Prodding a bruise

You can still feel grains of sand between your toes. You know it’ll scratch and hurt as you rub them together and yet you do it anyway. Temptation takes over your toes like it does a finger prodding a bruise. 

She used to go home barefoot, you’d watch as she stepped from rock to rock on her tiptoes, never slipping or faltering like you would. She’d stop to ponder her next move, one leg hiked up like a flamingo in her pink cagoule.

You can still feel her fingers cold from the sea, hear her whisper to open your eyes, see the treasure she’d transferred from her hands to yours. Today it was a tiny crab claw, but it could have been a limpet shell, a sparkly speckled pebble or part of a fine toothed comb. 

She used to come up with stories about where the treasure had come from, the limpet who’d shed it, the ship it had been thrown from, the mermaid whose thick purple locks had made it snap. You’d nod along in awe.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t feel her head on your shoulder anymore. You sit in your corner in the back of the pick-up with her space beside you and it always feels too heavy or too light. It’s your own hair that whips your face so you don’t laugh.

Even now she’s gone she’s better than you. Failed jumps between rocks, fruitless treasure hunts, stories told to the wind. With every trip to the beach you prod the bruise. 

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