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by David Cook

Mary wrote love letters to the sea. In them, in careful handwriting, she would rhapsodise about its hues of turquoise and steel, describing how its gentle ripples calmed her heart or, during more violent weather, how the hammering waves electrified her soul. Sometimes she would stand ankle deep as she wrote — no further, for she wasn’t a strong swimmer — and feel the ocean kiss her skin. In these moments it was almost as if it loved her back.

Before leaving, she would bury her new missive beneath a rock near the water’s edge, away from strangers’ eyes, each a mark of her devotion. It was her ritual, her secret, her joy.

But then someone found a letter and broadcast it on social media. Some people were supportive, but many others were cruel. Mary would read these piercing remarks at night and sob into her pillow. A few days later another letter was discovered and the surge of mockery became a tidal wave.

On her final morning, she awoke in the early hours to find people had discovered who she was. A photograph of her was flooding the internet, yet more hurtful messages trailing in its wake. She fled to the nearest coastline, well before the families and the dog-walkers began their daily sullying of the sands.

Mary folded her clothes and placed them beside a rock. This time, she didn’t leave a letter. She waded into the water up to her thighs, her hips, her shoulders, her neck, until she was no longer able to feel sand beneath her feet. The ocean embraced her.

David Cook’s stories have been published in X-R-A-Y, Barren, Spelk and many others. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter. Say hi on Twitter @davidcook100.