The dusty tendrils played around her dirty boots. The dirty boots she had dumped unceremoniously outside. Every now and then that same anarchic wind that created those minute dust storms around her footwear would ripple the fabric of the tent flaps to give a tantalizing view of the discarded apparel. The leather, speckled with dust, dried sweat and flecks of paint, were comfy as Christmas, hot as hell and, she considered, one of her most significant purchases in recent times. She had worn them to parties, trudged across the Welsh coast in mid-winter and painted her sister’s living room. If, as some believe, an inanimate object could have a soul, then these soles would be a stoic, softly spoken amigo.
These boots were, it seemed to her, all she now had. Those, the tent and the clothes she was lying in. Small consolation. At first light this morning, it had been of some considerable confusion to her to wake surrounded by the clean glow of sunlit canvas, the tent flaps tugging at her. Memory, however, had swiftly sought her out rocketing anxiety down to the pit of her stomach. And there is still lay suspended like a plumb line from her throat.
She had lain hidden in here long enough she considered. Raising herself up on her elbow she faltered as pain shot up through her arm. Nearing the daylight on the other side of the tent doors specks of ash on each of the boots caught her eye. The plumb line grew taut. Her breath quickened, the thick heat almost choking her as it stole down her throat. Into the sun, she was blinded. As the image slowly developed, the sight of six years work and their home stood before her like cauterized pick up sticks razed utterly to the ground.
This home, this coastal retreat, a designer’s dream. The designer in question, being a painfully hip Swede, who had almost expired in professional ecstasy when the proposed designs for the house had been put before him. Now this “idyllic blending of state of the art architectural form and urban functionality” more resembled a shared plate of half eaten Chinese take-out. The diners, having been called away with such urgency so as to leave their chopsticks plunged in the depths of the still steaming fast food feast. The chopsticks in reality being joists that had once supported the coastal facing side of the building, compensating for the gradual decline of the land as it begins to make its descent to meet the sea. They had now given up their burden, ejecting it down into the salty seascape and falling back towards the relative safety of dry land. It was these remains that were her focus now.
Through the heat haze created by the flames of the pyre before her and the sun’s early rays she stood, bare foot at the mouth of the ash-covered tent. She had managed to get to her feet using her good arm to swing free of the tent using the door flap. Cradling her injured left arm, she gave it the most cursory of examinations. It could be bruised, it could be broken. There was some swelling and discoloration just below the elbow. The pain had lessened now she stood, but then that could be the shock. Her breathing shallow, the air, hot from the flames, too much to inhale. It was a small wonder that the whole tent had not caught fire. It stood far too close to the blaze. She felt sure that when the tent had been erected this incident had not been anticipated. How she could be so sure was beyond her for now. The vagaries of the past were blotted out by the harsh reality of the moment.
She slowly lowered her feet into her open boots, cautious that a stray flake of hot ash had found its way inside. Lacing them was out of the question. With an injured arm, it would be a far too complex procedure. So, with sliding gait akin to a skier on the nursery slopes, she began to move forward.
(c) Jane Robins & Luke Simonds