beach

#fridayflash Cleave

In this flash another outing for Emily and Eddie, some of the characters in my still-in-progress interrelated flash collection.

Setting sun, last dash grasped memory of fun, rollercoasters on the prom. Scuff, scuffle, sleet, duffle, caress, ruffle. Kerfuffle. Summers last forever, last summer.

This time she was late, she had been out with her mother shopping for a bridesmaid dress. More ruffles. She said not on her life. He couldn’t believe she was sixteen, seemed like she’d been around forever.

He didn’t consider himself clever. He couldn’t spell. He couldn’t smell trouble. He was clean, free, fresh as a breeze, naive. Cleave. It was one of those words, you know that meant the opposite. Wasn’t that onomatopoeic? Automatic kudos with Miss Bradley in English. No. Wrong. Onomatopoeic meant stuff like sludge, splash, spaghetti – sounded like it was.

No-one sounded like they were, he’d figured that one out but he hadn’t told anyone. Cowards sounded loud and women with metal like Miss Bradley sometimes couldn’t be heard. He didn’t sound like he was, if he did he would have sounded like a dog whistle. What was the sound of Emily?

Cleave. Leave.

What he hadn’t said was that he didn’t have to.

Cleave. The plum from the stone. At the shore with a punnet, he broke the skin of it’s dark flesh, tore it from it’s heart. Plums, Emily couldn’t stand the things, she took it out of his hand and flung it into the water laughing. Plum dunk. Plum drunk, her mother would have been outraged.

There was a chance her mother was dying. She’d seen a letter from the hospital on the sideboard, she’d told him, in a whisper, in a rush, then refused to say anymore.

So many dusks on the beach with the sand grains rubbing out the edges of Emily and Eddie. Heads bent together as the sun split it’s skull, spilled it’s blood into the water. He wore black, he threatened to get a tattoo. In quiet coves at next day middays when the sun revived, smiled, blasted them, they basted their limbs and she explored the topology of his shoulder blades, rib cage, contours with many reverberations, spider legs, sleek starchitectural trusses. He had this vague idea of designing buildings but he didn’t get the necessary points. His mother had asked what was the point of being an architect if they all had to emigrate; there was no room for fancy design among the battalion of bungalows painted in shades of ghastly pastel.

He was leaving anyway. Cleave.

Clinging to each other like the ivy on the walls of the convent. They’d walked past it on the way home from school before the summer began. The convent made them smile because they could never be like that. He kissed her in it’s shadow. But in the fast forward of his life Eddie would one day find himself in the closeted halls of his bedsit, dreaming of waste paper bin basketball, offering up blue prayers for deliverance.

Leaves, the first ones, almost forgivable, began to detach themselves and fall. It was almost autumn. He had a friend in London who had a floor. He had all sorts of plans and alternate futures. Emily had a wedding to go to, a dress to wear, a smile to put on. The days were numbered. He was unruffled.

How many last days could there be? When she went quiet he thought she thought of her mother maybe, of him, of maybe nothing. He climbed inside her eyes but did not see everything. Out to the hills, he stole her on his motorbike, down by the sea they cleaved to each other on the beach, bleached in the endless holiday light.

He didn’t have to go. She could not be everything. She bit her lip, he held her hair, back, hips, fingertips, loosening.

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Alive now, on this day, at this time

I’ve been at the sea again. And the sea’s been at me. Loosening my thoughts and making them pretty.

If you read my fiction you will find the sea there, over and over, creeping in along the shore of my depictions. The backdrop, it is the past, where I grew up, it is the continuous, that constant energy inherent in nature, the falling away and returning.

I picked up driftwood, seaweed, stones.

Everything is moving so fast. Events looked forward to, swing past and are gone. The 2 year old is a 3 year old then heading onto 4, the construction of his conversation evidence of the passing of time, the gaining of some things, the loss of others. I am here now, on this day, at this time. I cannot climb over the sea wall as easily as before. I think it is just this day, tiredness, but this happens more and more. I am getting older. I am not seventeen walking in circles on the sand wondering what is going to happen. Much of my life has now happened. The sea is always there.

