This story is by Lorraine Liston and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Moira walked along the beach in a fog. Nothing seemed real, not even the seagulls that flew above her, creating a cacophony or sound as they hunted for food. The birds’ noise matched the whirling emotions that raced through her head.
The feeling of being lost.
The feeling of not knowing who she was anymore.
And the feeling of seeing nothing in the future except endless, pointless days which were all the same.
Was it only yesterday, she wondered as a stray wave slithered around her ankles, when she was busy and full of the future?
Was it only yesterday when she and Martin had found so many things to talk about – and now there was nothing – nothing at all?
The thoughts kept coming. They wouldn’t leave her. This was why she had decided to leave everything and hide away in this strange seaside town. Martin had no idea where she was. She’d paid cash for everything leaving no trail for him to follow.
Martin was better off without her. He had his truck to keep him busy. He didn’t want to hear about her empty, lonely days where nothing happened except the washing and the cooking. Martin was a kind and gentle man. But Moira didn’t know what he thought anymore. They ate together. They watched the television together and they slept together but Moira felt like it was all in a vacuum.
But when she was at work it had been so different. There had been so much to discuss. She had loved preparing the evening meal so the two of them could sit and talk about their days. But that had been six months ago. She had turned sixty and had been asked to take long service and then when the time was up they had suggested she retire. They had found someone younger and more up market. They had been sorry and had even given her a lovely send off. ”
At first, during those early days at home, Moira found herself busy: gardening; cleaning out the junk she and Martin no longer needed; washing windows; baking—forever baking.”
After a month Moira was spent. She had discovered her work colleagues were just that – colleagues. None of them had rung to see how she was or to ask her out for a coffee. She was forgotten. Lost in the world of retirement. The people she thought were her friends were only passing acquaintances.
Moira continued to walk until she came to the end of the beach stopping at a series of black rocks which reached out to the sea. She sat down on a rock clear of the water and the sun’s warm rays touched her skin where it was uncovered.
She looked up and stared out over the throbbing endless sea and thought about what it would be like to just walk into the waves and sink into the depths. She wasn’t scared. She wasn’t worried. All she knew didn’t want to go on.
With a sigh Moira stood and began the long trek back to the cottage. She walked to the front door with a heavy step and instead of cooking something to eat she went straight to the fridge and poured herself a glass of wine took a seat on the veranda which faced the sea and sipped at the wine. A few cars passed by, their lights sending shadows into the sand dunes beyond.
Two days later after pounding the beach yet again, and purchasing milk, bread and cheese as well as some oranges and bananas from the town’s only shop she made a sandwich, and took the food onto the veranda once more and made herself comfortable on the cane lounge. he sun was warm on the veranda and after she’d eaten she curled up and closed her eyes.
It was sometime later when Moira woke. She opened her eyes slowly and to her surprise she saw a small brown dog sitting looking up at her. Its fluffy tail wagging and making soft swishing sounds on the boards where it sat.
“Goodness where have you sprung from?” Moira asked quietly not sure why a dog should be sitting on her veranda. Perhaps it belonged to the owner of the cottage who had gone overseas for six months. Or maybe it was a stray looking for a place to rest. The dog reached up and placed one of its paws on the couch closest to Moira’s hand. She touched the silk like fur with an unsure hand. The dog licked her and Moira smiled.
When Moira sat up and the dog quietly jumped onto the couch beside her and together in companionable silence they watched the world flip by until the sun began to set over the sea.
“Well my friend,” Moira said to her new friend, as she watched the people leave the beach to head to their homes. “I don’t have any dog food but I do have some chicken we can share. What do you think?” The dog looked up at her with its chocolate brown eyes as if to agree that chicken would be fine thank you.
Together they made their way into the dimly lit cottage. Moira hadn’t opened the curtains and there were shadows in the corners. The dog followed Moira to the fridge. It watched as she carefully pulled what was left the chicken she’d bought and placed some on a plate for the dog and a little bit more on a similar plate for herself. She boiled the kettle and instead of opening her last bottle of wine – she’d have to go the shop again soon – she made a pot of tea.
While Moira sat at the small round table near the window the dog slowly ate its share of chicken on the floor beside her. Moira found the company of the scrap of a dog, which she’d had decided was a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and perhaps some kind of terrier, was calming. Later she learned it was a female when she took it outside before it was time for bed. She couldn’t bear to leave it sit out on the veranda so she found an old blanket in a cupboard and settle her new companion on the floor beside the bed. Moira read for a few hours and when she turned off the lamp she again found herself smiling at the furry bundle beside her.
When she woke the next morning her new friend was sleeping on the pillow beside her. Moira couldn’t remember the last time she’d owned a dog. It must have been when the children were small. She had two children who had busy lives. She rarely saw them.
“What shall we do today?” Moira found herself talking to the dog once more. “I hope you like the beach. I spend more time than anything else walking along the beach. Yesterday I found a beautiful shell.” The dog looked up at her with her lovely eyes and when Moira offered her porridge for breakfast she ate almost as much as Moira.
The days which followed were the calmest Moira could remember. She found she had a purpose to get up in the morning and when no one in the town answered the notice she’d placed at the post office, she decided the dog who she now called Molly, belonged to her. Together they fully explored the beach and the dunes. While Moira collected shells from the shallows, Molly romped through the waves, chasing the sea birds with such crazy antics, Moira found herself laughing out loud. She hadn’t laughed in a long time, but then there hadn’t been anything to laugh about for a long time.
When the month of the lease ended Moira was torn. She had planned to walk into the sea and leave the worries of the world behind but now when she looked at Molly she didn’t want to leave – not just yet. Instead she rang Martin. She didn’t know what to expect when he answered the phone. When she’d left she had made sure no one would ever find her.
“Goodness Moira where are you? I’ve been out of my mind,” Martin said. His voice was quiet yet Moira could hear the emotion there and all at once she felt guilty about what she’d done but at the same time aware it had been the right thing for her – for them. “Tell me where you are and I’ll come and get you.” He said. Moira found herself smiling. She ran her hands down the dogs back.
“We’re going home Molly, won’t that be lovely?” Molly replied by gently licking Moira’s hand.