Merope The text from Ras read "Meet me at the lake."
Merope Lake Artemis was a beautiful spot at this time of year, although Merope had never been down during the night before. Treading carefully and holding a flashlight, it's a while before she realises that Ras is IN the lake, floating.
Merope "Ras? RAS!"
Ras Alhague In the clear, empty night, the sound travels clearly across the water, echoing on the sides of the narrow canyon. Ras is startled out of his reverie, suddenly splashing in the water. What the hell? he thinks to himself.
Ras Alhague "Merry?!"
Merope "Ras, it's me. I got your text."
Ras Alhague "What?! Text?" He's swimming towards the shore. "What are you talking about?"
Merope "On my phone. "Meet me at the lake". And um, you're here, and, uh.."
Merope falls quiet as Ras clambers out
Merope "Oh.... um.."
Merope blushes. It's ALMOST visible in the darkness.
Ras Alhague Ras doesn't seem to have any sense of shame as he clambers out of the lake. "You got a text from me?" He notices Merope's blush, and smiles a bit. "Are you sure you're not just saying that?"
Merope "Sorry, you might want to get your um, clothes..."
Merope looks down, but then keeps looking up again every few seconds
Merope "I did a get a text, I did..." her voice is small, though, her train of thought entirely derailed.
Merope "Um.. aren't you cold? I mean, it's warm and all...."
Ras Alhague Ras walks over to his clothes. "No, I'm not very cold." He furrows his brow: his cellphone is sitting on top of his pants. "That's not how I left it..." He picks up the phone and opens it up - showing Merope's reply: I'll be there soon. "What the..."
Merope "Did you bring a towel?"
Merope For some reason, Merope can't focus on the mystery of the text message.
Ras Alhague "Nah, I usually just air-dry." He seems a bit amused at Merope's attention. "I wonder who sent this." He looks around, but doesn't see anyone in the foliage. "They seem to be long gone..." His hands clench into fists. "Smart."
Merope "So, you didn't want me to come?"
Merope "I can go, I mean, if you want..."
Ras Alhague "I didn't invite you, if that's what you're asking. Doesn't mean I'm not glad you're here."
Merope "Oh." She smiles. "Ok." She looks up for awhile to smile at him, and then remembers herself and looks down again.
Ras Alhague "So, are you going to come in?" He gestures to the lake. "I mean, I'd enjoy the company."
Merope "Oh.. uh, oh.. well, I um, didn't think we'd be swimming so I didn't bring any stuff. I could run back to the house and get my costume I'd only be like ten minutes and um..."
Merope is babbling at high speed.
Ras Alhague "Why would you need a costume? There's nothing like feeling the water directly against your skin."
Merope Merope is a bright shade of crimson. "Ras, I can't be naked. You'd see me."
Ras Alhague He grins a crooked smile. "Well, then we'd be even, right?"
Merope "No, because I'm a GIRL." She purses her lips as she smiles.
Ras Alhague "A girl who can't help but look down..."
Ras Alhague "Besides, you'll be in the water. It's dark. You'll be safe."
Merope The heat from Merope's face could probably power the whole town. Finally she says, "Ok. But um... close your eyes, and don't open them until I say."
Ras Alhague "Okay. But I'm getting in the water first. It's starting to get a bit chilly out here." Ras then slides back in the water, and closes his eyes.
Merope "Turn around, too."
Ras Alhague laughs, but does so.
Ras Alhague "Happy?"
Merope watches him carefully, and then tentaively unbuttons her blouse and takes off her jeans.
Merope also removes her socks, but then pauses for a bit.
Ras Alhague "Okay, I know girls take a long time to get dressed, but you'd think undressing would be simpler."
Merope "It's.. clean in there, right?"
Ras Alhague "Did I look dirty to you?"
Merope reaches around awkwardly to fiddle with her bra clasp. She has to rotate the bra about ninety degrees to get at it. "Just keep those eyes closed, mister."
Ras Alhague "I just hope whoever sent that text isn't still watching. The longer you take, the more chances they have to take a peek."
Merope holds the bra against herself for a bit, then takes a deep breath, closes HER eyes, and lets it drop. Eyes still closed, she takes down her underwear also, drops them into the pile and takes a running jump into the lake.
Merope There's a large splash.
Merope "Um... I guess you can look now."
Merope is treading water, immersed up to her neck.
Ras Alhague turns around and swims up to her, almost close enough to touch. "Now, is that so bad?"
Merope reaches a hand up to brush wet hair out of her face.
Merope "It's cold! How do you stand this?"
Merope Merope tries to tread water with only one hand, covering her breasts with the other.
Merope She looks at Ras with a mixture of excitement, embarrassment and pleading.
