Of Sea and Sky: Part 5

            They didn’t talk about it, pretended it hadn’t happened. But after that day, Caspian began building a signal fire. It was done in secret, furtive movements, in fake bathroom trips and extra supply collecting. In between, Lani was more and more herself, a self that Caspian had never thought to reach. He felt like a sea rat. But Lani might never have found out. Except she did.
            Her face blanched like cinder bone when she saw the pyre. She’d worn the dress, he thought, the first thing he noticed, a short sun-dress thing that bared her long legs. She’d caught her hair up too, using an assortment of island things to hold it--shells and starfish and flowers--and revealing a slim neck. Caspian felt his insides being dragged out to sea. He was a rat, a plague carrying boat rat. Breath coming long and slow like the tide, Lani watched him. The island queen’s face read disdain.
            “You lied.”
            “Lani, I didn’t—“
            Slowly with great dignity, then fast and stumbling like an idiot, shipwrecked boy, she made her escape. Caspian practically leaped over the pile, racing for her. He caught her on the high sand dune where they had first met.
            “Wait!” His eyes were wild, hair crazy. She was poised and sad. The island queen and her savage.
            “You don’t believe me. You think I’m crazy.”
            “No, I don’t. I don’t think—“
            But now Lani’s chest was heaving with the sobs she hadn’t spilled for her lost family or traumatic past. Crumbling, knees in the sand, she stared out at the water and grieved.
            “Lani…” Caspian spread his hands helplessly, looking down at her.
            “Light your fire, Caspian. Go! The sea is salted with bones, and I hope yours join them.” But her voice broke enough to tell him she lied. Caspian’s extended hand on her shoulder was shrugged off. Back at the shack, a flowing robe covered the dress and tea was made for one. Caspian went down to the beach and lit his fire.


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