day's catch. And indeed, when he arrived in the village square the next morning for Mass his uncle was waiting for him at the door of the church, scowling.
His uncle was thickset and brawnier than his own rather slender build, the product of years of cursing and manhandling his stock and wrestling with the plow. A reddish beard thrust out from his chin, much the same shade as Raymond's when he let it grow, but his uncle's was as harsh as the rest of him, jabbing out of his face as if to emphasize his anger. He gripped Raymond by the elbow and pulled him into the church, crowded with milling villagers.
"Where were ye?" he grumbled accusingly. "Expected you all day, and never a sign. Market's coming soon, and them fish need be salted and ready!"
"I know, uncle. I'm sorry." Father Henry was already halfway through the ceremony, muttering Latin at the front of the church, the deacon at his side. Raymond glanced around, relieved to see no sign of Grace, and his aunt scolding Polly and stoutly ignoring him. "Something I ate," he muttered quickly, and felt a brief flash of guilt for telling the lie in church. "Disagreed with my guts. Spent the morning spewing, till the fish were gone." Father Henry lifted the transformed Host to show it to the people, and his uncle let go his arm to cross himself. Raymond did so too, reflexively, not paying much attention to the ceremony. "I'll go tomorrow, uncle. You shall have the fish to sell."
His uncle grunted. "Just you remember where your bread and meat comes from, nephew. Lord knows, the ocean's no place for a man. You should be working with me, honest work on God's solid land!"
Raymond suppressed a shiver. His uncle had offered to take him in the day his mother was buried, and he had thanked him and refused. The invitations had grown more angry, less welcoming, over the years. His uncle had never approved of his sister's marriage to the poor fisherman, had blamed the ocean air for the cough that killed them both, and did all he could to entice, and to cajole, and finally to bully his nephew back to the family land.
But Raymond liked the sea, and knew his uncle would never understand. Every fall he helped his uncle and all the villagers bring the harvest in, backbreaking labor that left him stiff, blistered and sore; and like every man of the village he owed six days a year on the lord's land, trudging behind the stolid oxen, hauling them about at the end of each furrow as they snorted and dripped ropy saliva on his legs. He did not like oxen. Nor pigs, with their choked squealing and rooting among the garbage his aunt threw to them, and their screaming at the butchering. Better far the bright, clear sunlight shining on the water, and the clean slime of the fish on his hands. He pulled away from his uncle.
The Mass was over, and the congregation spilling out of the church into the village square. His uncle growled something at him, then moved away to let the people pass between, and Raymond lost sight of him. He turned away to look at the paintings on the walls of the church. Before him, Jesus preached from the boat, with the crowd of people visible on the beach behind him, where the plaster had not chipped. The painter, no doubt one of the local fishermen himself, had added Peter and Andrew beside their Master, pulling in a laden net. Raymond smiled. As if only the dry land had been made by God! But that thought brought Bodie to his mind, stretched against the white sand and smiling, and he frowned a little.
Then he jumped as a hand fell on his shoulder, and turned quickly to see Father Henry. "Father--"
"I'm glad you're here," the priest said. "We must speak." He led Raymond out of the building, into the noon sun and down the lane that ran the length of the village, drawing him away from the crowds of gossiping folk. Raymond followed obediently, a little nervous. Finally, when they were beyond a casual ear, the priest stopped and turned to face him.
"Next week Grace is to marry Darren, the son of Jan," he said without preamble. Surprised, and not understanding, Raymond only looked at him questioningly.
"So suddenly?" he asked finally, when it seemed some response was expected.
The priest looked sharply at him. "She is with child."
Raymond was silent, waiting.
"She will not name the man," Father Henry said. "Her parents have arranged this to hide her shame; Darren will take her with her father's mill to sweeten the marriage bed. But I thought..." He trailed off, and Raymond, understanding, raised his head.
"The child is not mine," he said firmly, glad he could meet the other man's eyes and affirm it. Father Henry sighed and turned away.
"Aye, well. I had hoped..." He looked up at the hills that rose east of the village, tucking it snugly against the sea. "No doubt all will come well in the end. And you, Raymond? Have you been thinking, as you said?"
Raymond was suddenly seized with a burning curiosity. Father Henry was no sailor, had not even been born near the coast; but he had traveled near the whole length of Britain in his youth, and could read and write besides. Perhaps he could say -- "Father," he asked, "have you ever heard a tale of an island in the west, beyond the fishing ground, an island no sailor ever told of?"
