‘You realise no one is going to buy this place, right?’ Adam’s hand appeared above the back of the sofa, stray screwdriver retrieved. Sally took it off him, one knee wedged so firmly between the cushions that she stayed stuck when she tried to stand. ‘It’s a fixer-upper,’ she shrugged. ‘People like that sort of thing.’ ‘No, they think they like it,’ said Adam. He’d stood up and Sally choked down a laugh at the dust wig haloing his bald head. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘Nothing, nothing,’ Sally spluttered. ‘Just maybe you’re right. It might be time to get a hoover.’
Isabelle watched the foam settle as the speedboat winked out of view, scurrying its way back to the city. The old man hadn’t been keen to take her, counting her money twice before letting her aboard and then lingering for longer than necessary when she leapt out into the shallows. Her skirts were damp, but she’d kicked her shoes free before getting off the boat. Her feet had dried while she waited. She checked her watch and scowled. The glass was cracked, had been since earlier that morning when a cyclist outside her apartment careened into her. It was her own fault. If she’d not spent so long on land, she might have noticed him before he had chance to get close. Instead she’d been thrown from her thoughts by the bite of handlebars into her ribs. The wind picked up and threw the waves higher along the beach. Isabelle waded out, shivering as the water closed around her ankles. ‘Please,’ she cried. ‘I’m sorry. I have learnt my lesson!’ Above her a seagull cried …
‘Do you think there’s a body in there?’ Baz asked. He held his pocket knife with both hand, blade pointed downwards as he scratched ‘Baz woz ere’ into the breast plate of the knight carved onto the tomb. Goria pursed her lips and swung her legs. From her perch on the railings around the pulpit she had a pretty good view of both the knight and the top of Baz’s head. She considered spitting on it. ‘Don’t know,’ she shrugged, feet thudding against the wood. ‘Suppose she’d be all dust by now anyway.’ ‘She?’ snorted Baz. ‘Knights ain’t girls Gor. You gotta be a man for that sort of thing.’ ‘She so is a girl, look! You’re leaning on her f’ing boob you moron.’ Baz paused and pulled away. ‘Huh, guess you right. She is a chick.’ Gloria sighed and hauled her legs up to her chest. ‘Hurry up and let’s go,’ she said, turning around so she could climb back out of the pulpit. ‘Your mum might realize you’ve got her key.’ ‘Not likely, …
The heating has been on since six and the kitchen is warm. Beyond the windows trees are grey skeletons, the lawn knotted with weeds. Three fence panels slump away from their posts, and the sun is out. Through the glass it pretends that the heat in the kitchen is its doing. Kara knows it’s lying and pads barefoot across the tiles. The kettle has boiled but she leaves it, takes the jar beside instead, twists a slip of paper free. ‘Live,’ it reads. She folds it and places it back, rooting it towards the bottom. Tomorrow she may pull different.
They put the footings in to retain the planning permissions. Susan booked the day off to watch. Invited him as well, suggested they take sandwiches and tea, to watch the first part of their house take shape. Afterall, they’d spent eight years fighting the council for the go-ahead. They might not have the funds to build the entire thing yet, but they could celebrate starting. Then there were doctors, hospitals, a man in a grey suit with a sombre face. Susan’s brother giving a reading. All that was left were foundations.
‘There be giants in these parts,’ Gavin muttered, hiking the pack higher onto his shoulder as they trudged through the snow drifts at the bottom of the monument. In front of him Eddie huffed, his breath turning to ice and smoke. As the sun sunk towards the frozen horizon the temperature would continue to fall, and in the fading light Gavin had to squint to see the humped silhouettes of the outpost. There would be traders there they hoped. A chance to refill their supplies before moving deeper into the wastelands. ‘You believe all that, really?’ asked Eddie. ‘Damn Gav, you’re worse than those priests back at the temple, always trying to tell us that we’re only here by the mercy of the gods.’ He scratched his chin and tipped his head back. They were right beneath the right hand of the statue, the lines of its palm a shadowy black web in the dust. In full light it would seem almost human. The same shape to its face, its arms, its legs. The only …
‘There’s never much green out here is there?’ said Bobby, reaching out to pinch the thorn end of a twig. The bush had rooted into one of the fissures running along the face of the valley and Bobby could see its thin, grey roots spidering outwards in tendrils. He twisted his hand and the twig crumbled. ‘Sorry,’ he muttered and dusted the debris away. He turned and walked the fifty yards back to his car. The boot was still open, the spade inside. ‘I should have found somewhere nicer,’ he muttered, gripping the handle. ‘You would have preferred somewhere green.’
‘They keep the weeds under control,’ Emile explained when Hannah asked why goats were roaming the graveyard. ‘But don’t they eat the flowers?’ ‘People don’t leave flowers here anymore. No one’s been buried here for a hundred years.’ He stooped to avoid a low branch and waited for Hannah on the other side. ‘People can’t be bother with the long since departed. We only see your kind these days.’ ‘My kind?’ ‘Yeah, history nuts who prefer the dead to the living.’ ‘Oh I don’t-’ ‘Makes a change at least. It’s nice to have a little warmth amongst all this stone.’
The jetty had rotten clean through in places, creating a hopscotch of holes almost impossible to see in the dark. Gritting her teeth, Emile slid one foot in front of the other and eased her weight onto it. At the end of the jetty a light flickered and went off. She paused and steadied her breath. Patience, she reminded herself. She’d waited fifteen years, she could afford fifteen minutes to get across this dock unscathed. She ran a hand across the outline of the pistol inside her jacket. Fifteen minutes, she promised herself. That’s all she needed.
The ladder from the garage wasn’t quite tall enough to reach all the way, but it brought us within touching distance of the guttering. From there you could pull yourself up and afterwards, reach down for my hands, smaller, thinner, not quite as adept at clambering about. I let you lead me to a lot of places I couldn’t reach on my own. Perhaps I should have worried sooner about being left behind but back then all I could think of was how strong you were. Lifting me like a bag of sugar to watch the sun set beside you.