Leaving Home

They married on a rainy day and honeymooned in a guest house near the sea, the window rattling in the wind as they lay whispering about the future, warm in love.

But years passed and though their family was sunny with love, the rainy days came too often for their resources.

They’d never been good at planning and then he died. The little bit of insurance was gone too soon and there wasn’t enough pension. The children were just starting out themselves. Surely, they didn’t need to be worrying about her. She walked out with all she needed in a few cases and looked for somewhere cheap. But there was nowhere. Not now, not for one person on her own.

She looked round and saw that she was a lucky one – still healthy, still sane, still with some clothes and books and precious things. She sat in the shelter overlooking the sea and wept. She couldn’t call the children – they’d be ashamed of her. They were better off without her.

It’s not impossible to sleep safe, wash surreptitiously, disappear. But slowly, she had to let things go. First books, then things from home, then most of her clothes, then the rucksack. With the last of her money she bought food, shuffling ashamed through the supermarket, cringing in case she smelt, oblivious to the posters for missing people which other shoppers were scrutinising as she passed.

As night fell, she returned to the shelter. She lay her head on the carrier bag full of her last precious things: the photos, the letters. As she closed her eyes, she heard the sea rolling relentlessly over the sand and shingle: whisper and rattle, whisper and rattle. It was not such a bad thing to listen to at the end. Sometimes spray came over the edge of the sea wall and huddled, she waited for the cold to take her, drifting into a final sleep where the letters and photos seemed to be speaking to her, seemed to reach to embrace her, his faded handwriting and blurry image trying to warm her and then she realised that the voice and the touch were real and the voice was saying: “We’ve found you at last. Wake up. It’s all right, come with us to safety and we can call your children, they have been looking so long. They love you so much.”

And as she opened her eyes, she saw past the speakers, the beach washed clean for a new day.

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Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

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