Fishing Tales: Plenty of Fish in the Sea

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Emma was spending valentines day alone, and that was totally fine with her.

It wasn't as though she disliked the holiday. On the contrary, she found the notion of giving chocolates and affection to someone you care about quite appealing. And while she hoped most relationships would have more than one day a year where that occurred, she couldn't help but feel charmed by the thought of people giving it a little more thought.

But Emma was in a new city, surrounded by new people, working a new career — and old memories made rushing head-first into a whirlwind romance somewhat unappealing. There'd be plenty of time for dates and crushes, late-night phone calls and little notes tucked into books. For now, she was content to continue setting up her new life.

And so, she was satisfied as she flopped down onto the couch, a box of slightly-overpriced chocolates in one hand, and a remote in the other. Flicking on some cheesy movie, she felt a weight settle in her lap, and looked down at the wiggling form of Wurst, the now someone-older — but still ever-optimistic when it came to potential treats — dachshund that had accompanied her through their relocation to Site-184.

Holding the chocolates a little higher and promising him a more appropriate snack, Emma scratched behind his ears. Grateful for the reminder that she wasn't really alone. The welcome distraction led her mind to wonder what her fellow Fishing Council members may be up to this evening.

Sarah was oblivious to all except her aching muscles and still-dripping hair, which was plastered to her face in a black, icy mop as she stepped into the apartment. Typically, when she was doing fieldwork — especially if that included a marine dive — she'd shower and change when they got back to the site. But tonight, after engine difficulties extended what ought to have been a quick journey, she went straight from the boat to her car, and from the site to her and Jessica's home.

"I'm so sorry I'm late," she threw the words into the apartment, pulling off her coat. "The scuba went well, but then there were problems with the engine, they had to get someone else to sail out a meet us. And to top it off, traffic over the bridge was a nightmare. I—"

A hand took hers as another pushed the damp hair from her forehead. Jessica planted a kiss on her cheek, speaking in a familiar, reassuring voice: "Welcome home, love."

Sarah looked into the apartment. The soft glow of candlelight flickered from the kitchen island, where a series of platters and boards lay arranged, echoing the homely splendour of the scans of still life paintings Jessica would consult in the evenings. Sarah loved to watch her practiced eyes pulling apart their meanings: the slow smile that would spread across Jessica's face as she drew some line of connection between the image and the items she was conserving during the day.

"Oh no." Sarah let a small sigh escape. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry. You did all this, And here I am, late and soaking wet, I—"

Jessica interrupted, laughing. "Sarah, it's really no trouble at all. This isn't the first date you've come to straight from the sea. And it better not be the last. Now. go take a shower. I'm just glad you're home."

"But the food!" Sarah began.

"Is cheese, bread, and some fruit. It'll still be nice and cold when you're done." Jessica's lips landed on Sarah's, linger there for an intimate moment. "Now go along, honestly it's all fine. You've reminded me to put the sparkling in the fridge."

"I love you," Sarah said as she began unlacing her shoes.

"I love you, too."


Henry Ivanon let his body go limp as he fell towards the couch. His wife, Lorraine tumbled, exhausted into the nearby armchair in their living room.

The two had just managed to cajole, bribe, and beg their two young children into bed; the ordeal had been taxing. "I cannot," Lorraine stressed the 'cannot,' "believe you told them they could have as much chocolate as they wanted. What on earth were you thinking, Henry?"

"How was I supposed to know they had been giving out cupcakes in school? Or that they'd even /have?/ that much chocolate, where did that come from?" Henry answered.

"It's Valentines day, literally all they do in school is give each other candy, candy that ought to last a week at least." Lorraine proclaimed accusingly while raising an eyebrow.

"Hey," Henry retorted. "I wasn't the one who told them about a magic baby that would make them fall in love, that was all you." The resulting baby-hunt had — in truth — completely derailed the initial attempts to settle everyone down before bed.

Henry and Lorraine glared at one another, each refusing to look away or back down.

Until they both broke out laughing at the absurdity of their situation. Henry pushed himself up and settled down on the couch to his wife, who leaned in against him.

"God." She murmured into his ear "wouldn't have expected us to spend the 14th like this a few years ago."

"Well, the night's not over yet." Henry smiled, leaning closer towards her.

"MOM! DAD!" a high-pitched voice tumbled down the staircase. "I can't sleep!"

Greg's gloved hands fumbled with the final screw in the cold.

With a few twists, he finished installing the Holy Mackerel's new radio — a Christmas present from himself. Smiling as he turned it on and flipped through the frequencies, settling on a familiar tune, Greg made his way to the exposed deck of the fishing vessel.

Sitting down he unscrewed the large olive-green thermos he had brought with him, pouring out its contents into the two waiting bowls. He pulled his gloves off and took one in his hands, the radiating warmth acting as a prelude to the forthcoming effects of stewed potatoes and haddock.

A few spoonfuls in and a little warmer, Greg looked out at the evening sky. The cold night air seemed to make the stars twinkle, amplified by their reflection on the water. Frost hung to the vessel's railing and the dock had been treacherous to navigate. Greg has taken great care to break up the ice with a handy shovel on his way down.

It was the first unfocused moment Greg had allowed himself today. It wasn't that he didn't want to acknowledge it was Valentine's day, but by keeping busy he could stave off the weight of what it meant.

He reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a flask; the monogram glittered in the moonlight: another reminder. He signed as he unscrewed the top, brought it to his lips, and let the sweet-burning sensation trickle down his throat.

Standing, he cradled the other, untouched bowl as he walked to the railing before dumping its contents into the sea; a good-sized dram's worth of single malt followed from the flask.

He looked out at the gently shifting, heaving sea. Sometimes he really believed Mary was still out there, that she'd be coming back.

"With love, Valentine." He whispered to the snowy night air.


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