"An island?" The other man glanced at him warily. "Islands aplenty, further north, and Britain itself an island, and Ireland to its west. I know little of the coast hereabout; that you should know better than I!"
Raymond nodded, unsurprised. But in all his travels... "A land far to the east, then? With men with yellow skin, and eyes like cats?"
The priest's eyes widened in surprise. "Once, aye," he said slowly. "A tale from some Italian vagabond, many years ago; and a book I saw as a child. But how did you come to hear such things?"
Raymond's heart was racing. "A -- a sailor I met," he said lamely. "And I saw an island, two days since."
Father Henry's eyes narrowed. "And did you set foot on it?" he asked.
Raymond saw the sharp gaze locked on him and knew the correct answer. "No," he said.
"Good. And if you see it again, do you keep your distance. I'm no seaman, but I've heard the stories... no true land, that, but the abode of selkies and such. It comes and goes, and there's tales of girls lost and never seen again, when it appears. Mind you stay away."
Raymond nodded blindly. Father Henry's words had set his head reeling: images of Bodie sprawled against the sand, and the fish flinging themselves headlong into his net, and the seal -- dear God, the seal that had followed him nearly home. And Bodie grinning, saying that his mother had been stolen off the sea -- and telling him he was beautiful... "Father," he blurted, "have selkies souls?"
The priest's eyes were openly suspicious now. "Souls?" he repeated. "Have fish souls, or trees? Why do you ask?" He put a hand under Raymond's chin, lifting the younger man's face. "What have you seen?"
"Nothing!" Raymond protested. "Only the island in the mist, and a seal. It set me wondering, is all. Truly!" And bit his lip, hoping the priest would believe him.
Slowly the hand fell away. "Well, now you know," said Father Henry gruffly. "And mind you cease wondering. 'Tis no fit subject, and you always were one for the tales. I say again, it's time you married. A wife and children will settle you, and then there'll be no more of this."
Raymond was breathing raggedly, fighting to keep the priest from seeing his discomposure. "Aye, Father," he said dutifully, only half-listening.
"Well, then. I will speak with your uncle. There are other girls in the village, and when you marry you shall live with your family as you ought. Your claim to Dickon's farm will sweeten the temper of many a man with a marriageable daughter." He turned and, after one last sharp stare into Raymond's face, stumped back toward the church yard and the cluster of houses. Raymond stared frozen after him, forcing himself by main will to stand unmoving until the priest reentered the church and there was no chance he would turn and see as Raymond bolted from the village, back along the mile-long path to his little isolated hut, ignoring the surprised hissing of the villagers as he pelted by. He was sweating and gasping in the late spring sun when he arrived, looking wildly around the familiar clearing, the boat pulled out of the tide and the hen clucking moronically at his feet.
A selkie. A seal-man, not even human. Shedding his skin to take on human form -- mother of mercy, the pelt in the cabin -- and watching him from the water, wanting to meet him, wanting... Dear, sweet God. He crouched on the ground, hugging his knees to his chest, gasping for breath. A selkie.
Eventually he had to move, as his legs began to cramp and he regained some measure of calmness. He had done no sin, he told himself. Only spoken with Bodie, shared his food, and even Jesus had eaten with sinners and unChristians. There was nothing to fear. He would stay closer to the shore in future, and Bodie would not come again. He crossed himself as he stood up, and as he turned to brush the dirt from his trousers he saw Bodie stand up from the surf.
He cried out in startlement. Bodie was wading toward the shore, his black fur draped casually across his shoulders, a smile on his face that wavered when Raymond backed away. He shrugged then, visibly remembering, and wound the pelt around his waist, covering his genitals. "Better?" he asked easily, then frowned when Raymond made no move toward him.
"It is your seventh day, is it not? You do not fish on this day, so I thought to visit you. What is wrong?" He cocked his head. "If it is my nakedness that disturbs you, I am sorry, but I could bring no clothing! Have you aught to spare, you shall lend me some if it will ease you."
Raymond stared at the sleek, short-furred wrap around Bodie's waist. If the stories were true... "Yes," he said quickly, before his nerve could fail, "and I will burn that skin." He watched the other man closely.
