Pocketful of Pearls

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Authors: Shelley Bates
out as a hoarse whisper. “Leave me alone.”
    She pushed herself to her feet and staggered toward the water. Rocks. That’s what they did in the old days, didn’t they? Weighted
     themselves down with rocks. She should have thought of that before.
    She glanced around to choose a couple of likely ones, but he tackled her around the waist and dragged her back. He sat her
     forcefully on a beached log.
    “I will not allow you to do this!”
    She’d never seen him angry. He had seemed so gentle and unassuming and hopeless about life. She hadn’t known he had it in
    Well, well. Hinges were popping off doors all over today.
    “If you can’t think about yourself,” he said, “at least think about your poor mother. And your relatives. What do you think
     they’ll do with you gone?”
    She rolled her eyes. “I don’t care. And they don’t care about me.” She slid off the log, but he grabbed her and sat her down
     on it again.
    “Don’t touch me!”
    “Don’t go near the river again, and I won’t.”
    “Who do you think you are, telling me what to do?”
    That stopped him.
    And then she was sorry. His eyes filled with pain.
    “I thought I was your friend. If you don’t care about your family, at least spare a thought for me.”
    “Why should I? I never knew you before this week.”
    Pain flickered over his face. Turning away, he crossed the sandbar and retrieved her shoes and barn jacket. She pushed sopping
     hair out of her face and realized that her underwater journey had only been a matter of twenty or thirty feet. The river took
     a curve around the bar, and the eddy had probably been the only thing that had prevented them both from washing all the way
     down to Hamilton Falls. It had pulled them in here and allowed Matthew to find his footing.
    She hadn’t thought about the geography. She should have planned it better and gone upriver a bit, to the canyon and rapids.
     All those big rocks would have done the job properly.
    Matthew crunched and squished his way back to her and wrapped the jacket around her shoulders. The contrast between the heavy
     fabric and her clammy skin made her realize how cold the night was. The air fell into her lungs like snow.
    “Come on. We need to get you dry and warm.”
    Next time, she’d make sure he was out of the way, and then she’d walk to the canyon.
    It felt good to have a backup plan.
    THEY LEFT A twin trail of puddles on the kitchen floor.
    “In here.” Matthew pushed open the guest bathroom and turned on the shower. “Get out of these clothes.”
    Panic exploded under her ribs, and she wrenched away. “No!”
    “Dinah, I’m only trying to—”
    “Get away from me.” She slammed the bathroom door in his face.
    “I’ll be right out here if you need me. Just don’t try any funny business in that tub.”
    She locked the door and stood in the middle of the room, holding her elbows and shivering. She’d felt such a sense of freedom
     when the river carried her away. No more feelings. Just the calmness of impending death. And now? Hot, angry tears pooled
     in her eyes as she peeled her dress, slip, and underwear away and dropped them in a pile that smelled of river weed and despair.
    Stupid man. If she’d wanted to drown in the stupid bathtub she’d have done it ages ago.
    Her aunt’s shampoo and lavender-scented soap were in the shower caddy, so she used them. She caught herself inhaling the crisp
     scent with a sense of surprise. She’d always thought Aunt Margaret smelled like an old lady. Now she wondered if her aunt
     took this quiet pleasure in lavender soap, and that was why she used it.
    Not the kind of thing you asked Aunt Margaret. She would never admit to pandering to her flesh in such a way.
    Dinah rinsed and dried off, and then realized she had nothing to put on.
    Was he gone?
    She put her ear to the door. Silence. “Mr. Nicholas?”
    A voice came from at least a room away. “I would think that the depth of our acquaintance, if

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