Here’s an excerpt from ‘Night Vision’.
Beulah has had a dreadful row with her husband, Neil, and drove off into the night, unable to face him. She’s spent the night in her car, parked in a boatyard while a storm raged all around. In the morning she leaves the car and walks round the boatyard to clear her mind before going home to Neil.
She set off along a footpath by the river, looping round the boatyard past the cliffs of the quarry. She climbed the bank and looked down at the river; there was the cool silvery morning stillness on the water despite the wind which flapped her dress about her legs. The tide was out and the muddy banks had a dull gleam. She stared dispassionately at the boats perched jauntily as they waited to refloat on high water. The sun was not yet up but the sky was bright and expectant in the east.
Birds busied themselves about their business, oystercatchers, peewits, redshanks, squawking and falling out with each other, running erratically, stopping to peck in the mud before skittering on. Over on the far bank a heron stood motionless, twenty yards further on another stood staring intently.
Beulah walked, her mind empty except for a latent misery…
…She’d walk back through the boatyard, drive to somewhere for coffee, put some make-up on, and go back to Neil.
She emptied her mind by noting everything: there’s a purple plastic bucket half-stuck in the mud; there’s an unusual bird with white markings; there’s an aeroplane flying very low; there are some cows on the hill at the top of the quarry; there’s a blue coat hanging on the boatyard fence; there’s a mass of brambles where even now there may be blackberries.
She imagined that the blue coat on the boatyard fence had someone in it, that it was hanging like a puppet on the wire. She walked on and realised that coat was actually a man, walking the perimeter of the yard, he’d been standing staring at the boats.
Beulah took the path round to the left, keeping to the river, she didn’t want to meet anyone yet. She walked quickly, glancing over her shoulder and almost walked straight into the man with the blue coat.
“Pandora!” it was John Crow and to his astonishment she flung herself at him and began to cry, pressing her face against his chest as if she wanted to hide.
He held her gently, not saying anything, patting her shoulder; it was easy letting go with him, there was no emotional investment with John Crow.
At last they walked silently to the boat yard but instead of stopping they continued round the headland to the sandy beach where Beulah had picnicked as a child. They bowed their heads into the strong on-shore wind which whipped the dust and sand up in long rolling tumbledores.
Beulah stopped as a piece of grit evaded her lashes and stung against her eye. She turned her back to the wind and tried to get it out with her finger. John stood watching, his shoulders hunched and then he moved her hands away and delicately pulled at her lower lid. “I can see it. Haven’t you a tissue?”
Beulah searched her pockets, trying to blink the irritation away, her eyes streaming. She found her stockings.
“They’re so fine, they’re like gossamer,” John took them hesitantly. “I’ll snag them with my rough hands,” and he bent close to her face and suddenly the pain was gone.
“I can’t tell you how much it hurt when she told me,” John said softly, almost whispering, his face inches from hers. “She said ‘you’ll be pleased to know Duane and I are having a baby.’ Pleased to know? How pleased to know? I can’t believe she said that.” He stared into Beulah’s eyes. “Was she trying to hurt me? Was she trying to be cruel?”
“Perhaps she doesn’t know you,” Beulah whispered back. “I wonder how my husband could be so cruel to me, perhaps he doesn’t know me at all.”