Bodie's eyes widened, then narrowed. "Ah." He sank to the ground, sitting on one hip as he generally did, and Raymond suddenly recognized the pose. A seal, glimpsed lolling on a rock... "No," said Bodie, "you will not burn it. This is a fine shape, but I think I should not like to keep it always." He looked up at Raymond, standing tense and wary several yards away. "Come and talk, then? I have been all night chewing my memory of Rome, for stories I can vouch for with my own honor, and not that of some nameless drunken Venetian!"
"Rome!" Sheer astonishment loosened Raymond's tongue. "You have been to Rome?"
"Should I not? I like to travel, and I told you three days past, I have been to many places." Bodie leaned on one arm and looked up at him. "Shall I tell you of them?"
Raymond shook his head to clear it, feeling as though he were missing something very important, something he could not seem to seize. "You're not human. You're a selkie!"
"Yes," said Bodie evenly. "So I was yesterday, and have been all my life. And you had the water dripped on your forehead and the salt put on your tongue. I was born to the salt and the water, too, though not as you were. Shall we not be friends?"
"You have no more soul than a -- a fish!" Raymond insisted, feeling ever more confused.
Bodie laughed. "I like fish. And so do you! Raymond, I tell you I will be your friend. Let there be no more of this nonsense. Tell me, have you ever seen the great ocean ships, each carrying scores of sailors, and their painted sails swaying in the wind as every man sings the chant?" He sketched great sweeps of canvas in the air with his hands, and Raymond moved closer, interested in spite of himself. "Months on the sea, they are, with the wind in their sails, or the slaves rowing. Do you know, I was once nearly taken by a slaver?" He laughed. "I was walking the streets of Granada in the night, to see how the land-men lived, and a great hand came over my mouth. Moors do not bathe as often as I might like! They hauled me to their ship and would have put me in chains, had I not broken free."
Raymond's eyes were wide. "How did you escape?"
Bodie grinned. "I threw myself into the sea! They watched and waited, and assumed I drowned when this head," he ran a hand through the short black hair of his scalp, "did not reappear. And there I was, laughing at them all the while!" He chuckled richly, and even Raymond had to smile, seeing the Moorish slavers searching for a human man, while a seal barked laughter from the waves.
"You have travelled many places, then," he said, questioningly.
Bodie waved him nearer, and this time Raymond obeyed, sitting tailor-fashion a few feet away and watching him curiously. "Have you not, then?" Bodie asked. "Have you lived in this little house all your life, and seen only this mile of water?"
Raymond picked at the grass that grew by his knee. "Aye. For all the good it has done me. Or shall do, when I leave it."
"Will you leave, then? Where will you go?"
Raymond ripped a handful of grass from the ground and shredded it. "I will marry and live with my uncle, and plow, and pitch manure," he said angrily. "And I will have children, and never see a boat bigger than this one, or the ocean farther than the edge of the horizon."
Bodie shook his head. "You have already seen more of the ocean than that," he reminded mildly. "You have seen my parents' home, which is beyond the curve of the sea."
Raymond nodded. "Aye. And been forbidden by Father Henry to set foot on it."
"And do you always do his bidding?" Bodie asked, smiling. "Come now, tell me. Where would you go, were there no uncle, and no fish to catch for him?"
Where would he go? Raymond closed his eyes, remembering the Holy Land cross his uncle had bought, and its disappointing ordinariness. To the Holy Land, perhaps, to see it for himself? To London, with its great ships and their cargo from all the world? Or to the mysterious kingdom of Prester John, hidden among the heathen countries of Africa, that Father Henry had told of one year?
"To sea," he said finally. "To sea... To sail to all the places I have heard of. You have been to Rome, and Granada, and I will die an hour's walk from where I was born." His eyes prickled under his lids, and he turned his head away.
Then a shadow came between him and the sun, and an arm slid across his chest, its hand resting on his shoulder. "No," Bodie whispered, softly, close by his ear, "you will not. Come to sea with me, Raymond..." and lips pressed against his cheek.
Stunned beyond confusion, he jerked his head away. "What are you doing, man?"
Bodie followed his motion, the hand now stroking down his arm, lips roving over his face, gently but persistently. "Come with me," he murmured. "Let me... ah, Raymond," and putting his other arm around Raymond's shoulders he drew him close.
