Paradise Fought: Abel

By: L. B. Dunbar

Betta – otherwise known as the Siamese fighting fish – is a warrior being. The iridescent fish is beautiful in its own right; however, males are often more brilliantly colored. Typically put on display in small confines with the intention to highlight the splendor of the fish, the too small space can be unhealthy for such a magnificent creature. The confines are mentally restrictive and physically harmful.

Considered a labyrinth creature, the fish was forced to make adaptations after climatic changes occurred to its historical environment. It developed the amazing ability to breathe in two worlds at once. It has the skill to gain oxygen from two sources: air and water, two of the four classical elements.

The betta name comes from a clan of warriors and watching the fish fight became a popular sport in the mid-1800s. Spectators placed bets on the bravery of the combatant fish, not necessarily who would be the victor. However, as dominant creatures, they will fight until the death.

Solitary creatures, they do not swim in schools but prefer to be alone as soon as possible. The beta, the second, will break off from the alpha, and in this case, prefer to remain independent. Considered unsocial, this mysterious fish will fight males or females. It will even battle itself, if faced with its mirrored image.

This is the story of one such betta in the form of a man.

[Winter Break]

I met a girl in the pouring rain. It seems cliché, and yet it was true. The waves rolled in anger against the Hawaiian sand as I finished my run along the Kaanapali beach. The morning hours were dark, despite the time. The clouds were ready to break any second, and did so, just as I rounded the first building of the complex. I stopped abruptly and walked the remaining feet of the beach-side path, exhaling heavily from the exertion, despite the sudden shower.

That’s when I saw her.

She was standing with her arms crossed over her stomach. Her hands tucked into the ends of her sleeves, a hood on her head. I knew from the shapely tan legs, she was a girl. White shorts accentuated a tight ass. I passed her without a care as the rain increased. I purposely came too close to her but thought nothing of her. Removing my earbuds, that’s when I heard her. She was crying.

As I passed her, I questioned the sound until the unmistakable sound of a sob shook her. I turned back as her hand came up to wipe at her face. The rain was coming down in heavier pelts. Regardless of the warm air, the ocean water spray was cool. I was planning to ignore her. Whatever her problem was, it wasn’t mine. I had my own issues.

I was here on holiday, conditioning early so as not to be caught by my father. My daily runs were also a much needed escape from his wrath. Since my brother Cain’s possible incarceration, my father’s temper had reached new explosive heights. I was too old for him to take it out on me, besides I was the second son: the lesser one. It wasn’t my fault anyway that Cain was in trouble. It almost never was my fault.

Her sob sounded above the rolling thunder of waves, crashing on the sand, and made me stop. I turned back to her again and approached slowly. Damsels in distress were not my area of expertise. In fact, girls in general were not something I specialized in. I’d had limited experience, and what I’d had wasn’t particularly memorable.

“Excuse me. Are you okay?” I asked, keeping my voice low so as not to frighten her. We were strangers after all. We were alone on a stormy beach. The rain had increased further and the hard sheets were soaking us both. My sweatshirt was plastered to me with the combination of sweat and raindrops. Her head was still covered by the hood of her sweatshirt, so I wasn’t able to see her face. She waved me off without a response.

“You seem upset, but it’s really raining. Maybe you should go inside?”

She didn’t respond again. Her gaze remained focused on the rumbling waves that collided with each other and crashed onto the shore below us. I reached out and touched her upper arm. She flinched, and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen pierced me to the core. I recognized her, but I couldn’t place how I knew her. Tears mixed with raindrops on her face. I was stunned into silence. Her liquid eyes were hard. I recognized the pain behind that cold stare.

I reached for her again to find her sweatshirt was as soaked as mine. Surprisingly, she let me tug her to a cabana. The complex had two large buildings adjoined with a main lobby, several stores, and a restaurant. My father owned his apartment and we were here for the winter break. We were also here avoiding. There were two pools, the outer one being closer to the ocean edge and surrounded presently with empty lounges and cabanas. A double lounger with cushions was huddled under the protection of the canvas overhead, and I led her inside.

She crawled to the upper edge, tucking up her knees and wrapping her arms around them. She was gently shaking, which wasn’t apparent in the torrential rain that originally surrounded us. I slid the overhead piece to cover us further. We were cocooned in our own little protective space, for a moment. I was cautious as I climbed the empty side of the lounger and laid back. I didn’t want her to be afraid of me, but I was afraid to leave her alone.

“Want to tell me what’s wrong?” I asked quietly. The rain pattered on the canvas over us. The waves argued in the ocean. Yet, silence surrounded us as the sounds of nature roared. I waited.

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