Welcome sunshine glitters on the furrowed sea. A gentle, salty breeze ruffles the dark plumage of a cormorant drying its angular wings as it stands on a barnacle-clad post.
“What poise,” thinks Carmelle. She is sure she can incorporate some reference to the statuesque quality of this motionless seabird into her latest piece of writing, which she has entitled “The Soulful Sea”. She will discuss her latest ideas with Darius when she meets him in The Ship. She enjoys their verbal entanglement and is keenly anticipating the delicious frisson generated between them. She is ready, eager, for more than that now, and Darius cannot help but have noticed, surely? She has put clean sheets on the bed and flowers in the room.
Carmelle has stayed on at Greyling Bay longer than she intended, having found the sympathetic eye and ear of Darius, whose particular interest, fortuitously, she has discovered, is the written word (when Laura, a slim, long-limbed student from the university had made his acquaintance at a fund-raising barn dance last summer, his particular interest then, usefully, had been political history. Greyling Bay has a veritable polymath in its midst).
Enjoying the unexpected warmth and stillness of the day sit Frances and Mercy on a bench at the edge of the sand. They watch Carmelle walk past, antelope-like in her fluid gait, hips swaying and arms gently swinging. Oh, how they wish they could regain their youth. That bloody war took their husbands and now all they have to contemplate is a fortnightly visit from the chiropodist and a chip supper with entertainment in the community hall on the first Tuesday of every month. Failing joints, false teeth and thinning hair. Loneliness. That is the reward life bestows for hard work, loyalty and stoicism. But still, they can laugh and feel the warmth on their paper-thin skin, grateful for their friendship.
They could have been something, Frances and Mercy.