Here is an excerpt from my next book, provisionally entitled, ‘Lucky Portbraddon’; Nick is Ruby’s brother-in-law and for various reasons he is staying with her for a while. His life is a struggle at the moment; his twin brother has disappeared, no-one wants to buy his paintings, and he is finding it difficult to make ends meet.  There are other complicating difficulties and the news that  his estranged wife is going to divorce him is just too much.

Ruby was so cold; she wanted to get up and wander about, run up and down the beach, go back to the car… but while Nick was standing down by the water she daren’t leave him, daren’t take her eyes off him. Maybe she’d seen a film once, maybe it had been a dream, but she had an image of someone standing just as Nick was and then suddenly stripping off his clothes and wading naked into the night sea… but that was at night, and now it was late afternoon… and it was a film… or a book… or just a dream.

What was real was that Nick was in a despair so deep that Ruby had not even attempted to reach him with words or touch. She had run out of the house after him and jumped into the already moving car and had said nothing as he accelerated away far too quickly.

She watched and waited, shivering. Suddenly he bent and snatched something from the sea, a stick or a branch, but instead of hurling it into the waves as Ruby had expected he turned his back on the water and began to scrape marks in the sand, violently, quickly, drawing something large with wild, almost mad strokes.

She  stood up stiffly, her joints aching, her bottom numb where she’d sat so still on the bumpy boulder. Tentatively she approached him but he was not even aware of her, concentrating on his sand art. Upside down Ruby could make nothing of it at first. There was a hand she saw on a long thin bony wrist a hand stretched out, fingers splayed as if it had just let something go or was holding out for something. Swooping away or falling down towards the empty palm was a great arc like a rainbow but there was nothing at the other end except fierce craggy mountains, jagged and cruel as a wild beast’s teeth. From that perspective the hand looked little and lost and lonely.

Nick strode across his drawing. There was a sun coming up or going down behind the mountains and suddenly they were on fire as he scribbled flames falling down, tumbling down the sandy slopes. A wave broke over his legs but he didn’t notice, moved on and away and there was another hand. This one was strong, and formed in a loose fist with a thick wrist and a flower snaked out between the fingers. But then with his feet he made clouds hide it and the sea washed  over his feet.

Now he was drawing great angry zigzags and scribbles across the wet sand, defying the foam that spread across his beach canvas. His movements became more frenzied as if he was obliterating some unseen design. And then he stabbed down again and again, then as suddenly as he had snatched up the stick, he threw it back across the incoming sea so it spun and rotated like half a boomerang, a boomerang which would never return and he stood still, the sea washing round his ankles.

Nick looked up and Ruby was standing watching him, hugging herself with cold in the stiff bitter easterly wind, her red hair whipping around her face. Ruby was standing waiting for him, and he realised she’d been waiting for him for years. Did she know? Did she realise? He gazed at her and thought how beautiful she was.

“Nick,” she called gently. “You’re going to be freezing, standing there in the sea.”

Nick looked down and gave a short laugh, he’d not even been aware of it but he staggered as a bigger wave caught him behind the knee. He waded out of the water and walked to her.

“Let’s go home, Nick.”

He looked lost, and so vulnerable. Suddenly his eyes filled with tears and he sagged to his knees. Ruby knelt down and put her arms round him and held him and held him.

“I hope you haven’t lost the car keys, we’ll be in a right mess if you have,” she said, and he managed a little sheepish grin.

If you haven’t read any of my other books, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

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