I have a free morning to write. I have a novel to write, to cling fast to, to make the vehicle of what I hold dear. I have not written much these past weeks, life has taken over, family, the garden, each rose coming out in sequence, one beautifully scented one a remembrance of my grandmother, coming from her garden. I remember her, alive, we were all together. It is getting further and further away.

As I get older I fill with observation, on the beach a child’s sock, a toddler with her grandfather, seed heads. Today the sea went Hooo, Hooosh. I want to live now. I want to say yes to my children. I want to tell you something that will go into the future when I am no longer here, alive, now on this day, at this time. I want to write and write and write all the ordinary glorious, I want to sit in the sun and forget everything.

Dropped stones, skimmed skin.

Skim. The stone slipped across the top of the water. The sea was a battleship grey with a liver of cerulean, foaming at the lips its puckered kisses smacking on the shore. Dip, dip, the stone, flat and oval skudded across the ocean night, like a satellite on a far flung trajectory, unspun from orbit, now loosed across the dark matter heavens. Dropped.

Barbara took off her clothes. There was always a nip in October. Toes. They curled against the element of wind. Out on the promontory a man was walking his dog or wrestling a whale or hanging onto an umbrella it was hard to tell. Rain spat and she tasted salt. The sea leapt and she drank of a spring. Because of everything before, her skin was crying.

Matthew couldn’t touch her, at first for fear, then out of respect, then apropos of revulsion. That revulsion unsaid of course, caught in the gullet, closed in behind tight mealy mouthed lips, an indigestion of horror. There are phases in intimacy aren’t there? That amorphous amour from a distance, then the jasmine hint of possibility, then that full clothed shuddering, the turning inside out of velvet pockets, swan necks looping. Then there is the breath.

Then there is the turning on the shore, dark sand, the retreat, the furrow, the frown. And the froth ran backwards through the music of pebbles. And the sand hoped. Went dry. Would have wept. Disintegrated.

 They kept pieces of her in kidney dishes, wiped the scalpels clean. And Matthew held her as if he was very far away in history, as if she was in his past, a relic that turns to dust in the light. And back in their bed at night, she felt that kisses could have been glue.

She throws herself into the water. Skims across the frantic surface first. Dip. Dip. Her legs and arms are bare, the suit sagging, this shrivelled skin.

So cold. The foam folds round her body, smooth. The water is sloshing under her suit. Salt lingers on the wound, the ridge of it, like puckered shore shapes. And the tenderness of sea is the inverse of betrayal. How could he forget the press of their souls against one another, the kiss of affinity, the lapping of likeness, the mapping of cells that sung with recognition?

Her head is bare. As smooth as the stone.

She drops. Inside the water she is a whole thing, swims. And the pull of her limbs is the evidence of hope. And her skin wears the grit of the salt, grit, like her teeth when she thought she might die, when they sent the chemical elixir through her veins and it journeyed from the outside in. When she and he kept everything in, screams, protestations, that horror in a purse, turned at last frantically inside out. Where did I leave my pain?

Matthew couldn’t find the words, the associations left him bereft. There was always that smell about her, the signature of decay. Betray, it’s such a hefty accusation. He remembered her dancing at their beginning; the ‘twist’ or something that caught her in his mind like a zoetrope, spinning, unwinding, spinning again. He did not want to juxtapose the light of her with this. Amour inside armour. The back of the newspaper was always fascinating.

He wasn’t a swimmer. Once or twice he had paddled with their daughter Emily, his shins and ankles blindingly white and hairy. When she was two she didn’t like the way the sand at the shore stuck to her wet feet. She was forever trying to wash it off but when she came out of the water it stuck on again. She sat in the foam and cried.

Barbara came out of the water, shook herself like a dog, hairless. The water rolled down the curve of her neck, it rolled into the dip at the top of her suit, kissed the place where her breasts had been. She was clean. The wind was the slice of a knife. The man with his dog was closer now, lifted his hand in a gracious salute. The sand on the edge of the shore was so dark and the foam rushing in was so white.