Elizabeth stood on the deck, straining to see the dark line of land on the western horizon. She drew in a steadying breath of salty air—a welcome reprieve from the unrelenting smell of vomit and unwashed bodies below deck.
The steamboat had only left Dublin nine days ago, but her life there felt more unreal with every league. In her bunk at night, she’d closed her eyes as the boat creaked and swayed in the capering waves, pretending she sat curled in her mam’s old rocking chair, warm and dry.
Elizabeth slipped her hand under her shawl, touching the small silver cross in the hollow of her throat. Even with the buzzing crush of people around her, she felt alone.
“I’ll be back with Patrick by tonight,” she whispered.
Nerves fizzed in her belly. Though she ached to see her husband, saving up her £4 steerage fare (over half their annual income) had taken almost two years. What if they had changed too much? What if he no longer loved her? She couldn’t shake the feeling she was a sojourner nearing a strange land where only a stranger waited for her.
As the steamboat approached New York, the people around her pointed excitedly. Turning to follow their gaze, Elizabeth’s jaw dropped. The ruddy copper of the huge, new statue in the harbor gleamed even in the wan morning light. A feeling like sunshine burst in her chest, and she let out a happy sob as she recognized it: hope.
Written in November 2022 for the first round of NYC Midnight’s 250-word Micro Fiction Challenge 2022. Where Sky Meets Sea won seventh place in its group, winning me a spot in the second round, where I placed first in my group and made it to the finals! You can read my second round story here and my final round story here. Read more Newsletter Exclusives here.