And then it was late afternoon; the smell of dank wood and of rusted steel mingled with the taste of salt in the air pervaded the child’s senses, drowning him. “We’re going for a walk,” she had told him with practiced indifference. That didn’t keep him from noticing the hint of red near the lips and the violent shock of blue beneath her eye. Once around the block, twice around the park, that’s where those words usually brought them. He treasured those moments when he was allowed to have her all to himself. He would gambol to and fro as if the world would stop on its journey around the sun just so he could have her like that forever. But it never lasted long. His father would eventually find them and take them back home. But this time, she was different. It was different. This was not a walk. He was old enough to know that it wasn’t the same, and also old enough to know not to ask her about it.
The chill of the winter breeze crept up his bare arms, sending goose bumps along his chocolate skin. But the cold was furthest from his mind as he explored the deck, spurred on by the noisy churning, excited by the undulating motion caused by the steady currents. She could only watch him play, unable to join in his joy, longing to be part of an innocence lost and long forgotten. Only when he was tired could she hold him, lulling him to sleep, pretending they were one, pretending she was he.
The wind whipped the strands of her hair about her face. A wild beauty, untamed and dangerous. Her deep black eyes stared out past her child, past the horizon, past everything she now was. Unlike him, she was all too aware of the cold, yet numb to the noises and smells around them. All she knew was what was her own, the secret nobody could know. The smell of guilt. The touch of death. She dreaded what was beyond this moment, knowing he would wake soon and ask for his father.