The woman sits on a bench overlooking the sea. Below, the child runs along the deserted beach, arms outstretched, shoes already abandoned, hair freed from the restrictions of her mother’s earlier attentions; a bird could make a nest in this, her mother will say later as she washes out salt and sand and the child will wriggle and squirm as tangles are combed out.
The woman’s hair is short now.
She takes the steps down to the beach. Tracks in the sand; a man and his dog, nowhere in sight. The child would like a dog; one animal to train is enough for this household, her dad said, patting her head. The woman walks down to where waves break, dragging shingle as they pull back, the sound rippling along the shoreline. A lone oyster catcher, its piping call piercing the air, lands near. The woman watches as it searches amongst mud and rocks. The child looks for treasure; don’t bring stuff home, her mother has warned, I’m sick of emptying sand from your pockets. Using her t-shirt as a basket, the child carries her bounty back to the sand dunes where tufts of coarse grass prickle her feet. Tucking her hair behind her ears she clears a flat space, tips out her gems and arranges them in a pattern. She sits back on her heels admiring her work. One day, when the sun is shining, someone will glimpse a sparkle in the sand and know she has been here. The woman walks along the water’s edge. She picks up a white stone, lacy seaweed, a shell, and puts them in her pocket.
Shielding her eyes from the sun, she looks out towards the horizon. The sea is blue: cobalt, indigo, azure. The child stands sucking salt from sticky hair. The woman takes off her shoes. As the waves break, the sea seeps though her soles, up through her body – pelvis, solar plexus, heart, throat, forehead – and fountains out the top of her head, drowning her face in tears.