Gentle Goodbyes

The wheels of your chair are clogged, immoveable in the dry sand. Pushing harder, we bump our way down to the water’s edge, to where the sand is wet and firm. Taking the small brush from your bag of accoutrements, I brush off your wheels and let you be. I lie back and watch as the clouds play chase.

The warm sun shakes us from our winter inertia. Our seasonal retreat from the world of noise and demands. The air is heavy with salt and the wind brushes our faces, exfoliating them, scrubbing our winter pallor away. The fresh sun wriggles down into our cores, invigorating. It is time to unwind from our slumber.

Lunch is a simple picnic of bread with cheese and olives. Our mouths are kept moist by the elderflower fizz you insisted on buying.

“It’s like being in a jewellery box. Gorgeous.”

“What is?” I ask.

“Today. It’s been perfect. I want to keep a piece of it. I can look at it, when you are gone, to remember. To bring me back to this beach. To this beach that reminds me of a jewellery box.”

“Why don’t you?”

I watch as you forage for the perfect piece. It has to be solid and round. Not porous like shells. Wood won’t do either. Only glass. The perfect gemstone to collect and hold.

You turn towards the headland. I look away. I hear the grunts of strain as you work the wheels up and through your shovel-like hands.

“Come, look. Look what I found!” The screech is too intriguing to ignore so I scramble to my feet. You sit about a hundred yards away and stare downwards. I stroll up to you, you look up with wonder and amazement.

“Like I said, it’s a jewellery box. Look.” Beside your right wheel I see and understand. On this expanse of beach there is one small patch, a perfect square of sea glass. The placement of all the jewels is too perfect and I steal a glance around, is there anyone is watching? No one, the beach is ours, as it has been all afternoon.

You lift yourself from your chair and arrange your legs to sit on the sand. After a moment of shifting and settling you are ready to investigate, but your hand hovers in the air. You chew the corner of your mouth, everything else freezes from motion.

“I don’t want to disturb it. I’ll mess it up. What if this is someone’s treasure?” your voice falters. Your hunt for a memento may be complete, but I know you can’t bring yourself to jumble up this perfect trove. You sit and stare. The sunlight catches and flashes colours. Your face becomes a rainbow, arcing from violet all the way through to red.

“Better to leave it alone.” You suck in a breath and pull your limp foot out from under you. “Here, help me up.” I bend and coil my arms through yours. When my elbows meet the crook of your armpit I groan and hoist you from the sand, and into your chair. You wheel yourself over to our picnic.

We tidy our things away. The debris of lunch goes into my pack, your rug is tugged between your legs and your chair, and we bump our way up the beach. We head home.

Outside our house we unwillingly get out of the car. Reality greets us. My suitcase is packed and waiting for me at the door. The fridge only stores a pint of milk, so you can have your tea in the morning. Our last night, before we separate.

I slip into the dawn light. You are in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, “I can’t start the day without my cuppa.” you always say.

From the boot, I take the elderflower drinks bottle, shake it, and listen to the tinkle of the glass rainbow. Half stood in the dark outside and half inside with the light of the hall overhead, I place the bottle standing on the hall mat and gently pull the door behind me.