“You look unhappy. Are you unhappy?”
“You have me.” Silence. “So you don’t love me anymore?”
“I never said that.”
“Yeah, but that’s what you meant, isn’t it?” Another silence. He sighed, then continued. “So why not leave me?”
“Why would you ask me that?” It was his turn to remain silent. “You know my answer.”
“You could leave me.”
“Not unless you allow it.”
“Now why would I do that?” He smiled a small, tight-lipped, horrible smile.
The river whispered to her. It was not nearly as demanding as the lapping of the ocean on the beach, but it called to her nonetheless. ”Come back,” it murmured to her, the water crawling over the smooth, slick rocks. The weeds that grew along the bank waved with the current, beckoning to her. ”Closer,” the green leaved cooed. ”All rivers lead to the ocean. All rivers will take you home.”
The young woman dropped her head into her hands. Her brown hair fell across her shoulders like a shawl, though it provided no comfort. Her small frame continued to shake with small sobs. The tears continued to slip silently down her cheeks. I cannot stay here, she thought to herself. If I do, I will surely go crazy. She sat like that a moment longer, a lone figure seated on the bank of some unnamed river. Was she lost? No, not quite. Lost would suggest she had something to go back to.
The sun was slipping slowly above the horizon. Emer stood slowly and dusted the dirt from the seat of her cerulean dress. She brushed back her hair from her face and readjusted the black sash that was tied loosely around her waist. She would keep moving, just as she always did. The young woman stooped down, retrieved a worn leather suitcase, and straightened again with a soft, pained puff of air. After so many nights sleeping on the hard ground, everything was a little stiff. She rolled her shoulders for good measure, taking pleasure in the small, satisfying cracks. Keep walking, that was what she would do. That was all she could do.
The sun moved slowly across the sky. Emer rested once when the sun was directly overhead but moved on quickly. There was no reason to stop. She had nothing to wait for. So she continued walking, her gaze normally on her black sandals. She would follow a path until it ended. Then she would take another. She did her best to avoid the river, but she always managed to find her way back. It wanted her, after all. But it could not have her. She would continue to fight its sweet, longing voice that endlessly begged her to come home. She would fight it as long as she could.
Then the sun began its decent. Emer prayed the daylight would linger, as the longer it was light, the more distance she could cover. But just as it did every night, the sun finally gave way to night’s darkness. But tonight, there was something different. A small glow off in the distance. She was certainly curious, but she knew better than to travel into the night. Darkness held untold dangerous, and she refused to die at the hands of some terrible night beast or angered madman. Nothing good came from the night. Her eyes were drawn to the light once more, but she finally pulled her attention away long enough to hunker down among some bushes on a crudely made bed of grass and twigs. There, she slept. And she did not awake for a long while. In fact, when Emer finally opened her hazel eyes, she was horrified to learn that the sun was already high in the sky. Hurridly, she scooped up her belongings and moved toward where the light had been the night before. How could she have wasted an entire morning? She had to make up the time she had lost. She had to put more distance between herself and the horrors she was trying to escape. She focused entirely on the spot where she had seen that light.. Her gaze only dropped when she was standing at the door to what appeared to be a tavern. Her hands clenched and unclenched into fists nervously as she considered entering. No one here will know you, she silently assured herself. You’re too far away. She took a deep, shaking breath. So enter. And she did.
She was immediately hit with a blast of warm air and a rush of smells and sounds. Her large eyes squinted into the darkness as she tried to adjust to the tavern. It was by no means completely dark, but it was still dimmer than the outside had been. As her vision cleared, she realized that there were a few patrons of the tavern looking at her suspiciously. She was, admittedly, a strange looking travler. A small woman in a flowing dress and sandals, with nothing but a worn suitcase. Her brown hair was also dirty, as she had not bathed since her last stay in a small inn. That had been over a week ago. Emer would not bathe in the river. She could not risk it.
Feeling the fire of a warm blush in her cheeks, the young woman dipped her head, clutched her suitcase to her chest and moved to an empty chair in the corner. When the waitress eventually made her way to Emer's table, the selkie asked simply for a glass of water. She was unsure if the face the waitress made was because of Emer's inexpensive beverage choice, or simply because she looked so pitiful. Perhaps it was a bit of both.