True North

Anne Caldwell

Out on the boat’s bridge, Alice and her companion
sit and watch the sunset, stare into that globe of
light, half-swallowed by water as the sky blooms
pink, then drains of colour. His white shirt glows.
Alice knows his shoulders are sunburnt beneath
linen and tomorrow his skin will blister and peel. He
radiates heat from his stiffened collar and
pearlescent buttons. He smells of sweat; with his
rolled-up sleeves and loosened tie to signal the end
of the day. And without warning, without so much
as a word between them, he leans towards her. She
feels his forearm tighten across her breasts. Her
back is pressed against him. Each button imprints a
small circle down her spine. They sit still, clamped
together in half-light, listening to the boat’s diesel
engine and the black-backed gulls, shrieking and
circling.
They were lovers once and now hardly speak of this.
But here at sea, he remains her Polaris, her true
North.

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