By Carly E. Husick
The girl had read seven books so far in the single week of summer vacation they’d been on the boat. She sat on the bow, growing crispy under the sun, and turned pages with thumbs that left oily suntan lotion marks in the margins. She didn’t look up or out and her mother watched the girl sit there oblivious to the refractions of light that danced around her. The turquoise glisten of the island sea. The clear crystalline water that slapped at the hull thwack thwack thwacking against the rustle of canvas sail on wind.
At dinner the night before the girl had brought her book to shore tucked into the back pocket of her terry cloth shorts. She paged through the meal, picking at the insides of the shells that crowded her plate, and ignoring the glowing eels that slithered through the water next to the table. On the ride back, as the inflatable dinghy skimmed the darkened ocean, she cried out at the salt-spray speckling the insides of her story.
If her mother were to ask, the girl would tell her why she liked to read her books sitting on the bow of the boat. The way the stubbled surface, like goose-flesh made permanent and hard, rubbed against the undersides of her thighs, and the shade created by the perpendicularity of the mast and boom and sail cast her in shadow. The way that if she tilted her head just under and folded her eyes up just the right amount the sun became a needle prick and the sky grew dark and she could imagine it was night. And she was alone. And the swaying of the boat, like a baby’s cradle rocking, turned the cadence of her novel into the words of a lullaby.
When the sun rose and the girl was still out on the bow of the boat, having slept under the moon in the narrow corridor between the two forecabin hatches, the mother took the still sleeping daughter’s book and hid it behind a cushion in the cockpit. When the girl woke up her mother waited for her to notice. But instead they saw a sea turtle sending rivulets of water spiraling in its wake as it nosed up against the hull of the boat. And mother and daughter held hands and stood by the rail looking down and watching the turtle navigate through schools of opalescent jellyfish.