Between Land and Sea
The beach is scattered with a pattern that did not exist yesterday and before tomorrow will be gone. As I make for the strand line to examine the morning’s harvest of shells, feathers and driftwood, the wind bites into my cheeks and brings tears to my eyes. I pull my feet from the twisting gut-weed and turn past the rock-pools of winkles and limpets and the pebbles that are wet and shining like jewels. The sea is being tossed violently by the November winds and I can hear the rumble and creak of the boulders beneath its surface. Terns risk the waves, diving in and then out again, eating fish in mid-flight. Overhead, the shrill cry of a gull sounds beautiful and dangerous.
That night the wind wakes me. It comes in squalls that hammer at the windows. The sea sounds as if it’s reached the door. Every few minutes the noise dies down as if the storm has to take in breath before continuing. It’s then that I think I hear a different kind of sound, something much closer. I pull the blankets around my ears and try to block it out. Simon sleeps on.
The cottage lies as I left it, door ajar. The day has darkened, but I can see no light inside. I stand very quietly and listen. I tread carefully around the broken dishes and try not to make a sound. Every wooden step has its individual creak and I take each one as slowly and as silently as I can. The narrowness of the staircase seems to amplify my breathing, my hair prickles, and I feel a cold sweat on my brow.