First thaw

    The hollow ache spreads. I close my eyes, wishing to dissolve into wind, weightless. Floating away past hills and green, out where salty blue swallows expanse. Where gulls cry no more, where melodies end, and the vast desolation at long last syncs with my lonely core. For a moment, the grain beneath my fingers fades, I let go. Then, he pulls me back.
    “You’re a bit overdressed,” he calls from the stern. He eyes my leggings and matching hoodie. “Winter’s over. Or didn’t you get the memo?”
    “I shredded it in protest,” I reply. He leans back against the boat’s transom, tanned legs crossed, arms folded over his chest. He grins into silver eyes. Their gleam unsettles me, gets under my skin. “You can go now,” I say and turn to the water.
    “You know, most people can’t wait for the sun.”
    “I’m not most people.”
    “Is that why you’re out here all alone?”
    “Alone is easier. Simpler.”
    “Yeah, but you don’t want easy. And you definitely don’t do simple.”
    My eyes sweep his length, take in his confident tilt, his relaxed repose. “You think you know me, what do I do?”
    He lowers his head in an “ah, shucks” snigger. Eyes gleaming, he says, “Come on now, don’t make it easy on me. I like a challenge.”