"Golden amber, and rose."
She dropped her napkin on the ground and he returned it with a gallant flourish, then introduced himself as Maris.
She said her name was Sara. He smelled like sand, and salt, and a touch of seaweed. She smelled like flowers and incense.
He was tall, and strong, with wavy hair that defied logic.
She was elegant and prim, with dark-pigmented skin, and long, straight, lustrous, black hair.
He knew she was way out of his league.
“Why don’t we go for a walk?” She said.
They rose in unison and he flipped a large golden coin on the table.
“An extravagant tip for a drink, don’t you think?”
“It’s only money—Miss—my lady.”
A laugh bubbled out of her. “Just call me Sara, please.”
They walked for miles as the afternoon ebbed, and talked of many things.
A street vendor was selling flowers; Maris stopped and bought her one. He paid the man with another golden coin; the vendor gushed with gratitude.
They came to a garden in the middle of the bustling city. Traffic and people flowed round on every side. They barely noticed, like two immovable islands in the middle of a relentless tide. They sat on a bench and gazed at one another.
In a gentle voice she said, “Neptune, why do you shirk your duties as shepherd of the sea?”
He looked bitter. “I sometimes find it wanting.”
“But it’s your duty, your realm.” Why do you prowl about, pursuing mortal women and debauching them with your charms? How could you find THAT fulfilling?”
“Who said I did, Lady Themia?”
She started in surprise. “You know who I am?”
“Of course I know who you are. Am I not Neptune? Can I not see right through you?”
She had forgotten that he had the power of every creature in the sea, even the dolphin, who, with sonar, could peer through flesh, could see the blood coursing through arteries, the beating of a heart, and the tell-tale signs of a lie.
“Then why, Neptune? What could you find lacking in the vast depths of the sea?”
He pulled another coin from his pocket, and polished it absently. “There are too many starfish, they bore me.” He pitched the coin high in the air, the sun reflected off its sides as it spun and fell in the fresh cut grass.
The remark touched a nerve. She pointed at the coin in the grass. “Why’d you spend those ancient coins, Neptune? It was like a trail of breadcrumbs, leading me straight to you.”
He sighed, theatrically.
“Well it can’t go on,” she intoned. “You must return to the sea. We both know it. If you resist, I’ll…”
“I won’t resist,” he said.
They sat in silence for a while.
After a time she said, “According to custom, I’m required to grant you one last wish.”
He knew this, and replied, “I wish to spend one night with a woman of my choosing.”
“That’s none of my concern, you can have any woman you want without my help.”
“The woman I want,” he said, “is you.”
Her blush was like a sunset: Golden amber, and rose. His wish was not unthinkable, just unprecedented. “I’m not a woman, Neptune. I’m a goddess. Have you forgotten your manners, and your place?”
His expression was unfathomable. “Then cast me back. I’m done with the squalor of this flea-infested realm.”
In the blink of an eye, they found themselves on a deserted beach.
He waded into the surf.
He turned around.
She gazed at his form, the surf swirling about him, and had to admit, he was a magnificent creature in form and purpose.
“Why did you do it?” She asked. “Why would you leave your realm and walk among mortals?”
“For you, lady. For those few stolen moments of your time.”
“I’ll grant you this,” she said. “I’ll meet you here, on this beach, in 50 years. But I will promise you nothing. Surely that won't satisfy you?”
“It must,” he said, and disappeared into the churning surf.