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Chapter 3 : Fourteen.
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The sand irritates her toes as she digs them further into the beach. Although the sun shines, the breeze is cool and she shivers, drawing her arms close around her body. As the waves tickle her feet, she looks up and watches her family as they brave the cold water.
She is not brave and stands alone, silhouetted against the dying sun. These moments of solitude are few and far between for a girl with such a large family. Inhaling the salty sea spray, the moment is cherished. She smiles slightly, her lips warmed by the sun, as she enjoys the scene. She does not have to submerge herself in the icy afternoon water to appreciate it. At times like this she is glad she fears British waters. From the cottage, it looks best and leaves her with no desire to get closer. Her toes dipping into the shallows are closer than she prefers to be.
The crunch of shells on the sand to her left cause her to turn her head. A boy of sixteen and four months (she counts) also does not brave the water. She has overheard from her parents that he has flu, though she pretends not to be interested. She watches him as he watches the group of swimmers, a stray lock of auburn hair obstructing her view. She tucks it behind her ear twice before giving up after the third attempt. The wind does not want her to appear flawless, though she will never be considered so by the object of her childhood affections. She accepts this sadly, the hope draining away until they meet again, only to dwindle as the time passes once more. She promises to herself that she does not love him, she says she no longer minds that he dates her cousin. Her love was only a child’s love, only shallow like the water she stands in. But this water she is willing to go deeper in, if only he will let her. If only she will find the bravery to dive in.
She realises she is still watching him, and turns away. She wants to say something, wants to hear his voice and for him to wrap her in his arms and warm her shivering body. She does not shiver from the cold, for she finds the sea breeze amicable, but from his proximity to her. This is they closest they have been for ten months and eleven days (she counts) and her heart quivers at the thought of counting the days they have been apart all over again. She feels ridiculous; he stands two inches from her and yet she remains silent, the unspoken sentiments trapped in her head. They make her stand awkwardly beside the object of her thoughts and she cant help but wonder what he thinks; she is, of course, to afraid to ask. As she watches him again, he opens his mouth and speaks above the wind. She welcomes the sound of his voice, though he never says the words she longs to hear.
Instead he asks her age.
She tells him she is fourteen and eleven months (she counts).
She will be older the next time they meet. She will count.
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