by Diana Powell
From the kitchen window, she watched the black birds dipping their beaks into the empty eye sockets of discarded lambs. “Oh … the crows …”
“Rooks,” he told her, coming up behind, slipping his arms around her waist. “If there’s a crowd of them, they are rooks, not crows.” She’d heard it all before.
She was sick of the birds, now. The crows, or whatever they were. The magpies.
“Go for a walk,” he told her yesterday. “Get to know the place.” She had turned inland, up the hill. And there they were — three black and white corpses swinging from a branch in a back garden. Next to an axe.
“It’s nothing,” he said, when she told him. “Just old Joe. He puts them there to scare the others away from his veg.”
The cries of the seagulls woke her every morning. “There is no such thing. Heron gulls, common gulls, but not seagulls.”
Sick of the birds, sick of all these things he told her, as if she should be glad to know.
In the evenings, he made a fire of driftwood gathered from the beach, from twigs found on the floor of the wood. “Isn’t there central heating?” she had asked the first night.
They ate pathetic fish he caught from the rocks, cooked on the flames. Stalks picked from the cliff tops.
“Isn’t there a supermarket nearby?”
At least he had brought wine.
Afterwards, he wanted them to read, or play board games. He fetched them from a cupboard in the room he had slept in as a child, where the bed was still made up.
The boxes were brown and cracked. It was the same with the boards and the cards in their little compartments. Only the plastic counters remained cheerful.
On the fourth day, she walked into the village, and entered the only shop. A woman sat hunched behind the counter, her hair grey, her face lined.
The woman asked where she was staying.
“His niece, you’d be, then. Beth’s daughter. Grandniece, even.”
She didn’t argue.
“I used to be in school with him. The same class. I always said he was my first sweetheart. Of course, we were only children then. It was a lifetime ago. But still …”
She went back to the cottage and packed her bag. Then, while he napped after lunch, she walked to the bus stop. When the bus arrived, she climbed aboard and asked for a single to town. “Child’s?” the driver asked. She always loved it when that happened.
Diana Powell lives in the far west of Wales. When she is not distracted by the beauty of the coast, and the demands of her woodland garden, she writes. Her fiction has won or been placed in several competitions, including the 2014 PENfro (winner), the 2016 Sean O’Faolain (long-listed), and the 2016 Cinnamon Press award (runner-up). Her stories have also been published in several journals, such as The Lonely Crowd, Crannog, Brittle Star and Three Drops from a Cauldron.
She is a Cinnamon Press mentee. Her novella Esther Bligh is due out next year, published by Holland House. She is currently working on a collection.