The Dragon and his womanNshadows had been living on the knife’s edge of poverty. All the money either of them earned was first allocated to her children. The Dragon’s son had been keeping his father at arm’s length ever since his father had married and returned all the money his father sent. It was a very sad but true fact that the boy’s mother had greatly disliked the fact that the Dragon had found someone to love, and someone who loved him. At every turn the young man would relate some statement that his mother had said, some awful perversion of the truth that cannot be unspoken. The Dragon had tried to reason with his son. He’d tried to speak to the complex emotions of a long ago divorce without speaking against the woman who had mothered his son, but there are some things in this world that are impossible to do. There are some minds that choose to remain closed. So the Dragon had grown sadder as the years passed and found family in one not exactly of his own creation.
Fortunately for the Dragon he had been accepted into this little family of three, his womanNshadows and her son and daughter. He felt blessed to be with them and knew only love and tenderness with them. The womanNshadows’s daughter claimed him as her own “true” father while her son called him for “guy” advice, respecting and honoring all that the Dragon had to teach in a way that the Dragon wished his own son had been able to do. In spite of his sadness over what he thought of as the “loss of my son,” he felt truly happy for the first time in his life.
The womanNshadows adored her Dragon. She grieved for him his agony over his son. She listened to him, offered advice if he asked, or kept her silence if she felt he desired only to vent. She kept telling him he had done all he could, and urged him to keep trying, to never give up because one never knew when the young man would escape his mother and learn to think for himself. She worshiped her Dragon and most every day thanked him for his generosity, his love, for just the miracle of him wanting to be with her. She made sure that she expounded on all his virtues to the point where she would see him blush and know that his smile came from his heart. She made sure he felt every word of praise as her truth, her gift to him.
As was said, the Dragon and the womanNshadows were very poor. They took care of her children first then scraped together whatever was left for them to live. He never minded and she always felt safe with him no matter where they ended up. They claimed it was a gypsy life they had chosen for themselves rather than one of poverty that life had forced on them. They danced on the beach. They collected shells, driftwood, and sand dollars like some people determinedly collect Coach purses or clothes and jewelry. Together they lived in a 130-year-old house on a bluff that overlooked a cove. From their bedroom window, the old wooden floors would creak, as they would stand there looking out to sea, across thousands of miles of ocean, directly, as they teased each other, to Northern Spain. That long fetch across the Atlantic brought storms with heavy waves and nothing to block their fury. Immense amounts of water would crash heavily into the granite coastline and the Dragon would watch over his womanNshadows as she ventured out on the rocks to take pictures.
Shortly after they had moved into the old house and started haunting the beach, the womanNshadows fell in love with the solitary island just off the coast. On it was the lighthouse that still flashed every three seconds and had the fog horn that blasted for the fishermen and lobstermen who plied their trade out beyond the Selvages. The lightkeeper’s house was falling down. The island abandoned from the 1970’s after the light went automated. It is a lonely island with nothing but prickly beach roses and small thorny brush growing waist high. Gulls and heron, terns and ravens had claimed it as theirs, but it was the wind that truly owned the island. It was, still is, an austere place where no one is allowed to go. Heavy fines are levied on anyone who tries to visit the island. This is because of the crevices that the ocean and the weather had created. It is a dangerous place for those who are arrogantly careless. It would be perfect for a woman from the shadows and her Dragon who never took anything for granted. The other odd thing about the island was that it seemed to have an invisible caul around it dampening any radio or cell phone signals. The Coasties who still maintained the lighthouse had stories about the place if anyone cared to listen. The womanNshadows and her Dragon listened.
A year long photographic study of the island gave her and her Dragon a vivid image of it even though they had never been granted permission to row out. They often dreamed of living there. Talking about saving the house and going solar, the Dragon had been fully vested in his woman’s fantasy of creating their own sanctuary out there, away from people, away from anyone who might try to hurt them. They would live there alone, the two of them, needing only each other. The woman could sail or drive a boat with the best of them and there was literally nothing the Dragon couldn’t do. He’d lived off the land many times during his years, through all his missions as a Marine. He would be able to create a wonderful life for his wife, his love, his womanNshadows out on the island. Then she could literally stand on the safety of their front porch and take all the photographs she wanted. He would have her safe in a world of his creation, of God and the wind and water’s creation. She would be able to be herself, to bloom, and he would keep her warm and well loved and so very safe. It was a dream that they comforted themselves with; just as soon as the kids graduated college, just as soon as all the bills got paid, one last mission out of the country to earn enough extra money to help out their son, her son who had turned to the Dragon’s in need of money for a medical issue, and then they would move heaven and earth to try to obtain the island as their home.
One week before Valentine’s Day, the Dragon’s heart gave out. His great heart seized suddenly in what his “daughter” later called a “covert mission orchestrated by God.” The Dragon who had once roamed the earth as a warrior for his country, and whose body ached down to his bones from all the clashes and wounds he’d survived, could not survive this final attack. He closed his eyes and died.
For his womanNshadows, the whole world went dark and the only light she sees now, the only one she looks at comes from the full moons; like the one that shone so silvery cold on the night her Dragon died. She prays that he never heard her crying for him. She hopes he never knew a moment of fear or pain, or regret.
Now the Dragon’s woman is alone in a world that seems to forget widows can hurt long after their husbands have died. She has dreamed of him. She had not dreamed of him. Have there been signs she’s afraid to cling to? All she has is the island and the metaphor it represents now. She looks for meaning to her life where the absence of the Dragon has drained her from all desire, at times, to continue. She looks for light in this dark sea of grief. She looks for the lighthouse.
The full moon calls to her. And in her dreams, so does her island with the lighthouse. Lately, when she manages to sleep at all, she wakes on the island. She knows it by heart so her dreams take her there. She’s on the island walking, talking to the Dragon. He is there with her, just out of sight, but she can hear him and she can feel him. The stars shine down on her from far away, so far away that if they have died, she doesn’t know it yet. She can still make her wishes. The light from the lighthouse is her permanent nightlight to fight off the dark that tries to tear at her sense of security. The lightkeeper’s house has been saved by the Dragon’s hands and there she lives with her dogs, her camera, and her sewing. She lives there with her Dragon. He is everywhere she looks. His photos are on the walls. His shoes and clothes hang in the closet. His voice is in her ear and his wings, his great and strong arms are wrapped around her.
Every time the wind blows, which on the island is all the time, it is her Dragon moving to be close to her, surrounding her with his presence, and telling every cell in her body that she is not alone. He is there with her. He never left. He is at peace, therefore so is she.
Once she manages to fall asleep, it is hard to wake her because she is far away. Once she is awake, she feels immense sadness that it was all just a dream but she carries the idea of it with her all through the day. She can momentarily close her eyes and see the lighthouse beam so white cutting through the darkest blackouts. She knows what it would feel like to have that solitary existence of a life on the island with her Dragon, just her and him. The constant wind would wipe clean any bad thoughts and push away any bad people that might try to take from what the womanNshadows and the Dragon share out there on their island.
The lighthouse is the draw. Like a moth to a flame it calls to her. When she closes her eyes she tells herself that at first it will be dark, but then there will be that beacon of light reaching out to her, flashing from the island, drawing her home.
The idea can make the days bearable.