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She squeezes the ticket stub in her hand, fingertips tracing the print. Her other hand moves from covering the bruises on her knees to the seat beside her. She’s afraid this isn’t real.
Through the eye that’s not swollen shut, she sees a handle swinging above her like a pendulum. It keeps time better than her breath in the dark. Thirty swings is another mile further away.
Hope hurts as it spreads across her face. Another mile further away.
It is before dawn when she stumbles out of the bus, her legs unsure that she’s walking. She clutches the ticket like a rosary until the station lights fade into suburbs and silence.
When she finally hears the rhythm in front of her, she runs toward it.
Her toes touch sand. She doesn’t realize she is barefoot.
Wind slides around her, covers her. A wind that has known battle cries and laughter. A wind that has found her here.
She falls and kneels in the shallows, reaches into the violet rolls of tide.
She tastes the stories in her hands, watches the night sway from blue to gray.
The sky turns to light, and for the first time she can remember, she dreams of her house of stars.