She waded into the opaque grey water and felt her feet slowly fade into numbness. She couldn’t turn back now. Even if she wanted to change her mind, it was too late. The river was thicker than she had thought, and much colder. The chill seeped into her bones. The sensation was strange and unpleasant, but this was what she wanted. This was what she had chosen. It wasn’t the first time she had taken this walk; of that she was certain. The river had haunted her dreams for months and now…now it was time.
The water rippled around her and swirled around her feet as she continued to drag herself forward. When the water reached her waist, her resolve faltered. Was running away really the right thing? As she hesitated, the river seemed to gain a life of its own and tendrils of thick grey sludge crawled up her, coating her tunic.
The cold deepened into her very soul and she knew she would never be warm again. Fear gripped every part of her until she could not remember anything else. Why had she been so lonely? How could she have known in her short eighteen years that things would never get any better? Was marriage really such a terrible fate?
Too late, the water seemed to whisper.
Too late, she echoed. Her fear of the unknown fate that lay beyond begged her to flee. But she had chosen this. Her short life had been full, and yet empty. The cold ache in her chest was not from the water; she had known it all her life. Her impending marriage had only cemented her decision. It was selfish, she knew. Her family would be devastated. They would never understand. She knew that they must want her to be happy. Was it really so terrible a fate?
Of course it was, she reminded herself. The touch of a man had always made her skin crawl. The very concept of belonging to one…letting him possess her…it was abhorrent. She could not bear to think of it. Her family would hear nothing against it and she had no say in her own life. This was not the place for her. The more she thought it over, the more certain she became that this was not her Time. In another place, another life, she could have everything she could ever ask for. This was not her Time.
As the water touched the skin on her face, she sucked in a breath. So cold. But a small smile found its way onto her lips. Freedom. Her eyes closed, and her world slipped into darkness.
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