Photo: Sue Vincent
It was the island that saved her, in the beginning, in the middle, in the end.
At first it had been the noting of it. The realization that there was a place, not large and yet separate enough as to hold its own. Like herself, if she could manage it.
She wasn’t sure when exactly the understanding settled, only that she’d come to trust that if she ever had to, she could go there. To be safe.
That knowledge had held her in the years of interim. The island was the picture that she’d scanned across her mind each night as she tried to not take notice of what was taking place in her, on her, all around her. She took herself there, in a sense, long before she actually did. She nursed her wounds with the option. It was a salve onto her lacerated soul.
Then came the end.
Or the beginning.
Of other things. Of opportunity. Of a rebuilding of what she could be and didn’t until then form into a tangible possibility.
She made her way there under darkness. She’d had all the facts by then, gathered through secreted research and observation: the distance, the temperature of the water in different seasons, the topography, the places where there had been some shelters, and the times when people weren’t likely to frequent.
It rained the night she fled. A calculated risk she took and refused to worry could backfire. To stay would have been worse. She wouldn’t, anyhow.
The chill sucked her breath but also numbed her agony. She swam. She swam. She slammed laden limbs into the water and took herself onto the island and clenched her teeth against the chatter. The crossing had taken all she had. Almost. Just almost.
For from the flicker of willpower that remained, she lit a shallow fire, and the flame sustained her through the night and into dry clothes and the final ease of trembling. By the next night she slept, and by the third she made her plans for what else she’d need to be doing.
And she laughed.
For the first time in a long time.
Because she was safe.
She was not large, but she was now separate enough to hold her own. And she was strong.
He’d look for her, but he would not risk telling others, and he would not seek her where she was. She knew.
Her father feared the water, and from the moment she’d realized how the island could offer an escape, she’d made sure he believed she feared the water, too.