Sometimes, on long afternoons like this, Maricel began to feel old. Her hair was still as dark as ever, but every so often she would feel an ache in her limbs that made her wish she was indoors for once, resting somewhere soft and waiting for the cool of the evening. But there was still plenty to do, and she was far from land.

Her boat was getting older itself, its blue paint faded and flaked. Maricel pulled at the throttle and, as it often did, the lever stuck fast like a spade in mud. She grunted and gave the base of the throttle a good hard kick with the back of her heel, and that seemed to do the trick.

She had to hold up a hand to shield her eyes from the sun as it began to sink towards the sea. And finally, the distant, swaying outline of the buoy appeared against the glowing sky. It marked – so they said – the halfway point between Maricel’s island and the next, but she would be going no further. She could already see the faint outline of a sea lion resting on the buoy, dark against the rust.

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