~ Malta ~ July ~ 1943 ~
The wind whipped wildly around her head. Ana put an arm up, grabbed a handful of blonde strands and pulled. Opening her fist, she watched as the hairs blew away like ribbons in the air. Her scalp tingled and she felt her heartbeat accelerate rapidly as though it was going to burst out of her chest.
The sea was rough. Angry waves danced into the air, green and blue and brown. Ferocious. Would it be quick she wondered? Will I die before hitting the sea, or will my heart stop on the way down like what happened to people who jumped off high-rise buildings? Her mouth had a funny taste, as though even panic had a flavour. This must be what it must be like to face a firing squad or an axe murderer, she thought, when you know you are going to die soon and crazy thoughts go through your head. It was as though the whole world had stood still and it was just she, Ana McGuill, poised in terror on the top of The Azure Window in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, trying to find the courage to end her life.
Franco had brought her to this place of natural wonder. They had held hands as they walked across the arch in the sea, he gripping hers tightly to keep her safe. He had always kept her safe and she believed that he always would. But he was gone.
They had stood looking out over blue water, it had been warm and sunny then. Not like today. Today the sky was much darker, like her heart. The pain in her heart was unbearable. It lay like a heavy stone in her body, gnawing at her like a beast. Unable to sleep or eat, she went through her days on auto pilot. Until today. Today she had said, enough. That word had brought her here, almost seven hours later. This place where she and Franco had stood and planned their life together. How did so much change in so short a time?
She turned at the sound. Surprised to think that anybody would bring a child here on a day like this. An unusually dark, stormy summer’s day. There was nobody. A bird she thought, or some animal.
In a crib just a few miles away, an infant whimpered fretfully. A kindly face looked down and clutched a tiny finger. ‘Ssssh little one, all will be well.’
She heard it again. The sound of a babies cry. Turning around quickly once more, her foot slipped and she tumbled. An immense feeling of terror gripped her. Opening her mouth to scream she found that no sound came and it seemed as though her whole body was suddenly engulfed in an intense heat. On her knees she saw a hand was outstretched, she grabbed it, pulling herself to her feet. Wiping the dirt of her legs she looked up, then turned her head left and right. Nobody. ‘Hello’, she called. Where could they have gone? There was no place to hide.
Ana tentatively stepped across the stony ground until she was off the arch.
The baby closed her eyes.
All was well.