Murder by the Ocean

Letter of Testimony, Exhibit A:

Your honor, this is my truthful account of what happened on the day in question. You may choose to believe the version of events being spread by gossip and rumor—that I was a battered wife seeking revenge, that I paid someone to kill him, that I’m happy he’s dead. But none of those things are true. Yes, he hurt me severely and with regularity. Yes, I am safer now that he is no longer alive. But no, I did not kill him and didn’t even wish him dead—I just wanted him to be less violent. I hope that you will receive my testimony with an open mind and that the evidence will prove my innocence.

It is true that he and I had a terrible fight the night before. He was insisting on going surfing in the morning, and when I suggested that it might be unsafe for him, he flew into a rage. I still bear the bruises his fists and temper left on my body. My right eye is still swollen shut, and I’m still limping. After I tended to my wounds, we went to sleep in separate rooms, so I am not aware of when he got up or left our home.

I slept soundly and woke up to find a beautiful pastel morning developing outside. The sun had just begun to peak its head above the horizon, and the sky was that delicate shade of sunrise pink that little girls tend to choose for their ballet slippers and tutus. The ocean was calm. I remember thinking the water was so still a giant could have used it as a looking glass. It was a pristine picture of dawn.

The sand was pocked with divots from the heavy rain we’d had the night before. It was soft, soggy, and warm under my bare feet as I began my morning walk.

Thea and I always meet in the same spot. As I approached our usual rendezvous point, I thought it odd that she wasn’t there, because she always arrives before I do. But looking further down the beach, I saw her ankle-deep in the water facing the horizon. She was standing still yet trembling as though bracing for a blow. As I approached her, I tried to follow her gaze with my own. I stepped into the water and felt its familiar cool and soothing touch on my battered skin.

That’s when I saw him. He was laying supine on his surfboard—motionless. “Is he dead?” I asked. Thea’s voice was small and shaky when she replied, “Yes, I’m pretty sure that he is.” We both stood staring at him in silence for the longest minute of my life. Time seemed stationary. It was hard to take a deep breath—the air felt almost foreign to me. “Was he like that when you got here?” I further inquired. Thea shook her head to say no. “So, you saw what happened?” I asked. Thea turned towards me slowly and deliberately as though her whole body was in tar. She was still trembling, and her eyes were open five degrees wider than they are usually. I watched as she exited the water with the careful deliberation of someone in the presence of something dangerous—like a wild animal or a bomb. She moved her lips as if to speak, but not a single word came out.

Letter of Testimony, Exhibit B:

Your honor, on the morning in question, I was roused by the thunder, but I went outside to enjoy the lightning. The moon was still full and high in the pre-dawn sky. I stepped into the warm downpour. (Summer rains are my favorite, especially near the ocean.) The raindrops were plump like ripe fruit, and the sand was doing its best to absorb it all. The ocean was frothy and fierce and awesome.

I walked a bit closer to the water’s edge. My clothes became a second skin to my body—thoroughly drenched. It was difficult to see because the rain was hitting my eyelashes with such intensity.

And yet, through the deluge, I noticed him out on the water surfing—as if in defiance of the ocean’s fury. I could not see his face, but as he sat on his surfboard waiting for the next wave, something about his mannerisms made me certain he was laughing—the rise and fall of his shoulders, the tilting back of his head. And then, I saw him lean ever so slightly towards the left, raise his arm, and produce a vile gesture with his central finger. Now that I think about it, he may have been leaning towards the home he and Rhea share—I mean, shared. I heard him scream, “Bitch!”

Almost instantaneously, the wave he must have been waiting for was surpassed by a larger wave he never saw coming that crashed down on him. His body was flung into the air and hit by wave after wave in rapid succession. It was as though he were a marionette with the ocean pulling the strings—forcing his body to fold and contort in ways that can’t be sustained by human anatomy.

And then, just as the sun’s head began to peak over the horizon, tinting the sky a most docile shade of pink, the ocean went as still as glass. I stepped into the calmed waters and there he was, laying back on his board, face up towards the sky, and clearly dead.

Letter of Testimony, Exhibit C:

Your honor, of course I killed him. Thea knows how, and Rhea’s battered body knows why.

From the moment he got on his surfboard, he never stopped talking. Threats and curses kept spilling from his tongue like poison. He wasn’t talking to me, of course. Few people do. He was talking to his wife, even though she wasn’t there—and laughing at her.

His ranting was a frenzied rush of defiance and violence. He screamed how he’d surf if he wanted to, storm be damned. In his words, he was a man, a professional, a veritable Adonis, and no wave was more than he could handle. He kept on like that for a while, miscellaneous male bravado and delusion mixing together into a comic hue. And I was going to let all that go, because I’d heard it all before. But then he got very vulgar and violent.

He threatened her life. And given the bruises I’d seen Rhea wearing on her regular morning walks and evening swims, I knew his threats weren’t empty. So, especially when he punctuated his menacing words with a middle finger and that term so many angry men like to hurl at women, even though I knew neither the words nor the gesture had anything to do with me, I felt protective and angry. I decided then and there that he would never hurt Rhea again. For I know what it is to feel powerless. I, too, have been abused, defiled, and taken for granted. Look at all the poison I’ve been forced to swallow and the garbage I’ve been made to hold over the years.

Perhaps it’s because Poseidon gets so much more attention that people forget the ocean is a woman. So few fear or respect me anymore. The wise sailors and captains of old knew better. They gave their ships female names as a mantle of protection—knowing that we guard and defend our own.

Murder by the Ocean by aabsofsteel

“It was a pristine picture of dawn.”

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