Ras Alhague "It just takes a bit of time to get used to it, that's all." He swims a circle around her. "If you want, I could help warm you up."
Merope "God, I can't believe I'm doing this, I've known you for like a day."
Merope makes a face. "Swimming naked is... well, girl's bodies are less, um, streamlined. I'd rather sort of... wallow."
Merope She gamely treads water single-handed.
Ras Alhague "You know," he chides. "If you use both arms, it'll be easier."
Merope looks at him in a slightly pained sort of a way, takes a breath, sinks down a bit, and starts using both arms.
Ras Alhague "Now you've got it." He beams at her.
Merope She closes her eyes to take another deep breath. "Ok, I'm warming up a bit now.... it's still cold, though."
Merope She smiles slightly feebly. "So um, you do this a lot, right? You said this afternoon..."
Ras Alhague "Yeah. No matter where I go, there's always someplace you can swim, even if it means breaking into a gym." He looks around, and sounds wistful. "No place as beautiful as here, though. With how much the rest of the town has changed, I'm surprised this place has stayed the same."
Merope frowns. "You've come here before? I mean... you've LIVED here before?"
Ras Alhague "Yeah, I've got family in town," he says. "We used to visit here every summer, back when mom was still alive."
Merope "I'm, um, sorry about your mom."
Ras Alhague "It's not your fault," he says, sounding very detached and distant right now. "It's dad's."
Merope doesn't know how to respond to that.
Merope "This is uh, definitely a great spot. You can look at the um, stars, while you float."
Ras Alhague turns his head so he's looking right at Merope. "Yeah, the stars here are beautiful."
Merope pauses for a bit, looking up at them.
Merope "Have you ever found yourself?"
Ras Alhague swims closer. "Yeah," he says, pointing. "I'm right up there."
Merope "I'm in the Pleiades. Furud showed me."
Merope "Some naming craze in the nineties, I guess. Like, uh, Madison. Or Britney."
Merope looks nervously at Ras, who is almost within arm's reach.
Ras Alhague "It's interesting, though. Every sleepless kid I've ever met or read about has had a star name. No exceptions. And so far, every one has been different..." He shakes his head. "Different from any other sleepless, I mean."
Merope eyes Ras. "You have another scar, on your chest. Um. It looks like a nasty one."
Ras Alhague "Yeah," he says, looking away. "That one hurt." He rubs it absently. "They had to cut into my chest to get my heart going again."
Merope "Oh God, wow." She looks at him, a picture of concern. "Why'd it stop?"
Ras Alhague "I was trying to sleep," he says. He looks back up at the stars. "Guess I went a little too far that time."
Merope accepts this one, silently, and they watch the stars together for a few minutes.
Merope "So...," Merope says after the few minutes. "Did you really kill a guy?"
Merope She laughs, in a nervous, fake way.
Merope "I mean, people at school keep saying..."
Ras Alhague "No," he says, abruptly. Then, "Not quite."
Merope "Oh. Um, good."
Merope She frowns at him for a moment, and makes several false starts at a follow-up question which never even get to the first syllable.
Merope seems to be struggling in the water.
Ras Alhague turns abruptly at the sound of... panic?... in Merope's voice. "What's wrong?"
Merope "Ras, it's cold, my arms are t-tired..."
Ras Alhague "Can you swim? The shore's not that far..."
Merope is shivering. "Ras, I don't think I can.." Her voice disappears when she sinks under the water.
Ras Alhague dives under the water and grabs Merope. She feels light and fragile, like a dead twig.
Merope is shivering in his arms. She clutches onto him very tightly. "How are you so warm.." she says, feebly.
Ras Alhague "How are you not?" He sounds confused and worried and wondering as he starts swimming her to shore. "Don't worry, I've got you."
Merope clutches him tighly, gratefully.
Ras Alhague Ras emerges from the water with Merope in his arms in a vision that, if anyone had seen it, might look a little like the creature from the black lagoon carrying out his latest victim.
Ras Alhague He carries her, seemingly effortlessly, across the sand, setting her down on a smooth rock nearby.
Merope "Don't let go."
Merope She looks up at him, still holding on tightly as Ras leans over her. "Don't let go."
Merope She looks up, into his eyes, still shivering.
Ras Alhague "Don't worry," he says again. "I've still got you." He looks into her eyes.
Ras Alhague (The camera at this point pulls away from the rock on which Ras and Merope are sitting, as an appropriate pop song plays in the background, and spirals up to the sky, looking at the stars and the moon. It zooms closer to them, then swings back down to an aerial shot, directly overhead, of Ras and Merope kissing each other. Fade to black.)