Flash Fiction: Gentle Loneliness (301 words)

Karleigh liked the ocean well enough. She liked the sigh and shuffle of it, the huff as it heaved itself up into a wave, as if it the wind were encouraging it to put on a show and it gave in from time to time. She liked the salt that worked its way into everything – air, hair, skin, and clothes – and the constant rocking that made sleeping easy and waking careful. Her hair always had a curl in it on the ocean, and there was always someone nearby to talk to.

But there was nothing like coming home.

She followed her things on their trundling wagon up through the city streets, and slowly left the salt behind, though her feet remembered the deck’s sway all the way up to her palace housing. She stepped through the old familiar door, and looked at old familiar walls, and liked them just for the fact that they had stayed the same while she had gone and left them.

She always unpacked her things first, sent off everything that needed to be washed, stored away all the things she did not need on dry ground. When she had nothing left to do, she ordered her hot bath, and waited patiently for it to come.

And when she slipped into the water, her hair lost its curl in the sudsy water. She scrubbed old salt off her skin, rubbed sweet oil in instead. The water clipped and clinked in excited little sounds, so eager to hold her tight. She stayed in the bath until the hot water soothed her, turned cool and refreshed her.

And she was never sure if it was the way her hair felt like wet silk when she stepped out of the tub, or the gentle loneliness, that set her smiling so easily.


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