the hideout (400)

for the first five years she tries to build herself a hideout, tries to hollow out space in a tree for a shed to hide; tries to slip into the depths of the forest and blend into the scenery. none of it ever works, she never feels quite right in the hidey-spaces she’s stealing from nature, and in the end she satisfies herself by getting architects to design a hidden room inside the house she’s having built.

it’s a house near the beach, just a ten-minute walk, and she pitches a tent, stays in a caravan when the weather’s worse. the house is finished being built, and she moves in to the blankest of slates she’s known yet, moves in furniture and decorations to make it a home.

instead, she leaves it all in the main sitting room, runs back to the caravan and takes her sleeping bag. this time she sleeps on the sand, hair tangling in a pillow of sand and an old jumper that’s worn out from years of washing and wearing, a knit scarf that’s coming unravelled in at least three places.

the sound of the ocean lulls her to sleep, and she dreams of swimming.

when she wakes, she brushes her fingers over her face, presses lightly on the outer-eyes to feel for the ridges left by goggles. there are none, of course, and she goes back to the house, looks for the box marked BEACH.

there’s nothing there, but she drives three hours to buy some snorkeling equipment, resentfully lays down the money to get the relevant lessons and looks into swimming pools nearby.

later, in her lessons, she dives under the water and feels at home.

here, she is hidden; she adjusts the goggles and slides through murky water, sand swishing by and leaves tangling around her legs. no-one can see her from above, not unless they really tried, and anyway it’s an isolated section: she has to hike through a small cave, water swirling around her ankles before she meets the formation of rock that’s hollowed out.

she greets it like an old friend, melts into the water’s embrace and resurfaces when she knows the time’s getting on. she feels at home here: she’s not performing for an unappreciative audience, not wearing labels that have been cut out just for her.

every time she leaves the ocean feels like a rebirth.

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