The sunlight dapples across the layers of battered paint where she leans against the house and he knows that her skin will be warm to the touch. But he also knows she will jump like a scalded cat if he does touch her. Or a scalded woman. She is as beautiful to him as the dappled sunlight. As beautiful as the sun. The sun that flashes, wanes; appears and disappears again. A sun that is it’s own. That burns if it gets too close. That burns with secrets held too long. And, scarred, lashes out.
He noticed her the first time she came into the shop, even though she tried to cover up and look away. Her steps and silences were untrusting.
The sea will soothe her. Let the cool ocean breeze blow; let the birds sing and the dust settle.
And she calms.
Now she looks, cautiously — her gaze trembles across him, then she frowns and looks away. And hides behind politeness. But she scorches and hurts and she is still afraid.
Don’t cower, he thinks — come out into the light. Let me speak softly to you. Hear my truth. I’m scared too.
She is the wild thing in the forest, ears pricked, cautiously sniffing the air. He is still. Her smiles come hesitantly. Her touch comes next. And then the miracle: they laugh together, her small hand on his shoulder, casual and light and familiar now. He watches her slowly unfold and when she looks at him she sees right into him and he knows she can see everything.
He takes her to the beach where they lie close together in the sand and listen to the water trickling gently to the shore. Even the seagulls calling overhead seem muffled and serene. The light diffuses and scatters across the sand. After a while, they have no words. They settle into comfortable silence.
Later that night she is curled up in cold, the sounds of dinner time coming to her from the other houses. She can hear his thoughts: come to me. Let me warm you. Let us just be.
She wants to go. But it is not time yet.
Just give her time.
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