Moon fell in love with Emily the night she stayed on the beach.
The sun set, and the others retreated to the lake house for dinner. The sound of forks clinking plates and ice against glasses floated back to the beach, as fragile as starlight.
Emily smiled back at the rising Moon, who bathed her bare arms and spun her yellow hair to silver. He hung in the sky for a while, then, as if he were too tired to stay, began to sink toward the western edge of the lake.
Moon beckoned to Emily as he sank. You are beautiful and you are waiting with me. This he would have said with his shadowy mouth.
Instead, Moon lay a path of light across the glass-flat water. The path began at the western edge, reached toward Emily, then disintegrated three hundred yards offshore. It reappeared at the water’s edge in a stepping stone-sized patch.
Though the air was warm, the cold water shocked her. Still, Moon’s kisses had left her aching. Emily’s feet plunged through the square of light, and the water lapped her ankles. Moon hung silent, heavy and round, blushing slightly.
Emily took a deep breath and flung herself toward the pathway of light. As she swam, the path eluded her. The further out she swam, the further away it began.
As she swam, her legs and arms grew heavy with exhaustion. Moon sank lower and lower on the horizon.
“Wait!” Emily gasped, as a small wake from a far-away boat caught her in the mouth. “Don’t leave me!”
It’s not what I want, Moon might have said. But there is the pull of the tide, the grasp of the horizon. I cannot stay.
Moon, approaching the horizon, throbbed swollen and red. The lighted path grew dull against the water. Emily glanced over her shoulder, but the shore had receded too far.
She lifted her eyes to Moon again, just in time to catch the last sliver of red disappearing behind the doll-sized trees of the opposite shore. That shore, too, was so far away.
It was dark. Far away, a boat engine still whined. Emily rolled on her back, watched icy stars break and fall one after another. Laughter bounced across the lake’s surface long after she, too, dropped below the horizon.