Flash Fiction: Repeating Herself (479 words)

Tarra’s nose was peeling.

She flicked her fingers down her nose, hard enough to tear away a little skin that wasn’t quite ready. A moment later it stung, and she pressed her fingers back over it. Then she shut her eyes, because she couldn’t figure out how to glare at it.

Her nose was peeling.

She’d known it had been a long time since she’d been on the ocean. Years. And not the kind that slid by like water through your fingers. Years, like sand that scraped you raw as it ran past. You couldn’t catch it, or slow it, or even count the exact length of it, but you felt it.

She wasn’t supposed to feel the weight of them anymore, floating on miles of azure water under a sun that sank heat straight to her bones.

But Tarra couldn’t argue away the ache in her muscles after that first day hauling line. That had been bone deep too, but almost tolerable.

She couldn’t argue away the lurch in her stomach the first time they hit a mid-ocean swell. She could tamp it down with enough effort, but it came back.

The blisters on her hands were insults she couldn’t shake.

The sunburn on her face was just ridiculous.

“Everything all right?” Dene asked. Tarra opened her eyes and he rocked back a step, eyebrows lifting as if they might make their escape faster than the rest of him. “I guess that’s a yes.”

“Sorry,” she muttered. “Everything’s fine.”

Dene paused. She thought he might climb back up to his post, a tier higher in the rigging. Then he said, “Liar.”

She glared at him in earnest then. He thought that was funny and cracked a grin.

“It’s awful, in’it?” he asked. “Repeating yourself?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Tarra said. She looked back down to the water.

He dropped down a foot or two until he was level with her and shook his head. “Doin’ things over that you already did as a kid. You sailed before, yeah? Trained yourself in all of this? Then you spend a few years back on land and your feet forget how to stand steady and your hands forget how to hold line and your face…” He chuckled to himself. “I think it’s forgotten even to be human. Looks a bit like a lobster, if we’re talkin’ flat.”

Tarra turned back to him before she could catch herself. “Thanks,” she snapped.

“You’re welcome,” he returned.

She waited for him to leave, but couldn’t quite take her gaze off his.

“Don’t worry,” he told her, soft. “Lookin’ at how annoyed you are, your heart at least remembers you belong out here. Teachin’ your body isn’t so hard the second time around.”

Tarra hesitated. Grudgingly, she nodded and looked away again. “Thanks,” she murmured.

Dene beamed. “You’re welcome.”


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