Raymond held quite still, his heart racing. Bodie's lips nuzzled against his, then moved across his cheek, his arms firm and strong, his deep voice whispering, and oh God, it was so like his dreams, so unlike the soft sticky time with Grace three years ago... His head swam, and then Bodie's hand moved up under his shirt, across the bare skin of his back, and he flinched and wrenched away. "No," he said, breathing heavily. "No, you mustn't..."
"Why not?" Bodie's eyes were bright, watching him. He could feel the swelling pulse at his groin, and desperately willed it down again. He clenched his hands in the dirt.
"You're not even human," he managed. "And to lie with a man... it's a sin, I know ..." Oh, how he knew. Had known for years, and tortured himself with it, repeatedly, sinning in his dreams and waking to the shame. "I cannot go to sea. I will marry a girl Father Henry and my uncle choose, and that will be the end of it."
"It will be the end of you!" Bodie exclaimed. "Enough about sin, Raymond. I do not understand it, and I never wish to. Come to sea with me, and we will travel together to all the places you have heard of, and all the places we have not, and I will love you as my father loved my mother when he bore her away. Say you will, Raymond, and I will never let you go." And he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Raymond's, slipping his tongue between them so that Raymond gasped and arched, Bodie's hands lifting his shirt and pulling him close against Bodie's own bare chest.
Bodie's skin was pale and hairless, and shockingly cool against his own, cooler than human flesh and tasting of salt. Raymond hardly knew when his trousers were loosened and pulled down, wriggling out of them with the help of Bodie's toes as they lay clutching each other. The sealskin slipped away and Raymond gave a choked, desperate cry as Bodie's weight pressed him down, and he felt Bodie's erection riding his own. He wrapped arms and legs around the white, smooth body, crushing their mouths together and grabbing, swallowing desperately for everything he could find of the other man. When Bodie tried to pull away, his mouth sliding down Raymond's neck and his hips lifting as he tried to slip a hand between them, Raymond cried out, pleading frantically, "don't leave me, don't, don't stop," and Bodie murmured reassuringly, returning to slide his hands under Raymond's shoulders. He ground their bodies together, sucking and biting at his neck, until Raymond's gasping pleas turned to a hoarse cry of agonized surprise and he bucked up violently, lifting them both from the ground before collapsing again, panting harshly, and feeling the hot spurts of his release between their bellies.
His vision slowly clearing, Raymond lay still, feeling as weak as a day-old chick but dimly aware that his fingers were still digging into Bodie's shoulders, and that Bodie was moving gently above him, rubbing himself into the slick pool of semen smeared between them. Bodie's lips nuzzled gently at his ear, then his temple.
"Is it a sin?" Raymond whispered faintly. "I don't care..." Bodie kissed him, then raised his head and smiled.
"No more you should. Oh, love, give me your hand..." and he rolled onto his side, taking Raymond with him and lifting one of the clutching hands away to press it against his swollen sex. Raymond sucked air through his teeth, feeling the other man throb in his grasp and thrust toward him. Bodie's hand was wrapped around his own, guiding him; he slid his thumb over the head, pushing the foreskin back to stroke along the seeping slit, and Bodie gave a keening cry and forced his hand down hard, once, twice, and then he was shuddering and spilling in hot waves over their joined fingers. Raymond watched, fascinated, until the jerking penis stilled and Bodie had buried his face in Raymond's hair, muffling his heavy breaths. The smell of semen was thick between them, and as Bodie's hand slipped from his he rubbed his fingers together, feeling the slickness turning sticky, and drew his hand over the matted hair of his stomach. So much...
Beside him, Bodie pushed himself up to a sitting position. He took Raymond's hand in his own and, as Raymond watched in shocked wonder, licked his fingers clean. His tongue was cool, slipping over the delicate webs between Raymond's fingers, sucking on the pad of his thumb. "Salt," he said, releasing it. "You see, we are not so different..."
Raymond got to his feet, not really knowing what to say. Christ, to have -- well, it wasn't sodomy, he didn't know rightly what to call it -- with Bodie, with a water spirit, a man without a soul... He glanced over to where his clothing lay discarded, and felt the skin of his stomach pull as he moved. "We ought to wash."
