You have no items in your cart. Want to get some nice things?Go shopping
She awoke at dawn, light seeping in through the thin white curtain. Stretching out, she replayed the spectacular violence of her dream: volcanos erupting in the distance, and something else, what was it?
She got out of the bed and dressed quickly into swimwear and a simple yellow dress. After boiling the kettle, she prepared a flask of coffee and went out into the fresh morning.
She weaved down the paths toward the sea, passing over the promenade, down through the woodland and onto the empty shingle beach. She took off her shoes and dress and at the shore stepped into the depth of high tide. Cold surrounded her and her breath was taken. She swam out, past the rocks of the bay and into the open water.
Far out, she lay on her back and looked up at the sky, icy water licking her temples. There was no wind and the water’s surface was unbroken, reflecting the fiery dawn. Weightless, she moved gently up and down on the quiet swell.
Something was moving in her peripheral vision. She rolled off her back and tread water to scan the horizon.
It was him; she recognised his balding head.
He had spotted her and started a messy crawl over.
He shattered the distance with that tone.
She pretended she couldn’t quite hear him to delay the moment they’d have to talk, wondered if she could get back to shore in time.
He splashed closer.
“You look great! Well, a bit pale, but great. How have you been?”
“Jeff, I was enjoying the swim.”
“Sorry – crikey – yeah, I remember how much you like swimming here alone. It’s infectious, I mean, here I am.”
She regretted having taken him here.
“It’s glorious, so peaceful. Takes my mind off Mum and everything, you know?” he continued.
“Yeah. How is she?”
“Oh, alright. She misses you, always asking. Doesn’t really retain much now, so I’ve just stopped retelling her you left. Couldn’t keep doing it, having that same conversation.”
She took a deep breath. “Jeff, it’s been two years.”
Dawn settled as the sun grew brighter. She could make out dog walkers on the path and high above on the promenade.
“I think she struggles to understand it anyway, Susannah. So do I, to be honest.”
They had had this conversation countless times. She briefly considered how she might move away, geographically, avoid this in a more permanent way.
She started swimming out to the buoy between the two bays and heard him splashing alongside her.
“Jeff, I come out here to not think about work.”
She looked to his face: earnest and only a little injured.
“It’s okay, it’s what you might expect, not much changes except the leadership. Oh, and new lanyards and posters and everything that goes with that.”
“I read about that. Are you painting?”
“Not much.” She thought again of the volcanos in her dream, erupting fire, coughing out smoke.
“I love your paintings.”
She stopped swimming and lay on her back looking up at the sky, a few birds overhead. Wasn’t he just being nice?
“I still have the ones from that show. Mum loves them.”
Susannah dived down into the deep, swam a few blind strokes, and broke the surface a metre or so from him.
“Jeff, I’d rather you didn’t come here. I don’t want to have these conversations again and again.”
His face changed, as it always did, the facade slipping off.
“You can’t ban me from a beach.”
“I’m not banning you, I’m asking you.”
Wary of igniting him, she dived down again. Back above the surface, she returned alone to shore.
Lydia (she/her) is an emerging writer and illustrator, brought up in Cornwall and now based in a small, coastal town in the South-East. She was recently awarded second place for the story 'A Migration' in the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize and longlisted for the Mslexia Short Story Competition.