|The day before Felix was set to depart, she walked along the dirt path to his house. Wheat fields swayed either side of her.
She found him sitting on a bench on the porch, his feet stretched out, head tipped back. Felix never simply sat: he lounged, unafraid of commanding space. He smiled wide and bright when she climbed the two steps. “Ah, I was wondering when you’d come see me off.”
She sat beside him. “Are you excited?”
He lifted a shoulder. “Somewhat. Never been to the Caribbean before.”
She’d never been further than the town’s border.
“Will you miss me?” he asked jokingly.
“Not if I come with you.”
He laughed, but when her expression remained serious, his mirth died. “We’ve been over this.” “Felix—”
“It’s too dangerous for you.”
Her gaze travelled over his clothes: the trousers and loose cotton identical to her own. “Why is it always only too dangerous for me, not you?”
He remained silent.
Lou rose to her feet, pinning him with a disgusted look. Then she was jogging down the steps, across the lawn.
She heard his uneven steps follow her and felt his hand fall on her shoulder. “Wait.”
“For what?” she exclaimed as she turned to face him. “I’m done with waiting at home for you and him to return.”
Felix’s large hands rose and gently cupped her face. “Do you know what happens to women on ships, Lou?” he asked softly. A thumb glided over her cheek and he studied her face as though imagining what it would look like swollen and bloodied. “I’m sorry. I really am.”
She felt his sincerity, but it could not soothe her. She stepped back and his arms fell to his sides. She turned away, yelling over her shoulder, “Safe travels.”
The run home was a blur on uneven dirt roads, burning calves and watery eyes. Her breasts moved against her chest; she hated them. She would rid herself of them if she could and don the skin of a man like Felix. Then she’d take a ship to the edge of the horizon or hunt down the lost man to demand why their family hadn’t been enough.
The front door slammed behind her. Mother jolted from her sewing station.
Lou stood in the living room, shaking, panting. Her eyes focused on the ruby fabric and needle in Mother’s hand. Would that be Lou in a few years? She wouldn’t let it come to that.
“What’s the matter?” Mother asked.
Had she ever wanted to take to the sea with him? Had she ever wanted more? For as long as Lou could recall, Mother had been where she always was, doing what she always did.
“He didn’t love us anymore, did he?” she asked quietly. In his absences he had become a stranger, but Lou would rather him dead than with another family.
Mother placed the materials on the table, sighing softly before she faced Lou. “No, I don’t think he did.”