She slips out of the palace one night while the prince is asleep, dreaming of someone else.
It's a long walk to town and her feet hurt. But the night is warm and she can read the stars to find her way.
After all, it's not her first journey into the unknown.
She finds a job as a hydrotherapist at a spa.
Her patients are stiff and graceless in the pool. It hurts them to move in the water, but they need it to ease a deeper pain. One that you feel at home, in your own element, until it chases you away.
She doesn't talk much, but her patients like her.
At lunchtime, she sits on a bench.
Girls walk by, flicking their long hair and linking arms. She feels a pang of sadness.
But tears dry quickly in the heat. Summer lifts her up like rising tide. Tramway bells ring and flowers unfurl. She remembers being young, longing for all this from a distance.
She was told she needed love to grow a soul. It made sense then. But not here, not where everything grows just by living under the sun.
"Your next patient's here", says the receptionist. "Oh, and this came."
A wedding invitation. Silver names glint on ivory paper, like a knife's blade catching light.
She tosses the card on her desk.
She hardly notices the breeze that lifts it up and carries it away, far from the city, out to the ocean, where it falls into the waves and dissolves into foam.
Saturday, 26 June 2021
'Alternate Ending' by Kati Bumbera
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