Just a little ways from the shore the waves were blue monstrosities, towering higher than she knew waves could go. They foamed and curled and crashed and then the water came rushing at the white sand, flowing over it, reaching her toes and tickling them just so before retreating back to Mother Ocean. In between the waves – so big they must be dreams! – she could see the horizon, a straight line stretching all the way from one direction to the other. Blue meets blue. There was a continuous wind from the water, pushing sea spray and salt at her, but still the air was hotter than she had ever felt. The sun above, much stronger. She had only been sitting here…well, it couldn’t have been long, and already she felt the skin on her arms was pink. No matter. She could sit here forever.
She looked over her shoulder, turning slowly, and winced. The door to her bedroom was still there, sitting in the middle of the sand about halfway between where she sat and where the trees began. Curious trees, things she had only ever seen illustrations of and couldn’t quite remember the name although she could remember it was simple. Some stood straight up, some bent and thrust out at angles. All had large flat leaves, leaves that looked as big as her. If she sat on one of those leaves in the water, would it sink? Or would she float away?
The door drew her attention again. It made sense in her house, where everything was big and overly done up. Why should a bedroom door be so intricately carved? Who saw it besides whoever slept there? Certainly Mother and Father would be aghast if she had brought any guests in. Mrs. Haversham would probably be sent into convulsions.
What would happen to Mrs. Haversham, anyway? The old governess would be coming to wake her soon. This time it wasn’t her fault she was late for breakfast. She had woken up before the sun, unable to sleep through her anxiety any longer. She’d done her face and her hair and put on the blue dress Mother had put out for her the night before. There had been plenty of winks and quiet smiles between Mother and Mrs. Haversham as Mother had brought the dress in and hung it on the wall. They thought she didn’t know, that there was a surprise to keep. Well, she wasn’t just a pretty face. She had already gotten Margaret drunk in the kitchen and she had spilled everything. Mr. Walker. Francis. The absolute idiot. She had lain in bed all night, staring at the curtains around her bed, wishing for this to be taken away from her.
Mrs. Haversham had told her wishes were for children, so a small part of her wanted to see the old bag open the door and step out, tripping on the sand and falling on her face just like she had. Except she knew for a fact the governess had no joy nor imagination to speak of, and once she was done wiping off every grain of sand stuck to her she would take her by the ear and drag her back through the door. To her room. To Mr. Francis Walker.
“If I marry him, I shall also kill him,” she told the ocean. As she suspected, the ocean did not pale at hearing such things. It stayed that crystal blue, and now it seemed to her the crashing of the waves was a cheer. She knew in her heart it was true. She had heard…things about Mr. Francis Walker. Things he got up to in London. As if she had the divine gift, she could see their wedding night play out in her mind’s eye. There would be blood, oh, yes, but it would not be hers.
The door was still open, just a crack. She had been afraid of closing it all the way, afraid it would disappear. She was no longer afraid. She knew, logically, it was a bad idea. On the other side of that door were people she knew and her bed and her house and piles and piles of snow, yes, which she hated, but it was all things she knew. She knew nothing of this place. It was a beach on an ocean. She didn’t even know which ocean, although she couldn’t imagine anything so pretty and blue could be connected to the Atlantic she knew of. Any second now she would tire of the sand and water between her toes and the heat on her skin and the thunder of waves in her ears. She would tire of the never ending blue in front of her. She would stand up. She would brush the sand off her dress. She would pick up her shoes. She would walk back into her room. Into her life. Staying here, on this beach, was madness.
She began. There wasn’t much point in delaying the inevitable. The sand brushed easily off the backside of her dress. Her shoes were sitting just where she left them. Every bit of sand had to be brushed off. She didn’t want to have to explain anything to Mrs. Haversham, and the governess would notice even a single grain.
The door pushed open easily. Everything was as it had been. The crimson blankets and the forest green wallpaper and the porcelain wash basin with the chip on the edge. Cold poured out of the doorway and raced past her feet. It was still early morning there, and just faintly she could hear the rest of the household waking up. What would happen when Mrs. Haversham tried to enter the door? She had come to the beach by trying to leave.
Well, not tried. She had left. Far more successfully than she had planned, actually.
“Will they miss me?”
She closed the door.