We rarely argue, but when we do it leads to all kinds of calamity. I look at your face. Wide eyes capture mine.
I never meant to hurt you.
After you leave, I have to get away from the house. On autopilot, I end up at the steps leading down to the seafront. The sun is low on the horizon. Its deep, red‑golden hue spreads across the land. Seagulls are awake already, squawking their raucous song. A few wading birds on the ebbing tide, dance in and out of radiant pools.
You didn’t have to leave.
I sit on a bench, inscribed with the words: ‘Dedicated to my wonderful husband, Alan, who loved the sea’. There aren’t many people about. A man with a metal detector stretches his weary back. A Border collie bounds across the damp sand, leaving traces of scuffed paw prints. Its owner bustles after it, her hair catches in the sudden breeze. At least it’s warm. I push wiry curls out of my eyes and shift a little on the bench to get comfortable.
Couldn’t we have worked it out?
In the distance the sea is a glistening layer of silver. The moon, a sliver of a fingernail, disappears inside the brightness of the rising sun. My thoughts torment me. Visions of your copper hair hanging loose over bare shoulders. Strawberries dipped in chocolate. The Finest Hour playing in the background as we lounge on the bed. Your laughter as I strum my air‑guitar. Cold white wine sliding down your throat. Full lips destined only for mine.
I would be lost without you.
Deep in reflection, I don’t hear him sit down and I jump when I see him. There is the hint of a smile on upturned lips. He stares ahead. Unblinking. Hands resting on crossed knees. His hair is wispy. Salt and pepper grey. The collar of his shirt is open and I can see tufts of the same peeping out. The smile widens.
She misses you.
The words float inside my head like dandelion seeds on the wind. I twist towards him.
“Pardon, did you say something?”
She’s waiting for you.
I’m staring now. Open-mouthed. Leaning forwards, to see him more clearly.
She asked me to tell you.
He continues to watch the sea. Body swaying gently with the breeze.
She needs you.
I stand in front of him.
Go to her.
He doesn’t look up. He doesn’t move. I turn, glance towards the steps. It won’t take me long to get home. I set off in a run. When I reach the top I look back – to wave? But I’m too late, he’s gone.
I’m at our house in double-quick time, hands on knees, breathing heavily. I wait to catch my breath, before turning the key in the lock. You are sitting in the garden. The sun’s rays, visible through the willow tree, lead me to you. To your favourite place to be. I stumble towards your smile.
“I’m sorry,” I say as I take you in my arms.
“Shush.” You place a finger against my lips. Your look of wonderment touches my soul. “I met a man today and he told me you were waiting for me. He said you missed me. That you needed me.”
I do need you.
“I think I met him too,” I say.
You nod, excitement spreading across your face. “When I asked him his name, at first he was reluctant, but when I insisted, he said it was Alan.”
Instantly I remember the inscription: ‘Dedicated to my wonderful husband, Alan, who loved the sea.’
Copyright (2018) M J Christie
First published in Lit Up: The Land of Little Tales