Bodie came to his feet as well. "Come and swim with me?" he offered, and when Raymond glanced involuntarily at the sealskin crumpled on the ground Bodie laughed and shook his head. "No, Raymond. You could not keep pace with me in seal shape, and I have not the power to bring you with me. A man's body can swim too, well enough!" He grinned, a little shyly. "I was not drowning, that time. I hoped it would bring you to me, seeing a swimmer in distress." Raymond stared at him, seeing a faint rush of color in the pale cheeks, and then Bodie grasped his hand and ran with him into the water, sending up great splashes and laughing when he gasped at the cold shock, then diving forward to surface shaking the water out of his eyes and calling a challenge. Raymond answered in kind and threw himself forward, grabbing at the other man's legs and dunking him, and they wrestled in the water until they were both gasping with laughter and exertion.
"You swim like a seal yourself!" Bodie twisted agilely and caught him around the waist; he gripped the broad shoulders and they found themselves staring at each other, standing chest-deep in the water. Bodie's hands tightened on him, and then they were kissing again, seawater and saliva mixing in their mouths. Bodie wound his fingers in Raymond's dripping curls, caressing the curve of his skull. "Come away with me," he murmured. "Oh, do..."
Raymond fought to catch his breath. A hundred objections clamoured in his mind, but all he could think of was how good Bodie felt, how hard and firm and right against him. For this he might well be damned, and yet he could not let Bodie go.
And then Bodie's head snapped up, and Raymond too heard the voices from the path, calling his name: Father Henry's southland accent and the rough voice of his uncle. "Bodie..." he gasped silently, and the other man shoved him toward shore; he half-swam, half-struggled onto the beach and caught up the sealskin in one hand, spun in time to see Bodie swimming away but still plainly visible. He gave a shout, hoping the approaching men would take the call as meant for them, and pitched the skin into the sea with all his might.
It slapped the water not a yard from Bodie; with one stroke he was beside it, then under it, and then he was gone, and a sleek black shape darted swiftly away.
Panting with relief, he had barely time to pick up his clothing before the two men came into the clearing. They stopped on seeing his nudity, and Father Henry turned discreetly aside while he pulled on his trousers. His uncle paid him no such courtesy. "What's with ye?" he asked gruffly.
"I was swimming," Raymond answered mildly, and thanked all the saints that they had not arrived any earlier, and that all the semen had washed off his body.
"We heard voices."
"I shouted. It was cold." He pulled on his shirt and laced it. "What brings you, Father? Uncle?"
Father Henry gestured for him to approach. "After I spoke with you, Raymond, I met with your uncle. We are agreed that you should marry as soon as is convenient--"
"Now that you're seein' sense," his uncle put in, "there's honest work to be done. I'll be glad o' you with me, and another woman would help with the babies."
Raymond looked from one man to the other, astounded at how fast things had moved. "Am I to start my courting now, then? What of the fish, and the market coming soon?"
His uncle snorted in dismissal. "I'll need no fish to sell with another pair of hands working the land. Let Jock Fishseller get his stock from other folk. And what need of courting? There's men enough willing to marry their daughters into my family."
"Several men have spoken with Dickon this spring," said the priest. "You are the heir to his lands, since your cousin died."
"But I scarcely know the girls of the village!" Raymond protested. "Am I to be led all meek to the altar with any girl whose father asks?"
"What matter who, so long as she be obedient and well-spoken?" his uncle retorted angrily. "Girls aplenty will suit, and you'll have no cause to complain. Let be, boy. If ye'd taken Grace when you had the chance, there's be no need of this. A blind man could ha' seen she wanted you. But ye'll have your chance to meet the girls, soon as you settle in wi' me."
"Father?" Raymond felt himself caught, struggling in the net. "I'm not ready to wed, I told you so."
"You have a duty to your family, Raymond. Your uncle knows what is best." The priest looked away, over the water with the sun shining on it, and at the boat resting on the shore. "It will be good for you to live with folk. You have been too much alone, too much on the sea."
"I like the sea!" Raymond's fists were clenched. "Father Henry--"
"None of this, now," his uncle broke in warningly. "What's decided is done. Get your things together today, and tomorrow come to us. Hear?"
Raymond nodded silently, mute with fury and despair. The two men took their leave, his uncle well-satisfied with his success, and Raymond watched them go, then turned away, hissing in anger. He would not shovel manure all his life. He would not! He remembered Bodie whispering "come away, come to sea with me" in his ear while he --
He sat down, abruptly, and threw a stone at the hen, which squawked angrily and waddled away. So he had a choice, it seemed. Go to sea with a soulless man, a selkie, or work his uncle's farm and marry some whey-faced girl. The first promised foreign sights, companionship, and likely loss of his soul. The second...
