Island Comfort by Michelle Elvy

Fun comes in large doses round here. Babies swing on tire swings, boys climb on wrecked hulls, girls fish with hermit crabs. Your North Carolina towhead is right at home among the island kids. She glances up at you from the water’s edge, her face happy for the first time since her dad died.

You sit on the porch, grating coconut just as Kalesi taught you. You steal a peek at her expert strokes and strong arms, want to do it just right, as if these small tasks will put order back into your life. She pours water into the bowlful of fluffy white clouds, dives in with both hands and pulls her fingers up through the liquid, and in that moment you see his face again, diving down one last time, his last wave and that optimistic grin. Just before he was gone, forever.

You break down completely now, soft coconut cream running in rivers to your elbows as you cover your eyes with your fists. Kalesi brushes back your bangs. You are glad for her tender touch, surrender to the sobs. And despite all the fury and noise in your head, you know you are safe here.

You climb into bed with your child, breathe in her sweet salty skin. You catch a glimpse of a black speck in her whiteblonde hair: lice. You sigh, think: it’s a small price to pay for the comfort of this place.

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