“Well, isn’t this cosy?”
“It’s a prison cell.”
“I was being sarcastic.”
Lilan couldn’t help but smile through the barnacled bars. Even though her feet were soggy and there was a far-too-curious starfish that kept getting in her business.
Zaen rolled his eyes and rocked back on his haunches. His strong, coffee-coloured arms rested on his knees, lined with thick, black tattoos. “You’re impossible.”
“What do you want me to say?”
His eyes moved away, across the cove towards the town, jutting out from the cliff. Wooden houses on stilts, as if reaching for the horizon but never quite getting there. Not that there was perfectly good rainforest or mountains to build on.
Zaen’s boots were getting wet. The sea was coming in, and soon her cell would be flooded.
That was when they’d call her.
“What were you thinking?” he hissed, still not looking at her.
“That the necklace would look better on me.”
“It was just shells, Lil. I could have gotten you one – Okun, I have. We’ve made hundreds over the years and –”
“She had a pearl. My pearl.”
He looked at her then, dark eyes and furrowed brows. “How do you know it was your pearl?”
“It had the same scratch, from where I dropped it when I was little. Dad shouted – Mum said it would be mine one day. It was. It should have been –”
“You know what they do,” Zaen said, his eyes blazing like the lightning over the mountains. “They’ll send you away.”
Lilan couldn’t help but look past him into the horizon, where the water darkened, as if draining the colour from the sky.
Away. Out into nothingness, with only a boat and a month’s supplies. If you find more land, you are redeemed.
But no one ever came back.