Jay, a woman with a new identity is now living in the seaside village of Oxhope. It hasn’t yet been revealed why she’s there, or what happened in her past that has meant she had to start a new life, but she’s beginning to settle into it. She’s begun to make friends, including two women similar in age to her, called Emma and Gemma. Jay and Em bump into each other and moments later a woman runs screaming from a cottage shouting that someone is hurt. Jay and Em run through to the back garden where another woman lies dead, murdered! After the police have taken their statements the three of them go back to Em’s house, and Jay stays the night. The following morning, the village full of gossip and the press on the prowl, Jay goes down to the beach:
There was a stiff on-shore wind but Jay found somewhere to sit on the edge of the sand dunes which was sheltered. There were not many people on the beach, a few dogs with owners, a few walkers and joggers and runners striding out in serious luminous kit.
Jay felt she had undergone a sea change, and she was amused that moving to live by the sea had been a literal sea change. Somehow a gear had been switched, and the past was more securely locked up and the person who she had once been was gone forever, and now she was Jay with a past she told others was painful and she wanted to forget. It was more than painful, it had been perilous and she had for many reasons to forget it completely. Her past was not just another country, her past no longer existed.
To distract herself she watched the people passing on the beach, saunterers, striders, dashers… and someone she recognised hurrying past. It was Gilly, and for some reason, maybe to do with her revisiting her secret past, Jay just knew the woman was looking for her.
Keeping low, Jay retreated further into the dunes, crouching behind the mounds of sand and the spiny sea buckthorn. Suddenly she was overwhelmed, all the rational reasoned thoughts of her new life evaporated and she felt full of fear. She would not go back onto the beach, but clambered through the dunes, pushed through the buckthorn and brambles and suddenly emerged on the edge of the golf course.
She had completely forgotten it was there. Was she allowed to cross it? Was it private property? Was there some right of way?
“Hello! Are you lost?” She was hailed by a stout lady golfer. “You look as though you’re dithering, my dear!”
“I am! I got lost in the dunes and I’m here instead of on the beach,” Jay replied apologetically.
The fierce but friendly woman suggested either Jay walk back along the buckthorn until she reached the footpath to the beach, or if she walked a short way along the course with her and her partner, they would direct her across the public right of way to Oxhope.
Jay had unnerved herself, stupidly alarmed by seeing Gilly, her perfectly innocent but nosy neighbour, and now she strolled along with the two ladies who asked if she was a golfer, if she might like to be a golfer, that the club was a friendly and sociable place with lots of ‘young gals like you, dear’.
Jay thanked them as they pointed the track across the course, marked by little blue pyramids, where it was safe to cross.
“And if you change your mind about joining, ring the secretary and ask for Betty Jericho, that’s me, Betty. Toodle-pip, mind how you go!”
She and her silent companion, hauling their trolleys, headed to wherever their golf balls lay.
Jay stood like a statue, then took a deep breath and set off carefully across the course, from blue triangle to blue triangle. When she had said goodbye to the past, when she had shaken hands with the man she knew as Eric, and he had unexpectedly hugged her and wished her ” chance, he’d told her that a friend of his would be in touch. Jay had more on her mind than Eric, had almost forgotten what he’d said, consumed with anxiety about her new future. She couldn’t quite remember what he’d said now, but something like, if you ever bump into an old pal of mine, Betty Jericho, give her my regards.