Hypsometry by Katherine Nabity

He hadn’t been thinking when he left his hat and sunblock in the car. He had stumbled over the rocky sand dune toward the mottled pink dawn and the dull steel ocean, certain that it wouldn’t take so long to find her. He had followed the broken line of deposited debris and the tide came and went.

The sun warmed him and then singed him. The glare off the water darkened his freckles. The sand teemed with living things that fascinated and repulsed him. He didn’t like being barefoot on the beach. He swam occasionally for the coolness of the water, but was always slightly sickened by the brush of kelp against him. He never swam long. He might miss her if he was gone from land.

Others filled the spaces between the clots of green-black seaweed and the hungry rise and fall of the ocean. Most were bronzed or weathered, used to the sun and the wind and the salt. They were not like him, pale like rust-flecked sand. He continued to walk, following where the waves had been, where she had been, and ignored the attention that his white legs garnered. He was not here for them.

He found her when the horizon bled. The water lapped at her bare feet and the wind twisted her hair.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.

Sunburnt, he smiled.

He wasn’t thinking at all.

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