Paradise

Every summer Lara would travel to the same part of the Island. The secret part that was hidden from the world and to the unknowing eye it perhaps seemed like the inaccessible part of the island. Once she reached her favourite spot she lay down on the soft grass that covered the top of the cliff. She breathed in the sweet smell of summer flowers and the salty sea breeze. It was perfect. Secluded. She felt like the only person alive and once again she was filled with a sense of peacefulness and serenity, which reminded her that the lengthy task of getting here was most definitely worth it.
She pulled out her notepad and began to sketch; she was lost in her artwork and the beauty of her surroundings when a man’s voice pulled her from her work. Impossible she thought shaking her head, no one else knew about this area of the island. In the three years she had been coming she had never seen another person.

“If you had the choice to live forever in the perfect paradise but you had to leave everything behind, would you do it?”

It was clearer this time and it was definitely a man. He had a deep, almost soothing voice, and as he repeated the question it sounded like he was trying to stifle a laugh.

“If you had the choice to live forever in the perfect paradise but leave everything behind. Would you do it?”

She turned and there, just three metres away, stood the man who uttered those enchanting words. He was beautiful. Tall, lean and tanned. He was the definition of a good looking man. Lara tried to speak but her words caught in her throat. He was wearing a pair of white linen shorts that hugged his hips neatly, leaving very little to the imagination. Lara’s mouth grew dry, she gulped trying to swallow. His abs glistened in the summer heat and his vest top hung neatly over one shoulder. His dirty, blonde, hair moved slightly in the wind and his deep blue eyes seemed to search her face, looking for her answer.

“It depends on the terms,” she finally managed.
“The terms were quite clear,” he chuckled, “if you want to live in paradise, you must leave everything and everyone behind.”

Lara looked at him, what kind of game was he playing? It felt like one of her sisters ‘would you rather’ games. Except he asked with such conviction that it felt real. It felt like her answer could change everything.

“How long do I have to think about it?” She asked, almost hoping he wanted an answer instantly.
“You have until the sunsets on Thursday night,” he said, smiling knowingly.

He disappeared back into the overgrowth almost as quickly as he appeared. The questions circled around her head, seemingly chasing each other looking for answers. But she had no answers. Only more questions. She felt dizzy. She packed away her things and began the slow descent back to her rented cottage on the beach. She couldn’t wait to get home. She needed a glass of wine and a long relaxing bath.

The next morning she made her way back to her favourite spot. She was nearing the top of the cliff when she spotted him. He sat with his back to her, his legs dangling over the edge of the cliff.

“Morning Lara,” he chimed, without turning around.

Lara stumbled, caught off guard. He jumped to his feet in a motion that on the outside looked like he was going to catch her, yet he still remained several metres away and he maintained this distance. Lara replayed their conversation from yesterday back in her head. How did he know her name? How did he know she was behind him?

“You are fine?” His stare was intense and she felt compelled to nod her head.

“Yes,” she muttered, “fine.”

She sat down, organising her things. “Would you like a coffee?” she offered, pulling the picnic blanket straight beneath her.

“No thank you, but you please enjoy,” he winked at her moving a little closer, watching her busy herself.

As the day wore on they began to talk, awkward at first but things became easier. He asked her questions and she talked. He already appeared to know the answers before she had said them but she obliged anyway. They talked about everything, but neither of them mentioned their conversation from yesterday, the unspoken words hung in the air between, silent yet deafening.

The next few days followed the same pattern. Lara found herself looking forward to their meetings and at night time she would drift off to sleep thinking about him.

On the Thursday morning she rose early. She had made her decision. She had tossed and turned all night thinking about her answer. Could she leave everything behind? She had thought about her life, she was very independent. She vacationed alone, lived alone. She barley spoke to her parents. People wouldn’t really miss her if she never returned. The decision was actually pretty easy.

When she arrived at their usual spot she was surprised that he wasn’t there already. He was always sat on the edge expecting her. She tried to ignore the disappointed feeling that spread through her.
Pushing the unsettled thoughts to the back of her mind she began to sketch. Looking up every now and again to see if he had arrived yet but there was no sign of him. The sun was due to set within the hour and she had her answer. Where was he?

As the hour slowly dwindled away, he still hasn’t appeared. She was beginning to worry. Maybe something had happened to him. She walked towards where he usually sat, hoping there might be some clue as to where he was, when she suddenly heard someone shout. She turned, it was him.

“Once you cross over you can never return,” his words were soft but served as a warning.

“I choose paradise,” she whispered.

“I know,” he replied ” I too chose paradise, in this exact spot, at this exact time, 300 years ago. You can’t go back, even if you wanted to, everything and everyone you ever knew will cease to exist for you. Are you sure?”

She felt her stomach churn, but she nodded her head. She began to walk towards him, mentally preparing herself for a lifetime in paradise, when her lace caught on the small branch of a berry shrub. The shrubs grew all over the cliffs and in the spring were covered in beautiful fragrant flowers. She didn’t know how she hasn’t seen it. She tugged at the branch but it wouldn’t budge. She pulled harder and it suddenly sprang free, she tumbled backwards in slow motion, falling closer to the edge of the cliff.
“Lara!!!” Her name echoed across the cliffs.
He jumped towards her, arms outstretched, it was such a quick reaction that he didn’t have time to think of the consequences. As he crossed the line, that many years ago he had been warned about, his body began to crumble and turn to ash. He had been warned not to cross the line. Time in paradise did not match time in the real world and as he crossed back into real time he had aged instantly.

Lara fell, arms outstretched, hoping in vain to clutch onto anything, but she continued to fall. Time stopped still as she hit the hard rock beneath her. She took her last breath.
The waves lapped at her long, golden hair, now matted with scarlet as the sun began to set.
Upon the cliffs the last of the ashes blew in the sea breeze and once again the secret lay hidden, and perhaps to the untrained eye it looked inaccessible. Maybe that’s what makes paradise so appealing… It’s inaccessibility, it’s unobtainability, the magic lure… It’s to die for.

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