It was late afternoon in June and the tide was down so the black rocks and their weed were exposed to the sun and the shallow pools were dried out and empty.
Miss Sarah Carmichael from Dublin sat by the round table on the lawn in front of the Cottage. She was by herself and waiting for tea. She wondered why she was here and she thought of the boy who had come into class late that morning his hair still wet with the sea, dried salt on his skin and his white shirt stained with pale traces of blood.
She tried not to think on the talk in the kitchen behind her. Miriam Black-Fore and Bridget her cook were boiling the kettle and settling the tray and to Sarah Carmichael and their voices were quiet.
The was a breeze blowing now and it moved through the fuschia hedge with a quiet rustling sound. On the lawn in front of her two yellow wagtails crossed to and fro darting across the grass.
‘Miss Carmichael I am so glad we have you at last. We can talk about books.’
Sarah turned at the voice and watched as Miriam came out of the kitchen carrying a tray. She half rose from her chair as Miriam put the tray on the table. There was a pot, two cups and their saucers, milk and sugar, all, Sarah saw, good china.
‘Sit down. Sit down’ Miriam said.’ Now what shall we call you. Miss Carmichael can be left in the schoolroom. Tell me what is your name and then we can get to know each other.’
‘Sarah, Miss Black-Fore, my name is Sarah. And Miss Black-Fore thank you for this. Your house, the Cottage and the garden it’s beautiful. The place is beautiful but here hidden away with the sea…’
Sarah stopped after the rush of words and the two women looked out down the garden out over the beach and onto the sea. The light caught at the water and Sarah lifted her hand to her eyes to cover them from the glare.
‘Call me Miriam. Black-Fore’s an old name. Now let me pour you the tea. Milk? Sugar? And you can tell me why you are here.’
‘But before that I must tell you. I have a friend. She is a writer from London. She is coming to stay for a month this summer and I am sure she would want to meet you.’
Sarah caught at this. They had only just met. How would her friend this writer know enough about her to want to meet her. What would they talk about. She thought on the small pile of books she brought with her, romantic novels, she had six of them, by various authors, and she picked through them re-reading those bits that she liked over and over and then stumbling upon a passage forgotten. They were her books. She could not talk about them.
She turned and smiled at Miriam and started to tell her just why she was here.