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“Watch your step there, young lady.” A deep, raspy voice broke through Camille Dutton’s frantic mind. “Just up those stairs to the upper deck. It’ll be about eight minutes to the island once we shove off. Enjoy your trip.”
“Thank you.” Eight minutes? It might as well be eight years! Ignoring the nausea threatening to erupt and drown the ferry before it even left the dock, she smiled graciously. The weather-beaten gentleman, the deckhand, she supposed, nodded at her with a crinkled smile and ushered the next person onboard. With every step she climbed up the steep metal stairs, she repeated a mantra to soothe unsettled nerves.
It’s not forever. It’s not forever. Finding an opening at the bow of the ferry, she took up temporary residence against the railing, and dropped the heavily laden backpack from her shoulder to the deck. The churning clouds mirrored her dark mood and hovered dangerously low over the expanse of water. Eight minutes of deep, dark wetness would now separate her from the life Camille had known for twenty-four years. She’d never been further than eighty miles from her home. She didn’t need to travel far; not when she had thousands of books at her disposal to take her wherever she wanted to go.
Her involuntary transfer to the Shelter Island Library, or forced exile as she preferred to call it, would last only as long as it took to find a permanent librarian. Her boss had promised, and she vowed to hold him to it. With her parents’ recently passed, she longed to stay in the house where they’d infused her life with cherished moments. This upheaval at work made their absence all the more painful to bear.
Shelter Island seemed the antithesis of its name. Camille had been lovingly sheltered by her parents and insulated within the comforting walls of her town’s library. She’d read all of the books repeatedly, from cover to cover. Going to this unknown town, living in a strange home, and working at an unfamiliar library left her feeling exposed to more than just the elements. It invited all manner of creature born to lay siege on her well-constructed fortress of solitude.
The ferry’s whistle blew as its engines kicked on and thrust the boat into the Sound. She gasped and closed her eyes, pressing fingers against the cold steel that kept her from jumping ship. A gusty breeze whipped her ponytail into a frenzy of curls that slapped at her neck and cheeks. Eyes smarted and watered as a rush of air assaulted her face. She couldn’t bear to watch as her life receded into the horizon. Looking forward was just as painful, and she pondered what lay ahead.
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