Saturday, August 21, 2010

Across the Water

The next morning the house was quiet. Specks of sunlight threw themselves out from under the tall spotted gums and up from the water. The wind sprinkled salt on Sasha's newly washed windows. Elise took a cup of tea onto the veranda and perched herself in the corner where a patch of sunlight aproned across the dry splintery boards. She had a pen and the new journal, but she paused there, looking down on the water and the boats. There were children down on the beach laughing and shouting. There was a dog chasing a ball out into the small waves. A shoal of small boats scattered themselves across the view their white sails in sharp relief against all the blue and muted mauve of the hump of national park across the water. What was she thinking? Was it about a day, years ago now - she and the boy she was with (Sam, who held on to her as if she was the only thing he'd ever found, that floated) took a dinghy out across that water. They hadn't set out for the opposite shore - but that was where they turned the boat, bow into the wavelets. Dodging the taller yachts Sam rowed them all the way to the rocky shore on the other side. That day, looking back across the water you could see the many houses and mansions and panels of glass built up on the other side of the inlet. Their small cottage was buried under the trees, invisible from that distance. On that side, when they landed and pulled their boat up onto a tiny strip of sand that usually would have been underwater, there was nothing but trees and vines, rocks and seaweed. They picnicked on a boulder up above the beach, looking out over the water. Elise couldn't remember what they talked about. In fact, she barely remembered anything they ever said to one another. Though there was some distant echo - was it her? - saying that the relationship was so solid she felt she could do anything, branching out of there, reaching for the sky... And that day, the day of the dinghy and Sam rowing all the way across the water, (innocent, she remembered now, of the blustery afternoon that would follow) it was a remarkable tide, so low that mudflats were laid out for them to explore. So low that walking out beyond the tidal zone, rubbish from another era was collectable for the first time in years. Beer bottle of thick unleavened glass, the cursive script on them so worn out by the waves that it was illegible. Elise remembered pulling them out of their comfortable beds in the mud. Later, she used them as candle-holders. But there was something about that day, Sam, she remembered now, had just shorn off his sparkling blonde hair. She remembered him, standing with a quilt around his shoulders, holding a bottle of aunty Veri's beefeater gin.

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