Title: For Love of Sea
Word Count: 993 words
Notes: Brief mentions of domestic abuse piece inspired by the legend of the selkie
“That’s all the mail?”
Bree flinches at the question, the key in her pocket nearly pulsing with dread. He knows. “Yes,” she says. Her voice stays even and nonchalant by some miracle. He knows, he has to know, damn. “Were you expecting something?”
What did she do with the box? The invoice was shredded and shredded again and flushed, so that’s not a problem, but for a wild moment she can’t remember what she did with the damn box.
Owen shrugs, plopping into the chair at the counter with an audible noise. “Nah, just seems like there should be more to life than bills.” Bree doesn’t relax until she hears the beer can hiss open. She manages to toss a smile over her shoulder.
“Well, there’s a dress catalog in the trash I can clean up for your perusal.”
The box is under the porch- she remembers the panic that gripped her as she tried to figure out how to dispose of the impossibly large container (all that packing for one tiny key) and shoving the box deep, deep under the porch; far enough that she had to crawl out on her belly. It’ll be months until he finds it, if he ever finds it, long enough that she’ll be far from here. She can taste the ocean spray in her mouth and shivers in anticipation.
He laughs from deep in his belly and Bree feels a little more tension slip out of her shoulders. Maybe he doesn’t know after all. She brings him his dinner; a thick and hearty stew with homemade bread to sop of up left overs, and tries not to cry with relief.
Owen grabs her by the waist when she steps too near; pulling her in close for a kiss, one hand resting against her hip, resting right above the heavy iron key in her pocket. Bree’s heart thunders and she can already see it: He’ll trail his hand down, feel the key, pull it out and the questions will start. How many hits will it take before she breaks? How long can she hold out for that slim glimmer of chance?
How long will it take for her to come up with a new plan if he takes the key?
But it never happens; his hand roams up instead of down, tweaking a nipple before releasing her. “Not eating?” he asks, tucking into his dinner.
I don’t need those sleeping pills in my system, but she bites down on that thought, lest it betray her in her eyes. “Oh you know, I’ve been sampling all afternoon.”
“Give us a song then, dinner and a show?”
She obliges, leaning against the counter as Owen slurps his stew. She sings an old sailor’s song, from her childhood, working hard to keep the wistfulness out of her voice as the notes rise and fall like the sea.
When it’s over Owen asks where she learned it. Bree looks down, counting the freckles on the back of her hand as she whispers, “from before.”
He sighs and strokes her hair gently. “I know you don’t believe me, but I am sorry. I’d let you go back if I could, but I’d be so lost without you.” He leans in, kissing the corner of her mouth. “I love you so much.”
Bree counts the freckles again and again and again before replying. “I know.”
Owen falls asleep in his recliner after two more beers and another helping of laced stew. Bree turns the tv up loud, watching his face to make sure he’s well and truly out. He snorts once and shifts but that seems to be the extent of it.
She pads off into the bedroom they’ve shared for six years, her hands shaking as she retrieves the heavy iron key from her pocket. It’ll work on any lock, that had been the magician’s promise, and with nothing else to lose she had painstakingly saved up and sent off for it.
The trunk at the foot of the bed is an old, ugly thing; a remnant from Owen’s youth. Bree drops to her knees in front of it, swallowing back salty tears as the strange key clicked the lock free. The lid creaks open tellingly, but nobody would come to see about the noise. Bree moves slowly, carefully, too afraid to believe her enormous luck.
Her coat is alone in the trunk. She had tried for years to get into this thing; clawing and prying- had once even taking a hatchet to it; there were still wounds in the lid from that attempt- but it was reinforced in the middle with something hateful and all her attempts had been in vain.
She slides the key back into her pocket, better safe than sorry, and with shaking hands pulls out her coat. It smells of must and disuse, but when she slips it around her shoulders it feels like home. Bree takes a moment to collect herself, to weep with relief and pet the sleeves. It’s the first time she tastes joy in over six years. Her pulse rushes like the tide in her ears.
Then, she begins running. She doesn’t stop to put shoes on or close the door behind her. She doesn’t stop as she darts through intersections and almost meets her end on the grill of a semi. Bree runs and runs without pause, even when the sun comes up and her feet begin to bleed. She runs well after her strength has left her. The siren call of the ocean is the only thing propelling her forward.
She runs until the water laps at her waist, then she dives and swims.
This, like the last piece, was written for Writer’s Weekly quarterly 24 hour contest. I did not place, although with this piece I did earn an Honorable Mention. This piece is entirely self edited and as always, con-crit is welcomed and appreciated.