Joanne Harris is my favourite author. She weaves magic between the lines.
They arrived on a hot summer’s day in February. Christmas decorations limped from shack to shack, leached to sadness by the sun, neglected as holiday makers returned to their work lives, forgetting the seaside carnivale of festivity for another year.
The tide was in and Marie bolted down the access road to the beach to splash in water no deeper than her ankles.
“Look mama it’s like a nursery for all kinds of tiny sea people”
She proffered a jar and set about scooping up shrimp, jellies, flathead, and tiny bug like water dwellers, their peace unsettled by the vigorous investigations of a five year old.
Gwen greedily inhaled the breezy salt carried on the last days of summer. The heat stifling, feverish final gasps before autumn crept into Her bed.
She watched Marie, talking to each of the new beings she would temporarily house. The beach continued around for miles, trapped in a tidal bay away from the unforgiving southern ocean. In the distance a lone tractor pulled a reluctant tinny from the shallows and lazily made it’s way back to a dilapidated shack made from corrugated tin. A pasty blue colour peeling against the relentless salt and wind.
“Only for a while,” thought Gwen, “the beach is such a temporary soul” She fingered the rosary beads inside the pocket of her dress. She knew they were given to her with the best of intentions, but there were no Hale Marys bobbing inside her stormy psyche.
One for mother, already lost
Two for Marie, protection
Three is for me, stillness
Four is for him, banished
Five let us sleep, dreamless
“Mama” called Marie as she made her way back up the beach towards Gwen. “Do you remember when I was big, and I was your mama, and your skin was darker than it is now?”
Gwen smiled, ‘No, cher, tell me about this time while we walk back home”
As they strolled along the foreshore to the rickety screen door at the back of their tiny two roomed dwelling, a lonely piece of shiny green tinsel, picked up on the breeze, brushed past them, gently kissing each on the cheek before being carried into the fading blue of the sunset.
“Wherever the wind takes us” thought Gwen, “until then, this is home.”