CREATIVE Jeremy HughesNWR Issue 103
The Munificence of the Brittany Sun
She had been watching him for years. He went straight into the water, swam one hundred metres out to the rocks, returned and dried himself. He looked at his watch, timed himself fifteen minutes on his front, fifteen on his back, put on his linen shirt, straw hat and sunglasses, and read. She watched from nearby on the beach or from the café where she noticed him order large coffees with milk – a typical Englishman – and steak and chips. Even so, she enjoyed the manner in which he sipped the coffee and tasted
it, and the way he cut into his meat and examined its bloody grain. His approach was considered and serious, something indicating a man who needed nobody but himself for company, at ease in a world in which he could think about what he was reading without recourse to an opinion at odds with his own.
The Englishman took a sip of his coffee and glanced across at her. How old was she? Did she look
like a widow?
She wanted to talk to him. Speak to him in the water? Kick sand over him on the beach? Feeble. Silly. She would be bold and obvious. You must face things head on
, her husband used to say, an engineer considers and resolves – go for the obvious solution first
She would ask him for a light just as they did in the old Bette Davis films, because everyone knew it meant something else.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I don’t smoke.’
He returned to his book and she was left standing by his table with her angled cigarette. The waiter passed and she asked him
for a light.
‘Sorry to disturb you,’ she said to the Englishman as she turned to her table.
He was an idiot. He had no idea what the cigarette meant. Then if the obvious doesn’t work, think your way around it.
She was only a table away. ‘That is a good book,’ she said.
‘You read many books.’
‘I suppose I do.’
‘You come here every day.’
must come here every day.’
‘I watch you swim and read.’ She picked up her bag and moved to his table. ‘You have been coming here many years.’
‘I have a house here,’ she said.
‘I envy you.’
‘It is only me and the house.’
‘I’d like to live here.’
‘It is different in the winter.’
‘Better than where I live any time of year,’ he said.
That stopped her. She pulled on her cigarette. ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ she asked.
‘I’ll… come here,’ he laughed.
She laughed too. It was
a silly question. ‘I want to show you something,’ she said. ‘Bring your swimming things.’
* * *
She stood up to greet him with a kiss on both cheeks. She sensed her perfume migrating to the warmth of his skin.
She opened the bag at her feet and produced two masks and two snorkels. ‘These are yours,’ she said, giving him one of each.
‘But I’ve never done this.’
‘Pfff. It’s easy. You
swim on the top all the time. You never look underneath. Try it on,’ she said, picking up the mask. ‘Like this.’ She showed him how to put the mask to his face and breathe in through the nose to check the fit. ‘It was my husband’s. It’s good.’
The tide was in and the rocks were covered. They put their things on the beach and she took him by the hand into the water. She put the mask on and showed him how easy it was to breathe through the snorkel. ‘Then you see something you want to look at and you go down.’ She disappeared then surfaced, clearing the snorkel with a spurt. ‘Don’t forget to blow the tube when you come back. Come.’
He readied himself and let himself go. She followed him.
A new set of sensations took over: the sound of breathing in her head, the temperature of the water, the bite of her mouth around the snorkel, the sand and pebbles swept by the light which made the Englishman look as if he was swimming through a stained glass window.
’ latest novel is Wingspan
previous creative: Snakes and Ladders
next creative: Dangerous Asylums