Solitude. She’d expected solitude, welcomed it even, when she took on not the job, but the life.
Aisling touched the desk, and the breath of the world rippled into her through the wood. No one had said anything about being lonely. It wasn’t a requirement. It had simply become a circumstance.
Sometimes, the loneliness burned through her, and it burned through her now. She finished the tea, ate a light breakfast, and tended to such chores as she had to tend to that morning, as guests checked out or ate breakfast or presented questions about where to go and what to do today.
They all went on their way. But not me, Aisling thought. All the wide world is stamped in the little passport in my nightstand, but I’ll never leave Clifden again.
The hostel was quiet, and she had a hunch the day would remain quiet. She left a sign on the desk for guests to check themselves in and to direct inquiries to The Salt and Crane.
She stopped in her room and slung the case over her shoulder.
Lonely or not, I am who I am, she thought. I can’t help that I’ve never found a man here interesting, either local or traveler. I’m just… They’re just too different. Or I’m too much myself. Plus, well, the other thing, and that makes me too different. I don’t know anymore.
The loneliness started to feel heavy as a sweater in the rain.
She pulled the front door closed behind her. Bugger this, she thought. I’m getting a pint.
And I need to talk to Connemara anyway.
Aisling set off toward the Clifden city center. A weak sun glowed through the thinning clouds and fading mist. She pushed down at the loneliness. Her thoughts kept turning to the world beyond her duty, to the mountain in the hills, to the black decimation that used to be Galway, once the gem of Ireland. Above all, she kept thinking of the three things hidden beneath the floor, behind the wall, and inside the rock—and how afraid she kept feeling that the test she had long dreaded was upon her at last.
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