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Swept Away

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Somewhere off the coast of a well-known country, far from the bustling crowds and blinding lights of the cities, there is a secret gem of a place tucked away.

Past a tall mountain range and a few hundred acres of forest lies a hilly seaside town, where the streetlights buzz orange all through the night, and a cold, dewy mist breezes across every house and shop in the wee hours of the morning.

It really does seem to rain here almost every day of the year.

Claudine's rueful relatives had warned her about it when she'd finally decided she was old enough to pack up and strike out on her own. Years of stifling banquets and extravagant dinner parties had left her craving the adventures of a childhood she'd never known.

Especially when talk about a betrothal began emerging from her parents' lips.

All her years and nights of wishing it would stop, that it wasn't true, never came to be granted. It made her realize that in this world of adults and money, wishes probably couldn't come true after all.

And so Claudine had taken her fate into her own hands and left that suffocating house the moment she'd turned 18. Everyone had been angry, but she got the feeling no one missed her.

She'd heard about this town that overlooked the ocean, where whispers about magic glided across the streets. It hadn't mattered to her that she'd expended nearly all of her funds just to get herself here and find a humble little apartment with a rickety balcony with a view of the sea.

She'd fallen in love with it immediately. The smell of the ocean, the blasting of the wind, the quiet, peaceful people who always smiled and said hello. It was a dire contrast to the life she'd once known, to the property lines and business scams and mudslinging industries.

On only her first night in her little new bed, she'd already decided she would never go back there.

She found work at a florist shop on some days and a cafe on others. Wages were humble, but so was her lifestyle. She never asked for much, and she much preferred this kind of living as opposed to her old life.

Claudine quickly became the talk of the town for about a week - the beautiful, young, previously-rich girl who had traded it all away for the salty fish-smelling seaside. Even the boys who flirted with her here were leagues more honest and polite than the ones she'd known back home, and so Claudine rejected them all with equal politeness. Her love right now was for this place, this town, this ocean, and no one else.

She learned about the magic through the locals. It wasn't much, but there wasn't a soul in the town who hadn't seen or heard something at least once.

A few stories told of the forests bordering the town, how tinkling laughter and pale purple lights could sometimes be seen in the twilight hours. If one left a glittery painted rock at a stump in the grass, they could return the next day to find fresh berries in its place. And though Claudine adored the notion of faeries and forest spirits, what stole her heart more than anything were the tales of the sea.

The sightings there were rarer and less frequent than those in the woods. People only ever saw oddly-colored flashes of light beneath the surface of the water for a split second before it was gone.

Claudine can't explain why, but ever since she'd first laid eyes on it in-person, she'd felt as though the sea was calling to her.

She visited it every day, religiously. In the mornings before and the evenings after work, she would hurry from her residence or workplace to walk along the shoreline in her bare feet, relishing the damp softness of the sand between her toes. The water was always chilly, but she didn't mind. The shivers it sent up her spine and the salty air that filled her lungs truly made her feel more alive than she'd ever known herself to be. She would walk the entire length of the beach, pausing to collect the occasional broken sea shell or two.

The beach wasn't very large here. It only took her about ten minutes to travel the length of it at a saunter. There was a short dock and station where citizens could rent small boats on the calmer days, but no one seemed to take advantage of that. And the beach was only open for swimming and the like during the summer months when the water was warmest.

Her only stroke of bad luck since coming here was the knowledge that she'd come in September and just missed the swimming months by a week or so. She could imagine how the beach must have looked when it was interspersed with people and towels and umbrellas.

But she soon believed she came to prefer it this way; this quiet, calming emptiness. It was an emptiness that didn't make her feel alone, but rather it made her feel like there was something waiting for her.

The shore ended at a sheer cliff face on one end near the boat rental dock, and a series of craggy rocks beside a smaller cliff on the other. Claudine discovered early on that she could tiptoe her way across those rocks and sit at the very edge of the very last one, which would put herself nearly half a mile out into the sea. The waves didn't crash too high or too hard here, and so long as she bundled herself up accordingly, the chill of the wind and the spray of the water didn't faze her much.

She spent many hours of her weekends and days off sitting there, simply gazing out over the rippling water. It was always gray or dark blue due to the thick cloud coverage that painted the sky. She hadn't seen much blue firmament or sunlight since she'd arrived, but she didn't mind all that much. She simply loved being here.

Even on the nights when she would wake and remember how alone she was, stepping out onto her balcony to glimpse the midnight ocean always made her feel as though someone or something was with her. The vastness of the sea made her feel like there were endless possibilities and paths laid out before her, that there was no one single correct or pre-destined option.

It made her feel hopeful.

Hopeful that she could make this work, even in a town where most of the people were older and already settled. She would give it some time and reassess what her heart was feeling in a few months' time.

It was from one of her older neighbors that Claudine got the idea of fishing from. The woman's hair was beginning to gray, and her daughter was expecting a baby soon, therefore she found no more uses for her old fishing gear and supplies. Claudine was gifted all of these free of charge, and could only bow deeply and thank her in return.

There was a fish market in town that accepted catches from the locals and would pay accordingly. Claudine didn't see why she couldn't make a little extra money on the side during her free time if she already favored sitting out by the sea.

So one day she put on the sturdy grey pants and thick black boots, the puffy orange jacket and cap, and took a kit of supplies and a rod to her favorite spot on the beach.

She began by fishing in the stiller waters trapped in small pools between the rocks. There were hermit crabs and star fish hidden in the mud, and she did her best not to step or sit on any of them. She fished the little puddles and pond-like spots and discovered right away that it was a task that truly called for a lot of patience. That was a department Claudine had always been lacking in, thanks to the tight schedule she'd always had to live all her life.

But when she finally hooked her first fish after hours of waiting, the thrill of the accomplishment all felt worth it. The little snapper she caught that day wasn't enough to sell at market though, so she released it shortly afterward. She didn't plan on selling her catches until she got experienced enough to bring in a decent haul or an impressive catch.

Until then, the cafe and flower shop could hold her over.

As so, Claudine began going out to those rocks every morning and every evening, or at least one of the two. In spite of the weather, which was almost always dreary and wet, she went. Even if she caught nothing, she simply longed to breathe in the scent of the sea, to feel the refreshing breeze that filled her lungs with the tang of salt.

And every now and then, she too, thought she might've glimpsed something colorful flashing just below the surface.



A/N: I realized as I was writing this story... There really isn't much dialogue in the first half of it. I hope it can still be enjoyable.

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