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The Seahouse

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The house was wooden and ragged from the ceaseless motion of the sea. It was painted light blue. On summer nights the moon itself seemed to be caught in the floorboards. It was an old cottage my family had owned for years; my memory begins with days of sand-drenched feet trailing restlessly across the bare floors, careless young fingers leaving behind chipped white shells and other gifts from the sea.
My strongest memory is of the day Carolina came to stay. I’ve loved Carolina since that day, when I saw her spinning in a blue dress by the sea. She was beautiful, even then. “Moon-struck Helena”, my father laughed, but I was Carolina-struck, I was anchored to the constant spin of her and the crashing of her laugh, up and down like waves. People were stars, I thought as I watched her, and the best were the brightest, the ones in constant motion.
I watched her as we grew, and I saw the desperate way she did things, like she was clinging to life. In the careful way she spooned jam on bread, I saw how her fingers would wrinkle, would tremble in the passing years.
She swore the sea would seep into the cracks of my family’s house, but I thought the house was already moving, stealing back to the ocean even as the water splintered the ragged boards. Carolina was moving, too; she was always moving. Sometimes I couldn’t see her. But there was always the idea of her: loud, shouting Carolina, dancing wildly in the white-crested tide. I fell in love with her again then; as if she was the sea, with a world inside her that was beautiful only as long as it remained undiscovered.
She had white, slender hands, like a photograph I had once seen of my mother’s hands on her wedding day. There was an ache in her voice, a wavering beauty in her round red mouth. My voice was crackling, but hers was the sound I heard when it rained on the tin roof of the sea house late at night.
When we grew too old for seashore holidays with our parents, we came to the house by ourselves, as summer died and wind burnt tourists returned home. Alone in the house, we wandered as if we were children again, our bare feet whispering across the kitchen floor, sand seeping into our white linen sheets. On full moon nights she would stand on the bare boards of the porch and for a moment I would watch her. Once she turned her face to me and I thought she was the moon; she had caught some of its whiteness on her pale skin. “Moonstruck Carolina,” I laughed. “Slipping away into the night tide.” She laughed her careless laugh, but even then there was something in her eyes that said she would not last. She moved carefully, then, and wrapped thick sweaters around her chilled, delicate shoulders. I would see her, from my shadows; she would throw herself into looking for shells, or diving from rocks, but the next moment she’d slip away. I wondered where she went; and if the fog had always been in her eyes, and I was only then noticing it.




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