He stripped and swam again, splashing angrily in the water, exhausting himself. Bodie did not return. Perhaps he never would. Why should he? What did he care? Salt was crusted in his hair by the time he calmed again, and the sun was beginning its fall to the west. He lit a fire and boiled a pan of gruel, eating without appetite. He had few possessions; he could bundle them in a sack tomorrow. Bowls and plates, another set of clothing, a few figures he or his father had carved. He spent too little time in the house to have filled it with trinkets. If his uncle wanted the furniture he could get it himself.
He turned away from the ocean then, threw the last of the porridge to the hen and began to draw morosely in the dirt with a stick. Sometime later, Bodie touched his shoulder.
He knew at once who it was so silent behind him, knew by the salt smell clinging to the man and the seawater that dripped from the hand that curved under his chin. He turned his head and met Bodie's kiss without response.
The lips pressed questioningly against his own, then drew back. Bodie sat, naked as always, the sealskin on the ground behind him. "Raymond?"
"Don't worry, they didn't see you." Raymond jabbed the stick into the ground. "I am to move to my uncle's house tomorrow, and marry as soon as may be. There is to be no more fishing."
Bodie smiled. "And who is your uncle to decide such a thing? You will do as you please, and if fortune is with me, so will you be!" He sat easily, one hand stroking Raymond's arm. "Where shall we go first? You shall decide -- it seems only fair, since we needs must take your boat! But I know the coast for many miles. Choose!"
"You are mad!" Raymond shook him off with a curse. "You are mad, and damned, and so will I be to go with you. And where could we go? I am no half-man, to eat raw fish. Penniless and lost, to travel through strange lands? I'd sooner shovel manure." He turned his back on the other man. Quietly, Bodie moved closer, and drew Raymond back against his chest.
"No," he said evenly, "you would not. Nor would we be penniless -- I know what landsmen use for wealth, and enough sailors have drowned to fill a dozen sacks of gold. There is a necklace my mother used to wear; my father gave it to her. Gold, and rubies. It would shine like the moon around your neck, but if you would sell it, you could buy a fine ship and all her crew..." He crossed his arms over Raymond's chest, hugging him close. "And damned? I have no soul, you tell me, to be damned or saved. No more had my father, and he lived a happy life. And my mother was as human as you, and died with a smile on her face, and a kiss for her lover, and my hand in hers. If she is in torment, as I have heard the priests promise, then your god is no kind god, and I should think it a fool's act to serve him."
Raymond's hands were pressed over Bodie's, feeling them stroke his skin. He shut his eyes. "You are a seducer," he whispered. "You will steal me away and abandon me, and I will be lost, or return like the tale to find a hundred years passed by and all my people gone."
"Shh." Bodie hugged him tighter. "Abandon you? Have I not watched you all the spring, singing on the ocean? Did I not bring you to the house I was born in? You will be mine, and I will be yours, and we will abandon the world for each other." He laughed softly. "As for a hundred years, in that time we shall both be gone, whether to heaven or hell or the bellies of the fish. Shall we not see what the world can show us before then?" Raymond turned then and caught Bodie's head in his hands, kissing him deeply before pressing himself into Bodie's arms, his own tight around the dripping shoulders.
"I will be damned," he murmured, feeling as if a great weight had slipped from him, leaving him giddy. "I will be damned, and I do not care. We will go to London first, and the great shipping docks, and from there learn where the farthest ships go, and go beyond them..."
Bodie kissed his neck. "And you will teach me to gamble in the inns, and I will teach you the little foreign speech I know, and we will swim together every day, and lie together every night." He pulled Raymond down, and the other man went willingly, watching in the last of the sunlight as Bodie drew his shirt aside and suckled at his nipples, one after the other. He felt Bodie swelling against his leg, and himself no less within his clothing, and pulled Bodie up for another kiss before going on to the exploration he had been too frantic for, before. He rolled over the other man and slid a hand down the unnaturally smooth, cool skin, until Bodie gasped and moaned. Raymond watched his face.
"Your eyes are as blue as the sky," he murmured, lost.
Teeth gleamed. "Your eyes," said Bodie, "are as green as the sea..." and strong arms drew him down again.
It was well past noon, the next day, before his uncle arrived to berate him for lateness, and found the cottage empty of clothing, food and nephew, and the boat long gone.
-- THE END