The Gap Between the Islands

by Ariel M. Goldenthal

In the littlest bedroom window of the oldest house on the point of the other island stood a girl, just like me. We were twins for a moment; images reflected across the thousand feet of ocean separating our two islands.

I stood in the littlest bedroom window of the oldest house on the point of this island, tasting heavy pre-hurricane air and feeling cracks of thunder shake the blue painted floorboards.

The light above my bed flickered and then dimmed to darkness. The rattling heater fell quiet and the dishwasher slowed to a drip. In silence, I heard everything. The waves smashed against rocky cliffs; the island’s heartbeat. Lightning illuminated the sloping roofs of our neighbors’ houses. When the brightest strike shone a light clear across the water, I could see into the homes of people on the next island over.

Where I cowered, the girl in the window stood straight, ready for battle. She did not have the privilege of fear.

“Why do you hide?” she asked. The wind carried her words across the gap between the islands.

It was my first hurricane and I couldn’t hear my family anymore.

“You have me,” the girl said. I saw her face, half in shadow from the dim light, move across the room.

I knew that she had seen many storms reach the coast of Maine, had lived long enough to tell others that they shouldn’t have, that warm waters and soft air did not belong among the fog of the island.

“They could not hear until it was too late,” she said, “but maybe on your side, they will listen.”

The earth is fighting back, she told me, and even the oldest homes may not survive.

In the hours of morning that felt like evening, my family sat among the flickering candlelight. Our shadows danced in time to the thunder and waves as we tried to steady our breathing. I swallowed the faint heartbeat of the island. The heartbreak was mine to mend.

Ariel M. Goldenthal received her MFA from George Mason University where she is now an Assistant Professor of English. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Fiction Southeast, MoonPark Review, and Grace & Gravity Vol. VIII.



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