Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Linda's husband was attending a role play conference. It was the third that year. Normally, she made a point of avoiding them. A Travel Inn packed with long-haired people who persisted in wearing curious leather jerkins and weren't overly familiar with soap was not her idea of fun. Particularly when her breakfast got hijacked with overly enthusiastic conversations about the goblins' latest exploits.

But this one was in Scotland. She'd never been to Scotland. So she made a B&B rather than an anodyne chain a condition of her attendance and her husband leapt at the chance, his eyes aglow at the thought of post-goblin-discussion delights.

His imagination may have been working overtime. But his bank balance was getting the usual sparing workout. His condition attached to the B&B was that it would be located as far as possible from the city centre to ensure maximum cheapness. Linda supposed that this was ok although her pre-holiday day dreams about idle meanders through the little cobbled streets of the smokily exotic Edinburgh receded slightly, nudged out by lace curtains, concrete and suburban bliss.

They ended up staying in a funny little place called Musselburgh. It didn't appear to have much to recommend it beyond a plethora of ice-cream shops. But once Linda discovered that by crossing a curiously quaint stone bridge, you found yourself on endless exposed flats heading out to sea, her faith in the restorative powers of her seaside holiday flickered with wistful hope.

She hadn't felt quite herself, you see, since the nasty incident involving the sudden and ever-since unexplained fire in the wood a few miles out of town. She still found it hard to put her finger on quite why the incident had upset her so much. The rest of her co-workers at the Council had made it the topic of conversation over their limp rich tea biscuits for months afterwards. But Linda felt that a little sparkly sense of possibility had died the day she heard about - they all just called it Rooster's Wood - the obliteration of that little magical piece of olde England.

The mornings were easy. Her husband was up and out before the B&B owner got busy with the bacon. The appalling thought of missing a moment of scintillating conversation with his fellow goblin lovers getting him onto a number 44 bus before 7am most mornings.

The evenings were a bit more awkward as the goblin lovers weren't particularly adventurous. The final sitting of dinner was scheduled for 7pm and whilst some of the rowdier amongst them might sit chatting over a dandelion and burdock till gone 10 o' clock, there was no guarantee that her husband wouldn't be back at the B&B by 10:30, lurking around like a labrador wanting to play. Being as it was a Holiday.

So she'd taken to taking long walks, handily scheduled to start at the danger time. 9pm. And last until the light ran out. On the grounds that he'd usually cease leafing through the worn copies of National Geographic offered by the B&B as reading material and start snoring by approx 11pm.

The night before they left, a Thursday, she'd discovered that in fact, if she didn't mind a bit of pavement scenery, she could work most of the way round the coast to the - well, she had no idea which way the compass pointed but she was headed to the - left. At which point the coastline got a whole lot less scrubby and a whole lot more suburban. Little pretty houses. Fish and chip shops. Even a couple of amusement arcades. Edinburgh's beach. Who knew?

Past a car park, a leisure centre that promised 3 games of bowls for £3.99, another car park, a couple of pubs that had seen better days and then the concrete coastal path stretched out in front of her towards - well, who knew - some sort of land on the other side of the sea as the sun sank into the hills.

She approached the concrete strip with trepidation. There were a couple of ramshackle vans and what looked like a miniature coach parked up in what passed as a car park before the seaside walk turned industrial. Dance music was thumping out of one of them, doors flung wide. Smoke was drifting up from an impromptu fire which had been kindled on the beach. The smell of indiscriminate meat burning. A little collection of long-haired, even dread-locked people, shambling around the fire, telling tall stories and swigging indiscriminate liquor from indiscriminate bottles. She crossed into the shadow of the pub so they wouldn't see her - these wild and free people - and scuttled past, pretending to be intently focused on the sewage works ahead.

It was almost dark when she walked back past them. She knew it was late but she didn't care. It was her last night, 400 miles from home and she wanted to make the most of it. She looked with a - where did that come from? - flicker of longing at the flames of the beachside fire flickering against the sea. And she was just passed the cluster of bohemians on the beach, just re-entering comfortable seaside suburbia, when she heard it.

"Yuk yuk yuk."

A laugh like a machine gun.

She froze in her stride. Her heart inexplicably leapt.

Two years on. It couldn't be. Could it?

A particularly vigorous wave crashed on the shore and the sound was drowned out. She turned. Tried to peer at the collection of people clustering around the fire. But the light was too dim...

...for her to see the taller than all the other figures on the beach detach itself from the pack, take a few steps towards her, salute her through the gloaming. Stand for a few moments more, stare with - what left unsaid? - and turn back to the fire and the familiar.

And Linda went home.


Blogger Emma said...

I am glad Linda was content, at least for a while.

5:04 pm  

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